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Remembering The Leyte Landing But Forgetting Our Heroes

October 20, 2009

leyte landingmontage

The enduring friendship of the Filipino and American peoples is being revalidated today as both allies quietly mark the 65th anniversary of landing in Leyte of the American liberation forces led by Douglas MacArthur.

General MacArthur’s landing in Leyte fulfilled his famous “I shall return” promise to the Filipinos after he escaped from Corregidor to Australia in 1942. His arrival was followed by the Battle for Leyte Gulf, and the decisive victory of the Allied Forces in that battle was the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

It’s often said that he Philippines and the United States have what’s called a love-hate relationship underlined by the incessant protest rallies staged outside the American embassy on Roxas Boulevard.

Those protests are normally organized by militants from left-leaning organization and are oftentimes marred by the protesters knocking heads with baton-wielding local policemen.

Sure there is a move by politicians, principled or otherwise, to review the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement and sure I advocate a fine-tuning of the two countries’ to correct perceived or actual lack of balance or fairness.

But the goodwill the great majority of Filipino have for the American people deepens by the day as we witness US navy personnel working to help our calamity victims with their mammoth Chinook heavy lift helicopters flying all the way from Okinawa to respond to pleas for help.

Not only do Americans respond.

They respond immediately, as exemplified by the way Ambassador Kristie Kenney herself responded to the appeals from residents of Talim Island, sending US Navy Sea Knight choppers to survey the situation of 14 barangays on Talim, followed immediately by the Chinooks.

us choppers montage

Ambassador Kenney has a YouTube message video on the Leyte landing anniversary:

There are countless other instances of American solidarity with the Philippines that in my view actually celebrates the Leyte landing’s spirit not only every 20th of October.

I think the onus of ensuring the historic event’s continuing relevance lies with the Philippine government and its political leaders.

Critics of past commemorations of the Leyte landing point out one recurring mistake – that of “honoring the foreign “liberators” and their chosen Filipino buddies, but ignoring the valiant local guerrillas who made the Leyte Landing possible with less cost in American lives:

At the 1994 rites, President Ramos conferred posthumous Philippine Legion of Honor recognition to former President Sergio Osmeña and the late diplomat Carlos P. Romulo for their spectator roles at the Leyte Landing.

Retired General Rafael Ileto also got a similar recognition as a soldier who landed in Samar then.

But a fitting recognition continues to elude the late Major Alejandro Balderian, the leader of the guerrilla group that successfully harassed the Japanese military in northeastern Leyte and prepared the area for MacArthur’s arrival.

That this criticism still holds speaks volumes about the paucity of the current regime’s sense of history, and its appreciation of the sacrifices of Filipinos who fought in the underground against the Japanese invaders.

It will fall to the next President to correct this gross injustice, this unlearned lesson of history.

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