|18-day drive to see Leyte
|Source: Manila Bulletin
|Author: Romana Lopez Del Castillo Noche
(The historic Leyte Landing, which marked MacArthurs
return to the Philippines, took place on Oct. 20, 1944.
This article is about the commemoration of the events
50th anniversary in 1994. The author submitted this
piece as her contribution in commemorating the 55th
anniversary of the Leyte Landing on Oct. 20. The author
is a retired assistant commissioner, Legal Affairs Branch
of the Napolcom. Ed.)
It was on October 12, 1994 when I, accompanied by
another widow, Susie Galang, and my driver, Leo
Mallare, drove all the way to Tacloban, Leyte
through ferry boats onwards to Cebu via an Aboitiz
ship and back to Manila via a William Lines
Mabuhay I (before its merger with WG&A). It was an
odyssey of 18 days.
I had to be in Leyte to celebrate the Philippine liberation
from the Japanese occupation.
To boost my morale, I always prefer to have Our Lord and
La Virgen de la Paz y buen Viaje on my side. After all,
this is not a European land tour where one can depend
on the Auto Anonymous, an auto association that
services cars whenever one gets a stalled vehicle.
We targeted Lucena City and reached it by 3 p.m. We
stayed with my former classmate in UST College of Law,
Atty. Alfredo Raya, and his wife Adelaida, a doctor of
We made it to Allied Bank, Naga City before it closed
and met Alice Poloyapoy, who was surprised to see the
mother of her former area supervisor, my eldest son
At 9 a.m. the following morning, in spite of the invitation
of another UST Law classmate, Atty. Lorenzo Rosales,
Sr., and his wife to stay for lunch, we proceeded to
Legaspi City after praying to Our Lady of Peqafrancia.
We reached the Napolcom Regional Office by 3 p.m. My
former officers, Atty. Mariano Ruiz, Atty. Rodolfo
Albaytan and Atty. Salvador Salopaso, were pleased to
On October 16, we were again on the road. We took the
ferry boat at Matnog, Bulan, Sorsogon. The coast guard
accommodated us and our Ford Laser squeezed itself in,
between buses and trucks.
The privately-owned ferry service Pingag was well
organized, first come, first serve. Our Laser was number
10. At 11 a.m., the numbered vehicles were asked to
arrange themselves to take off as soon as the ferryboat
unloads the vehicles. It was 2 p.m. and no ferryboat was
in sight which means that the coast guard in Cebu
refused to let the ferryboat leave. The engineer-in-charge
could not assure me that the ferryboat would be released
the following day, so I opted then to return to Ormoc
City, an hours ride, and booked with Aboitiz Shipping
Although we can reach Tacloban before nightfall, I
decided to stay overnight at Catbalogan City. By 9 a.m.
the following morning and after our usual sightseeing, we
arrived fresh and eager for photograph taking at the San
Juanico Bridge, the longest in Asia, crossing the narrow,
treacherous, scenic San Juanico Strait, with its islets,
swift currents and whirlpools.
We arrived in Tacloban City where we didnt have a hard
time locating Napolcom Regional Office.
I need not elaborate on the re-enactment festivities
except to state that Gen. Douglas MacArthurs look-alike
did not trip during the first re-enactment which started
promptly at 9:45 a.m. before Pres. Fidel Ramos arrived. I
managed to sit under the canopy where the American
I had a clear, unobstructed view of the first re-enactment
on October 20. The rehearsal was done the day before.
Afterwards, together with the American survivors, Susie,
my driver and I returned to our table at the plush
restaurant at MacArthur Park Hotel.
Oh! But the fireworks was well worth waiting for. It started
at 7 p.m. Not since I was a young girl when every Dec.
31 my father would bring us in our car to the Luneta to
witness magnificent fireworks.
I remember at exactly midnight the ships foghorns
blared and their lights blazed. And the fireworks
displayed the faces of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt
and Manuel L. Quezon and the flags of America and the
Philippines side by side. Not even the fireworks at
Disneyland California could compare with them. But the
fireworks at Palo, Leyte with a ship in all its shining
splendor was the last and the longest fireworks
contribution of America to the Philippines for having
helped dismantle the Japanese army.
There were many activities but the one I liked best was
the Turogpo at Carigara Leyte. There were several sets of
carabaos with their horns locking and horses with their
legs and feet trampling each other. The trainors of the
carabao/horse who wins get a prize. The locals told me
that this festivity is done every Easter Sunday.
One of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines is
Biliran province. It is rural and quite untouched by
civilization. In spite of its unfinished roads (maybe now it
is already paved and cemented) it is a tourist destination.
There are a few inns, tricycles and a car for hire, discos,
bars for karaoke singing. The beaches are presentable.
At the Agta Beach Resort, I met a group of Australian
survivors of the Leyte landing. But it was in the fishing
and prawn farm of Luz Casas and her husband Fortun,
that I had a most enjoyable day. Its been years since
Ive been on a fish pond.
Ah! The joys of traveling. Its not only a break from the
monotony of city living, its the tranquillity of rural areas,
the chance to chat with country folks.
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