WWII veterans honored in 79th Liberation of Panay

By Mariela Angella Oladive

The 79th commemoration of the Liberation of Panay, Romblon, and Guimaras Islands was conducted successfully on Monday, March 18, in Iloilo City by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) 6-Iloilo, Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine, Veterans Federation of the Philippines, and local governments of the city and provice of Iloilo.

The ceremony took place at the Balantang Memorial Cemetery in Jaro district where eight living and five deceased World War II veterans were bestowed with service medals. The cemetery was designated a National Shrine in 1994 and is the only military cemetery outside Metro Manila.

Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., who served as the guest of honor and speaker, presided over the awarding ceremony. He was joined by distinguished officials including PA 301st Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Michael Samson, PRO 6 Director Police Brig. Gen. Jack Wanky, Veterans Federation of the Philippines officials Major Gen. Romeo D. Alamillo and Col. Hannibal Lipardo, and PVAO representative Colonel Ma. Sheila Jardiolin.

In his message, Defensor thanked and congratulated everyone who took part in the commemoration.

“Our gratitude to you, our veterans, knows no bounds because with the freedom gained through your sacrifices, our history unfolded. It extends beyond World War II, encompassing the ongoing challenges of development we still confront today. These challenges are not merely obstacles but threats akin to those faced during WWII,” the governor said.

“Even now, in our freedom, we encounter threats. Let us mark this day, March 18, 2024, to reaffirm our commitment alongside our veterans, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police (PNP), and the rest of you, to continue in our fight for the defense of our country; and development is our best defense against the threats,” he added and cited threats like climate change, floods, food security, problems in the educational system, among others.

Among the awardees were Corporal Simon Hinola, Private First Class Gregorio De Asis, Private First Class Abello A. Eler, Private First Class Claro O. Daulo, Private Angeles M. Calmorin, Private First Class Espiridion Dalida, Private Resurrecion Salazar, and Sergeant (Sgt.) Pablo A. Balsamo.

Sgt. Nicholas Pulmones, Private Filomeno Flamiano, Private Joaquin Katipunan, Private Potenciano Madrigal, and Private Francisco Dimalaluan were posthumously awarded.

The commemoration activities included flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, the tombs of General Macario Peralta and his wife Legionario Natividad-Peralta, and the Wall of Memories.

The event was attended by the veterans and their families, alongside representatives from various government agencies and non-government organizations who paid homage to the indomitable spirit and courage of those who fought for liberty.

Also known as Victory Day, the historical event dates to March 18, 1945, when the 40th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army landed on Parara Beach in Tigbauan, Iloilo, to liberate the islands of Panay, Romblon, and Guimaras from Japanese occupation.

Under the leadership of Colonel (Col.) Macario Peralta, the 6th Military District of the Free Panay Guerrilla Forces, alongside lieutenants Leopoldo Relunia, Julian Chavez, and Francisco Offemariam, a 23,000-strong army was mobilized to take part in one of the most notable Filipino resistance movements during the liberation campaign.

On July 21, 1989, then-President Corazon Aquino signed Proclamation No. 430, designating March 18 of each year as “Victory Day” and declaring it a special non-working holiday in Panay, Romblon, and Guimaras islands.

The ceremony concluded with a reverence for the heroes who shaped history and paved the way for the freedoms we cherish today.

As the nation reflects on its past, it stands united in honoring the bravery and sacrifice of its veterans, ensuring that their legacy continues to inspire generations to come.

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