Dagupan Blue Beach… the return
A travel journal that will give you a pleasant view of people, places, food, culture, history and events from a refreshing perspective
JANUARY 9, 2017 marked the 72nd MacArthur and US forces Landing in Luzon. The Knights of Columbus, Fleet Reserve Association of Dagupan, Naval Reserve Command and war veterans together with the city government of Dagupan commemorated the event with a mass, a short program and wreath-laying activity at the MacArthur Landing marker near the shore of Bonuan Blue Beach.
Historians argue where MacArthur landed first in Luzon. Does it matter? Yes. There is a need to set the historical record straight lest we fall into historical revisionism or worse; historical nagationism.
Why Dagupan or Blue beach to be exact? Pictures don’t lie. A picture by LIFE’s Carl Mydans on Jan. 9, 1945, shows MacArthur striding ashore onto “Blue Beach,” Dagupan, on the island of Luzon, Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines as written in the Time article of Ben Cosgrove (http://time.com/3461755/life-with-macarthur-the-landing-at-luzon-the-philippines-1945). Another picture shows MacArthur, flanked by his aide and bodyguard, land on a “gently sloping beach.” He then rode a jeep after the historic moment. Farther inland the general’s jeep crossed a temporary bridge over a stream. One picture shows the general walk the streets of Dagupan. All captured on film and captioned by Carl Wydans.
Perhaps one source of confusion is that Lingayen Gulf is mistaken as being Lingayen beach alone. Landing sites include Sual, Lingayen and Dagupan (XIV Corps) to the west, and San Fabian (I Corps) to the east -all part of the Lingayen Gulf.
How about the story of the late Gov. Estrella Sr. wherein MacArthur answered “near the Capitol” as to where he landed first? Dagupan was the provincial capital of Pangasinan from January 20, 1942 up to May 1942. The provincial capital of Pangasinan was moved back to Lingayen on June 1945. An honest mistake perhaps?
In an email shared by the late Kathleen Burkhalter to former tourism officer Rose Mary Teng-Mejia, James W. Zobel, the MacArthur Memorial Archivist replied: “MacArthur landed just south of San Fabian in the 6th Division area of Blue Beach. After a few days he shifted his headquarters from the USS Boise to Dagupan”.
Alejandro Paras Balolong, the only living eyewitness who is now 90 years old said that he and personally saw MacArthur land in Bonuan on January 9, 1945.
Still not convinced? Let us take an actual historical tour to the MacArthur Landing marker. From the city proper go to Bonuan Gueset. Traverse the main road Don Marcelo Balolong Ave. then turn left to Capt. Bartolome Ceralde St. which is near the Caltex Gas Station. Enter the Villa Milagrosa gate just beside the Ivory Coast subdivision. The road going to the MacArthur landing marker is inside a private compound that is why “access to pedestrian is from 6:00 A.M. to 7:30 P.M. only” as written on the wall.
The National Historical Institute (now known as National Historical Commission of the Philippines) erected the tall MacArthur Landing marker and unveiled it on January 23, 1984. The marker which is in a small park was vandalized and is now decrepit. The plaques on the base of the statue read: ‘Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor’ on the right side and ‘WWII Guerillas – It Can Be Done’ on the left side. Gone in front was the cross with the inscriptions: “I Shall Return.”
A lesser known marker can be found inside the property of former Brgy. Capt. Angel Gumarang’s sister near the Villa Milagrosa gate. The marker was placed by the Philippine Historical Committee (the forerunner of NHI) in 1948.
Ringed by bullet shaped chain fence, the marker states: “On the shore known as Blue Beach Bonoan Dagupan City, the first combat troops of the sixth army of the United States of America under the command of General Douglas Macarthur landed 9 January 1945, to liberate the island of Luzon thus fulfilling his promise to the Filipino people “I shall return”.
More about Bonuan Blue Beach again next week. I shall return!