By Erwin M. Mascarinas,
BUTUAN City – The Surigao City Tourism Office has confirmed that the Royal Australian Navy would take part in the 75th commemoration of the Battle of Surigao Strait in Surigao City on Oct. 25.
Roselyn Merlin, supervising tourism operations officer of the Surigao City tourism office, said the Australian Embassy confirmed that hundreds of Australian Navy servicemen in four vessels would be sent here for the commemorative service in remembrance of the valiant Australian sailors who took part in the historic naval battle 75 years ago.
Merlin said the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy would also take part in the commemoration.
The organizers of the commemoration said they were expecting officials from the US and Japanese embassies to come.
“We are still hoping that the US Embassy will confirm if a US navy will be sent to take part in the 75th year commemoration,” said Merlin.
Jake Miranda, chairman of the Battle of Surigao Strait council and museum curator, said World War II veterans were also expected, including 95-year-old David Mattiske who served as a crew member of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Shropshire, a heavy cruiser and one of two Australian ships that participated in the Battle of Surigao Strait. Mattisk manned gun No. 1 during that battle.
Mattiske participated in several of the naval engagements that followed after the Battle of Surigao Strait and then witnessed the surrender of Japanese aboard HMAS Shropshire at Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
“We can never repay the sacrifices of this greatest generation, those who served in WW II and here in the Battle of Surigao Strait. At the very least, we remember their heroism through commemorations like this one,” Miranda said.
The 75th commemoration will coincide with the opening and inauguration of the P20-million Battle of Surigao Strait memorial and museum here on Oct. 24.
The memorial and museum stand on a 1,350-square meter property in Barangay Punta Bilar, facing the Surigao Strait where the last battleship to battleship naval battle in history took place on Oct. 24-25, 1944. It was one of the largest single defeat for the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Surigao Mayor Ernesto Matugas Jr. said the memorial and museum would become a prime tourism destination here.
“Tourists visiting the site will not only experience the spectacular mountain view facing the Surigao Strait as well as the rich historical significance of ‘Boss’ which they will find inside the museum. This will remind everyone the gallantry of the sailors who fought in the waters of Surigao that led to the liberation of the Philippine archipelago,” said Matugas.