Remembering Leyte Gulf Landings PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:30

By ALICE NICART

Mr. Leovigildo Azucena, 88, remembers his younger years when he was merely a fisherman, a vocation he opted to choose in order to elude the unkind treatment of the Japanese who then ruled Tanauan, Leyte.

Yet, there were times when he could not escape the cruelty of the invaders. Sometimes, when he would get ashore, the Japanese would ask for a fish and when he would answer “Nay” (none) he would be slapped in the face.

Azucena recounted this in a brief interview shortly before the formal commemmorative program recently for the 67th Leyte Gulf Landings or the famously known MacArthur Landing.

The fondly called Lolo Gil narrated, that he was fishing one night in October when he heard sounds, which he dismissed instantly, could not be the sounds of bombs.
Not long after, however, what he rejected as sounds of bombs, became an ultimate and a sheer reality, as more and more ships appeared his very eyes, which were firing to the direction upshore.

“Move out!, move out!” a crew shouted at him repeatedly.

“No, sir! Please! I am a Filipino”, he cried and he gave them his boiled banana for dinner.

In an instant, he was picked up from his tiny boat and found himself in the middle of American soldiers. Still frightened for any harm the armed men could do to him, he chilled in fear.

But a small table was arranged in his front and his fear turned to joy for he imagined an American food is about to be served him. But no. The Americans laid wide a map on the table, pointing at some angles and questioned him, “Where are you?”, “Where are we?”, “Where is Tolosa?”, “Where is the mountain where the Japanese hide?”

Because he believed in the intentions of his new found friends, and fed-up by the cruelty of the Japanese, the young gentleman faithfully answered the questions.
This writer asked why he spoke good English then, “ I was a Grade VII pupil when the war broke, and there were even times when I would be the substitute of our teacher,” he replied.

As he continued his recollection, he said that after the friendly interrogation, he was allowed to eat with a chorizo which according to him was as big as his legs with matching pack of Lucky Strike cigarette.

At dawn he was told to disembark the ship and go to the civilians as far as 20 miles and informed them of another bombing that was to happen any day soon.
And the bombing did occur, but he stressed there was no Filipino civilian found dead.    Sooner, Gil was hired as an interpreter by the American soldiers and a member of the ship’s crew until he was registered as a US Scout. Yes, he maintains his claim, that he was the only Filipino who was able to board the American ship during the Leyte Landings.

Now at 88, and already a Lolo, the young Gil, (some 67 years ago), assured he is still vibrant specially, he said, when he sees ladies in mini skirts. He has since enjoyed his benefits as a US Veteran and all his six sons who entered the US Navy are now living in the States, the others have already retired. He promised though he is no longer returning to the US because it is in the Philippines where the real paradise is. — PIA