Preserve historical sites

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I RECEIVED emails from readers reacting to my Monday column titled “Col. Segura and ‘liberation’” about the death of World War II veteran Col. Manuel Segura. One of the letters came from fellow columnist (The Freeman and Philippine Star) Bobit Avila, nephew of Segura.

Relatives of veterans like Segura always have the advantage of hearing directly from them the narration of their exploits in their younger years.

This is important because, as Avila noted, our World War II veterans are “getting fewer and fewer as the years go by.”

These relatives now have the responsibility of ensuring that these stories won’t be forgotten by either prodding the government to preserve the narratives or passing these on to the succeeding generations.

I don’t know if the tunnel in Gochan Hill (Sudlon in Barangay Lahug), where Avila frolicked on during his teens, still exists. Gochan Hill was the site of one of the major encounters between American and Filipino troops on one side and the Japanese soldiers on the other.

I remember going inside the tunnel with my activist friends to hold a study session there away from the prying eyes of government agents. We stayed not far from the opening and controlled our urge to go further inside. A kerosene lamp sustained us for the duration of our stay, ringing the holes of our noses with soot.

The retreating Japanese forces built similar tunnels in Cebu as refuge in their retreat from the returning troops of American Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

I know of another tunnel at the peak of a hill in Bocawe in Barangay Sapangdaku. One opening faces east and has a view of downtown Cebu City and the Mactan channel while the other opening faces west and has a view of the mountain ranges going to Balamban town.

Avila also wrote that he had accompanied his Tio Maning in his visit to the place where former radioman and guerilla leader Harry Fenton was killed by his comrades led by another American, James Cushing. Fenton, co-leader with Cushing of the Cebu guerillas, was accused of excesses, including summarily executing suspected spies. He was also increasingly becoming uncontrollable at that time.

Another letter came from Bert Sanchez (bytca2000@yahoo.com), who supports my suggestion that historical sites in Cebu need to be preserved.

“I totally agree with you,” he wrote, “that current politicians and local citizens are not interested in remembering the deeds of our soldiers. The heroic exploits of my late father, then Maj. Fabian Sanchez, were prominently recalled in a whole chapter of Maning's book.

“The fierce battle at Guila-guila is one of the most remembered events of the war by local residents. In fact, a site was dedicated to honor my father in Guila-guila a few years back, with the unveiling of the marker attended by (then Provincial Board Member) Agnes Magpale, (then fifth district congressman) Red Durano, and the mayor and councilors of Compostela town where the site is located.

“I willingly volunteered to donate a brass relief of my father to be placed at the site. Unfortunately, I still have the statue in my possession because after the Compostela mayor was defeated in the subsequent election, the new mayor no longer followed-up the project of his reviled and rival mayor.

“What a sad commentary, allowing bad blood to spoil the good intention to honor the deserving heroes of Cebu.”

Local government units like Cebu City and Cebu Province have people tasked to implement their history-related programs. The city has its Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (Chac) whicle Capitol has the Provincial Heritage Commission, although I don’t know if the term “heritage” encompasses World War II.

How far have they gone in pinpointing, preserving and promoting our historical sites?

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 04, 2013.

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