As part of its program to make Filipinos aware and appreciate the courage and sacrifices of war veterans, the Philippine Veterans Bank had a display of photographs taken in Negros during the Second World War. The exhibit coincided with the 74th year of the landing of American troops in Pulupandanon March 29, 1945.

In previous years, the officials of Negros commemorated that day as Negros Liberation Day but the remembrance, ironically, is forgotten and now hardly anyone remembers that celebration. As the celebration was forgotten, so is the new generation unaware that such a historic event took place at all.

There is a monument at the Bacolod plaza that is supposed to remind us of those interesting times, specifically the landing on March 29 but the inscription there is hardly understood and it honors an American. How many bother to stop, read and ponder on the memorial? Sadly, the inscription is weakened by its lack of historical accuracy.

PVB did not forget, however. Thus the exhibit that evening intended to mark the importance of the day. The photo display at a local hotel followed the morning program where we broke ground for the planned Negros War and Peace Museum in Patag that I wrote about that last Friday.

The photographs were taken mostly by the US Army and by the Japanese when they occupied Negros on May 20, 1942. I had some of these photographs that were included in my book, Against the Rising Sun but there are also others collected by PVB from various sources, like individuals with a passion for such war materials.

The photomontage was done expertly that a viewer can really “feel” the message of the photographs. The captions are compact but sufficient to tell the main story. However captions are only “specks” that start and end with what we see. There is need to tell the rest but the exhibit is constrained by its nature.

Grandchildren of the soldiers from Negros who fought and died in Bataan would be moved to remembrance in one photograph showing the soldiers of the 71st Regiment of the 7th Military District preparing to board “MS Corregidor” for their last journey.

The grandchildren of those who boarded this same boat on its last trip from Manila to Bacolod might like to see that ship that was strafed and sunk by the Japanese after they left Manila. On board were many prominent families of Negros. The photo of the boat will rekindle the memory of those who died when they escaped from the Japanese forces entering Manila.

There are several scenes in the exhibits that affect civilians, like those fleeing Bacolod while the Americans were coming in. Most of the photos, however, are military in nature. They presented the cycle of war in Negros. There was the first group of reservists on training, then the trip to Luzon to help that sector, followed by the surrender of Filipino and American forces in Negros. There are photos on the “softening” of Japanese resistance with aerial bombings against Japanese airfields, then the arrival of Americans, the fighting in Patag and Lantawan and the surrender of the Japanese in Murcia.

The PVB plans to bring this exhibit to a wider audience but I don’t know where and when. What is important is that the bank has launched this project as a first step to recall how our people responded to a call to duty to protect our country. Indeed, we can speak about patriotism but nothing is better than seeing their effort and for our people to realize that our youth can rise to the challenge of the moment when the fate of our country is at stake.

The men of Negros who were called to duty to serve in that war were young, from age of 20 to 30. In the next call, the age bracket was from 18 to 35, the flowers of the youth of our country. Finally, anyone of whatever age joined.

Present during the opening of exhibit were Undersecretary Ernesto G. Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office of the Department of National Defense; the PVB President Renato A. Claravall; PVB First Vice President Miguel Angelo C. Villa-Real; PVB Bacolod Branch Manager, Edilyn M. Delaon; other PVB officers, district commanders of the Philippine Veterans Federation and members of academe.