OPINION: The liberation of the Philippines, the steep price of freedom

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Sep 28 2019 05:41 AM

The “Battle of the Philippines,” the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation during World War II, was effectively and dramatically implemented at dawn of Oct. 20, 1944.

Most of us remember this as the "Leyte Landing," with that very famous photograph of Gen. Douglas MacArthur wading the surf at Palo, Leyte knee high with President Sergio Osmeña and Carlos P. Romulo.

Next month will therefore be the 75th anniversary of this momentous event. The series of observances, rituals, historical and sentimental recollections of sad and somber memories all in commemoration of this forthcoming anniversary commences in San Francisco, California this weekend.

It will be the 5th Conference on “WWII in the Philippines,” a series of convocations launched by the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. (BLHS).

The affair is hosted by the University of San Francisco, to be held at its Fromm Conference Center on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 2130 Fulton St., San Francisco, California. The affair is headlined: “The Liberation of the Philippines, The Steep Price of Freedom.” The University of San Francisco is Jesuit-run.

Leading Filipino and American historians will be in featured participation. They will dwell upon topics such as the role of Filipino and American guerillas before and during the liberation; the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history; the Leyte Landing and General MacArthur’s return; and zonification and war Crimes.

The top-billed speaker is James Hornsfischer, award-winning author and regarded as one of the most commanding naval historians today. Among his books are: “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers” (which is about the sea battle off Samar); “The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific 1944-1945;” “Neptune’s Inferno – The US Navy at Guadalcanal.” His books have been enrolled in the US Navy’s Professional Reading Program of the US Naval War College. He serves on the Board of the Naval Historical Foundation.

Joining Mr. Hornsfischer in top-billing for the day’s program is another noted American historian, Walter R. Borneman. A prolific author of a wide ranging topics in American history from the nation’s fledgling status unto the World War in the Pacific. His Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature (2013) is “The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King – the 5-star Admirals who won the War at Sea.” His latest is: “Brothers Down – Pearl Harbor and the Fate of Many Brothers aboard the USS Arizona.”

Sponsoring the event are the Philippine Airlines; Wells Fargo Bank, Philanthropists ambassador and Mrs. Howard Leach (businessman and diplomat); Consuelo Hall McHugh and family; the Joseph and Mercedes McMicking Foundation; and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Program.

Let me share with you a little word about the Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS). The Society’s main goal is to educate the public on the historical significance of Bataan and World War II in the Philippines by presenting the war from different perspectives through multimedia presentations, conferences and lectures as well as documenting stories of veterans and survivors.

The moving spirit behind the organization is Ms. Cecilia Gaerlan, BLHS’ founder and executive director. She is the daughter a Filipino war veteran and survivor of the Bataan Death March. (Luis Gaerlan, Jr. Of the 41st Infantry Regiment of the US Armed Forces of the Far East / USAFFE). I had the opportunity to make her acquaintance several years ago during a Filipinas Heritage Library event at the Ayala Museum in Makati. Of course, the symposium was about Bataan and the travails of the fast dwindling number of our WWII veterans.

The Society’s organization was spurred by the lack of information about the role of Filipinos during World War II in the Philippines and to seek justice for the Filipino veterans whose benefits were rescinded in 1946. The first conference was organized in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan in April 9, 2012.

The Society’s most significant achievement, however, is in having worked successfully with the California Department of Education that earned the inclusion of World War II in the Philippines as part of the Grade 11 (Chapter 16) of the US History Curriculum framework for California High Schools. Notably, it is the first time that this portion of WWII history (Philippine content) has been mandated as teaching material in US high schools.

The keynote speaker on Sept. 28 will be Adm. William Fallon, USN (Ret.), former Commander of the US Central Command, while the conference itself is chaired by Maj. General Eldon Regua , US Army (Ret.), former commander of the US 8th Army.

The other featured speakers are professors Bernard Karganilla and Jose Custodio of the University of the Philippines; Prof. Mark Hull of the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.

FIL-AM NEWS FROM TEXAS

During the last midterm elections in the US, we reported on the very hopeful candidacy of Ms. Gina Ortiz Jones for the US Congress.

She is a retired US Air Force intelligence officer who served during the Iraq war. (Gina’s mom is a Filipina from Pangasinan who is a veteran public school teacher in Texas.)

She ran as the Democratic Party candidate for the 23rd congressional district, which runs from the western edge of San Antonio all the way to east El Paso, a very long but narrow strip that cuts through the Rio Grande Valley. It is a stretch of some 5 hundred miles. It is evident that this political phenomenon is the result of past gerrymandering.

The results of the last US Elections gave back control of the US House of Representatives to the Democrats and as a consequence Nancy Pelosi is once more Speaker of the House.

In any case, Gina failed in her attempt to unseat the incumbent, Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican, who barely squeezed through by a mere 926 votes, in keeping his seat. It was one of the closest congressional races in the country during the last elections.

Gina Ortiz Jones, despite the loss but encouraged by her relatively good showing as a neophyte at the polls, decided to run once more. In mid-May she announced and launched her new bid for the congressional seat. She has been on the road since, has reportedly been gaining even more and additional endorsements.

It appears that having noted the apparent weakening of the Republican Party in this part of Texas, incumbent Representative Will Hurd may have seen the writing on the wall. Last month, he announced that he will not seek reelection.

The Texas 23rd congressional district now appears to be a best pick up opportunity for the Democrats. And, for the very first Filipina-American to be a US Representative in Washington D.C., this time around

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.