MANILA, April 4 — Palawan is not the first to come to mind when it comes to Philippine World War II history. But for Dr Ricardo Jose of the UP Third World Center Studies, Palawan was one of the most strategic spots in the region.
“It covers the western flank of the Philippines, it covers the West Philippine Sea, and before WWII broke out, the Americans didn’t realize this. There were no significant fortifications in the area,” he said.
Palawan is actually one of the many places in the country with a grim past. On December 14, 1944, American prisoners of war numbering 139 were massacred by Japanese forces in Plaza Cuartel. By jumping off a cliff, 11 soldiers survived and were kept from harm by Palaweños.
As part of the campaign to liberate the Philippines, the US liberation forces invaded Palawan from February 28 to April 22, 1945. A Palawan special battalion composed of 1,000 Filipino guerillas joined in on the action and helped liberate the island.
To help commemorate the island’s historical significance, a public-private partnership will try to stimulate tourism growth by developing places associated with the liberation.
The program dubbed “A Salute to Valor: Palawan – 70 Years of Freedom” will be held on April 21-23, 2015 in commemoration of the 70th year of liberation of the province of Palawan. Activities are lined up to be held at the Plaza Cuartel and Mendoza Park. Developed by Rajah Travel Corporation, the Salute to Valor commemorates the World War II invasion of Palawan and the fight between the US and the Japanese in 1945.
The Palawan Liberation Task Force is composed of the Department of Tourism, the provincial government of Palawan, the Puerto Princesa City local government, the United States Agency for International Development, the Palawan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FAME, the Palawan Tourism Council, and the Rajah Travel Corp. The program aims to further nurture into the minds of the people the history of Palawan and Puerto Princesa which is aimed to boost the historical and cultural aspect of tourism in the province.
The event will be attended by relatives of war veterans from the province as well as those from the United States of America who were part of World War II. Heroes to be honored include Palawan’s own Dr. Higinio Mendoza and the prisoners who died in the Plaza Cuartel.
Aileen Clemente of Rajah Travel Corporation said organizers have been doing several researches about history of Palawan’s liberation and have reached out to several relatives of war veterans to make the event more meaningful. The historic event is really meant to honor the war heroes of Palawan. (DOT)