MacArthur Landing Park – Palo, Leyte
Hands down, this has got to be one of the more physically and mentally demanding rides that I had. The trip took me almost 2000 kilometers and 8 provinces to complete, and it was all worth it.
Riding through Samar and Leyte – the roads seemed to never end. Mahahaba talaga ang daan, at akala ko paikot ikot lang ako pero malayo lang talaga ang biyahe. Ito ay isa sa mga pagkakataon na minsan ako ay tila nag auto pilot, natutulala nalang minsan dahil sa pagod at pare parehas na kalye. But at the end of the day, when I reflect, I always end up saying to myself that if I had to do it again, I would – all for the love of riding!
Being a fan of Philippine History, I have always been enamored with old and historical sites. This can fact can be supported by my fondness of going to different old churches most especially the few remaining Baroque style churches that we still have. It has been my lifelong dream though to visit the famous McArthur Landing Site in Palo, Leyte. What hindered me before was the distance. Coming from Manila, a travel to Palo, Leyte would be close to a thousand kilometers via Bicol and that is only one-way as the total travel distance would push close to a couple thousand kilometers, not an easy task. But after gathering enough resources and guts, I decided that there’s no better time to ride there than now, when everything is all set, and my drive to visit this far away national shrine is there in place.
The long road ahead
Taking the long route via Bicol, I arrived in Palo on the 3rd day. The journey started in Manila and I took the route leading me through the almost 450 kilometers worth of long Bicol roads. After Quezon Province, I then had to pass through Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, and then Sorsogon. I spent my first night in Naga City in Camarines Sur which was roughly 400 kilometers from Manila, as the intermittent rains hugely slowed down my pace, as well as the terrible roads in Camarines Norte. It was as if the roads there are deserted already because despite it being a national road with everyone in the province using it to travel to the next town, the local government doesn’t seem to give any ounce of care. On my second day, the travel was from Naga City to the end of Luzon in Matnog. It was actually pretty boring as I stuck to my plan of getting to MacArthur Shrine, and MacArthur Shrine only. I could have had several stop overs like the Mayon Volcano or Cagsawa Ruins in Bicol, but I just proceeded since I had a lot of distance to cover. The roads in Albay and Sorsogon seemed endless. All you would see would be rice fields on the right and sometimes a mountain on the left. You will also be surprised by the seemingly hiding train tracks of old. From Matnog, I had to do an inter-island crossing via a 2-hour RoRo ride to Allen in Northern Samar. I ended up in Catbalogan City since I have had a long standing “No Riding in the dark” policy, for my safety, most especially in unfamiliar roads. On the 3rd day, it was a no pressure, leisurely 130 kilometer ride from Catbalogan City in Samar to Palo, Leyte – my main destination. I actually had the privilege of being able to see the San Juanico Bridge and I was awestruck. Believe me when I say that I was stunned and was just amazed by the sheer beauty of this thing. It was breathtaking and amazing up to the point wherein even though it was quite obvious that a vehicle is not allowed to stop in the middle of the road, I just had to so I could appreciate the moment better.
Worth a visit
The McArthur Landing Site in Palo, Leyte was created to commemorate Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous parting words “I Shall Return” that he made good of his promise before he left the country after its downfall to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. This famous event took place on October 20, 1944 and the Allied landing on Leyte Island’s sea shores was a pivotal moment in the history of the War in the Pacific and in the human struggle for liberty. Contrary popular belief the Landing Memorial isn’t only the easily recognizable bronze statues you see in popular media. It is actually a 4 hectare memorial in Palo, Leyte. It symbolizes the landing of General Douglas MacArthur and his troops at the Red Beach of Candahug, a small barangay in Palo, Leyte just a few kilometers from the more popular Tacloban City, which is the provincial capital. The easily recognizable bronze statues of General Douglas MacArthur and his men including Philippine President Sergio Osmeña, Jr., General Carlos P. Romulo, General Sutherland and other men standing in a man-made pool are 10-feet tall. The statues stand at the spot wherein MacArthur’s command of 225,000 troops from 600 ships landed and waded ashore on almost 70 years ago. It is constructed to recognize and remember MacArthur’s fuilfillment of his promise (“I shall return!”) to return to the Pearl of the Orient after it was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War in our country. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines ended soon after the Red Beach landing. There is also a marker by the statues and it reads- “On this spot, Palo, Leyte, General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines on 20 October 1944 and personally led the swift drive against the Japanese forces in the Philippines. President Sergio Osmena and some members of the government-in-exile arrived with General MacArthur and proceeded to reorganize, restore and administer the government of the Commonweath of the Philippines. Declared a National Historical Landmark 2004.”
The historic landing is commemorated annually by the Leyteños in remembering the day when Gen. Douglas McArthur made good his promise to return to the Philippines and liberate the country from the Japanese Imperial Army. McArthur’s return caused what was dubbed as the biggest naval battle in history that commenced at the Leyte Gulf. It was named as Imelda Park during the Marcos regime in honor of former first lady and now Ilocos Norte second district Rep. Imelda Marcos who hails from Leyte. Its name was finally appropriately reverted to MacArthur Park when the dictator’s family left the Philippines after the People Power Revolution. Now developed into a park, it also houses a bronze cast of the general’s footprints and a copy of his speech.
It’s trips like this that make me appreciate life more. As I have always said, it is always about the journey not the destination. With motorcycling, I get to reflect, meditate (not while riding), and appreciate everything more including the fact that we are all blessed. I can’t wait for the next one.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider