Historic Lingayen landing: MacArthur’s white bathtub remembered
DAGUPAN CITY — Gen. Douglas MacArthur briefly visited this city 72 years ago, and if there is one thing about that trip for which he is remembered, it’s his white bathtub.
The freestanding bathtub dominates the bathroom of a two-story building that now houses the home economics classrooms at West Central Elementary School.
The school briefly served as headquarters of the Southwest Pacific Area Command after MacArthur landed in Lingayen Gulf on Jan. 9, 1945—the second landing after his landing in the Gulf of Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944, fulfilling his promise to return and liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
Photographs from the period show MacArthur and other American soldiers walking around the streets of Dagupan, after a jeep ride from the beach where the liberation forces landed.
The bathtub must have been a welcome sight for McArthur after his travel from Leyte to Pangasinan. “Many people, including foreigners, come to see the bathtub,” said Lagrimas Casanova, the school librarian.
A dresser and a china cabinet also attract visitors. They are in a corner of what used to be a kitchen and where the original sink was located.
The building is typical of houses built during the American colonial period. It has a floor area of 100 square meters and is built mostly of wood, with a roof made of GI sheets.
A wide stairway leads to a terrace that serves as an anteroom to the living room. Its kitchen has a door that leads to a terrace and a stairway.
But it has only one bathroom, with the famous bathtub. It is now equipped with a shower, sink and toilet.
Timber must have been abundant during those days, as the floor, ceiling, walls and decors of the building are all made of wood, giving the entire structure a cool look.
Stained glass with different shades of green adorns the topmost windows.
Below the front terrace is a three-sided pillar. One side has a marker that reads: “Luzon Landing. On this site. The West Central Elementary School Home Economics Building, Dagupan City, was used by General Douglas MacArthur as his official headquarters after his landing in Lingayen Beach on 9 January 1945 to liberate the Island of Luzon, thus fulfilling his promise to the Filipino people ‘I Shall Return.’”
On the other side of the pillar is a second marker that shows an eagle, an American flag and the words “Freedom is not free, vigilance is the price of Liberty.”
Another side shows the official seal of Dagupan with its motto, “Aliguas Dagupan.”
The building survived bombardment by American naval forces that damaged many structures in the city in 1945.
But time and the elements have taken their toll on the building. Ceilings are falling and some walls are infested with termites.
The building is no longer stable, the school principal, Valentina Hortaleza, said.
The toilet is shaky and the steps of the staircase at the back terrace have to be removed, she said.
While the school ground has been elevated, the home economics building’s basement cannot be back-filled. It has become a catch basin for surface runoff during the monsoon season, Hortaleza said.
She said the school lacked funds to repair or restore the building.
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