March 18 is Liberation of Panay Holiday

Liberation of Panay Holiday in Iloilo, Panay, Guimaras and Romblon.

The Liberation of Panay Holiday is commemorated on March 18 of every year in Iloilo, the whole islands of Panay and Romblon in celebration of the victory of the people against Japanese Forces.

Also known as the Victory Day, the Liberation of Panay is a special non-working holiday pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 430 entitled “An Act Declaring March 18 of every year as Victory Day in the Islands of Panay and Romblon including the cities of Iloilo and Roxas” issued by then-President Corazon Aquino in 1989. It was declared as a holiday to commemorate the patriotism and gallantry of Filipino soldiers who teamed up with the Allied Forces during the Second World War to liberate Panay and Romblon islands on March 18, 1945. The island-province of Guimaras is also part of the proclamation as it is sub-province of Iloilo when the proclamation was done in 1989.

“March 18, 1945 is of great historical and sentimental significance to both the veterans and the people of Panay and Romblon because it was the day when the Panay Guerilla Forces launched the final assault on the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces,” the proclamation stated.

History of Liberation of Panay

In March 18, 1945, the Free Panay Guerilla Forces led by Col. Macario Peralta, Jr., launched the final assault on the Japanese Occupation Forces to secure most of the Panay island. Peralta and Lt. General Robert L. Eichelberger, Commanding General of the 8th United States Army, prearranged a landing of the American Liberation Forces headed by Major General Rapp bush of the 40th Infantry Division at the shores of Parara Sur in Tigbauan, Iloilo. The troops then marched into Iloilo City where Japanese forces were concentrated.

The combined forces easily defeated the enemy forces in two days, with some 1,500 Japanese troops surrendered.

Free Panay Guerilla Forces led by Col. Macario Peralta on parade in Iloilo City Proper during Liberation of Panay, 1945.
Free Panay Guerilla Forces led by Col. Macario Peralta on parade in Iloilo City Proper during Liberation of Panay, 1945. Photo by US Army 40th Division.

Proclamation No. 430 adds: “Free Panay Guerilla Forest, 6th Military District, composed of the officers and men of the 61st Division Philippine Army (USAFFE), who preferred continuing the fight to surrendering after the fall of Bataan, together with those of other units of the United States Army Forces in the Far East and the civilian volunteers from all walks of life — lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, fishermen, farmers and students — who joined the underground resistance movement — harassed, sabotaged and decimated the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces in the islands of Panay and Romblon throughout World War II in the name of country, freedom, and democracy.”

Panay Landing Memoria marker in Parara, Tigbauan.
Panay Landing Memoria marker in Parara, Tigbauan. Photo by National Historical Commission.

National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) installed a Panay Landing Memorial marker along with the busts of Gen. Macario Peralta Jr., General Douglas McArthur, and Col. J. Chaves at the center of the landing site in Parara, Tigbauan. The local government maintains the site and holds an annual celebration of Liberation Day with a wreath-laying ceremony and other activities.

In Iloilo City, the celebration of Liberation of Panay is also held annually at Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine in Quintin Salas, Jaro. The shrine is the only military cemetery established outside Metro Manila.

Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine
Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine. Photo by PVAO.

Barangay Balantang in Jaro is significant as it is the location of the bloodiest battle of the Free Panay Guerilla Forces led by Gen. Peralta during the Liberation of Panay island from Japanese Forces in 1945. The cemetery was declared as National Shrine on July 13, 1994 by virtue of Proclamation No. 425 in honor and memory of Peralta and guerilla forces.

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