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March 18 holiday recalls Panay guerrillas’ war heroism

ILOILO CITY, March 12 – The heroism and sacrifices of Panay guerrillas, who answered the call to duty and helped defend the country from foreign invasion during the Second World War, will again be brought to the fore during the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Liberation of Panay and Romblon on March 18.

It is a non-working special day in the two islands of Panay and Romblon including the cities of Iloilo and Roxas by virtue of Proclamation No. 430.

The proclamation, which was issued by former President Corazon C. Aquino in July 1989, declares March 18 of every year as “victory day” in Panay and Romblon to underscore its great historical and sentimental significance to both the veterans and the people of these islands because it was the day when the Panay Guerrilla Forces launched the final assault on the Japanese Imperial Armed Force.

The province of Guimaras is covered by the holiday proclamation under Proclamation No. 430 since at the time it was signed the island province formed part of the Island of Panay.

The yearly commemoration of the 1945 historic event is observed at the Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine in Jaro, Iloilo City, which is the only military cemetery established outside of Metro Manila and was the venue of the bloodiest battle between Filipino guerrilla forces and the Japanese Imperial forces.

In recognition of the significance of the event, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued on July 30, 2005 Administrative Order No. 128 that created an ad hoc body to take charge of preparations for the special commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the “victory day” in Panay and Romblon as well as other equally significant events that led to the end of the Second World War in the Philippines by 1945.

Among these significant events were the Allied Landings in Lingayen, Pangasinan (January 9); Liberation of the Pangatian Prisoner of War Camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija (January 30); Allied Landings in Nasugbu, Batangas January 31); Liberation of Manila (February 3); Liberation of the Los Banos Prisoner of War Camp in Los Banos, Laguna (February 3); Liberation of Corregidor (March 2); Allied Landings in Zamboanga City, Zamboanga (March 10); Liberation of Panay and Romblon (March 18); Veterans Week (April 5-9); Battle of Balete Pass in Sta. Fe, Nueva Viscaya (May 13); Battle of Ipo Dam in Bulacan (May 19); Battle of Bessang Pass in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur (June 14) and Surrender of General Tomoyuki Yamashita in Kiangan, Ifugao and Baguio (September 2-3). These events too place in 1945.

In 2004, President Arroyo issued Administrative No. 102 for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Leyte Landings that took place on October 20, 1944 and preceded the events of 1945.

President Arroyo has stressed that these events should be appropriately celebrated to rekindle a deep spirit of pride, unity and nationalism among Filipinos.

The Chief Executive has pointed out: “It is the moral obligation of every citizen, specially the youth, to acknowledge the heroism and sacrifices of our Filipino soldiers, guerrillas and civilians who answered the call to duty and defended the country from foreign invasion during its darkness years of the Second World War.”

A Panay Liberation Marker has been erected in Tigbauan, Iloilo to memorialize the event. (PNA)

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