April 20, 2024

Stella Maria L. de Guia
Two days after the 111th Charter Day anniversary of Baguio on Sept. 1, the city also observed another auspicious day on Sept. 3.
Sept. 3 marked the 75thanniversary of the end of World War II with a virtual commemoration between Baguio and Manila. War in the Pacific started in Baguio on Dec. 8, 1941 when Camp John Hay was bombed by the Japanese warplanes, a day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The WWII in the Pacific also ended in Baguio on Sept. 3, 1945 when General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Japanese Imperial Army signed the formal surrender documents to United States General Jonathan Wainwright and British General Arthur Percival at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence at Camp John Hay.
U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim was in Baguio on Sept. 3 to celebrate this memorable occasion. He was accompanied by Cultural Affairs Officer Matt Keener, host of the event. Four days later, on Sept. 7, President Rodrigo Duterte conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu to Ambassador Kim who served the Philippines for four years.
“Seventy-five years ago today, General Tomoyuki Yamashita signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in the presence of U.S. Lieutenant-Generals Arthur Percival and Jonathan Wainwright here at the American residence in Baguio. The signing of that document brought one of the darkest and saddest periods in history to an end,” Ambassador Kim poignantly mentioned to start the solemn occasion.
“The signing of the instrument also marked an opportunity to begin a post-war era where we would rebuild and reunite. This opportunity, coupled with the indomitable spirit of Americans, Filipinos, and others around the globe enabled an unprecedented era of development and collaboration. To that end, the shared sacrifice of Americans and Filipinos in World War II led directly to our formal alliance, established in 1948, which has grown into a lasting partnership that goes well beyond mutual defense,” he added.
Before the virtual commemoration via zoom at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, we were regaled with about 20 or so huge black and white photographs in an exhibit entitled “Allies for Freedom” – Portraits of Filipino and American Courage in World War II. William Bradford Smith curated the exhibit at Fort Santiago and brought to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Baguio.
Ebel dela Cruz, the Embassy’s General Services Specialist toured as around. The exhibit was striking, bold and nostalgic. Centered on people, it evoked feelings of sadness and happiness. It was vivid reality in black and white. I wish this exhibit can also be on display at the Baguio Museum when we finally have the grand opening next year.
With the advent of the pandemic, Ambassador Kim continued: “Today, we find ourselves facing an entirely new and unprecedented set of challenges to our people, our economies, and our nations. In the global battle against Covid-19, our long-standing partnership is enabling the strong U.S.-Philippines cooperation on display today. Together, we are tackling the public health, economic, and education challenges created by the virus. And as we reflect on our shared history, I am deeply grateful to those who came before us to lay the unshakeable foundation for our deep friendship and partnership.”
“Nobody wins in war,” said the Defense Secretary in a small excerpt of his message. He added: “We must rise above our adversaries. We must forgive our enemies and remember the lessons of war.”
Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda, who joined from the Japanese Embassy has offered prayers for all those who perished during the war and cited that Baguio has strong historical ties with Japan. In fact, in 1973, the city and Japan built a “memorial garden” in Baguio as a symbol of friendship. Today, Japan continues to be a supporter of Baguio thru many projects of Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Japan Embassy and the Japan Foundation in cooperation with other Filipino Japanese organizations like the Japan Association of Northern Luzon and Abong.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan who represented Mayor Benjie Magalong read the mayor’s message in behalf of the officialdom of Baguio. He thanked the U.S. Ambassador for hosting a historical event that reminded us that freedom is worth fighting for.
Two-time U.S. Full Bright scholar Clarita delos Reyes walked the audience thru a chronological history of the war and mentioned that Rep. Mark Go has authored Republic Act 11216, “An act declaring September 3 of every year a Special Working Public Holiday throughout the country in Commemoration of the Surrender of the Japanese Military Forces Led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita in Baguio City.”
Go has emphasized that the public holiday gave more meaning to Yamashita’s surrender, which marked the event as a victory for the numerous Filipino soldiers who bravely fought and sacrificed their lives for the country during what has been called as the “War to End All Wars.”
William Bradford Smith, curator of the photo exhibit “Allies for Freedom” virtually explained how the exhibit materialized.
The virtual commemoration ended with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin. I can only catch a part of his speech that stated, “the past is past, there is only the present to live in and the future to hope for… “
The virtual commemoration was also attended by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and Deputy Chief of Mission John Law at the U.S. Embassy Manila.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador had this to say: “Let me conclude with a message to the Filipino and American veterans who sacrificed so much during World War II. Today would not be possible without your incredible acts of bravery and courage. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. You have left an indelible mark in history that will not be forgotten.”
In behalf of the Baguio Museum President Fred Bagbagen and the members of the board of trustees, we would like to express our deep gratitude to H.E. US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim, Edwin Vergara, and Matt Keener for the “2017 Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.” The project commenced in 2017 and will end on December 2020, will be a lasting legacy of Philippine-American friendship to the people of Baguio.
Lastly, to our lolos and lolas who sacrificed so much during the World War II, most of them have crossed over to the realm beyond, salute! – U.S. Embassy Manila photos