4 World War II heroes feted in Baguio City’s Victory Day

BAGUIO CITY — As part of the first celebration of Victory Day on September 3 – the day of the signing of the instrument of surrender of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita at Camp John Hay which eventually ended World War II – the city government recognized four veterans for their services rendered during the war at the Veterans Park here.

One of the awardees, Sgt. Cecilia Torres, now 92 years old, joined the guerrilla movement on March 19, 1944 as a Private with the Women’s Auxiliary Service (WAS) Unit that served as a medical aid for the “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL).

Another awardee, PFC. Ernesto Luis, now 90, joined the war on May 2, 1944, as a military courier under the “B” Company of the 1st Battalion, 66th Infantry of the USAFIP-NL. His unit was tasked with the defense of Northern Luzon and participated in a number of tactical engagements against the Japanese Forces that retreated to the north.

The two other veterans were not able to attend due to failing health condition. They are PFC Timoteo Boado, 89, who served as rifleman upon his enlistment with the 523rd Military Police Company of the Philippines Scout; and 2Lt. Eduardo Peralta, 87, who joined the guerrilla forces under the Headquarters Company, Military Police Battalion of the USAFIP-NL at a very young age.

For the first time and 72 years after the end of World War II, the city government celebrated Victory Day or the signing of the instrument of surrender by General Tomoyuki Yamashita at Camp John Hay with a simple memorial program.

The celebration is in line with a city council resolution approved last year institutionalizing the observance of Victory Day to give more meaning and significance to the event in history that transpired in Baguio upon the request of the United States Army Forces in the Philippines-North Luzon Inc. Baguio-Benguet chapter (USAFIP-NL-BBC) citing the importance of the date to the city — if not to the country’s history.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan, Rep. MarK Go and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Undersecretary retired Gen. Ernesto Carolina led the wreath-laying ceremony to honor the soldiers who died in the war.

Domogan said that if “April 9 commemorates the heroism of the war soldiers during the Araw ng Kagitingan, the more we should also be celebrating our Day of Victory, Sept. 3, 1945 when the formal surrender of Gen. Yamashita here in our city happened,” he said.

“This is a very important day for all of us, people of the Philippines, specifically to the people of Baguio. It is unfortunate that our historians seem not to give importance to this day, the end of World War II in the Philippines. We said repeatedly on a lot of occasions even in the hall of Congress. We cannot understand, sometimes we Filipinos, we celebrate our defeat, like the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal, the fall of Bataan, as national holidays, but we do not celebrate our victory, the victory of the brave Filipino soldiers of the allied forces that is September 3 of every year,” Domogan added.

Go, on the other hand has refiled Domogan’s bill which Congress approved on third and final reading two weeks ago. The bill declares September 3 of every year as Victory Day for the brave Filipino allied soldiers. It is now pending in the Senate.

Undersecretary Carolina in his message said: “This victory day is a very important part of our history. Yesterday we celebrated in Kiangan, Ifugao, an annual event of the capture of General Yamashita on September 2, that is connected to what we are celebrating today (September 3), the formal surrender of Yamashita in Baguio City,” said Carolina in his message.

He said the victory that led to this day started from the victory from Balete Pass (now Dalton Pass) in Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya because our guerrillas had to isolate the source of logistics, especially the food for General Yamashita and cut-off communication in the area.

“The victory at Balete Pass was a prelude to the next victory, this was the victory at Besang Pass and three months after, our Filipino freedom fighters, with the help of some Americans captured Yamashita at Kiangan and the following day, the formal and ceremonial surrender was held at Camp John Hay,” Carolina narrated.

Dapat po talaga na bigyan natin ng halaga, it should be a national observance. Every Filipino should know what happened in Kiangan, what happened at Besang Pass, what happened at Balete Pass. Dapat malaman ng bawat Filipino ang historical day na ipinadidiwang natin ngayon,” Carolina added. PNA-northboundasia.com