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By Ryota Dei

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 20) - Yvonne Blas was born 49 years ago.

Through the years, she got married, reared children and enjoyed other milestones in her life. New lives have come into her life and old ones have faded away.

"My kids are now parents. And now I got grandchildren -- a lot of changes," Blas said while sitting along Marine Corps Drive yesterday under her family's canopy.

But her family's tradition of celebrating Liberation Day together has stayed the same over the decades.

The annual Liberation Day Parade starts at 10 a.m. today. This year's theme is "Our Freedom, Our Family and Our Community."

Up to 25,000 people are expected to come out and watch the procession of about 90 to 100 entries, including floats and marching units. In the evening, fireworks and a laser light show are scheduled to light up the sky in Hagåtña.

Like many other families, Blas' family has set up a canopy this year along Marine Corps Drive. For her, however, Liberation Day is about celebrating freedom.

Having heard stories about the brutality of Japanese soldiers during the occupation in World War II, Blas said Liberation Day is when people must look back at history and pray for peace.

Her mother-in-law told her a story about Japanese soldiers who confiscated crops and fruits from the locals and beat them if they found people hiding food.

"I'm glad that I didn't go through that. And I hope that my grandchildren will not face (the) kind of hardships that our elders went through," she added. "To me, Liberation Day is more about freedom and peace. I hope we can pass on these stories to the next generations so that they can work hard to protect the peace."

For Rachelle Borja, Liberation Day is about family. Borja's family always gathers under a canopy to enjoy the parade together.

The 27-year-old Santa Rita resident had moved to Texas to search for better opportunities. But she said she moved back to Guam after only a year because being away from family was unbearable. And Borja will soon see another member added to her family.

With a cellular phone next to her yesterday, she was waiting for a call from relatives who were at the Guam Memorial Hospital waiting for Borja's sister to give birth.

"I can't go to the hospital because I'm the oldest child in my family and have to take care of this," she said. "I'm waiting for a word from them. The baby won't see the parade this year, but hopefully she will join us next year."

For Ray Mantanona, a member of the Municipal Planning Council with the Ordot/Chalan Pago mayor's office, the parade is about celebrating community.

Mantanona was adding the final touches to the village float yesterday. The entry was decorated with coconut shells, bamboo and flowers, and had paintings of three ancient Chamorro chiefs -- Chief Hurao, Chief Quipuha and Chief Gadao.

A number of people in the community have come to the mayor's office in the evening and offered help to build the float, Mantanona added.

While some villages don't have floats this year because of budget constraints, Mantanona said the celebration means more than money.

"To me, it's not about expenses. It's about giving back to the people and the community," he said.

July 21, 2005

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