LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—The Provincial Government of Pangasinan was joined by Pangasinan World War II veterans and their families, officials from the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), heads from different national agencies, mayors and representatives from Pangasinan’s towns and cities, and representatives from higher education institutions as the province commemorated the 78th Lingayen Gulf Landings Anniversary and the 16th Pangasinan Veterans Day at the Veterans Memorial Park, Lingayen, Pangasinan on January 9, 2023.
The Lingayen Gulf Landings pertain to the events leading up to the Liberation of Luzon, starting from the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur and the Allied Forces along the shores of Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945. The Liberation of Luzon was participated by soldiers from Pangasinan and became an integral part in the eventual liberation of the entire Philippines. In 2007, Ordinance No. 331-2007 was passed to officially institutionalize Pangasinan Veterans Day as an event to commemorate and honor Pangasinan soldiers who fought during World War II.
The solemn ceremony began with a thanksgiving mass that was officiated by Rev. Fr. Emil A. Soriano of the Epiphany of the Lord Parish Church. Sons and daughters of World War II veterans, represented by Mr. Floro F. Castro (son of WWII veteran Private First Class Apolonio D. Castro) and Ms. Sofia Cruz-Flores (daughter of WWII veteran Private First Class Francisco C. Cruz) led the wreath laying ceremony, followed by President and COO of the PVB Renato A. Claravall, Vice Governor Mark Ronald DG. Lambino (representing the Returned Services League of Australia), Provincial Director of the Pangasinan Provincial Police Office PCOL Jeff E. Fanged, Undersecretary of the Department of National Defense and Administrator of PVAO Reynaldo B. Mapagu, Lingayen Mayor and President of the Pangasinan League of Mayors Leopoldo N. Bataoil, and lastly Governor Ramon V. Guico III.
Representatives from PVB and PVAO presented commemorative books written by Josefa C. Benitez, Ben Cal, Cesar Pobre, and Philip Kimpo, Jr. to the Provincial Government of Pangasinan. These books tell stories of bravery and heroism of Filipinos nationwide and in the international community.
“This commemoration is also a fitting tribute to all those who fought and stood their ground against the Japanese foreign invaders. As such, I would like to recognize and offer my snappiest salute to the men and women, the known and the unsung heroes for defending our country with their lives–our veterans… Allow me to acknowledge the Pangasinan veterans who join us today. We laud and take pride in your stories and valor and bravery that fuel the Filipinos’ love for country and help secure the nation’s independence,” Undersecretary of the Department of National Defense and Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Reynaldo B. Mapagu said in his speech.
Service Awards were conferred to eight (8) veterans during the event: Private First Class Ricardo C. Manzano Sr., Philippine Scout (97 years old), Private Pedro Hiteroza, Infantry (98 years old), Private Juan DG. Cristobal, Infantry (98 years old), Private Marcelo M. Tapiador, Infantry (98 years old), Corporal Victorina G. Urmaza, Women Auxiliary Service (99 years old), Private First Class Hospicio N. Mallari, Infantry (101 years old), Corporal Adriano S. Salomon, Infantry (102 years old), Private First Class Valentin M. Untalan, Philippine Scouts (106 years old). The Nightingales, a group of singers whose talents have graced countries all over, also serenaded the veterans and other guests at the event.
A known patron of the arts and avid supporter for historical and cultural affairs, Governor Guico reiterated the significance and urgency of acknowledging, advocating, and preserving one’s history and culture because these contribute to the enrichment of not only the province’s history and identity, but also that of the whole Philippines. “I urge all of our LGUs to also allocate funding and give importance to cultural and historical mapping,” Governor Guico emphasized.
Alongside the Provincial Government of Pangasinan, the PVB and PVAO also opened an exhibit entitled, “WAR OF OUR FATHERS – A Brotherhood of Heroes” at the Pangasinan Training and Development Center I. The exhibit features wartime photos, World War II artifacts, documents of war in Pangasinan leading to the Lingayen Gulf Landings, and even archive materials from the U.S. Navy and the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.
Pangasinan veterans who attended the ceremony were also able to avail various medical services and medicine at the medical mission held outside the Sison Auditorium shortly after the event.