LINGAYEN -- “My dear war veterans, we can never match the greatness of your individual and collective patriotism, generosity, and selflessness. We can only say, Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts.”

In capsule, this was the message Saturday morning of Governor Amado Espino Jr. to the Pangasinense World War II veterans during the observance of the Pangasinan Veterans Day.

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January 9 is a special day in Pangasinan and a historical event, being the date of the famous Lingayen Gulf Landings of General Douglas MacArthur with the American forces, and that of the allied forces during World War II.

Espino institutionalized the Pangasinan Veterans Day by having the Provincial Board passed a provincial resolution on this.

Guest speaker was Engineer MacArthur Samson, son of war veteran (the late) Colonel Luis Samson. Also present was Philippine Veterans Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Balbido Jr. and some Australian war veterans.

“These honorable men and women, represented by the few remaining veterans present in this commemorative gathering, were the gallant heroes that helped achieve US victory in the Pacific arena during World War II,” Espino stated.

“Ironically, while the passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act provides a one-time restitution payment for those who served under US Command, our Filipino veterans have not really attained full recognition as equals of their American counterparts,” he said. “The least we can do is to enshrine their memory forever in the collective consciousness of the entire Filipino nation.”

Espino said the Provincial Government hospitals will soon implement a sustained medical care program for the war veterans.

“This is a concrete measure to add quality to the remaining days of their life,” he explained.

A medical mission for the veterans was held at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center gym Saturday after the event at the Veterans Memorial Park.

Meanwhile, Balbido commended Espino for the Provincial Government's effort refurbishing the Veterans Memorial Park.

“With our passion to preserve the history and legacy of our World War II heroes, we at the Philippine Veterans Bank were excited at the privilege accorded to us by the Pangasinan Provincial government led by Gov. Espino some two years ago to update and to refurbish the Veterans Park right here at the Pangasinan Capitol Grounds. We later found out that Lingayen Gulf has a rich history and got information from local veterans and historians. We were likewise able to source materials from the US Military and Naval archives, the MacArthur Museum in Norfolk Virginia, USA,” he remarked.

“The 12 history panels contain numerous photographs and maps about the Lingayen Landing and other World War II vintage photographs mostly featuring various locations in Pangasinan such as Dagupan City, San Fabian and others,” he described. “We laud the efforts of the Pangasinan Provincial Government to preserve the legacy and history of our World War II veterans, it is not only a tourism attraction, but will also serve as a reminder for us today to never allow foreign invaders to take our land and to continuously work for peace.”