By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Oct. 21, 2013
CARSON, Calif – Holding on to their walkers and canes Filipino World War II veterans celebrated the 69th anniversary of the Leyte Landing with a walking 5k walkathon around Carson City hall and its Dr. Jose Rizal monument.
This year the city became the first city to recognize and designate the Oct. 20 Leyte Landing as a holiday.
“We are happy because we are celebrating the Leyte Landing and the liberation of Luzon,” WWII veteran Constantine Pontanila said.
The Leyte Landing marks the beginning of the end of World War II and the historic fulfillment of General Douglas Macarthur’s return to the Philippines, when he brought over 200,000 U.S. forces to Leyte to defeat the Japanese Imperial Army.
Orencio Salim, now 90, was a guerrilla in Leyte during that landing.
“When MacArthur landed we were fighting the Japanese,” he recalled.
With most World War II veterans in their 80s and 90s, Filipino veterans are passing at quick rates. Their advocates hope there are still some left when the country celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Leyte landing next year.
“While we have them with us, let’s enjoy their presence,” Dr. Jenny Batongmalaque of the Filipino Veterans Foundation said. “We know the day will come where there will be not one left. However with their spirits we will move on and we will keep on remembering them.”
While only a handful of the veterans completed the full 5K walk, many of them enjoyed the day and carried the memories of World War II with them.
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