The 68th Leyte Gulf Landing Anniversary: A Celebration of Victory

The Leyte Landing Memorial in Palo, Leyte was among the places I first visited when I arrived in Tacloban.

Image from tourisminthephilippines.com

The spot where General Douglas MacArthur and the American liberation forces had landed fascinated me. It was not only good site to take pictures but the best site to remember the lessons of war. It was the same spot where General Douglas MacArthur said his famous line, “People of the Philippines, I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil.” – as famous as his “I shall return”. (See Battle of Leyte)

This year marks 68th year of Leyte Landing. This year’s celebration has the theme: Leyte Gulf Landings: A celebration of victory.

Among the highlights of the celebration are the different activities planned and organized by different stakeholders (source: PIA)

  • On October 14, 2012: 12.5 KM Marathon Race (men and women categories) on October 14 organized by the Leyte Amateur Sports Association
  • On October 18-22, 2012: 4th Leyte Gulf Landings Photo Contest and Exhibit organized by the Camera Club of Leyte and Samar
  • On October 18-22, 2012: Battle of Leyte Gulf and 100K and 50K Ultra Marathon
  • On October 20, 2012: 7th Annual Regional Inter-school Band and Leyre/Bugle Competition at the RTR Plaza (Tacloban City), organized by Pintados Foundation
  • October 21, 2012: 3K and 5K Liberation Fun Run organized by the Local Government Unit of Palo, Leyte

I think the best way for me to celebrate is to visit the Leyte Landing Memorial.

I hope the wish of Department of Tourism in Eastern Visayas (DOT – Eastern Visayas) will be realized soon. That is to have wartime museum. It would be best place that would remind us and the next generation about the lessons we should learn from history.

Tacloban City’s Parade of Lights

Tacloban City’s Sangyaw Festival 2012 was more exciting with the much anticipated Parade of Lights on June 29th. It was the night before Tacloban Day.

Parade of Lights had become the talk of the city. I was as excited as everyone. Right after work, my sangkay and I went to Justice Romualdez Street and join the hundreds to thousands of people waiting, anticipating for the parade of 20 floats bedecked with LED lights.

I had the Sinulog feeling as I gazed through the lines and shadows of people of all walks of life (I was not sure if there was a millonaire among us but I was pretty sure, there were many poor folks like me.)

I was expecting a more organized parade. But I was dismayed that it looked like the organizers of the Parade of Lights had not prepared for a large crowd though I doubt if they had not anticipated it.

I have not appreciated the event. For me, the Parade of Lights in Tacloban was a little mess. People are invading the parade area making it too small for both the light float (of different forms) and dancers.

I was so frustrated seeing the colorfully-costumed dancers called merrymakers who walked and run on the streets during the parade, not to mention the few to stop over to have snap-shot with the crowd.

There should have lines or a way to control the crowd. Cebu did it well during Sinulog and with comparably small crowd, I don’t think Tacloban could not do it the same way.

There was indeed Sto. Nino which at the very least painted the event with little religion. And of course, there was also a little bit politics with the presence of the Mayor Alfred Romualdez and his wife Cristina Romualdez. Of course we expect them there but joining them were Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., Rep. Cynthia Villar, Teddy Casino among others I could not recognize.

What made them more interesting was the goodies they throw to the crowd; candies, T-shirts, apples. Yes, apples were thrown like candies. Of course people enjoyed it. Fortunately, my sangkay was not hit by the apple thrown by Cristina Gonzalez Romualdez – he caught it instead. So later in RTR, we got bites of the apple! Funny.

If I still have a chance, I would still watch the Parade of Lights next year (2013).

I hope that year, it would be more organized and would not include non-dancers so that the show would not be spoiled.

I am referring to the parade participants – who just walked, talked as if nobody watched them. I suspect they were students, barangay officials, merchants. Actually, they have no aesthetic value to the parade unless they bahave well.
What I am saying is that those who participated in the parade were mostly acting like undesciplined and unruly baboons – so frustrating!

Next time, it would be nice to have dancers join the parade provided that they will really dance and not walk and talk and run while many are watching and anticipating a nice event.

Why Sto. Niño is the Patron (Saint?) of Tacloban and Leyte?

Cebuanos once considered Santo Niño as their patron saint but the Church (Roman Catholic) discouraged such veneration because the Sto. Niño is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and cannot be called upon for intercession. So in 2002, Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared by Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal as the principal patroness of Cebu.

