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.

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.