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CEBU, Philippines – A lone World War II veteran graced the 78th Takas sa Talisay rites in Cebu province on Sunday, March 26.
Only 99-year-old former Philippine scout Vicente Restauro attended the first post-pandemic commemoration of the United States Army’s 8th Division’s March 26, 1945 landing in northern Cebu.
Cebu has 19 living WWII veterans, said Reggie Sabandal, head of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) in Central Visayas.
“This year, we included the participation of the veterans, but right now, we only have one living WWII veteran here,” said Sabandal.
“Sayang no, di na capture kanina, it so happens na sleepy na gud si sir.” (It’s pity that we couldn’t show him in proceedings he was very sleepy.)
In 2018, ten WWII veterans were present, including then-100-year-old Guillermo Antoni Alegado of Pinamungajan town.
Restauro of Brangay San Isidro, Talisay was among the 10 who received commendation plaques from the government.
There were still 35 living veterans in 2019, said, Sabandal. But the COVID-19 pandemic whittled down their numbers to 19.
The event at Larawan Beach in Talisay City unfolded under a blazing sun and humid conditions.
The event started with a eucharistic mass, a parade by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and a flag-raising and wreath-laying, headed by Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr., Japan Deputy Consul Toshio Yadomi, and United States Deputy Consul Glenn Loop.
It culminated with local officials, foreign dignitaries, and military officers releasing dozens of white doves, symbols of the friendship between the Philippines, the United States, and old enemy Japan.
The US 8th Division, under then-US general Douglas MacArthur, worked to free the Visayas islands of Cebu, Negros, and Bohol from the Japanese.
Cebu City was liberated on March 27, 1945, a day after the landing. It took until August 28 of the same year for the whole province to be rid of the Japanese invaders.
The August 28 liberation of Cebu province came 13 days after Japanese Emperor Hirohito broadcast Japan’s surrender.
Mayor Gullas’s speech paid tribute to the Americans, Filipinos, Japanese, and other people who sacrificed their lives to achieve liberation and freedom for Cebu.
“We celebrate the Takas sa Talisay to honor what happened in the past, to remember the past, and to learn from the lessons of the past,” Gullas said.
The Talisay mayor and the PVAO regional head stressed the need to find ways of reminding new generations about national valor.
“The millennials now are in the world of Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, and Twitter, and sometimes we forget everyone who has fought, all the lives that have been lost, and take for granted the freedom that we have today,” the mayor said.
Peacetime needs heroes
Sabandal said the PVAO and the local government should work to find ways to make the annual event “more participatory on the side of our veterans.”
The Region 7 (Central Visayas) president of the Veterans Federation, 2nd Lieutenant Leonardo F. Fabiano, said that even in peacetime Filipinos can be heroes.
“The challenge facing us today is our need for modern-day heroes. There is much more that is needed in our continuing battle against poverty, against corruption, against lawlessness and injustice,” he said.
“We do not need fighting heroes but plain everyday heroes, who will voluntarily respond to their social consciences’ and take up their share of civic duties and responsibilities,” said Fabiano.
Heroes “obey the law even when no one is watching and (are) honest even when others are not,” he stressed.