Always against the light. That’s my impression of Leyte’s top tourist draw, the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park. I’ve been to this place twice, both right after lunchtime, and I’ve always had a hard time taking pictures of these seven larger than life statues that commemorate the start of the Philippine liberation against the Japanese Imperial Forces during the Second World War.
|PALO’S RED BEACH, A POPULAR SWIMMING PLACE FOR LOCALS|
Indeed, the iconic bronze statues, done by sculptor Anastacio Caedo are larger than life; like almost two times larger than an average Filipino’s height. Standing at ten feet tall, the scene portrays Gen. MacArthur’s landing at the Red Beach (red, not because of the blood shed during the invasion, but due to U.S. military’s color code) as captured by his personal photographer Gaetano Faillace.
|GEN. DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, SUNGLASSES AND ALL|
The A-Day Landing, as it was named, has actually gotten a lot of flak, especially as its 70th anniversary was celebrated. MacArthur, as unbeknownst to most Filipinos, isn’t as highly regarded as most thought he is. Mockingly called Dugout Doug by not a few of his own troops in the U.S. military, he is criticized for the way he handled the Philippines during the Second World War, especially the retaking of Manila which practically led to the leveling Intramuros to the ground.
|AGAINST THE LIGHT|
The official story of October 20, 1944 was of the esteemed Gen. MacArthur waiting and watching aboard the USS Nashville as the initial salvo of Krueger's Sixth Army assaulted Red Beach. Even without totally securing the area, the general was said to have waded in knee-deep waters as his craft grounded to a halt due to the shallow sea, sporadic fire from the enemy notwithstanding.
|THE SEVEN THAT LANDED|
Those with him are President Sergio Osmeña, Lieutenant General Richard Sutherland, Brigadier General Carlos P. Romulo, Major General Courtney Whitney, Sergeant Francisco Salveron and CBS Radio correspondent William J. Dunn.
That is the official story.
|ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH OF THE SUPPOSED A-DAY LANDING|
The unofficial one was that his landing photo had been staged (although William J. Dunn, the only guy represented in the sculpture without a helmet or a hat) denied these allegations. It was reported by the New York Times that President-in-exile Sergio Osmeña had landed on Leyte on October 21, one day after the reported MacArthur landing date.
|THE MEMORIAL SHRINE|
There were also the three photographs taken at varying angles of the General’s return to the Philippines from his two and a half year’s retreat to Australia, furthering the impression that everything had been rehearsed.
And then there’s also this video which shows MacArthur arriving very late after the Red Beach had already been retaken by the Americans, with the G.I.’s not even acknowledging the mighty General.
|THE SEVEN FACING LEYTE|
Well, whatever the truth of the matter is, MacArthur did still land on Palo’s Red Beach, thereby fulfilling his iconic promise of I shall return when he boarded a submarine from Corregidor’s Lorcha Dock. And as for me, I think I would also swear an I shall return oath to this park to catch it on a better (earlier) morning light. My photos suck.
MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park
Address: Brgy. Candahug, Palo, Leyte
Entrance Fee: Free
Open Hours: Always Open
GPS Coordinates Map: 11.172080, 125.012265