Preparing for the Talisay Landing
There was a time when the Leyte Landings, which was commemorated yesterday, was a big affair in the Philippines. The 50th anniversary in 1994, was one of them, when a pair of commemorative stamps and a commemorative coin were issued by the Philippines, joining a host of other countries.
Yesterday, it was the diamond jubilee of that event, the 75th year when shortly around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur finally fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines, as he, together with President Sergio Osmeña and other officers, waded ashore in Palo.
If it were not for the annual reenactment and a national conference, very few people beyond Tacloban and Palo seemed to remember that historic moment. It’s as if, as the number of living veterans of World War II, so too the need to remember it.
This is such a far cry from another diamond jubilee event in World War II that also happened this year: D-Day in Europe, when the Allies finally landed at Normandy on June 5, 1944. At least stamps were issued by the United Kingdom, Australia, France and many other British Commonwealth nations.
Even the United States seemed to also forget what it once did in this part of the world as well as in Europe: no commemorative stamps were issued by the US Postal Service for the two World War II events.
This brings me to the point I am trying to drive at: Talisay City should now begin working with the Philippine Postal Corporation to prepare a set of commemorative stamps to mark the March 26 landing there by the Americal Division. Talisay missed its chance during the 50th anniversary in 1994 but with Mayor Sam-sam Gullas already announcing that he would spend money to promote the pivotal event next year, things augur well for a celebration far better than the Leyte Landings.
There are many other ways I can think of to mark the event. For one, Talisay and Cebu City should work together create a kind of World War II heritage trail, tracing the campaigns of the Americal Division, aided by guerrillas of the Cebu Area Command, to defeat the Imperial Japanese Naval forces entrenched in the hills of Buhisan and Babag.
Such a heritage trail might begin at the landing site in Cansojong, where a weird-looking monument of lanky soldiers carrying firearms now stands, complete with a national historical marker. The next stop can be Pardo Church, which temporarily served as a base hospital for a few days. The trail can then go inland and up into the tunnels at Buhisan and Antuanga hills, an option for the younger and healthier among those who want to carry out this tour. An important component of such a heritage trail should be Ecotech and the hill behind it, Gochan Hill, scene of one of the fiercest fighting between US and Japanese forces, with the latter entrenched inside pillboxes and foxholes dotting the hill. Of course, the trail has to pass by I.T. Park, which was once an airfield where a fierce battle also erupted there some two days after the Talisay Landing. Sadly, there is not even a marker there to tell the public that this was once the prewar Lahug Aerodrome and, during the war, a Japanese airbase. I believe Waterfront Hotel is the site of the pre-war air terminal and, in post-war years, the traffic control tower. That tower had a National Historical marker, now gone.
The heritage trail should then go to Marco Polo Hotel where the Japanese had anti-aircraft gun emplacements that fired on US ships below and aircraft above. There is a statue of the Goddess of Mercy (the Japanese called her Kanon), to mark the area on the grounds of the hotel where so many Japanese soldiers lost their lives with the continued barrage from US battleships at the Mactan Strait and US airplanes above.
A fitting end to this WWII heritage trail should be the guerrilla headquarters at Tabunan, which the Cebu City Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (CHAC) should look for and then request the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to recognize with a national historical marker. To complete the commemoration, Cebu City should also finally give Col. James Cushing, CAC commander, the long overdue honor that has eluded since the war ended. Without Cushing, there would have been no unified guerrilla command in Cebu.
Cushing’s accomplishments are too many to list down here, but I will offer one of his most telling acts that give us a glimpse of his personality: the Koga incident, the subject of my presentation in last week’s national conference on the Leyte Landings hosted by the NHCP. At pain of losing his rank and getting demoted to buck private, Cushing released Vice-Admiral Shigeru Fukudome and nine other Japanese prisoners, against the advice of MacArthur in Australia, in order to end the harassment and untold suffering wrought upon the Cebuano people by the Imperial Japanese Naval forces.
At the minimum, Cebu City should ensure the issuance of a stamp honoring him and the Cebu Area Command.
There is still time to do a lot to remember the end of the most brutal and darkest period in Cebu’s history. But time is running out and work must begin at once. The alternative, of course, is to simply forget.
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