Here in Tacloban and Leyte, people are speaking and writing Sto. Niño as the patron saint. Are these people misguided by the Catholic Church?

There are reasons why the people here venerate Sto. Niño. In a story published in PIA website, Rodrigo S. Victoria, quoted Father Gilbert Urbina’s explanation why “Sto Niño is Leyte’s patron saint”.

See? A Catholic priest himself call Sto. Niño as saint. Part of the story goes:

Sr. Sto Niño became the patron saint of Tacloban City after people living in Tacloban village were healed and saved from cholera epidemic that plagued the community on June 30, 1889.

The law (REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7676), that declares June 30 every year as special non-working public holiday in Tacloban and Leyte states:

The thirtieth day of June of every year, being the feast day of Señor Santo Niño, the patron saint of Tacloban City and the Heavenly Patron of Leyte, is hereby declared a special nonworking public holiday in Tacloban City, Province of Leyte, to be known as “Tacloban Day.”

I sent an email to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Palo to ask some guidance. But until I have not receive reply from them, I continually be confused.

But of course, I am not against the Feast of Sto. Niño per se. what I don’t understand is that why people refer the Holy Child as saint when in the the Apostles’ Creed (Symbolum Apostolicum) which are recited every holy mass, Catholics would say:

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

My faith as Roman Catholic is strong, I should say. Happy fiesta, Tacloban!

Celebrate Tacloban 2012!

Tacloban is in festive mood. A week before Tacloban Day on June 30, the city’s event spots are jampacked with activities and people.

I am not quite sure how should I call the celebration as I’ve heared Sangyaw, Kasadyaan, Parayawan, Pintados. I think it is safe to say “pista sa Tacloban”. Locals here call fiesta as “patron”. So while Cebuano says “mamista” they will say “mamatron”.

If one ask if I am talking about a religious or government activity – I would say, I don’t know. Political faces and lining up with images of Sto. Nino.

While we must enjoy and celebrate with these cultural and political activities, let us not forget that it all start with religion. The Holy Child should be at the centerpiece. Among the religious activity are the Balyu-an Rites and the Fluvial Procession. For Cebuano like me, this sounded like Sinulog. But unlike Sinulog, there is too much politics here.

My sangkay (friends) here told me that Pintados is a Leyte Province festival, while Sangyaw is Tacloban City’s pet activity.

Last year (2011), when I still have not even considered Tacloban as my next ‘to-visit’ place, national media carried news about Pintados street parade that was blocked (read as not allowed) in City streets. This year, Pintados men decided not contain their activities in Leyte High School Grandstand.

One must understand the status of politics between Leyte Province and Tacloban City to understand the situation. And also, one must know that Tacloban City is now independent from Leyte Province. If not with sour relationship among provincial and city officials, the June celebation must be very meaningful. While the it’s undeniably festive, the month-long celebration become meaningless. It looks like politician’s grandstanding.

Politicians here take all the opportunities to show-off. In Balyu-an for example, gigantic tarpulin show the faces of the City mayor and his wife. In RTR Plaza (also named as Pintados – Kasadyaan Plaza), the faces of province officials are at the stage making it appear like there is meeting de avance rather than a festival. For those who have not known, province men hold their activities there as they own RTR Plaza.

Even the holy Sto. Nino church is not spared. Faces of politicians are hung at its wall like telco’s unlimited call and text ads. Are they selling their faces?

I think yes because even during Holy Week, at the Calvary Hill, the faces of a party list representative who reportedly aspire to become Tacloban City mayor are at big tarps and tent.

I see nothing wrong with elected officials greeting “happy fiesta” but when it is clear even to 14-year old that their intention is to get more votes to the upcoming election, the tarpulin with their faces and greetings become a shit.

Let’s not spoil our day with politics though. As this is my first time to witness how the people here celebrate, I would rather enjoy and anticipate joy!

I went to Astrodome (they call it Astro) to see the rides at the Carnival in Astro grounds. I may try some of the rides before it closes on July 7.

For several occasions, my sangkay and I spend some time in Balyu-an where there is Parayawan (practically means celebration). There is live band every night and of course beer because the whole area is San Miguel Beer’s Teritoryo. I have to mention the grilled foods too! I must also mention that it’s city’s pet because of the faces of Tacloban City’s politicians that are displayed there. Besides the hosts of the activities there never fail and keep on mentioning names of such politicians. I am drowned with politics here, I told one of my friends in Mindanao.

