Estimated 30,000 People Celebrate Guam Liberation Day

admin's picture

Food, family the focus of the anniversary of US marines storming island

By Arvin Temkar

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 23, 2012) – Thousands of spectators packed Marine Corps Drive yesterday to celebrate the island's 68th Liberation Day anniversary.

The air was thick with the smoky smell of barbecue, the sidewalks and green spaces crammed with grills, canopies and lawn chairs.

At 10 a.m. the annual parade started with a bang as a retired soldier parachuted out of the sky trailing American and Guam flags, landing gracefully in front of the parade grandstand. It went strong for nearly four more hours, families hooting and cheering for a little more than 100 parade entries -- dancers, soldiers, musicians and more -- who marched slowly from Adelup to Chamorro Village in Hagåtña.

Officials expected 30,000 people to attend the celebration, which stayed sunny throughout.

Underlying the jubilance was a solemn nod to the years of peace Guam has seen since the end of World War II.

Liberation Day is to commemorate "our liberty, our freedom, our peace of mind," said Lagrimas Flores Aflague, this year's parade grand marshal.

The 85-year-old remembers the Japanese occupation of Guam, which resulted in bloody massacres and atrocities across the island. On July 21, 1944, U.S. Marines stormed the island, beginning a battle for liberation.

Greater tradition

Celebrating the island's freedom has been part of many families' traditions for generations.

"When I was a kid, my mom and dad would bring me out to Liberation," said Phil Babauta, 54. "Now I'm a parent so I bring my kids."

The day isn't just about remembering history, though. For the Yigo man -- and many others -- it's also about spending time with family.

And what's a family gathering without a feast? A table under the Babautas' canopy was stuffed with an array of freshly prepared food, from red rice and ribs to cucumber salad and shrimp patties.

From canopy to canopy, there were similar displays of mouth-watering treats.

Under a nearby tent, Joey Perez also was meeting with loved ones. But unlike Babauta, he hadn't staked out a parade-route spot. He said he preferred walking up and down the street, visiting various friends and relatives.

Despite the heat, there's an upside to that: "They do the work, we get the glory," the Mangilao resident joked, lifting up a plate packed with food.

But on a more serious note, the retired airman said "it means a lot" to see the island showing support for soldiers.

Perez, 48, has another reason to love Liberation Day -- it's also his birthday.

"Every year I get this," he said, pointing at the parade passing by.

Family spots

Many families try to get the same parade-route spot year after year.

Fina Ramirez Leon Guerrero, 30, of Ordot, said her family has held down the same location since she was born.

Her uncle, a historian, often reminds family members: "You're not going to a party -- you're there to remember something," she said.

But Aflague, the war survivor, said there should be focus on the future, too.

Let's forget the disasters, the atrocities, she said. It's time to think about today.

"That's what we're free for," she said. "To not stand still. To move forward and improve ourselves.

"There is a certain warmth on this island," she added. "You'll never catch it anywhere else."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment