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.

Oktubafest 2012

People must be very sad kon waray na tuba ha Leyte (if there is no more tuba in Leyte). Fortunately Warays are producing a lot of good tasting tuba, bahal, and bahalina.

Image from philippine-made.blogspot.com

And to further promote the most well known wine in Waray region, An Waray party-list sponsored and organized Octubafest. This year is the 5th Oktubafest!

Patterned after the famous Octoberfest in Germany, Oktubafest comes from words Octubre, tuba and festival.

Let’s join and take part on the activities of Oktubafest 2012 on October 26, 2012 at the Leyte Park Gymnasium. This year’s Oktubafest will be highlighed with the seach for best tuba, bahal and bahalina; and tuba concoction and tuba infused dish contest.

Tuba should not be confused with the musical instrument tuba. Tuba is coconut wine.

Waray’s bahalina is considered as the finest local wine. Bahalina is a one-year old carefully fermented tuba (coconut wine) which tastes like red grape wine. Dried bark of barok (mangrove) makes tuba reddish.

In 2009, there was an attempt to break the world record for the biggest number of participants of wine tasting event. It was held at the McArthur Shrine and National Park. However, organizers has not received yet the certificate from Guinness World Records (as reported by Sun Star).

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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Must see in Tacloban

Many things to see, many people to meet, a rich and unique culture to assimilate!

I shouted this out in private when I arrived in Tacloban City and began breathing its still clean air. Tacloban, now categorized as highly urbanized city, still has the look and feel of a component city. Except in some isolated areas, the city is generally clean.

At first, Tacloban looked like just other cities in the Philippines I have visited. Life is not as complicated like those in metropolitan areas. Later, I began to see and feel what makes Tacloban different from other cities.

The downtown buildings looked like those in Manalili – Colon area in Cebu City. The building designs speak of its age. Tricycles are jamming the downtown thoroughfares, and people are crowding in “pirated” alleys to get the best pirated copies of movies. I think presidential adviser for political affairs Ronald Llamas would be safe to buy pirated stuff here because no one may recognize him.

Just like other cities, people are not segregating garbage and just throw bags-full of rubbish of any kind along streets. Thanks God, garbage collectors never fail to get the rubbish. And just like other cities, people in Tacloban have “a little” water problem. And politics is not a good as others, too!

I have not judged Tacloban based on those things. I only saw a little and I need to see and experience a little more.

On my second week here, a trainee from Cebu arrived. It was good for me to have a Cebuano fellow who equally love discovering people, culture, and places.

While having coffee talk at Robinson’s Mall, an idea popped up. Then we decided to rent a car and stroll around. Our priorities was to go to “must see” in Tacloban and nearby places.

McArthur Monument (Leyte Landing Memorial) in Palo, Leyte

Palo, according to a new friend has very good Tuba (coconut wine) but what makes it famous was the landing of Gen. Douglas McArthur during liberation in World War II. McArthur Monument’s backdrop is the equally famous Leyte Gulf, the setting of one of the largest naval battle in modern war history.

How I wish I could talk to the waters that race from Leyte Gulf to kiss the breakwater at McArthur Monument. I would ask the water how it feels to become part of history.

Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum

I had no idea what Sto. Nino Shrine was except that our driver who also served as our tour guide told us that Sto. Nino Shrine is tourist destination in Tacloban.

As we paid the entrance fee, I thought it was a religious museum as the entrance is facing the elegant chapel.

But I have not seen many religious relics. I saw, instead, political past and the elegance and extravagance of the 20-year rule.

Sto. Nino Shrine is one of the many structures conceptualized and built by former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

TaclobanBoard.com told readers:

The Museum consists of 13 rooms, each housing different objects and relics, arranged according to certain themes. There are also several precious art paintings, ranging from religious images, depictions about Filipino mythology and classical pieces by Fernando Amorsolo.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the paintings of Amorsolo but I saw one by Malang.

I learned later, after reading books about Imelda Marcos by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa,  a small house of Imelda and her family used to stand in the same place where Sto. Nino shrine now stands. I think Sto. Nino Shrine was built to erase some remarkable memory of Imelda’s past.

Price Mansion

The Price (Walter Scott Price) mansion now houses some offices and used to be the CAP office. One must not expect the mansion to be as beautiful and elegant as Boracay mansion of former President Joseph Estrada or as modern-looking as the mansions of Ampatuans. Price looks old and stressed. Creepy, I told my companion.

But for one who has the eye and heart for history, Price Mansion is such a beautiful place even if it looked like being abandoned by its loyal servants. The mansion took an important part in history having become Mc Arthur’s shelter during his stay in Tacloban.

McArthur’s room is rich in war memorabilia. I have seen disturbing and inspiring was images and war documents as well. I promised to get back to the place to have better view of World War II.

San Juanico Bridge (Marcos Bridge)

A college friend once told that “the longer, the bigger, the better” and when we talk about things the question should always be “is it big?”; “is it long?”. If yes, then the thing becomes “must see” and “must feel”.

Perhaps the length of San Juanico Bridge makes it famous or perhaps because it is Marcos’ bridge of love.

Whatever the reasons of people, my reason is simple. I just want to see it and cross it (to give me the feeling of a conqueror).

San Juanico Bridge was our last point in our 4-hour tour. We had not stopped ourselves from getting out of the car at middle of the bridge and took pictures (using mobile phone) even it rained that time.

My adoration was not with the bridge. I was falling in love with the strait where the bridge crosses – the San Juanico Strait!

After crossing the bridge, we went our way towards Tacloban City.

Tacloban’s Attraction

There are others we missed but I have visited few days later like Balyuan. I learned that there used to have watch tower in the place. Now, a beautiful Balyuan Ampitheater stands in the place.

Recently, I learned that there is an issue on ownership of the called as Balyuan Property, a 24 hectare property where the Tacloban City Hall stands, the Balyuan Ampitheater and many other city offices. The property is claimed by Province of Leyte. I am uncertain on the future of Balyuan.

Another places to visit are Family Park, Leyte Park, and Sto. Nino Church.

There are many other places to go. Tacloban has fine restaurants, good hotel, and hospitable people.

Perhaps the best place to visit is the home or ordinary family in Tacloban. From that home, we learn much about this city.

Tacloban’s Family Park

The first time I went to Family Park, I feel in love with the sea breeze and big trees. It is really a place for families, lovers, and loners. Ah, it’s for everyone!

It is located along Magsaysay Avenue, between UPVTC Botanical Garden and Balyuan Amphitheater. It faces Cancabato Bay. I love to spend my weekend afternoon there. It’s a good place to experience piece.

Here are some snapshots. The images are not in good quality (taken using my phone).

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?

Calvary Hill at Brgy. 39

Friday. I went to Calvary Hill in Barangay 39, Tacloban City.

Image

Entrance to Calvary Hill

Please see the pictures in the gallery. I will write more about this later.