TACLOBAN CITY– What is there to look back and understand about World War II in the lives of those family members of Filipino war heroes in Eastern Visayas?
“It just happened that I recently published a book that my ancestors had written and compiled together during World War II. My great grandfather Florentino E. Zara was the acting mayor of Maasin, Leyte from August 26, 1942 to the day of liberation,” said Richard Cawaling, 40, a native of Maasin City in Southern Leyte and now a migrant to Canada.
“Mr. Zara was the life and soul of the guerrilla movement in Maasin, Leyte during the Japanese occupation. When I was eight years old, my grandfather showed me the original manuscript ready for publishing,” he said.
Thirty years later, Cawaling said he decided to publish the book called “The Secret of the Leyte Guerrilla: Molave, The Legacy of Florentino E. Zara.”
“The book is about the memoirs, the charisma, the extraordinary traits and super persuasive ability of F.E. Zara which saved thousands of people from arson, brutality, cruelty of the enemies of war,” he added.
“His codename is ‘Molave’. It stands for the big molave tree close to his home in Tagnipa. The rest of the municipalities are burned by the Japanese. Mayor Zara saved the town from burning in two occasions. My grandmother told me that he was a great father, an alchemist, an entrepreneur and a writer,” said Cawaling, recalling the bedtime stories with his grandmother which includes stories about the war.
Maasin, then a town, became the capital city of Southern Leyte on August 10, 2000.
Cawaling, however, hoped that somehow the story of his great grandfather would be turned into a motion picture.
“It would be a dream come true. This will be dedicated to the 60,000 unrecognized Leyte guerrillas, the real unsung heroes of World War II in Leyte province,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fr. Virgilio Cañete, parish priest of Dulag town in Leyte province which played a big role during the liberation of the country from Japanese Imperial Army, said that “World War II is a memory lost to millennial.”
“Those born in the ’80s and ’90s perhaps have a faint idea about it since it is a subject in history. The commemoration would be a farce if we who commemorate have no memory, or at least an idea of what it was, how it happened, and the persons and nations involved,” he said.
“While there’s always Google, the experiences of those who are still alive today, and they must be very few, if possible have to be preserved for posterity, and these witnesses have to be honored, in whatever small way for their testimonies are irreplaceable,” he added.
Asked on what is there to look back and understand about the event, Cañete said, “World War II happened partly because during those times, communications were slow, and the world failed to anticipate Adolf Hitler’s intentions.”
Echoing the words of Boake Carter “In time of war the first casualty is truth,” he said that “nowhere was this true than in that war.”
“Thus the sudden invasion of Poland by Germany rouses the nations to the threat of Hitler’s diabolic intention. Today, when events are flashed in real time everywhere, supposedly the possibility of a world war is diminished, but relations among nations are not that ideal as to prevent tensions. The ISIS threat, the Russia-Ukraine altercation, our own problem with China, and other conflicts internal to nations, or against others are tinder to ignite another world war which if it turns nuclear will end all wars,” he said.
“Maybe we have to revisit World War II, all of humanity to realize war’s folly. With irony, General Douglas MacArthur, warrior that he was, can teach us when he said: In war, when a commander becomes so bereft of reason and perspective that he fails to understand the dependence of arms on Divine guidance, he no longer deserves victory,” he added.
In Palo town, a 34-year-old mother, Anne Bihag, said she would remember the story of her grandparents in her native place of Bohol when topic of World War II is discussed.
“The story of my grandparents during World War II is something I am proud of. It was passed to us by my parents and siblings. I was told that my grandfather was in his teens during those times when he joined the war, while my grandmother also served as ‘care taker’ attending the needs of those who were wounded,” Bihag said.
As a school teacher, Bihag also said she continues in reminding her students on the horror and lessons of World War II.
Last Saturday, August 15, marked the 70th year when the Japanese Imperial Army had surrendered to the Allied Forces, paving the end of World War II.
Leyte province also took center stage during World War II when Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed in Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944 for the Allied Forces’ liberation campaign in the country.
First appeared in Philippine News Agency, August 20, 2015