In Baguio, remembering the Japanese forces' World War II surrender
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – In the middle of the forest of John Hay in Baguio is a literal piece of America. If you step behind its gates, you would technically be on American soil.
It is the Ambassador’s Residence, and this is where American ambassadors have been entertaining guests. Many of Baguio's prominent residents have been invited here during the Holidays and, sometimes, during Thanksgiving.
But last Thursday, September 3, Ambassador Philip Goldberg invited a select group of guests to what he said wasn’t a celebration but a commemoration.
It was the commemoration of the 70th year of the signing of the Instrument of Surrender of the Japanese and the Japanese-controlled Armed Forces in the Philippine Islands to the Commanding General of the United States Army Forces of the Western Pacific.
The surrender document was signed by Major General Edmond Leavey, Deputy Commander of the US Army Forces for Western Pacific, and General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Imperial Japanese Army and Denhici Okochi, Vice Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The signing took place in the living room of the Ambassador’s Residence. Yamashita knew the place too well – it was also his headquarters when Japanese forces invaded the Philippines. In fact, the look of Bedroom Number 5 has been more or less preserved as it was 70 years ago, with Japanese linen and bed covers.
You have to look at the painting by Fernando Amorsolo, commissioned by at least 8 Filipinos, above the fireplace of the residence to see how it was then. Amorsolo based it on the photograph supplied by the Americans.
At the back of the viewer is Yamashita and his men. Facing Yamashita is not Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright, who was assigned by General Douglas MacArthur as his emissary, but British General Sir Arthur Percival. Wainwright, who spent 3 years in Japanese detention, decided to give Percival the privilege because, in 1942, Percival yielded Singapore to Yamashita. But a painting of Wainwright is displayed in the living room.
At 10 minutes past noon, Yamashita presented their swords and signed the two-page document. By 12:10 pm, September 3, 1945, the surrender of all Japanese forces in the Philippines was completed.
Present during the 70-year commemoration last Thursday were members of the Baguio media and artists, officers and cadets of the Philippine Military Academy, representatives of the National Historical Commission, the Japanese military attaché, and two men in their 80s.
Both Privates Graciano Clavano and Sabas Hafalla were in their teens when they joined the guerrilla forces, and 19 when the Japanese surrendered. Hafalla, father of famous Cordilleran photographer Tommy Hafalla, was then recuperating from injuries when Japanese forces bombed his “Charlie” company in Mankayan, Benguet. He had been shot in April 1945 and again on June 25.
Clavano, originally from Dumaguete City, was at that time in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, providing security to the American forces.
“I didn’t know that the war had ended. I was sleeping beside corpses of Japanese soldiers,” Clavano recalled.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to join you here today as we commemorate the courage and sacrifice of the Americans and Filipinos who liberated these islands, many of whom perished in or were wounded doing so,” said Goldberg.
He said that the present generation is benefitting from those sacrifices.
“It was the relentless and indomitable spirit of a generation from both our nations that forged a great alliance – the US-Philippine alliance – which is the oldest in the region and has helped preserve and protect the security and stability of the entire Pacific region,” he added.
To the people at Thursday's gathering, the international news featuring China's lavish military parade commemorating the defeat of Japan in World War II didn't matter. At that moment at the place where everything ended and started, everyone was solemn under the evening rains of Baguio. – Rappler.com