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News Feature: Remembering the Leyte Gulf Landings
PALO, Leyte  ·  
By Erlinda Olivia P. Tiu
posted 19-Oct-2012  ·  
With the MacArthur Landing Memorial Shrine in Red Beach, Palo, Leyte as the backdrop thousands of people will gather today to commemorate the 68th Anniversary of the Leyte Gulf Landing.

Among those expected to attend are World War II veterans and their relatives, foreign dignitaries from the nation members of the Allied Forces, national government officials, provincial government officials, students, and representatives of all sectors of the community.

Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho L. Petilla will lead provincial and municipal officials in welcoming guests and visitors.

The Leyte Gulf Landing is significant not only for Leyte or Philippine history, but for the entire world. On October 20, 1944, US Allied Forces landed in Leyte to liberate the Philippines from the clutches of the Japanese Imperial Army.

The landing celebration is held at the MacArthur Landing Memorial Shrine in Red Beach, Palo, Leyte, overlooking the Leyte Gulf which was the site of the biggest naval battle in history.

The Leyte Landing Memorial is located 5 kilometers away from Leyte province’s capital of Tacloban. It was constructed at the Red Beach, named after the U.S. military’s color-coding scheme during World War II. Thus, there is White Beach in Tacloban, Blue Beach in Dulag, among others.

This year’s guest of honor and keynote speaker is former Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. whose speech will tackle this year’s theme, “Leyte Gulf Landings: A Celebration of Victory.”

Mayor Remedios L. Petilla of Palo, Leyte will welcome the visitors and guests led by the representatives of the Allied Forces particularly Group Captain Craig White, Defense Attache of Australia; Mr. Trevor Lewis, Deputy Chief of Mission of Great Britain; and Mr. Brian Goldbeck, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States of America.

The foreign dignitaries, to include Minister Sepsuo Ohmori, head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan will deliver solidarity greetings.

The anniversary message will be delivered by Leyte Governor Petilla.

During the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, the Leyte Landing Memorial was developed and named as Imelda Park, after the First Lady Imelda Marcos who hails from Leyte Province. When the Marcos family left the Philippines after the People Power Revolution, the site was returned to its original name of MacArthur Park. The Memorial was thereafter, officially declared a national historic landmark in 1994, during the 50th Anniversary (Golden Jubilee Commemoration) of the Leyte Landing.

The memorial features 10ft-tall bronze statues of General MacArthur, President Sergio Osmeña Jr., General Carlos P. Romulo, General Richard Sutherland and others, as they wade in knee-deep waters, depicting their much-awaited return to Philippine shores.
Two plaques in Filipino (left) and English (right) explaining the significance of the scene being depicted can be found in front of the statues standing on a man-made pool.

The Leyte Landing Memorial had been developed into a park housing a bronze cast of the General’s footprints, as well as a copy of his speech. Just a short distance from the bronze statues, the 50th Leyte Landing Anniversary Commemorative Rock Garden of Peace can be found.

Nearby, the new Leyte Oriental Hotel offers facilities for visitors who opt to stay the night to take in both the sites and the history of Leyte.

Just fronting the MacArthur Memorial is the Government Center quadrangle where nightly shows since October 15 are held. Also at the quadrangle is the Agri-Aqua, Science and Technology and trade and industry Fair where the visitors can buy the best of Leyte’s cuisine, delicacies and products.

Special events are also held to enhance awareness and appreciation for the event’s significance. These include photo competition and exhibit, fun run and marathon, motorcycle show, medical and dental missions, bloodletting, among others.

The Leyte Gulf Landing Anniversary does not only remember the valiant contribution of the Allied Forces to Pacific security during WWII, but the courage of Filipino soldiers who gave up their lives for motherland without seeing the dawn of freedom so every Filipino will enjoy the liberty that the entire Filipino nation now enjoys.

Imagine the bombardments of the coastal municipalities of Leyte, from Tacloban to Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag up to Abuyog that started at 6 a.m. Following four hours of heavy naval gunfire on A-day, 20 October, Sixth Army forces landed on assigned beaches at 10:00.o’clock.

A historical write up on the Battle of Leyte Gulf stated that the “X Corps pushed across a 6.4 km stretch of beach between Tacloban airfield and the Palo River. About 24 km to the south, XXIV Corps units came ashore across a 4.8 km strand between San José and the Daguitan River. Troops found as much resistance from swampy terrain as from Japanese fire.”

Within an hour of landing, units in most sectors had secured beachheads deep enough to receive heavy vehicles and large amounts of supplies.

Only in the 24th Division sector did enemy fire force a diversion of follow-up landing craft. But even that sector was secure enough by 1:30 a.m. to allow Gen. MacArthur to make a dramatic entrance through the surf and announce to the populace the beginning of their liberation: "People of the Philippines, I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

The Leyte Gulf Landings Anniversary remembers the joy and happiness of October 20, 1944 or the liberation day which people now in their 80s and 90s fondly remember. They regarded Gen. Douglas MacArthur as the “savior of the Philippines.”

Liberation of the country would have come in the later part of 1945 had it not been for the insistence of Gen. MacArthur because the American High Command through the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Gen. Marshall had originally planned to bypass the Philippines and take Formosa instead as the launching pad for the final invasion of Japan.

After three years of Japanese rule where there was mass hunger because the produce were all shipped to Japan, where the people were in rugs and subjected to atrocities, the men folks either shot to death or incarcerated for flimsy reason, women and girls raped and made as comfort women if not killed, small children forcibly taken from their mother’s bosom then tossed into the air and then lunged with bayonets in midair by Japanese soldiers, it was indeed deliverance when Gen. MacArthur fulfilled his promise of “I shall return” in the shores of Leyte.

With time healing the wounds, and reparations having made enemies friends, this year’s commemoration is indeed a celebration of victory. (PIA 8)
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