By: ROEL T. AMAZONA
TACLOBAN CITY-All is now set for today’s 76th Leyte Gulf Landings anniversary.
But unlike in previous anniversaries, this year’s commemorative event will not only be low-key but will go virtual amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The annual event is split into two parts, the ‘live’ event for the flag raising and wreath laying ceremonies while the commemorative program will be a virtual event.
The decision to make the celebration largely in a virtual setup is due to the restrictions imposed under the quarantine due to COVID-19 pandemic like mass gathering.
Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, who will spearhead the historic occasion, will deliver his speech at the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park in Barangay Candahug, Palo town, where the program is being held.
The virtual commemorative program will follow the usual sequence of the yearly event that starts with the invocation, then welcome remarks of the Palo Mayor Frances Ann Petilla.
This will be followed by the tribute to the veterans and lighting of the peace torch. A virtual solidarity greetings from Veterans Federation of the Philippines president Retired Justice Manuel Pamaran and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator (PVAO) Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina will follow.
Australian Ambassador Steven James Robinsons, New Zealand Defense Attaché Group Captain Nick McMillan, Deputy Head of Mission for the embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Alastair Totty, Naval Attaché of the United State of America Embassy Captain noel Corpus, and Japan Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Minister Yasushi Yamamoto are to deliver their message through online.
President Rodrigo Duterte is also expected to ‘attend’ this year’s commemorative program as he will deliver an online message.
Despite the threat of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Gov. Petilla said that the province should continue celebrating the 76th Leyte Gulf Landing Commemoration to honor the bravery of the World War II veterans.
“We have to commemorate this big event that happened 76 years ago. We have to remember the patriotism, the sacrifices, and the heroism of the veterans. We still have living veterans, we have to honor them because of their bravery we learned how to face the crisis brought by corona virus and we ought to pray for them,” Petilla said during a virtual press conference organized by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
Petilla added that the activities and program of the 76th Leyte Gulf Landing will be seen on social media for everyone to have access especially the youth so they will be aware and understand the vital role of the veterans played in shaping the future of the country.
“They sacrificed their lives to give us good life. Let’s make sure that we sustain that. That we have a good country and a good life in honor of our veterans. We hope that we can continuously instill awareness in our youth,”he said.
Petilla added that the province will also revisit the proposal to the Department of Education to include the significance of Leyte Gulf Landings in the school curriculum.
At present, the region has 92 surviving World War II veterans, were 58 are in Leyte; 21 in Samar Island, and 12 are from Biliran.
The oldest of these veterans is a 104-year old from Javier town.
The surviving veterans are provided assistance by the government with P20,000 monthly compensation aside from wheel chairs, canes, and disability pension of P1,700 per month, according to Paul Harry Lobrigo of Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).
Leyte province annually commemorates the Leyte Gulf Landings which celebrates the arrival and return of the Allied Forces to the Philippines lead by General Douglas McArthur to end World War II and the occupation of Japanese Forces in the country.
The Leyte Gulf battle is considered the largest naval battle in recorded history.
His arrival signaled the fulfillment of Gen. 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 the Japanese occupation.