Was the famous Leyte Landing of 1944 reenacted?

Today our country commemorates the anniversary of the famous Leyte Landing. That historic event from World War II features the landing of General Douglas MacArthur in Leyte Gulf to begin his campaign of recapturing and liberating our country from Japanese occupation, as well as to fulfill his now iconic “I shall return” promise. Together with him were President-in-exile Sergio Osmeña, Lieutenant General Richard Sutherland, Major General Charles A. Willoughby, Brigadier General Carlos P. Rómulo, and the rest of the Sixth Army forces. From his book The Fooling of America: The Untold Story of Carlos P. Rómulo, the late chemist-turned-historian Pío Andrade writes:

On October 20, 1944, following preliminary landings in Sulúan, Homonhón, and Dinagat islands between October 17-19, American soldiers landed in Leyte to begin liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. After several waves of troops had landed, MacArthur landed at Red Beach, Palo, Leyte. It was a historic moment for MacArthur and the Philippines.

The above photo, now regarded as one of the most memorable images from World War II, is what the whole world knows about the Leyte Landing. However, in the same book, Andrade has more to reveal:

MacArthur’s Leyte landing has been firmly etched in the mind of the public thus: the general wading in knee-deep water with Philippine President Osmeña and Carlos P. Rómulo. Actually, there are doubts whether that picture is the real first Leyte landing of MacArthur. A daughter of one of President Quezon’s military aides told this writer that the picture was a reenactment. There were three shots of the Leyte landing picture taken from different angles thereby giving the impression that the landing was rehearsed. The New York Times reported that President Osmeña came ashore in Leyte on October 21, meaning that the famous Leyte landing picture was not taken the day MacArthur first stepped on Red Beach. MacArthur, himself, signed and dated a different Leyte landing picture which showed neither Osmeña nor Rómulo.

And what could that photo Andrade was referring to? Here it is:

La imagen puede contener: una o varias personas, personas de pie y exterior

Photo from Andrade’s book.

Real or reenacted, Rómulo was flamboyantly dressed in the Leyte landing picture. While professional soldiers Generals MacArthur, Sutherland, and Willoughby wore military caps, paper soldier Rómulo wore a steel helmet, the better to show his brigadier general’s star. Though he knew he would be in the rear headquarters, Rómulo dressed as if he was going to the combat zone. He had a pair of leggings and his revolver hang on a shoulder holster like an FBI agent instead of on a belt holster required by military regulations. Rómulo was trying hard to project himself as a real soldier.

But Rómulo’s alleged KSP attitude, of course, is another story. Today, the Leyte Landing is immortalized by the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park at Red Beach, on the same site where MacArthur and his party landed. Which now leads me to a heritage crime that happened in 2014: the unceremonious removal of the Simón de Anda Monument from Bonifacio Drive in Manila to make way for a much larger highway to ease traffic. On deciding of removing the monument, then DPWH-National Capital Region head Reynaldo Tagudando said that the de Anda Monument has “no historical value”. Tagudando thus revealed his complete ignorance of who Simón de Anda y Salazar was.

De Anda was an oidor or member judge of the Audiencia Real (Spain’s appellate court in its colonies/overseas provinces) when the British, on account of the Seven Years’ War, invaded Filipinas in 1762. While many high-ranking government officials, including then interim governor-general and Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Río, already surrendered to the invaders, de Anda and his followers refused to do so. Instead, he established a new Spanish base in Bacolor, Pampanga and from there launched the country’s first ever guerrilla resistance against the British. He thus proved to be a big thorn on the side of the British until the latter left two years later.

During those tumultuous two years under the British, de Anda made no promises and neither did he leave Filipinas. He stuck it out with Filipinos through thick and thin and gave the enemy an armed resistance that they more than deserved. But “Dugout Doug” was all drama when he said “I shall return”, leaving the Filipinos to fend for themselves against the Japs. And when he did return, it was a disaster: the death of Intramuros, the heart and soul of the country.

If there was anything good that came out from 2013’s destructive Typhoon Yolanda, it was the damage done to that memorial park at Red Beach. When it comes to WWII commemorations, even the forces of nature know which monument has no historical value.


Today in Filipino History: execution of Wenceslao Vinzons

TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY – 15 July 1942: Wenceslao Vinzons, Filipino politician and one of the leaders of the armed resistance against the Japanese invasion and occupation of Filipinas during World War II, was bayoneted to death by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) for refusing to cooperate with them. Executed together with him was his father Gabino, his wife Liwayway, his sister Milagros, and children Aurora and Alexander (both of which were below 10 years of age).

