Ten surviving senior war veterans of World War II will be recognized to mark the 78th Victory Day celebration on the Liberation of Panay, Romblon and Guimaras islands on Saturday.
Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Iloilo officer-in-charge Glen Castañares, in an interview on Friday, said they are among the 25 living senior war veterans in Panay and Guimaras who fought to liberate the three islands side by side with the American Liberation Forces in 1945.
Those who will be recognized are Paciente T. Tejada from Aklan; Mauro M. Loresto, Enrique P. Mendoza, Leon U. Requintina, and Pedro N. Relles, all from Antique; and Santiago C. Caguimbal, Leoncio R. Perfuma, Epifanio B. Denlota, and Dionisio A. Arabejo, all from Iloilo province; and Patricio G. Guevara from Iloilo City.
The others were recognized by the PVAO in previous commemoration activities and have already received their United States congressional medal award, he added.
PVAO data showed that there were 23,000 guerrilla forces during WWII who are members of the Free Panay Guerilla Forces.
Of the 25 that were left aged from 90 to 104 years old, some are still healthy while others are bedridden.
“Sadly soon enough their number is slowly declining. So it is important to commemorate this to immortalize their heroic deeds and they will not be forgotten,” Castañares said.
He added that the commemoration of Victory Day is significant not only for its sentimental value for senior war veterans but also for its historical value.
The official said that Gen. Douglas McArthur MacArthur would have had difficulty liberating the country if not for the successful Panay landing in 1945.
“Part of their strategy to liberate the Philippines was to free Panay and the Visayan waters because from Leyte they had to pass through the Visayas going to Luzon,” Castañares said.
The commemoration with the conduct of a free medical mission for 350 PVAO pensioners and members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines from the first district of Iloilo in partnership with the Veterans Memorial Medical Center at the Tigbauan, Iloilo gymnasium.
He explained that it was in the shorelines of Tigbauan’s Barangay Parara that the American Liberation Forces landed 78 years ago today to free the three islands from the Japanese Imperial Forces.
Tigbauan also has the most active PVAO pensioners with 226.
Castañares added that the commemoration does not only honor senior world war veterans or those who fought during WWII but also the post-war veterans including retirees from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Constabulary before they were integrated into the Philippine National Police provided they rendered a minimum of six years in the military.
Saturday’s commemoration will start with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Balantang Cemetery National Shrine in Barangay Quintin Salas in Jaro district.
Proclamation number 430 signed by former President Corazon C. Aquino on July 21, 1989, declared March 18 of every year as a non-working special day in Panay and Romblon to give way to the commemoration. (PNA)