DAGUPAN CITY – On the 74th anniversary of the historic landing of General Douglas MacArthur, the memory of his return is as clear as the day he uttered the words “I shall return.”
A man of his commitment, General MacArthur is loved by Filipinos across all generations for his fulfillment of his promise to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation.
In Dagupan, this victory is as memorable as the day he waded through the waters of the Blue Beach, now the location of the Tondalingan Park in Bonuan Gueset.
The controversies over the actual site of the landing of General MacArthur often spark debates among the locals, but there are several evidences that point that the American general actually landed in the city.
In a commemorative program held by the MacArthur monument at Virgen Milagrosa Compound in Bonuan Gueset on January 9, it was again stressed that remembering this fact is as important as honoring his (MacArthur’s) bravery.
A 92-year old World War II veteran and living witness Alejandro Balolong, recounted how he and his cousin, Dr. Pedro Balolong, saw MacArthur and his troops emerge from the beach. .
“At 7 in the morning on January 9, 1945, my cousin and I were right here in Bonuan Blue Beach when we saw General Douglas MacArthur and his troops disembark. It was then around noon on the same day that I saw MacArthur again, this time already aboard a military jeep. He could not have landed in any other place than here in our own beach, ” said Balolong.
Balolong also added that a copy of a photograph taken of him and his cousin by the beach that day is kept at the American Embassy. Balolong is among the only fifteen youth from Bonuan recruited later by the U.S. Navy.
Mayor Belen T. Fernandez also shared an article from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History that reaffirms MacArthur’s presence here in Dagupan.
An article from documentary magazine Time Life detailed the personal recollections of photographer Carl Mydans, who was handpicked to take photos for the general’s war operations.
Mydans was the photographer behind the iconic picture of MacArthur wading through the beach, which was captioned as: ‘It shows MacArthur striding ashore onto ‘Blue Beach’, Dagupan, on the island of Luzon, Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines.’
Another photo of Mydans read: “His party reaches dry land followed by a crowd of curious beachhead workers.”
Mayor Fernandez said many narratives from during those time affirm that many Dagupeños warmly welcomed Macarthur upon his arrival here in Dagupan.
Fernandez also underscored the importance of remembering MacArthur’s part in the progress that followed the country’s liberation.
“MacArthur not just laid down an important brick that led to the liberation of the Philippines, but also the development and progress of the country, including Dagupan. Six years ago, we laid down our own brick similar to his in order to build this great city. Imagine if he would come here again —he would be impressed that the full blessings of freedom and democracy is in full bloom in this dynamic, throbbing city,” said Fernandez.
Mayor Fernandez also shared that the city is set to build a MacArthur park by the water tank in the Tondaligan blue beach, which will also serve as picnic grounds for families and tourists.
The current MacArthur monument will be retained as it was identified as one of the heritage sites in the city, said Fernandez.
In the same occasion, the Villaflor family of the Dagupan Doctors Villaflor Memorial Hospital turned over Dr. Vivencio Villaflor, Jr.’s collection of MacArthur’s commemorative stamps to be under the care of the city government.
The stamps were issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation from 1948 to 1980.
The commemorative program which included an offering of Holy Mass and wreath-laying rites was attended by World War II veterans, city officials and members of the Fleet Reserve Association Branch 247, Lady Auxiliary Fleet Reserve Association, Veterans of Foreign War Post 2485, Knights of Columbus, Philippine Army and the Philippine Navy.
Also present were teachers and students from Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School and North Central Elementary School. (Verdelle De Vera/CIO)