Palawan heroes vs Japanese honored on liberation anniversary

palawan-liberation-ace-romeroPhilippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Ernesto Carolina gives a medal to Eliseo Manaeg, a war veteran from Palawan during the anniversary of the province’s liberation on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. Alexis Romero

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – The anniversary of the  liberation of Palawan from Japanese forces was celebrated here for the first time on Wednesday, 70 years after the historic yet forgotten World War 2 milestone happened.

Palawan guerillas served as coast watchers during the war. They also acted as blocking force that prevented Japanese troops from replenishing the supplies of their comrades.

“They (Palawan guerillas) hastened the end of the war by cutting the supplies of the Japanese. Strategically, they played a big role,” University of the Philippines history professor Ricardo Jose told The STAR.

Palawan was also one of the first Philippine areas to be liberated by Filipino and American forces because of its strategic location. The province has an air field that proved to be crucial in supporting military operations in Borneo, Luzon and South China Sea.

However, Palawan’s role is not even mentioned in history textbooks and is not highlighted in events commemorating the World War 2.

“When we study history, we tend to focus on big events – Manila, Bataan, Corregidor. We tend to forget smaller events, Jose said.

“We still lack understanding about this event that happened 70 years ago,” he added.

To fill the gap, the Palawan Liberation Task Force composed of government, private and international groups conducted research about the experiences of guerillas in the province during the Japanese occupation.

The task force consisted of the provincial government of Palawan, city government of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Tourism Council, Palawan Chamber of Commerce, Tourism department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Rajah Travel Corporation

The task force’s effort paid off as it paved way to an event celebrating Palawan’s liberation. Dubbed as “A Salute to Valor,” the event honored Filipino and American heroes who sacrificed for Palawan’s independence.

A wreath laying ceremony was held at the Plaza Cuartel, where Japanese soldier burned more than 100 American prisoners in their foxholes, an event known as the Palawan massacre.

Representatives from the Philippines and the United States laid wreaths in each of the two markers honoring the fallen soldiers.

Filipino and American war veterans were also given awards in the provincial capitol.

Surviving veterans who received a plaque and two medals were Patricio Bonales, Gaudencio Lucero, Eliseo Manaeg, Guillermo Sumanting, Quirino Bundal, Felix Aban, Silverio Abiog, Lorenzo dela Chica, Vicente Arrieta and Baltazar Padilla.

War heroes who were given posthumous awards were Dr. Higino Mendoza Sr., Gaudencio Abordo, Pablo Muyco, Antonio Palanca and Nazario Mayor.

Only about 40 of the more than 1,000 Filipino guerillas from this province are still alive, according to data from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).

Among those who attended the event were PVAO administrator Ernesto Carolina, Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez, Vice Gov. Victorino Socrates, Puerto Princesa Vice Mayor Luis Marcaida .III, Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell, John Avila of USAID, retired Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, Brig. Gen. Steven Beach of the Oregon National Guard,war veterans and their families.

“Their (veterans) heroic deeds will be immortalized in the annals of Filipino and American soldiery,” Carolina said.

Another highlight of the celebration is the launching of the heritage tour that seeks to promote Palawan’s cultural tourism.

Alvarez said while Palawan is known for ecotourism because of natural wonders like the Puerto Princesa Underground River, they also want to market it as a cultural tourism site.

“The interest of tourists on Palawan should be varied,” he said, noting that tourism contributes more than half of the local economy.

The tour package will include a visit to the Palawan World War 2 Museum, which displays authentic war uniforms and other hard-to-find memorabilia, Eulalia Park, Plaza Cuartel, Rizal Park, Mendoza Park and the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. The guided tour costs P600 per person and includes the vehicle and snacks.

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