It’s 75 years already, my dear Mayor Labella

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales - CDN Digital | January 06,2020 - 07:07 AM

The year 2020, which began just six days ago, is a milestone year in much of the world as much as it is for Cebu, especially for Talisay and Cebu cities as well as the town of Tabogon. This is the year when 75 years ago the most brutal and inhuman acts ever perpetrated on this planet by humans against their own kind had finally come to an end. I wrote about this in October, hoping something would be done in Cebu City to prepare for this milestone, the end of World War II. But it seems no one in city hall read it; therefore, this bold and direct letter to you, my dear Mayor Labella.

The Japanese surrendered in Cebu, as I have written countless times in this space, on August 28, 1945. Nearly 10,000 Japanese troops led by Gen. Tadasu Kataoka gathered in Caduawan, Tabogon where a monument was finally put up in 2014 by American war veterans.

Before that surrender, however, was five long months of brutal warfare that began with the landing of American forces at Talisay City, an event reenacted annually every March 26th. Although this landing is but a tiny fragment of the entire story, this historic moment is nonetheless extremely significant and we would be very happy and impressed if Mayor Samsam Gullas approves the proposal of the Philippine Postal Corporation to issue a stamp to commemorate this milestone, which is now pending at his desk.

Will Cebu City commemorate this historic and pivotal event? I do not know, which is why I am boldly and directly addressing this to you, Mayor Edgar Labella, even if you are up to the neck with all kinds of problems besetting the city. Despite those problems, Mayor Ed, you should nonetheless take note of this milestone year. For the Talisay Landing was but a few hours only, intended mainly to free the second largest city in the Philippines, which you now head. On the morning of that landing, about three hours later, Americans began fanning into city via Mananga River and Antuanga Hill as well as through the South Road, setting up a temporary base hospital inside and outside El Pardo Church. If the landing at Talisay was short and almost uneventful (save for two or three casualties), the battle to liberate Cebu City took 23 long days and nights, almost as long as the one in Manila, albeit with much more brutality and evil there.

I think you will only need a small percentage of what you will be rightfully spending this year on the Sinulog Festival, in this endeavor but you and all of us shall have achieved the most patriotic act of remembering. How shall, for example, five million pesos be spent to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Cebu? Below is a partial but significant list of ways:

1. Small monument markers can be installed where significant battles and other events took place from the time of the Japanese invasion of Cebu (April 10, 1942) to their surrender in 1945). You are actually late on this but better be late than never. You see, in the late 1970s, the Japanese already installed a number of memorial markers in many places in Cebu City where their soldiers, even their doctors and nurses, died during the battles that raged between March 26 and April 18. A life-size bronze Kanon (Goddess of Mercy) was even set up on the edge of the Marco Polo Hotel property where hundreds of Japanese soldiers died and where they hold annual memorial ceremonies. All the while, not a single one was set up by our side; dangerous historical amnesia had set in, despite a city commission already in existence then which was tasked precisely to do this, among other things.

But better be late than never. On top of this list to be marked are: Fort San Pedro, headquarters of the Visayan-Mindanao Force of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE); Camp Lapulapu and its neighbor, IT Park, where the Lahug Airfield once stood, a site of one of the most brutal battles in the city; Vision Theatre, which served as temporary headquarters of the Americal (sic) Division after they cleated the city; GoChan Hill, Buhisan Dam, Babag Hills, etc. etc. etc. where famous battles ensued. The city can even set up a WWII memorial trail, complete with a map, for tourists who want to trace all these places where important events happened between 1942 and 1945.

2. The city should honor the late Col. James Cushing, Col. Manuel Segura and the rest of the officers and men of the Cebu Area Command (CAC), Cebu’s unified guerrilla organization, by purchasing a lot where their headquarters was, in Tabunan (or even a property perhaps across or near the barangay hall) and set up a park complete with a monument to their heroism and have it declared as a National Historical Monument or Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHP). CAC is known in Philippine history as having killed more Japanese troops than any other guerrilla outfit in the country.

3. A street should be named in honor of Col. Cushing. If he were alive now, he would have scoffed at this idea but that was because he had a self-effacing personality—which resulted in his death without in anonymity in the 1950s. Cushing to the uninformed headed the guerrilla resistance in Cebu. He almost lost his rank in one instance (the so-called Koga Incident) for releasing captive Japanese officers just to end the harassment, torture and killing of Cebuanos in southern Cebu.

4. Cebu City should also issue a stamp or a set of stamps by working with PhilPost to honor the CAC and the important battles that raged in the city on those 14 long days.

5. An exhibition on WWII in Cebu complete with graphic panels detailing the lessons of war aimed at young students should be installed at Fort San Pedro and at the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum.

I have to end here because space limitations will not allow me more. Suffice to say that time is of the essence. If I may suggest, a task force should be set up now to look into how this milestone can be commemorated. The alternative is to simply forget the past sacrifices of our fellow Cebuanos and their American counterparts and go about our merry way.

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