March 18, 2019 — today marks the day of celebrating the 74th Liberation of Panay
In a day and age where the Philippines, particularly Iloilo, is enjoying a time of peace (for the most part), the memory of the wars that have crippled mankind seem like a long long time ago. But even when we enjoy an unprecedented time of peace, it isn’t an excuse to forget what our forefathers went through in the perilous times of the Second World War.
The Historical Significance
The Liberation of Panay is a locally recognized public holiday in the islands of Guimaras, Romblon, and Panay. And for war veterans in these regions, March 18, 1945, is a day to commemorate and celebrate.
The official proclamation for the celebration of the Holiday was issued by former President Corazon C. Aquino back in July 1989 — Proclamation No. 430. It was to honor the historical significance to both the veterans who fought valiantly in the war and the people of these islands.
“Panay guerrillas harassed, sabotaged and decimated the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces in the islands of Panay and Romblon throughout World War II in the name of country, freedom, and democracy.”
~ part of Proclamation No. 430
Launching a final assault on the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces, the Panay Guerilla’s claimed a resounding victory.
With two weeks of aerial bombardment on Japanese positions, the 40th Infantry Division led by the 185th Infantry Regiment landed without opposition at Tigbauan. There, a guerilla force of 23,000 under the command of Col. Macario Peralta had secured the majority of Panay.
As General Robert L. Eichelberger recalls, “Filipino guerrillas stood stiff, resplendent in starched khaki uniforms and ornaments and decked in battle gear”
Japanese forces were concentrated largely in Iloilo City Proper, and the 40th Division didn’t encounter many trials in sweeping the outposts away in all of two days. A similar operation by the guerillas and the 2nd Battalion of the 160th Infantry Regiment continued. And by the time the war was over, some 1,500 Japanese troops had surrendered.
Has this generation forgotten old heroism?
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) has openly revealed that Iloilo was the province that had one of the most successful resistance movements during the Japanese occupation in World War II. This was largely due to the cooperation between General Macario Peralta and Tomas Confessor.
As of today, there are more than a hundred of the 8,000 Second World War guerillas still alive. And they all hail from the province of Iloilo.
The commemoration program was held at the Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine in Barangay Quintin Salas, Jaro, Iloilo City.
And even we can’t be a part of the official commemoration ceremonies, perhaps it’s not too much to take a moment, and think about what had transpired 74 years ago.
Because without the brave Ilonggo soldiers who ardently fought off the Japanese forces, we wouldn’t even enjoy half the peace that we have now; nor would we be celebrating the Liberation of Panay.
Featured image credit: Photo Collection by John Tewell; Colored by Bilog Bilugan