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(By Chito de la Torre )
It's a characteristic of Samareños not to celebrate impact moments of their own history..."
Samareños may not be as aware as the Leyteños in appreciating the significance of the yearly commemoration of the Leyte Landings of October 20, 1944 that led to the liberation of the entire Philippines and ultimately the end of World War II. That is why, not a single town except perhaps Guiuan in Eastern Samar - yet this one remains to be actually seen, puts up flags and floats at least on display, if not on a parade, every October 20th. If at all, then every town could have been in the thick of preparations since about the month of August - September being too close to celebration day.
There's no one to blame for this. It's a characteristic of Samareños not to celebrate impact moments of their own history. For instance, little concern is there for a continued research on exactly what date should be fixed for the observance of a Samar Day, other than a day in November or August. Even if Samar province began with some pompous celebrations for its own day, those efforts never enticed searching minds to go deeper into Samar Island's most remote past. Contented, plainly, we can say of ourselves? Contented, as in accepting hook-like-and-sinker whatever is already in place or an inveteracy - like, a community not collectively pointing an accusing finger at those whom it very well knows are druglords and at law enforcers who are in the service of these lords of social evils.
In fact, nobody cares why fiestas are continually being celebrated or why a so-so saint is being venerated as a patron. Just because tradition already kept them, everyone looks forward to attending a fiesta year after year.
Liberation anniversary this year is on its 60th. What care could Samareños manifest for it, and very particularly for the day for which its commemoration has to be grand yearly? Schools and colleges should lead in finding a reason. Yes, except for profit, no government agency, not even a true-bloodied Samarnon non-government organization, is interested to take up the cudgel.
Sadly, 60 years later from 1944, even those who survived from the Leyte Landings - of course it was not all Japs killed!, by goodness! - some local veterans could only be talking about their benefits or forgotten American citizenship. Never are they coming out to tell what they did at least in the hours before General Douglas MacArthur walked ashore - so, how could today's generation or those who had not witnessed their deeds be expected to sympathize with their present cause?
The absence of such interest, and alas, awareness!, however, should not frustrate Samarnons from finding out at least what role did the people of Samar play in making the October 20, 1944 Liberation the way it did.
MacArthur's Promise Was Not Meant For Samarnons!
Never mind if you were in Dulag or Palo town of Leyte or in Guiuan of Eastern Samar on October 18, 19 and 20 of year 1944. Never mind if you were in the service of the United States Armed Forces at the time, as a soldier, a member of an auxiliary corps, or a laundrywoman, or maybe even an entertainer (like today's guest relation officer, or escort), or a carrier of bags of ammunitions for running Leyteño soldiers and armed members of the Liberation Forces then under the command of world famed World War II (which erupted on December 8, 1941) hero General Douglas MacArthur.
Never mind at all, if you were that Samareña or Samareño.
After all, Gen. MacArthur's promise of "I shall return" was not meant for you. It was intended only for the Leyteños. After all, he did not care for the Samareños and the Samareñas -just like how those stupid American soldiers vituperated upon the rights of the Samarnons in Balangiga town. MacArthur loved only the people of Leyte, although on Oct. 20, 1944, he eventually wanted the "people of the Philippines" that he also cared for them, after all. Thus he declared: "People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil - soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people."
These premises decidedly spring forth explanations why since even on October 20, 1944, and every year thereafter, not a single Samareño or Samareña soul cares about celebrating the day when MacArthur fulfilled his promise or returning.
In the book General MacArthur's Reminiscences, the article "The Return to Leyte, Philippines" is found. It is written by MacArthur himself. The title of the personal account strongly tells readers of the whole world that MacArthur was narrating his promised "return" and that it was his "Return to Leyte" and not to anywhere else. This also hints at the fact that MacArthur had been to Leyte, and not to Samar. Verily. For he spent lovely and wonderful hours in Leyte, and more than that, he found Leyte to be ideal for the launch of his "proposed invasion" because the success of that landing on Leyte "would presage the eventual reoccupation of the entire Philippine area."Verily. No one could go back to where he had not been to. You first have to be in a place, and leave it, before deciding to return to it.
To the people of Leyte, he promised: "I shall return."
He did not say that to the people of Samar.
Moreover, he did not choose Samar for his invasion. This meant that Samar was not ideal. Not even was Mindanao. Wrote he: "The operation to take Leyte without a preliminary landing in Mindanao was a most ambitious and difficult undertaking. The objective area was located over 500 miles from Allied fighter cover. It was at the same time in the center of a Japanese network of airfields covering the Philippines."
In the same article, he said: "Leyte was to be the anvil against which I hope to hammer the Japanese into submission in the central Philippines - the springboard from which I could proceed to the conquest of Luzon, for the final assault against Japan itself."
Too, bad to be true. If that's what your position is, think again. Perhaps, if you rethink, you would care, even if MacArthur returned for the Leyteños only.