Filipino Worldview: “I shall return”
(The Philippine Star) – April 5, 2019
On March 19,1942 General MacArthur in Adelaide, Australia stated: The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines…for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary object of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return….”
I quote from “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur” written by William Manchester (pp.270-271). “The originator of the phrase, in fact, was Carlos Romulo. Back on the Rock (Corregidor), Sutherland had told the Filipino journalist that the Allied slogan in the islands should be, as OWI later suggested, “We shall return.” Romulo objected: “America has let us down and won’t be trusted,” he said. “But the people still have confidence in MacArthur. (President Roosevelt gave priority to the European theater and the expected relief for Bataan and Corregidor never came.) If he says he is coming back, he will be believed.” Sutherland passed the suggestion along to the General, who adopted it. MacArthur…later wrote: “‘I shall return’ seemed a promise of magic to the Filipinos. It lit a flame that became a symbol which focused the nation’s indomitable will and at whose shrine it finally attained victory and, once again, found freedom. It was scraped in the sands of the beaches, it was daubed on the walls of the barrios, it was stamped on the mail, it was whispered in the cloisters of the church. It became the battle cry of a great underground swell that no Japanese bayonet could still.”
The Leyte Landing Memorial
On Oct. 20, 1944, MacArthur did return, landing in Palo, Leyte starting the campaign for the recapture and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
The photo of General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore in Palo, Leyte together with then president in-exile Sergio Osmena and my father, (who was MacArthur’s aide-de camp) is one of the most iconic of World War II, perhaps just next to the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima. The sculptural presentation of Iwo Jima photo is one of the most visited sites in Washington, D.C. The state of the sculptural tableau of the photo in Leyte is, however, far from iconic. Instead, one will find it to be ill-maintained, that it has become decrepit. Surely something as historic and well known as this event deserves a better fate.
My American friend, Dennis Wright (a Clark resident) has secured support from the US-Philippines Society, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Douglas MacArthur Memorial (in Norfolk, Virginia) to make the Leyte memorial worthy of the historic event it is dedicated to. They have volunteered to lobby the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), which is the responsible federal agency, to have the memorial administered and maintained. The ABMC is tasked with commemorating US Armed Force services through the erection and maintenance of memorials in the US and overseas. It currently administers, operates and maintains 26 American military cemeteries; 30 federal memorials, monuments and markers located in 17 foreign countries. The cemeteries and memorials commemorate the services of Americans and allies who served primarily in WWI and WWII, and are among the most beautiful and meticulously maintained shrines in the world. Currently, it administers three sites in the Philippines: Manila American Cemetery, Clark Veterans Cemetery and Cabanatuan POW Memorial Nueva Ecija. Those who have been to the sites will attest to the high aesthetic and conceptual standards from which the Leyte Memorial will benefit if placed under the ABMC.
Getting this done will, however, require the Philippine side to agree to a bilateral ABMC Custodial Agreement modeled after those of the Clark and Cabanatuan memorials. I cannot see any downside to accepting this generous offer. Aside from its historical significance, the memorial will enhance the tourism potential of Leyte with the expected influx of visitors. “Battlefield tourism,” particularly of WWII, has experienced a resurgence in Europe and in the Pacific.
Incidentally, Oct. 20 of this year is the 75th anniversary of the Leyte Landing. It was on this date that started the chain of events that eventually led to an independent Republic of the Philippines – gained not by colonial subjects fighting against their colonial masters, but fighting alongside each other to liberate their land from foreign occupation.
Isn’t this occasion, therefore, not worthy of a commemorative event that would signify that we value old friends who sacrificed their lives to help give us back our land (and who by the way continue to guarantee that it shall defend it from foreign aggressions) over new friends bearing gifts, but whose actuations suggest they want to take bits and pieces of it?