Wenceslao Vinzons 2010 stamp of the Philippines.jpg

Vinzons was born in the town of Indán, Camarines Norte on 28 September 1910. He took up law at the University of the Philippines College of Law and placed third in the bar examinations of 1933. While in UP, he became a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest Greek-letter organization and fraternity in Asia. He became president of the student council and editor-in-chief as well of the Philippine Collegian.

After graduation, Vinzons, along with Narciso J. Alegre and Arturo M. Tolentino (future senator and Vice President to strongman Ferdinand Marcos) founded the Young Philippines Party, a political party which actively campaigned for the independence of Filipinas against U.S. occupation. In 1934, after the passage of the Tydings–McDuffie Act which laid the groundwork for independence, Vinzons successfully sought election as a delegate representing his home province to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. At 24, he was the youngest delegate as well as the youngest signer of the 1935 Constitution.

In 1940, he was elected governor of his province. The following year, he successfully ran for election to the National Assembly (forerunner of today’s House of Representatives), representing the lone district of Camarines Norte. His service in the legislature, however, was short-lived due to the Japanese invasion of Filipinas in December 1941.

He founded and led the Vinzons Guerrillas, the first resistance group to fight the Japanese invaders. Their first battle with the enemy happened in Barrio Lanitón in nearby Basud, Camarines Norte. At its peak, this group’s membership ballooned to almost 3,000 which included Aetas who used poisoned arrows in their skirmishes against the IJA. This group was even able to liberate the provincial capital of Dáet from the Japanese. During the early months of the war, the Vinzons Guerrillas were able to kill around 3,000 IJA troops, prompting the enemy to make him one of their primary targets.

After the fall of Bataán and Corregidor, more IJA troops poured in into the country, compelling Vinzons to disperse his troops into smaller guerrilla units using the forest mountains of the Bícol region for their hideout. Vinzons was eventually captured by the enemy on 8 July 1942. He was brought to Daét where he was killed with family members after refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese flag. According to reports, Major Tsuneoka Noburo stabbed Vinzon’s belly with a bayonet while Corporal Kuzumi Taiku hit him hard with a rifle butt at the back of the head. He was only 31 years of age, a very young martyr.

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

Photo: Tito Encarnación.

Vinzons Hall in UP Dilimán was named after him. The name of his hometown was also changed from Indán to Vinzons (now a 3rd class municipality) to honor his memory. In 2016, on the occasion of his 106th birth anniversary, the 17th Congress of the Philippines passed a resolution to extol his heroism and virtues during World War II.

Captain Remo

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Abelardo Remoquillo (1922-1945), known among his peers, war enemies, and admirers as “Captain Remo”, was a young guerrillero from San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna (simply known today as the City of San Pedro, Laguna) who fought against the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. He is known only as a local hero. But I contend that he be declared a national hero. Why? At a very young age, he joined the Hunters ROTC guerrillas not to defend his hometown but to help defend his country. He fought against the invaders from different fronts of Southern Luzón and even participated in the famous Raid at Los Baños.
He died not in San Pedro Tunasán but in faraway Bay, La Laguna while attacking a Japanese garrison.
When he joined the Hunters ROTC, that is when his being a San Pedrense ended, and the exact moment when he completed his being a Filipino, a Filipino warrior to be exact.
Today is his 74th death anniversary.

Copies of my bilingual biography* of Captain Remo are still available at the San Pedro City Hall. For inquiries, please contact the San Pedro Tourism, Culture, and Arts Office.

*The Tagálog translation is by Linda Sietereales. Her dear friend, famous novelist Lualhati Bautista, has a blurb for the book. This book is a project of the San Pedro City Historical Council headed by Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz.

A useless rampage

Back when we were kids, we were taught in school how the U.S. saved us from the Japanese in 1945. We were never told anything about how Manila was obliterated during the so-called “liberation”, how more than a hundred thousand lives were sacrificed, and how useless it all was considering the fact that the Japanese Empire was about to surrender anytime soon.

Recently, the Los Ángeles Times published a book review written by Bob Drogin on a new book about the horrid consequences of World War II in Filipinas. Titled Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila, the book in question “focuses in part on the 7,500 or so Americans and others held as prisoners of war or civilian internees in squalid conditions, and their dramatic rescue by U.S. troops”. While many books have already dealt with the subject, Drogin comments that author James M. Scott has added “a heart-rending portrayal of the brutal life” experienced by these POWs. Drogin also notes that the author has broken new ground “by mining war crimes records, after-action military reports and other primary sources for the agonizing testimony of Philippine survivors and witnesses of more than two dozen major Japanese atrocities during the battle — and the ferocious American response”.

"Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila" by James M. Scott

To the Filipino history buff, the best part about this book is that Rampage is written not by a fellow Filipino but by a U.S. historian, in fact a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist. When the author comments in his book that “it was hard to tell who had done more damage — the Japanese defenders or the American liberators”, it would be difficult to accuse him of historical bias. Nevertheless, his confusion was already answered years ago by Nick Joaquín, the country’s premiere historian and 1976 National Artist for Literature. Joaquín had the privilege of interviewing several survivors of the Battle for Manila, leading him to conclude that it was both “Yank and Jap together that razed Intramuros”. Intramuros here, of course, meant “the original Manila“, the nerve center, the battlefield itself. But Joaquín’s mentioning of Intramuros should not mean that the Walled City’s suburbs (Ermita, Malate, etc.) were excluded from the useless U.S. rampage. As observed by a friend of mine, thousands of lives would not have been lost, and heritage buildings as well as other establishments would have been spared from destruction, had Gen. Douglas MacArthur simply waited for the Japanese to surrender after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would have certainly led to that end, anyway.

Here’s an excerpt of Drogin’s book review:

It’s hard to imagine that a major month-long battle from World War II — one that devastated a large city, caused more than 100,000 civilian deaths and led to both a historic war crimes trial and a Supreme Court decision — should have escaped scrutiny until now.

But history has somehow overlooked the catastrophic battle for Manila, capital of the Philippines, in the waning months of the war. Like the Rape of Nanking, or the siege of Stalingrad, the tragedy of Manila deserves far greater understanding and reflection today.

James M. Scott remedies that gap with “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila,” the first comprehensive account of one of the darkest chapters of the Pacific War. It is powerful narrative history, one almost too painful to read in places but impossible to put down.

It begins as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the egotistical military commander of the U.S. colony in the Philippines, was caught woefully unprepared when the war began. Japanese bombers destroyed his planes on the ground and American and Philippine forces were soon overwhelmed. MacArthur famously vowed to return as he was evacuated to Australia.

Three years later, the U.S. Navy had steadily clawed its way back across the Pacific and bombers were already striking Japanese industrial centers. Most commanders saw “no need to risk American lives on a costly invasion of the Philippines” when the fall of Japan appeared imminent, Scott writes.

Read the rest of the review here.

The ruins of Manila after a useless battle. Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila can be ordered via amazon.com.

US colonization according to Carmen Guerrero Nákpil

In commemoration of the Filipino-American Friendship Day which falls today, I share to you this video clip of writer Carmen Guerrero Nákpil, sister of nationalist León Mª Guerrero, and mother of intellectual beauty queen Gemma Cruz Araneta. The video was uploaded by Andrew Pearson, probably the same person who co-produced the 1989 documentary The U.S. and the Philippines: In Our Image which was based from Stanley Karnow’s book In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. This video clip must have been culled from that documentary (I have not seen it yet).

Born in 1922, Doña Chitang lived through the remaining 24 years of US colonization. She was already a young adult during Uncle Sam’s final decade in our country and became a mother during World War II. Therefore, she knew what she was talking about in this interview. She is blunt and unapologetic towards US colonization.

“Americans were just, uh, did such a good job of selling themselves to Filipinos that, that now Filipinos think of the American period as the ‘Golden Age’ of their entire history”, she said matter-of-factly. “Nobody asked them to come in 1898. Nobody asked América to come over and, uh, take over our country”. Take note that there is no hint of anger in her voice throughout the interview. Her thoughts about US colonialism were not beholden to emotional bias as what we usually hear from anti-US activists today. Hers was simply an academic observation, a case of calling a spade a spade.

Pearson also wrote a rather unfair description for the interviewee: “There’s an apparent contradiction between her view that the Philippines would have been better off without the US, and her remark that independence was given too soon. But that’s what makes people interesting”, he wrote.

But there is no contradiction. While Doña Chitang did say that our country would have been better off without US intervention, she made it clear that the independence that was granted to us 71 years ago today was premature for the simple fact that we were let go only a year after the devastating war. Our country, particularly Manila, the seat of our country’s power, was totally devastated. And worse, the Filipinos were “subsequently exploited for economic, political, and military reasons”, thus making 4 July 1946 a sham date.

Without further ado, here’s the interview:

Unfortunately, Pearson disabled commenting for this video of his. From sham to shame.

By the way, has the US even apologized for the countless Filipinos they have slaughtered when they invaded us in 1898, including the brutal pacification campaign that followed?

Happy Filipino-American Friendship Day? Not.