Built during the American occupation, Leyte Provincial Capitol stood witness to some key moments in Philippine history. It served as the seat of provincial government since 1924 until recently, and survived damages from Japanese-American War, storm surges from super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and a 6.4 earthquake just April of this year. Thus, for safety reasons the current government of Leyte is working to convert the Capitol into a museum and build a new one in Palo.
It is unclear whether the designer of the building was Filipino architect Antonio M. Toledo, the man behind the Manila City Hall and Department of Tourism building, or Boston native Ralph Harrington Doane, who was the consulting architect of the Philippines from 1916-1918 and was also credited for the capitol building of Pangasinan and parts of the Malacañang Palace. Nevertheless, the white façade of the main structure with a legislative building behind it clearly shows American influence, as the country was under its occupation at the time.
Typical of a western building, this neoclassical building has two 19th century iron cannons along its concrete steps, with two bas relief sculptures on both its sides. On the left wing is the first Christian Mass held in Limawasa, while on its right wing is the Gen. MacArthur’s landing on Red Beach, Palo, Leyte, which were both added after the capitol’s 1964 restoration.
The construction of the Leyte Capitol began in 1917 under the administration of Governor Salvador K. Demetrio and was inaugurated in 1924 under the administration of Governor Honorio Lopez. During the Japanese-American war, it became the seat of Commonwealth Government on October 23, 1944 to February 27, 1945 and was the location where Sergio Osmeña swore to presidency by the presence of American General Douglas MacArthur. 40 years after its construction, it was renovated under the supervision of Governor Norberto B. Romualdez in 1964, adding the bas relief sculptures on its wings.
The Leyte Provincial Capitol is located at the corner of Senato Enge street and Magsaysay Boulevard. Two of its landmarks are the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center and Plaza Liberta on its left.
Known for his iconic line of “I shall return,” General Douglas MacArthur is such an impactful historical figure that a sculpture is built that depicts his historic landing in Leyte Gulf to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation in October 20, 1944. It was declared a national historical landmark in 1994, and now has a museum adjacent to it where other war memorabilia, a copy of his speech after landing, and a bronze cast of his footprints are on display.
The seven, 10-feet-tall bronze statues were designed by Anastacio Caedo, the same artist who sculpted the Benigno Aquino Monument and the Bonifacio Monument in Pugad Lawin, Balintawak. Based from the original photo captured by MacArthur’s photographer, Gaetano Fallaice, the seven statues represent the seven men that were with the General when he landed on Leyte. These were Sergio Osmeña, Lieutenant General Richard Sutherland, Brigadier General Carlos P. Romulo, Major General Courtney Whitney, Sergeant Francisco Salveron, and CBS Radio correspondent William J. Dunn. The sculpture stands on a shallow pool to depict MacArthur and his men going down the Red Beach (named after a US code) from his chopper amidst a shower of bullets from the Japanese forces.
The sculpture was not immune to the damages brought by Super Typhoon Haiyan. After the storm, Carlos Romulo’s statue was knocked from its base, but the local government, with the help of MMDA, managed to repair and reopen the park within 20 days.
Contrary to his heroic image in the Philippines, Douglas Macarthur was not highly regarded in his home state. In the US military, he was mockingly called Dugout Doug for the way escaped to Australia when the Japanese invaded. It was also believed that even his famous A-landing to Leyte was staged. New York Times reported that the President-in-exile Sergio Osmeña arrived a day later than the general, and the fact that there were three photographs taken at various angles of their return leaves the impression that the scene was just for show. Furthermore, it’s said that there’s a video showing that he arrived late in what was supposed to be the largest naval battle in World War II; the Red Beach was already secured by American troops and didn’t acknowledge the presence of the General.
Whether or not these controversies are true, Douglas MacArthur still played an important role in Philippine history, and the memorial of his return is a sight to see. MacArthur Park is found in Barangay Candahug, 5 km south of Tacloban city. To get there, just take a jeep or a multi-cab heading to St. Paul/Campetic from Tacloban and get off at Campetic Crossing. From there, MacArthur landing is only a pedicab away.