21 May 2014 - Philippine Ambassador to Mexico Catalino R. Dilem, Jr accompanied by Third Secretary and Vice Consul Mikhal de Dios, Administrative Officer Bernardo Bagalay, and Cultural Officer Amelyn E. Julio-Obong, attended two events to commemorate the Squadron 201 “Aztec Eagles” last May 2.
The first was the celebration of the 69th Anniversary of the Hoisting of the Mexican National Flag in the Philippines, and the Commemoration of the Death of Five (5) Mexican Air Force Pilots in the Pacific during WWII. Held at the Squadron 201 Monument in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City, the ceremony was organized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense. The celebration was attended by the surviving veterans, military officials, families of the surviving and deceased members of Squadron 201, and representatives from the Philippine and United States Embassies. A gun salute was rendered by soldiers from the Mexican Air Force to honor their fallen comrades.
Squadron 201, known as the “Aztec Eagles”, was the Expeditionary Air Force Unit of Mexico that joined the Allied Forces in the campaign to liberate the Philippines from Japan during the Second World War.
Squadron 201, originally assigned to fight on the European front, was sent to the Pacific front upon the express request of Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho, due to the close historical and cultural ties between the Philippines and Mexico.
The second event of the day was the awarding ceremony of the second edition of the art and painting contest for the third- to sixth-grade students of the Escuela Heroes del Escuadrón 201 (Heroes of Squadron 201 School), and taking place at the four-hectare Base Aerea Militar No. 1, also known as Santa Lucia Airbase. The art competition had several themes: acts of honor and glory of Squadron 201 during the Second World War; principles of the Mexican Armed Forces; and the contribution of Mexico in the legitimate fight for freedom in the Philippines.
The Philippine Embassy gave backpacks and other school supplies as prizes to the 18 winners. It also donated two Filipino children’s books to the school. Airbase commanders then hosted a lunch for the Embassies of the Philippines and the United States, as well as the students in attendance.
The Escuela Heroes del Escuadrón 201 is a primary school located in Tepoztlan, State of Morelos. It was the first school erected in honor of Squadron 201, when President Avila Camacho granted a squadron member’s request to construct a school in his hometown.
The Philippine Embassy officials and other guests were then given a guided tour of the Military Aviation Museum by Captain Manuel Reyna Garza, the museum’s curator. Many of the items on display were paraphernalia, equipment, and mementos of Squadron 201 during their time in the Philippines, such as maps indicating flight routes and pictures with native Filipinos.
Captain Reyna expressed his desire for the Embassy to donate a Philippine flag to become part of the museum´s permanent exhibit, to which Ambassador Dilem gladly acceded to. The donation ceremonies will be scheduled organized by the museum officials and will be attended by military and civilian personnel.
The officials thanked the Philippine Embassy officials profusely for their visit and said that their doors remain open to Filipino visitors. END