Annual Manenggon memorial service held in Yona - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Annual Manenggon memorial service held in Yona

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The annual Manenggon memorial service was held in Yona over the weekend. It is one of many services planned over the next several weeks as the island commemorates its 69th anniversary of liberation.

The Manenggon Valley was filled with song and prayer - as survivors of the Japanese occupation, relatives of those who lost loved ones there and island dignitaries returned the former concentration camp for the annual memorial service.

The horrifying memories of what happened here were too much for some to hold back tears. Yona mayor Ken Joe Ada said, "We honor those who have lost their lives during this tragic time and to the families we honor you and we thank you. We will not forget but we have forgiven."

David Flores was one of the thousands of Chamorros who were forced to march to Manenggon during the Japanese occupation - and he was one of the lucky few to even survive.  Flores spoke about life during World War Two. He was 15 years old at the time the Japanese invaded Guam. In particular he shared a story about how he was among 15 men and young boys who were gathered in Manenggon and ordered to move supplies and equipment to mount Mataguac - the place we now know as the site of the Chaguian massacre.

"One of the girls in the kitchen cautioned me that every group that has gone up to Yigo has never come back please take care of yourself," he said.

After two days of walking through the jungle and seeing the dead bodies of Japanese being cremated along the way, they finally reached Yigo.

"Then we were herded into a hole in the ground which was a bomb shelter. Two solders guarded us one with a machine gun the other a rifle, bayonet and hand grenades it looked like this would be the end," he said.

But suddenly according to Flores, there was a rain of cannon shells that exploded at the entrance of the dugout. "Stunned we saw the guards gone we took off into the jungle as fast we could without looking back," he said.

Guided by the firelight they would make their way back to Manenggon - escaping clashes with Japanese enemy forces along the way. It wasn't until they reached Pago Bay - they ran into American soldiers they knew they were out of harm's way and returned safely to Manenggon. "The welcome that we got when we came back was that we are free, we are free the enemy of this island has been defeated and those who came to help us are here to stay. Thank you one and all," he said.

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