LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Gov. Amado Espino Jr. on Saturday led the 71st anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf Landings by allied forces, headed by General Douglas Mac Arthur on January 9, 1945, which started the liberation of Luzon from the enemy.

The celebration, held at the War Memorial Park behind the provincial capitol, was attended by about 100 World War II veterans, some of whom were in wheel chairs, others limping and being assisted by their relatives and some walking in canes and almost cannot walk anymore.

But still, they executed a snappy salute when the national color passed by and the national hymn was played by a Philippine Army band.

In his last turn to preside over the anniversary celebration, Espino paid tribute to the veterans, who gave up their lives, were wounded and affected not only physically but also psychologically in that war, for their sacrifices to make Filipinos free.

Espino is the only governor of Pangasinan who institutionalized the Lingayen Gulf landings by making it a yearly celebration being observed every January 9, which also coincides with the observance of the Pangasinan War Veterans Day as per an ordinance approved by the Provincial Board.

Guest of honor and Speaker during the celebration Ret. Lt.General Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veteran Affairs Office (PVAO), thanked the provincial government for holding an annual celebrarion of the Lingayen Gulf Landings to relive the memories and inform the current generation what their ancestors did in the name of freedom.

Carolina and Gov. Espino joined the opening of the Lingayen Gulf exhibit, which features miniature replicas of battleships and carriers that gathered in the Lingayen Gulf in that fateful day of January 9 to finally begin the liberation of Luzon.

A delegation from Australia’s Royal Navy and those from their return service attended the celebration.

Gov. Espino said the liberation forces gathered in front of the ruins of the capitol immediately after landing, before embarking on a long journey to Manila to liberate the nation’s capital.

The celebration included wreath-laying in honor of those who died in that landing and a 21-gun salute for the fallen veterans and their allies.

A luncheon and medical mission for the veterans was held at the Sison auditorium immediately after the program. PNA /