10 Spots for WWII Buffs
Looking to explore the Philippines’ role in WWII? Here are some places that will awaken the history buff in you.
World War II buffs remember the Philippines as one of the most heavily hit countries in the Pacific region. This is just part of what makes the country an interesting place for travelers looking for a little bit of history.
This January 9 marks the anniversary of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's landing in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan, ending in the liberation of Pangasinan from the Japanese. Here are some provinces to check out if you're looking to go on a trip that takes in the country's WWII past:
Pangasinan's Veteran's Day, which commemorates the anniversary of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Lingayen Gulf landing is celebrated annually, with lots of pomp and pageantry, including programs and WWII exhibits, both often attended by veterans from around the country. While you're in the area, you might as well take a tour of the Hundred Islands, which are situated in the gulf.
There's a monument in Capas, Tarlac erected on the site of a concentration camp where almost 30,000 Filipino and American soldiers died during the Bataan Death March in WWII. Located about 6km outside the main town, the site is now a park, and it is not uncommon to see children happily playing on what was once a desolate spot.
Aside from beautiful mountains and soothing beaches, Bataan is known for being the site of the Bataan Death March, the Japanese Army's forcing 76,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war to march 97km, resulting in thousands of deaths. One can trace the path of the Death March via the markers spaced every kilometer.
Corregidor Island is located at the entrance of Manila Bay. The Americans took advantage of this during WWII by building a fort on the island and outfitting it with artillery. Today, one can take a day cruise or stay overnight on the island. Packages include a tour, and if staying overnight, the chance to see the light show at the Malinta Tunnel.
Located near the La Union's Poro Point is the Wallace Air Station, home to the 848 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. The base was turned over to the Philippine government in 1991, and is now being rehabilitated into a tourist and industry zone. If you're headed to Poro Point, you might as well check out the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose marker stands at the junction that leads in that direction.
During WWII, Subic Naval Base was subjected to heavy air raids. At one point, it was occupied by the Japanese, who built wooden sampans for use during the war. There are also wrecks of both Japanese and American ships along the bay that divers can explore. And after you've exhausted everything about WWII in the area, you can go shopping at the Freeport.
The province of Quezon was, at one point, conquered by the Japanese. In towns such as Sariya, the old mansions were taken over and used as headquarters and residences by the Japanese officers. Some of these houses, such as the Gala-Rodriguez house, have been converted into museums that are open to the public. Part of the tour includes a traditional song and dance number, as well as access to an underground room that the owners, particularly a daughter who had caught the fancy of a Japanese officer, used as a hiding place during the war.
When General Douglas MacArthur said that he would return to the Philippines, he meant it. That opportunity came in 1944, when he and his men landed in Leyte. The MacArthur National Park in Leyte commemorates this via statues depicting the iconic image of the general and his men wading to shore. Gen. MacArthur is likewise honored during the Pintados festival, which is celebrated in the province every June.