The wreath laying ceremony at the MacArthur Memorial landing at Candahug Palo, Leyte.

PALO, Leyte, Oct. 20 (PNA) – – Local and foreign officials conveyed their deepest admiration for thousands of allied forces who fought for the country’s liberation during Tuesday’s celebration of the 71st Leyte Gulf Landings.

Flags of four foreign countries, whose soldiers were involved in the World War II in Leyte, were raised during the commemorative program as a sign of remembrance to those who fought for freedom 71 years ago.

The visiting dignitaries were Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell, Minister Tetsurso Amano, deputy chief of mission and consul-general of Japanese embassy; and Iain Mansfield, trade and investment director of embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Leading the local officials were Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, several Board Members and Mayors.

Carolina said heroism is rooted in three words – “love of country” – which our veterans symbolize.

“It is indeed very relevant that we commemorate events like the Leyte Gulf Landings for it exemplifies the valor that our veterans has done to create the foundation of what we have now,” he said.

The PVAO chief urged Filipinos to emulate the ideas that the veterans represent by “being heros of our time in our war against poverty and other challenges.”

Relatively, Petilla honored the veterans for their sacrifices and for bringing a legacy of the historic Leyte Landing.

“Indeed, the brave actions of the World War II veterans endure in the pages of the history. Today, we again remember their call of entry in the battlefield. This legacy of strength and service they brought with them resolved us in the crying times of the province of Leyte,” he said.

For Tweddell, the celebration is an appreciation of bravery and heroism of Filipinos and allied soldiers who died in Bataan, Corregidor, Leyte, Manila and other locations across the country.

“On occasions like this, we are reminded of the courage, resilience and sacrifice of our fellow country men and women in the face of severe adversity,” he said.

During his address, Tweddell also remembered a 92-year-old Australian war veteran who fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The unknown hero died last year during the 70th Leyte Gulf Landings anniversary.

Also, the 20th of October is celebrated as the UK-Philippines Friendship Day, which recognizes the friendship of both countries.

Mansfield said the Leyte Gulf Landings marks the time when United Kingdom and many other allies came together to fight for freedom that is now being enjoyed by the Philippines and other countries

“The end of the Second World War finally gave the people of the Philippines the freedom to determine their own future and destiny in the Republic,” he added.

On October 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, as the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and Gen Carlos P. Romulo landed at Red Beach of this town to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.

History says the largest naval battle in the Pacific and the second battle of the Philippine Sea against Japanese invaders was fought and won in Leyte.

The battle was a great victory. It effectively destroyed the Japanese fleet and opened the way for the recovery of all the islands.

Luzon was invaded in January 1945 and Manila was taken in February.

On July 5, 1945, MacArthur announced: “All the Philippines are now liberated.”

The Japanese had more than 425,000 casualties in the Philippines.

With these, Amano expressed his “feelings of profound grief and eternal sincere condolences” for the aggressions and atrocities done by Japanese soldiers during World War II. (PNA)