|The house where US Gen. Douglas MacArthur lived during the Lingayen Gulf Landings.|
This building is being used by West Central Elementary School 1 in Dagupan City as its
temporary library and canteen.
On May 26, upon the order of Pangasinan fourth District Rep. Christopher de Venecia, a site inspection on the two-story building was made by his staff led by his chief of staff, lawyer Evelyn Panlaque.
They were joined by Valentina Hortaleza, the school principal, who toured them around the house that is now in dire need of rehabilitation.
Panlaque said the congressman has big plans for the MacArthur building restoration “as much as possible to its original form as it is a historic site”.
The group was amazed by the edifice made of old wood, from the floor, walls, ceiling, windows and decorations, with MacArthur’s famous bathtub still intact in the bathroom. Signs of deterioration, however, are imminent in most parts of the house.
Hortaleza said representatives of the company that manufactured the bathtub also came here to get their approval to have it brought abroad for restoration “because it is a proof that their product is indeed durable for a lifetime”.
But Hortaleza did not approve the suggestion, saying they have no guarantee the bathtub would be returned here.
At the front yard of the house is a three-sided cemented marker.
One side reads: “Luzon Landing. On this site, The West Central Elementary School Home Economics Building, Dagupan City, was used by General Douglas MacArthur as his official headquarters after his landing in Lingayen Beach on 9 January 1945 to liberate the Island of Luzon, thus fulfilling his promise to the Filipino people ‘I Shall Return.’”
Another side is marker with an eagle, an American flag and the words “Freedom is not free, vigilance is the price of Liberty.”
A third side shows the official seal of Dagupan with its motto, “Aliguas Dagupan.”
During the site visit Friday, some school teachers were busy cleaning and prepping up the old building in time for the school opening on June 5.
Two personnel were painting the front cemented arc leading to the wooden stairway towards the second floor which the school temporarily uses as its library.
At the ground floor is school canteen 1 where another teacher is fixing for the children’s food needs when the school opens.
The school has another canteen, a smaller in size, so that kids can be attended to fast during recess time. The school has the biggest population of more than 2, 200 among the public elementary schools in Dagupan City, Hortaleza said.
Panlaque said De Venecia is bent on rehabilitating the Mac Arthur building, consistent with his thrust on tourism.
“The fourth district of Pangasinan is the home of the Minor Basilica of Manaoag, the beaches and famous tupig (a popular native delicacy from Pangasinan which is made out of ground glutinous rice and coconuts strips wrapped in banana leaves then cooked over charcoal) in San Fabian and Dagupan City plus its Bonuan bangus (milkfish) and pigar-pigar (another popular food made of thinly sliced carabeef quickly deep fried served with round-sliced onions), the agro-tourism in San Jacinto, the bike trail in Mangaldan and its popular tapa (Filipino-style dried carabeef),” Panlaque said.
She said the Mac Arthur house is a tourist attraction and a historic building which can also draw tourists, the way it is already drawing attention to some curious onlookers who come and take their pictures with it.
Panlaque added that De Venecia is set to coordinate with concerned government agencies like the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, National Commission for the Culture and the Arts and the Department of Tourism about its historic relevance and the importance of preserving and restoring it through the acquisition of necessary funding support.
Meanwhile, Hortaleza said based on accounts of some old folks and historical records, Mac Arthur and his troop used the West Central Elementary School briefly as headquarters of the Southwest Pacific Area Command after the American Allied Forces landed in Lingayen Gulf on Jan. 9, 1945 to liberate the Philippines from Japanese invasion.
“If this building would be restored, it would really mean a lot for Dagupan. Much as we would like to restore it, we cannot afford to do so because we do not have funds,” the school principal said.