The local government of Dagupan observed the 70th anniversary of the historic landing of General Douglas MacArthur during a commemorative program last January 9 at the Mac Arthur Memorial Park in Bonuan Blue Beach.
The commemoration started with a thanksgiving mass followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the restored MacArthur shrine led by Mayor Belen Fernandez.
Present during the event were veterans from World War II and other foreign wars, members of the Knights of Columbus and of the Philippine Navy, and city officials.
There have been controversies over the actual site of the landing of General Mac Arthur as there were claims he landed in Lingayen and others said he came ashore through the municipality of San Fabian.
Historical accounts stated that on January 9, 1945, allied forces led by General McArthur landed on the shores of the Lingayen Gulf, which served as a turning point in the war of liberation, which eventually led to freedom for the entire Philippines and other countries in the Pacific.
But veterans and residents of Dagupan have said that the “Great American Eagle” did land first in Dagupan, before making his way to other parts of the province.
Other strong evidence include photographs of MacArthur with military troops in an area full of coconut trees, which were teeming in Dagupan.
Veteran Alejandro Balolong showed a photo of his cousin Pedro with other locals while they were meeting MacArthur and his troops when they landed near the shoreline of Bonuan Blue Beach.
Balolong added that he even witnessed the general on board a military jeep as he made his way towards to the town proper, eventually staying at the home economics building of West Central Elementary School, which served as his first command post in Luzon.
“I was 17 years old when I personally saw General MacArthur land here in Bonuan. It was a special moment in history that I will never forget,” said Balolong.
Mayor Fernandez recognized the exceptional legacy of veterans, who showed patriotism and self-sacrifice to secure liberty.
“I will make sure that we can instill in the hearts and minds of young Dagupeños the priceless lessons and exceptional bravery of you've made, so our new generation will imbibe the same heroic spirit as you did when they face their own battles in life,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez added that in recognition of the veterans' role in the city's history, the local government and the city's historical commission have set plans to restore and rehabilitate the MacArthur landing site, turning it into an area where the public can learn about an important part of history.