The City Government has formally inducted into office the Cagayan de Oro World War II and Veterans Studies Committee which will work to ensure the stories and sacrifices of its fighters in the Second World War are not forgotten and passed on to succeeding generations.
The committee is primarily tasked to initiate projects and activities to increase awareness of the principles and values that the guerrilla movement in World War II stands for, including the setting up of a World War II and Veterans Studies Center.
Tasked to lead the committee is former City Mayor Constantino G. Jaraula under whose tenure as Mayor in 2008 saw the establishment of the MacArthur Memorial Marker in Bgy. Macabalan and the signing of the City Sisterhood and Twinning Agreement with Norfolk, Virginia.
Norfolk is the site of the MacArthur Memorial where Gen. and Mrs. Jean MacArthur are entombed together with a museum, library, archives, cinema and other facilities dedicated to perpetuating the life and times of “The Liberator of the Philippines.”
“We are just a committee for purposes of studying the history of the Second World War, insofar as we are concerned, primarily in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, and Mindanao as we expand through,” said Jaraula in the committee’s first meeting immediately following the induction. “Correspondingly, we have to tie up with similar groups or organizations in other provinces.
Jaraula cited in particular the Caraga region as a focal point in the history of WW2 insofar as Mindanao and MacArthur’s landing are concerned.
“In fact, I believe two of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s biggest battleships which were sunk in the Battle of Surigao Strait were found two years ago, one of the four key engagements of the Battle of Leyte Gulf that wiped out the pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy,” Jaraula said.
The Battle of Surigao Strait is significant because it was the last battleship-to-battleship action in naval history. It was part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which lasted from October 23 to 26, 1944, considered the largest ever naval battle of World War II, and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history, with over 200,000 naval personnel involved.
The research vessel Petrel of billionaire tech mogul and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, located five warships that belonged to the Imperial Japanese Navy on the seabed of Surigao Strait in December 2017.
Found were the old battleships –Fusō, and Yamashiro – and three Asashio class destroyers, Yamagumo, Asagumo and Michishio, which all belonged to Admirals Shoji Nishimura's "Southern Force" that was completely annihilated following this engagement.
Created under Executive Order No. 043-2019 “An Order Creating the Cagayan de Oro Committee for World War II and Veterans Studies” signed by Mayor Oscar S. Moreno last 29 March 2019, the committee has its legal bases in Article 11, Sections 13 and 17 of the Philippine Constitution for the State to foster patriotism and nationalism among the citizens, especially the youth; and Republic Act No. 10086 “Strengthening People’s Nationalism Through Philippine History Act” which mandates the State’s policy to provide the means to strengthen people’s nationalism, love of country, respect for its heroes and pride for the people’s accomplishments by reinforcing the importance of Philippine national and local history in daily life to raise social consciousness.
Furthermore, the committee’s creation supports the Cagayan de Oro City Government’s policy under the present administration to promote local history.
“The present administration is committed to create an atmosphere of heightened awareness, knowledge and appreciation among its constituents on the noble ideals and deeds of our local heroes, and observe and celebrate various significant historical milestones,” reads a portion of the EO.
“The fact that Mayor Oca came into this, shows the big interest of the city to pursue this kind of studies to complete our education,” Jaruala stressed. “So many don’t know what happened and why we are here, why we are not there, so we are searching on the reasons why.”
Cagayan de Misamis, as Cagayan de Oro was then known, figured prominently in World War II when it became part of General Douglas MacArthur’s Breakout when PT-41 carrying the general, his family and general staff along with two other PT boats from MTB Ron 3 under Lt. Cmdr. John Bulkeley disembarked at Macabalan Port on March 13, 1941 after departing from Corregidor in March 11.
After motoring to Del Monte Lodge where they stayed for three days, the party successfully made it to Australia aboard two B-17D bombers which departed from Del Monte Airfield in March 17, 1942. While on his way to Melbourne, MacArthur uttered at the small town of Terowie, Australia the most famous phrase to come out of World War II: “I Shall Return.”
MacArthur’s Breakout is considered one of the greatest escapes in the history of World War II and a turning point in the Pacific War which shored up American morale in the US mainland at one of the lowest points in its history following the debacles in Pearl Harbor and the Philippine Campaign.
“There is a need to collect and collate historical data, stories, and mementos of Cagayan de Oro during World War II and present them to the community for the appreciation of Kagay-anons, and the general public to inspire them,” the EO reads further.
Thus was created the World War II and Veterans Studies Committee as the advisory body composed of individuals from Cagayan de Oro with a strong spirit of volunteerism, with expertise in local history, and steeped in the ideals of partnership.
City Economic and Investment Promotions Officer Eileen E. San Juan was appointed Co-Chair and City Hall point person with Engr. Elpidio M. Paras as Vice Chairman.
Engr. Paras was instrumental in the construction of the two MacArthur Memorial Markers in Barangay Macabalan and in Barangay Dicklum, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon which marks the Del Monte Airfield where MacArthur and party flew out to Australia on the last phase of their successful breakout.
Also inducted into office were Nicolas Aca, Art Gallery Curator of Capitol University’s Museum of 3 Cultures and member of the City Historical and Cultural Commission; Rotary International District 3870 Past Assistant Governor and RC of Northern Bukidnon Past President Chris Vidad representing Dr. Benjamin Albarece; Mindanao Daily Vice President Digital & Editor-at-Large Rene Michael Baños; Kerwin Salvador Caragos, Lourdes College; Ret. Col. Jose Paler, Region X president of the Veterans Federation of the Phils., PVAO FSEO-10 officer Ma. Luisa Revecho, Ryan Bollozos Sanchez, Capitol University Dept. of Social Sciences; and Kristian Ian Sulmayor, Xavier Ateneo History Department.
Also included in the committee but were unable to attend the induction were Clara Marie Gonzales-Elizaga of the Heritage Conservation Advocates; WW2 History Buff Medardo Tiro III and Raul Ilogon, whose father Jesus and grandfather Pastor were active in the guerrilla movement in Misamis during WW2.
The committee is also tasked to forge agreements and linkages with government agencies, private groups. Individuals and other special bodies such as Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission, City Museum, World War II Veterans Association, , historical societies, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), Veterans Federation of the Philippines and other associations and the international community, most especially with the General Douglas MacArthur Memorial Foundation of Cagayan de Oro’s sister city at Norfolk, Virginia, USA and the Cagayan de Oro Committee of the Norfolk Sister Cities Association (NSCA).