MANILA, Oct 20 (Mabuhay) — President Ferdinand R. Marcos on Thursday paid tribute to the country’s war veterans and vowed to look after their welfare as he commemorated the 78th Leyte Gulf Landings in Palo, Leyte.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos attends the 78th Leyte Landing commemoration in Palo, Leyte. During his address, Marcos said his government would continue working for more enhanced diplomatic ties with its global partners and advocate peace-building initiatives domestically to attain stability and progress. (MNS photo)

Marcos arrived at the MacArthur Leyte Landing Memorial National Park at 9 a.m. to witness the simultaneous raising of the flags of the Philippines, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States, and offer a wreath to the MacArthur Shrine.

In his speech after the ceremony, Marcos enjoined Filipinos to remember the courage and heroism demonstrated by war veterans and allied forces who offered their lives to attain peace and freedom in the country.

“They who have fought and died in and for this land will have their names forever etched in the pages of history,” he said.

He also expressed “profound gratitude” for their sacrifices in reclaiming the country’s freedom and promised to provide them with the care and benefits they deserved.

“This government will always continue to look after the welfare of our war veterans. For as we commemorate on this hallowed ground sanctified by the blood, the life, and the sacrifices of our brave veterans, we cannot allow our memories to lapse. We must always remember that this was the best of Filipinos,” he said.

“We can never truly repay the price they paid for their gifts of peace and freedom, but we can honor their heroism and their memory by continuing the great work that they had begun,” he added.

Keeping the peace

Meanwhile, Marcos emphasized the value of recognizing the Leyte Gulf Landings as a reminder of the human and economic cost of wars.

He said his administration is committed to advocating for peace and unity both domestically and externally.

“Domestically, we will strengthen our peace-building efforts, especially in conflict-affected areas. Externally, we will continue to pursue the enhancement of our relations with our neighbors towards ensuring security and addressing global issues such as facilitating post-pandemic growth and addressing climate change,” he said.

Marcos stressed the need to learn from the events that transpired during World War II.

“Seventy-eight years ago, these shores were witness to the horrors and bloodshed brought by the worst mankind could bring. Now, we revisit its sands and wash them anew with the goodness that we are all capable of,” he said.

He urged nations to continue moving forward by building a future where relationships are defined by shared values and ideals.

“We can achieve this by engaging in constant dialogue, by collaborating in mutually beneficial endeavors, and by harnessing our collective strengths to foster goodwill, cooperation, and trust among our peoples,” he added.

Foes to friends

Marcos also expressed appreciation for what he described as “the tides turning for the better” with foes during the war becoming friends and eventually becoming closer partners that strive to attain peace and harmony in the global community.

“The seeds of peace and solidarity that have been planted during that time have blossomed to nurture deep, abiding, and fruitful friendships that we now share with one another,” he said.

“It is with gladness to see that, no matter how our differences had once divided us, we are now all together in partnership working for a better world that is living in accord, understanding, and respect,” he added.

This year’s Leyte Gulf Landings is the first in-person commemoration of the historic event after two years of hybrid activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the theme of Peace Eternal: Lesson Learned from the Vestiges of World War II, this year’s Leyte Gulf Landings commemoration will confer awards to the surviving war veterans numbering to 33 in Eastern Visayas, 17 of whom reside in Leyte province, according to the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.

The Leyte Gulf Landings, the largest naval battle in recorded history, was a well-planned strategy to isolate Japan’s strategic position in the Pacific Ocean during the war.

It was on Oct. 20, 1944, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur, together with President Sergio Osmena and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, set foot on Philippine soil, their first after they left Corregidor in 1942.

Their arrival started a battle that spanned 100,000 square miles of sea during the invasion of Leyte by the Allied forces.

The battle signaled the fulfillment of MacArthur’s famous words, “I shall return,” after going to Australia to muster support from the Allied forces in the quest to liberate the Philippines from Japanese forces’ occupation. (MNS)