Turning 70

By: Jobers R. Bersales August 27,2015 - 03:28 PM

Tomorrow would have been a good day to launch the latest coffee table book I am working on for USC Press, but the sheer number of photographs to put into it plus the required fact-checking just won’t allow it.

Exactly 70 years ago tomorrow, Gen. Tadasu Kataoka and nearly 10,000 Japanese troops including a company of female nurses formally surrendered to Gen. William Arnold, head of the Americal Division that retook Cebu five months earlier.

(“Americal” is a combination of  “America” and “New Caledonia”, where it was formed during WWII.)

In March this year, a group of Vietnam War veterans from that infantry division formally inaugurated a marker at the residence of Mrs. Eusebia Ycot which is on the very area in Barangay Caduawan, Tabogon where the brief surrender ceremony occurred. Mrs. Ycot, then five years old in 1945, witnessed the marching of tired, weary, hungry and thirsty Japanese troops just a few meters from this site.

Photo of this historic moment is one of nearly 200 pictures that will grace the aforementioned book, which is aptly titled “The War in Cebu: An Illustrated History” written by Dr. Resil Mojares, Bobit Avila, and Col. David Taylor (Americal Division veteran and historian of the Vietnam War) with contributions from Dave Colamaria of the US Naval Archives and yours truly.

The generous decision of the United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to digitize and release thousands of World War II documents and photographs has helped the book tremendously—and also  required more time to finally finish layouting the book and finally proceed to printing.

The new estimated date of the book launch, which will coincide with an exhibition of 30 select photographs of World War II, is the third Saturday of September, to be held at Museo Sugbo where I helped set up a War Memorial Gallery in 2009 during the term of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

The Cebu Provincial Government, now under Gov. Hilario Davide, graciously allowed Mojares’ and Avila’s retelling of WWII as it happened in the province as well as in the city of Cebu to form part of the chapters in the book.

I almost can’t wait to get this book off the press. But as it stands, we cannot make it to tomorrow’s anniversary.

Speaking of anniversaries, I would be surprised if something happens anywhere in Cebu that has to do with remembering the formal end of WWII here.  Filipinos are a strange people. We celebrate our defeats and deaths (for example, the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 is a national holiday called “Day of Valor” or “Araw ng Kagitingan; Jose Rizal’s execution on December 30, 1896 is a holiday, but not his birth on June 19, 1863).

Also, perhaps time has made Cebuanos forget those brutal years, aided in part by the Japanese war reparations of the 1950s and up to the 1970s and, most especially, by the thousands upon thousands of Japanese tourists that started arriving in Cebu in the 1980s and continue to do so until now.

Compared with tourists from one particular Asian country, the Japanese are soft-spoken, friendly, unassuming. Many tour guides have built plush houses with the help of these same tourists that have built lasting friendships with them. Others have also married Japanese tourists and sired children. That is why I was not surprised to see so many Japanese people, young and old, during the 2nd celebration of the Bon Festival in Cebu two weeks back at D’Faily Park in Talamban.

It also helps that every time we speak of quality products, we always think Japanese: Japanese cars, Japanese appliances, Japanese equipment and parts.

While we should never blame the generations that followed World War II, we must never forget the brutality of that war. And that is what a book like the one I am working intends to accomplish.

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