In RTR, the activities are quite boring and the hosts sucks. Yikes! They are even aired on TV. RTR activities are province-pet so I wonder why Leyte Province don’t get better hosts for their activities. But setting them aside, we surely enjoy with beer and food there, too!

Unless I have thousands of pesos ready to be disposed and I don’t work the whole week, I cannot join or witness 80% of the events and activities.

Perhaps, the most worthy to mention is the Parade of Lights on June 29.

If we could remember how our senators explain the impeachmet trial of CJ Corona, I would also say the the celebration here in Tacloban is quasi-religious, quasi-political.

Let’s celebrate Tacloban!

Tacloban City: More than 4,000 Homeless in Sagkahan

It should have been an ordinary Sunday. But it was a tragic day for the people in Barangay 60, 60-A and 61 in Sagkahan, Tacloban City when a big fire left more than four thousand homeless according to reports.

When I heard the news, my sangkay (close friend) and I prepared to see the area and these were  (see images below) what we saw.

Fathers, brothers, and even children like the three children below tried to salvage anything that can be sold or can be used.

Many people came to see the site even there are still remaining burning pieces. I believe the authorities had done investigations – the reason why people are allowed to inspect the site.

People also started to cordon small areas – most likely the site where their houses used to stand – a hint that they will soon rebuild their homes.

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To sail through San Juanico Strait

San Juanico Strait must have been created with divine creativity.

I saw few images of the strait from books but I hadn’t thought that I would be mesmerized when I see it myself.

Until now, I haven’t touched it but it is enough for me that I have seen its beauty closely one time when I (with a Cebuano friend Roy) crossed San Juanico Bridge for the first time.

Just for today, it is enough that I could feel serenity while looking at the calmness of its water. It is so beautiful when viewed from Calvary Hill in Barangay 39 (Tacloban City).

I would reserve the day when, for the first time I would sail and touch its waters.

Almost everyone in the country must have heart San Juanico Strait as it made famous by late President Ferdinand and first lady Imelda Marcos when made the bridge of love into reality. It’s the San Juanico Bridge as it is known today.

San Juanico strait is a narrow strip of blue and calm water that separates the beautifully and divinely sculptured mountains of Samar and Leyte.

I never rest my curiosity. Deep within I have an ambitious desire to sail through San Juanico Strait. I am not a sailor but I could be one when I am given divine chance.

It’s a curious thing that I asked the world of magic to transform me into a small boat, so I can sail San Juanico. But not even my dawn dreams would give in.

It’s a curious thing that I become so obsessed with a body of water when I am afraid of the deep. Have I gone there before (in my past life)? And if I have life after this life, would I get obsessed with it still?

I know someone, someday would come and sail with me through San Juanico Strait.

Crucifixion of an Unknown Man

On my way to Calvary Hill in Barangay 39, at Rizal avenue, a curiously noisy crowd was coming. I saw group of men hurting themselves. There is a term for this one but I cannot recall it.

One man wearing white was carrying a big cross. I think it was very heavy to carry. But he looked holier than the rest who were wearing red.

It looks like a dramatization of what happened more than 2,000 years ago.

Later (after I was through at Calvary Hill), I went to Magallanes street because I learned from a tricycle driver that the man wearing white would be nailed to the cross.

As expected, there were already many spectators when I arrived at a corner in Magallanes Street (Tacloban City). There were television cameras, and a lot of people were getting pictures of the white clad man now nailed in the cross. His head was crowned with “Panyawan” not thorns.

The man became an instant celebrity. I did not know what he was up to but he did was extraordinary.

I thought his hands and feet were bleeding but it was not. I asked if the nails were real and yes, they were. The unknown man (I did not bother to ask who he was), looked very tired. His expressionless face was intriguing. What he was up to, why he is doing such difficult task. I learned that it was not the first time this man submitted himself to crucifixion. Why and why were the questions I kept to myself. Maybe soon, I could talk to this man.

Crucifixion during ancient times was a “deliberately painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead” (see Crucifixion at Wikipedia). The most famous person ever crucified was Jesus Christ. But the unknown man I am talking about could be also famous. Media for sure would carry this story.

After few minutes, the nails were pulled off. The man then walked away from the cross.

Curios kids and grown-ups gathered to check if he was alright.

On his way home, his left foot was bleeding. People gathered around his to see and to take pictures of the bleeding foot. One man tried to stop the bleeding. I was just watching nearby.

I walked away, still unable to reconcile why this thing must happen. Maybe soon, I could talk to him and learn from him. Who knows?