According to Wikipedia, the municipality of Lingayen, the capital of Pangasinan province, is known as “the most romantic place in the Philippines.” But it did not give the reason why. Is it because of a big park in the capitol grounds lush with greenery and just perfect for dating? Or is it because of the beach just astride the park which has a spacious and tidy shoreline where lovers can stroll at sunset?
I’m not really sure. But I’m here right now with sweetheart on a business-cum-pleasure trip enjoying this sleepy town of traffic and garbage-free roads—the dream of every Manilan. We have found ourselves driving by our lonesome on its roads with no one behind honking when you get as low as 20kph to take pictures.
Lingayen is known for at least two “unromantic” things: bagoong and World War II. Passing by its side streets one would notice rows of factories producing the salty, fishy, native condiment that is bagoong. I guess that goes with the fact that the place is by the sea.
But more significant than smelly fish paste are the events that took place on Lingayen Gulf in World War II. On the early morning of January 9, 1945, 68,000 troops belonging to the United States VI Army Corps led by General Walter Krueger landed on the shores of this town after a devastating aerial and naval bombardment to prepare the way for the assault. Although, the Japanese provided only token resistance, the area was previously a stronghold of the Japanese 14th Army under Gen. Yamashita.
Gen. Douglas McArthur of Leyte fame landed on its shores and calculated the liberation of Luzon to take place in six weeks. Six weeks would stretch to six months with 200,000 more troops mostly from the US Army XIV Corps. In the process, there would be 47,000 American casualties, 24 US ships sunk and 67 damaged mostly by Kamikaze attacks. Philippine guerilla heroism during this time was also well-known.
Japan retreated. It is said that some Japanese soldiers fled dressed in women’s clothes to escape the enemy. They ultimately surrendered on September 2, 1945. The surrender documents are on display at the capitol which was reduced to ruins because of the bombing but rebuilt with the same American-influenced architecture it previously had.
That’s a lesson in history for me—a romance with the past. So that’s why the place is romantic. Me, my wife and a rich history not to be forgotten—what a memorable weekend!