April M. Montes
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – It was on January 9, 1945 when the historic landing of Allied Forces headed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur took place in Lingayen Gulf, the turning point which soon led to the eventual liberation of the Philippines and the entire Pacific area.
Gen. Ernesto Carolina, AFP (Ret.), administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, recounted the significant event which happened 69 years ago in a speech he delivered before hundreds of war veterans during the celebration of Pangasinan Veterans’ Day.
The Pangasinan Veterans’ Day is an annual activity of the province held in honor of World War II veterans and their sons and daughters which started in 2008 after it was institutionalized through Provincial Resolution No. 331-2007.
“The acts of valor and heroism of about 8,000 veterans during World War II (759 of them are Pangasinenses still alive) gathered us together in this hallowed ground as we acknowledge their significance in liberating our country from Japanese Imperial Occupation,” Carolina said.
He added: “the stories of Pangasinense heroes would serve as influence to the younger generation.”
Gov. Amado Espino, Jr. said the veterans will leave behind graphic accounts and inspiring memories of their love of country which they demonstrated with concrete acts of valor, self-sacrifice and heroism.
“We are continually challenged to follow their example, and it is how our obligation to bestow upon our children a future built upon a legacy of patriotism and self-sacrifice,” he added.
The nostalgic feel of the affair, according to Vice-Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim, Jr. was a wake up call “for us to be conscious of what we are doing for the country.”
“Kung noon tayo ay humihingi ng tulong, ngayon tayo na ang nagbibigay ng tulong sa mga nangangailangan,” (Before we seek for help, this time we extend our hands to those in need) he said referring to the humanitarian mission by the provincial government in typhoon-stricken towns of Dulag and Palo in Leyte province held on December 13-20 last year.
The simple commemoration of Veterans’ Day started at 7am with a Thanksgiving Mass followed by wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans Shrine here.
A commemorative program was also held to pay tribute to the epic struggles of war veterans who fought hard to secure the freedom that Filipinos enjoyed today.
As the programs highlight, the provincial government recognized the oldest surviving war veteran in Pangasinan. He is Bonifacio Agacer, a 103 year old resident of Natividad town.
A free medical mission at the Sison Auditorium capped the event. (MCA/AMM/PIA-1, Pangasinan/PIO)