It was 75 years ago – on October 20, 1944 – that American and Filipino forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on the beach in Palo, Leyte, to begin the liberation of the Philippines. Japan had invaded the Philippines in 1942, occupying it for the next three years, as it commanded the sea route to Borneo and Sumatra through which Japan shipped the petroleum it needed for the war.
As he waded ashore at Red Beach in Palo, Leyte, General MacArthur was accompanied by Philippine President Sergio Osmena and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. There, on that day, he announced the beginning of the liberation he had promised when he had to leave for Australia in 1942 and said, “I shall return.” Now, he said, “People of the Philippines, I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces are again on Philippine soil.”
Less than three months later, on January 9, 1943, American liberation forces landed at Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan with British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand allied troops and were joined by Filipino guerrilla forces as they began the liberation of Luzon.
The historic landing in Leyte was commemorated last Sunday, October 20, 2019, with United States Charge d’Affairs John Law saying that the US-Philippine alliance remains strong to this day, with continuing joint military exercises against the new enemy, insurgents that threaten the democratic way of life in Mindanao.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon read a speech by President Duterte citing the Leyte Landing in 1944 as not just a military victory, but one that solidified the bond between the Philippines and the US and “reclaimed the freedom that became the cornerstone of the democratic way of life that we all enjoy today.”
It must be noted, however, that even as we celebrate these victories in World War II, yesterday’s enemy, Japan, is today’s close friend and ally, both for us and the US,our stongest and closest defense ally against new threats to peace in our part of the world. President Dutere is attending today the enthronement of Japan’ new Emperor Naruhito, grandson of World War II Emperor Hirohito.
World War II was an important part in our history as a nation, both the defeats, as in Bataan, and the victories, as in Leyte and Lingayen. But we mark their anniversaries not so much as celebrations as commemorations of events that we should never forget. For they are part of our history, part of the story of bravery shown by our fighting men ready to give their lives for the nation and for freedom, and part of a history that now values peace as always the better way to national and world growth and development.