Pangasinan war vets urge youth: Be our future defenders

Pangasinan war vets urge youth: Be our future defenders

By: - Correspondent / @yzsoteloINQ
/ 05:04 AM January 11, 2024

Pangasinan war vets urge youth: Be our future defenders

GATHERING OF HEROES | The provincial government of Pangasinan has documented 37 surviving veterans of World War II but only 12 of them have managed to attend a tribute coinciding with the 79th Lingayen Gulf Landings anniversary and 17th Pangasinan Veterans Day at the provincial capitol in Lingayen town on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Photo by WILLIE LOMIBAO / Inquirer Northern Luzon)

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, Philippines — Only 12 of the documented 37 surviving World War II veterans, aged 93 to 107, attended a major celebration in their honor in this capital town on Tuesday.

Those who managed to grace the 79th celebration of the Lingayen Gulf Landings and the 17th Pangasinan Veterans Day at the War Memorial Park here said it was time that they “pass on the torch of bravery and patriotism to the nation’s future defenders.”


The veterans, most of them wheelchair-bound and aided by family members, said they were aware of their situation and asked the younger generation to take over as defenders of the country.


In a video presentation titled “Pamana” (Legacy), Godofredo dela Cruz, 97, said the “war that defined my generation has come to an end and gave us renewed hope.”

“However, my dear future defenders, we must still remain vigilant for battles that loom on the horizon. You, future defenders, hold the key to preserving our nation’s legacy. Embrace the torch of patriotism and carry it forward with unwavering determination,” said Dela Cruz, who joined the war against the Japanese Imperial Army as a teenager.

He also called on the youth to “spread the flame among your peers and inspire others to join in this noble cause. Together, as I am still alive, we will ensure the spirit of love for our country burns brightly for generations to come.”

Valentin Untalan, the oldest among the veterans at 107, advised the young generation to be “honest to yourselves in order to succeed in life.”

Another veteran, Raymundo Cabrera, 97, said the youth must “use their heads when dealing with problems and to always do what is right.”

Untalan said that while he had the rank of private first class, he was assigned to command a platoon, and became a platoon leader and officer, with the rank of major, during the war.


“You know that long bridge in Carmen (Rosales, Pangasinan)? There were guns over there,” he said.

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“Sometimes, for 24 hours, you stay in the water until you are relieved by someone. Sometimes they have no replacement for you, and you cannot quit without a replacement,” Untalan said.

Dela Cruz recalled that he joined the army because his father could not join the guerrilla force, citing the many children he had to take care of. An older brother also refused to join.

According to Dela Cruz, he had to endure starvation in the mountains since they sometimes had nothing to eat.

Cabrera, 97, became emotional as he narrated how he was assigned to remote places such as Corregidor Island in Cavite and Guam under the Far East Command for many years. “It was like a prison ward for me.”

Being sent to other places could be more dangerous “than being on the front lines, where you know what you are shooting and what is around you,” he lamented.

Cabrera added: “But in my place of assignment, in the Far East Command, you’ll never know what’s behind you. It could be a snake.”

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Gov. Ramon Guico III called the joint celebrations one of, if not the most emotionally moving, that the province holds annually.

“It’s always both a happy and sad celebration. We are happy because we commemorate the patriotism and sacrifices of our kababayans (townmates) during the war, but sad because each year we learn that a lot of veterans have passed on,” Guico said in a speech.

He added: “We can’t do anything about it because we are all mortals and we live borrowed lives, but we always give importance to these occasions because they [showcase] intangible values such as patriotism.”

According to the governor, veterans are the most important examples of patriotism.

“We hear their stories, their sacrifices, and their many experiences that none of us have ever experienced. We won’t be enjoying freedom today if not for the sacrifices and patriotism of the veterans,” Guico shared.

Vice Gov. Mark Lambino said he was “deeply touched by the sight of veterans, some barely able to walk, who are here to attend the ceremony with enthusiasm comparable to that of a young soldier rising in defense of the country.”

“We are thankful that you set aside time to remember and honor them to make them feel that their courage and bravery could never be forgotten. They are reasons why we enjoy the blessings of freedom,” Lambino said as he thanked the countries that fought with the Philippines during the war.

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The provincial government gave an undisclosed amount of financial assistance to the veterans during the celebration.

TAGS: Ramon Guico III, war veterans, World War II

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