Leyte’s provincial government will proceed with some activities to commemorate the 76th Leyte Gulf Landings despite movement restrictions due to the pandemic.
Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said traditional activities would be held with a limited audience and strict adherence to minimum health protocols.
“Celebrating the Leyte Gulf Landings is important, not only for the province and the country but also for the entire world as it was the turning point of World War II,” he told local officials in a meeting on Tuesday.
Although there will be a commemorative program at the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park, no foreign and national officials would be physically present to deliver their messages.
“There is no point for a guest to deliver a message here because there is no crowd who will be listening to them. We may even lock down the area on that day to make sure that there will be no large gathering,” Petilla said.
The traditional flag-raising ceremony, wreath-laying rites, and 21 gun salute will be followed by the playing of commemorative video messages of ambassadors of the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
World War II (WWII) veterans are prohibited from physically attending the event since senior citizens are not allowed to leave their residences.
The region has 86 remaining living WWII veterans, the oldest being a 105-year-old from Javier town in Leyte province.
Aside from the event on October 20, several events have been lined up by local government units to commemorate the historic event.
In Tolosa town, Mayor Maria Ofelia Alcantara said they have prepared a simple ceremony on October 18 to commemorate Signal Day.
The activity will start with a thanksgiving mass and will be followed by a flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony and a short program with messages to be delivered by representatives of the relatives of Scouts Valeriano Abello, Antero Junia Sr., and Vicente Tiston.
Abello, Junia, and Tiston were young scouts who warned the incoming Allied Forces on October 18, 1944, using the semaphore signal to spare the shorelines from bombing due to the presence of thousands of residents in the area.
On Oct. 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, together with President Sergio Osmeña and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, again set foot on Philippine soil after leaving Corregidor in 1942.
Their arrival started a battle that spanned 100,000 square miles of sea and was fought for three days, from October 23 to 25, during the invasion of Leyte by the Allied Forces.
The battle signaled the fulfillment of MacArthur’s famous words, “I shall return,” after going to Australia to muster support from the Allied Forces in the quest to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation. (PNA)