Sidelights of the 75th Anniversary of the Leyte Landings: a Japanese Officer who became an unlikely hero of Dulag, Leyte

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The ground zero of the 75th Anniversary celebration of the Leyte Landings last October 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2019 were naturally at Palo, Dulag and Tacloban City, Leyte. The official celebration was generally low-key with the absence the Guest of Honor, His Excellency President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who was represented by Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, National Security Adviser. The Embassy of the United States of America had a modest official delegation led by Mr. John C. Law, Charge D’Affaires instead of a more ranking diplomat considering the major role of the US in the historic event being commemorated. Other than His Excellency, Steven James Robinson, who is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, and His Excellencies, Jose Gaspar Dos Reis Correia Piadade, Ambassador of Timor-Este, and Songkalenuangmuninthone, Ambassador of Laos, all the other members of the Diplomatic Corp who attended were of lesser ranks like Minister Yasushi Yamamoto, Charge D’affaires, Embassy of Japan, Mr. Sigit Himawab, Defense Attaché’, Embassy of Indonesia, and Mr. Nguyen Thai Giang, Second Secretary Embassy of Vietnam. The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office was represented by USEC Ernesto Carolina, Administrator while nonagenarian Justice Manuel Pamaran, President of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines represented all the Philippine War Veterans.

Mr. Ota telling the true-to-life story of Captain Yamazoe, a beloved officer and a gentleman who commanded the Dulag Garrison from May 1942 until July 1944 just before the Leyte Landings drove them out of Dulag. His story was fictionalized in the book.

No wonder, Mr. German P. Palabyab, educator, economist, retired career government service officer, journalist and author of “The Saga of Leyte Gulf”, historical fiction chose the 75th Anniversary of the Leyte landings as his venue to launch his historical fiction last October 18 and 19, 2019 in Palo and Tacloban City. According to Mr. Palabyab, he wrote the historical fiction to focus the attention of the rest of the world, the Millennial and Post-millennial Filipino-Americans towards the importance of the Leyte landings and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in altering the course of history and paving the way for the end of world War II.

At the historic Price Mansion, the seat of the restored Commonwealth government of the Philippines and the command post of General Douglas McArthur after the landings in October 20, 1944, along Justice Romualdez Avenue, Tacloban City , “The Saga of Leyte Gulf” was launch publicly on October 19, 2019, , in honor of the oldest living war veterans, the uniformed men and women of the Philippine Armed Forces, the JCI members, guest and dignitaries headed by His Excellency, Steven James Robinson, Ambassador of Australia and his wife, and other representatives of Tingog Party List and Sangyaw Foundation.

The book was likewise launched at the Live Free Symposium at the Leyte Academic Center in Palo Leyte. This was an even more appropriate venue for the second public introduction of the historical fiction because the author was asked to talk on the significance of the Leyte Landings, the Battle of Leyte Gulf and their impact in shaping the history of the Philippines and its people. The book actually went beyond describing the historical events in Leyte by tracing the beginnings of Filipino immigration to the US in the 1930s and the difficult journey to their empowerment in the 1990s, through its fictional characters.

The bonus was the dinner hosted by Mayor Alfred Romualdez at Patio Victoria in San Jose, Tacloban City in honor of the delegation from the City of Fukuyama, Hiroshima, Japan, their sister city, led by Assemblyman Yusuke Ota. Mr. Ota upon receipt of his complimentary copy of “The Saga of Leyte Gulf” was almost emotional in expressing his gratitude as he related the remarkable true-story of Captain Isao Yamazoe, who was fictionalized in the book. It turned out that he personally traced the family of Captain Yamazoe in Japan, met an 85-year old lady almost ten years ago in Dulag, who relayed to him first-hand the story of Captain Yamazoe. Mr. Ota brought the grand-son of Captain Yamazoe to Tacloban and Dulag and has been bringing Japanese pilgrims from Fukuyama City to Capoocan and Dulag during the last ten years, to pay homage to the almost six-thousand soldiers (who were mostly from Fukuyama) who died in a single bloody engagement in Capoocan, Leyte at the Battle of Breakneck Ridge. This was a highly documented encounter during the liberation of Leyte in history books and of course fictionalized at “The Saga of Leyte Gulf”.

Assemblyman Yusuke Ota of Fukuyama City receives a copy of The Saga of Leyte Gulf at the dinner reception held in their honor at Patio Victoria on October 20, 2019.

The author is now more convinced that the timely launch of his book will facilitate more interest and story-telling to stress the importance of the Leyte landings and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in world history in general. CNN, the BBC and the American networks extensively covered the 75th Anniversary of the landings at Normandy, France.

The uniformed men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the author, and two UP Sigma Deltan guests (Queenie Alvarez, left, the author, and Hazel Madamba from Washington D.C.) at the Price Mansion event.

Unfortunately, our own government media who treated this event as a mere “local” event, gave the local private media the same wrong signals. The paperback edition of “The Saga of Leyte Gulf is available at Amazon.com while the e-book edition is available at Kindle Direct Publishing. (German Palabyab)

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