When Cebu was at war

By: Jobers R. Bersales December 10,2015 - 04:06 AM

Dec. 8   was the 74th anniversary of the start of the Pacific War. On that day, advertisements in Cebu  dailies announced the launch of “The War in Cebu” at the Ayala Center. (The advertisement for CDN appeared two days earlier signaling the event.) Had it not been for those ads, I am perfectly certain very few would have known that World War II started in the Philippines on the day, the same day that Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Fewer still perhaps know that this year, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Except for the annual March 26 Talisay Landing Reenactment, no other commemorations were ever carried out this year. Even the town of Tabogon, where a huge memorial to the Japanese surrender site was unveiled by American veterans last March 27, conducted no celebrations to commemorate the formal Japanese surrender there on August 28.

Sadly, while the rest of the world celebrated, Cebu, it seemed had no time to remember. This historical amnesia is the major reason  my co-authors and I came out with “The War in Cebu.” It is high time for us to remember. The stories of Cebuano guerrillas and their American counterparts who fought bitterly but also bravely to regain our freedoms need to be told and told vividly.
Seven years ago when I was asked by then-Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia to design and execute Museo Sugbo, the Provincial Museum of Cebu, I certainly made sure that one of the pioneering galleries would be dedicated to the war.  That was in 2007, while we—that is, the Cebu Provincial Committee on Sites, Relics and Structures that governor  Garcia created—were carrying out a massive community-based cultural mapping program in the many towns and cities under the province. Suddenly, we were confronted with all kinds of artifacts and fascinating stories about the war, which I knew then had to be told.

In 2008, I had also just been appointed, fortuitously, manager of the University of San Carlos Press. It helped that in 2006, friends from the MacArthur Museum came over and left a CD full of photographs of Cebu during this period culled from the US National Archives.

And then came Terry Davenport, founding head of the Ulysses S. Buzzard Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Cebu, who e-mailed me one day in 2014 and asked if I could help give a WWII memorial tour for Vietnam War veterans of the Americal Division (short for America and New Caledonia where the division was formed in 1943) who wanted to walk where their fellow veterans from a previous war had been.

Ten of them eventually arrived last March to see what has remained of the war: from the pillboxes in Toledo, the  Japanese tunnels at Gochan Hill, the defense posts of the Japanese up in Babag Ridge, the Talisay Landing site and up to the surrender site in Caduawan, Tabogon.

Among the 10 were Col. Dave Taylor and Dave Colamaria, who were as excited as I was about  the prospect of getting a picture book out on the war. To cut the long story short, I was able to secure the permission of the Province of Cebu to cull chapters from Dr. Resil Mojares’s massive “History of the Province of Cebu” as well as Bobit Avila’s equally enthralling chapter on World War II in Cebu City.

In its 260 pages, I hope the book will help us remember that war as it happened in Cebu so that those who fought for our freedoms, those even among our enemies who showed humanity, shall not have done so only to be forgotten by the march of progress. It is also our hope that, with the book, the city and province of Cebu will begin to properly mark and clean up all the remaining vestiges of the war.

This is the simplest thing we can do for people like Sgt. Uldarico Cabahug, bemedalled WWII veteran (who despite his advanced age and frail condition, joined us at the book launch): To assure him and all the thousands  of Cebuanos, Filipinos and Americans who fought in that war, that we will not just remember but that we will make generation after generation celebrate their courage, their heroism, and their self-sacrifice in order that we enjoy peace and prosperity.

“The War in Cebu” is our salute to their passion for freedom.

* * *

For those interested to buy copies of the book, you may drop by the 2nd floor of the new wing of Ayala Center Cebu (beside Flight 001 and below La Vie Parisienne) where an exhibit of 30 select photographs from the book is installed until December 13. The book currently sells for the discounted price of P1,995.00 on site. Other outlets are USC Museum (Tel. 2531000 loc. 191 and USC Press, Tel. 2300 100 loc. 290). After December 13, the book will sell at its regular retail price of P2,500.00.

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TAGS: Ayala Center, The War in Cebu, World War II

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