News Commentary

Commentary: The Filipino brand of courage

Ernesto Carolina - Philstar.com
Commentary: The Filipino brand of courage
Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, together with veterans and the youth, offered flowers and paid tribute to the veterans during the Sunrise Ceremony on April 5, 2019 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. The Sunrise Ceremony kicks-off the observance of the Philippine Veterans Week and Araw ng Kagitingan which is celebrated annually from April 5 to 11.

It has been 79 years since both Filipino and American soldiers stood together in the jungles of Bataan as they made their last stand against the invading Japanese soldiers. The past 79 years have of course blotted out most of the physical damages the war has caused in the Bataan peninsula and in the rest of the country.

The long years have also faded into obscurity the horrors of the war, making the new generation living in unbounded freedom so far removed from the brutal reality that was the everyday life of our veterans during the Second World War. 

The stories of the past have easily been taken for granted, but much is still to be said about the people who led their countrymen to victories, of the civilians who fearlessly assisted the guerrillas, and of the youth who, albeit inexperienced and lacked knowledge on military operations, joined the resistance and defended the country.

All of them displayed a quality not everyone can possess, a quality so admirable we ultimately honor it every year - valor or "kagitingan". It is a single word but encompasses so much: courage, strength of mind and spirit, devotion to one’s purpose, and love for country that fuels individuals to risk their lives for others. 

Yesterday, we observe the Day of Valor or Araw ng Kagitingan. It is a day to pay tribute to the men and women who defended their country and their people. It is a day to honor those who faced death head on in the battlefield, without complaint nor respite.

They marched under the scorching heat, hid in bushes and darkened tunnels, faced the barrel of the gun and resisted the enemies’ offensive. They moved forward despite growing fear for their lives, knowing that the enemies are far more superior than they have imagined.

After all, courage is not really the absence of fear but the ability to move past it and to act in spite of it for the benefit of something greater than oneself. 

Our veterans, some of whom perished in line of duty, embodied this kind of courage and we should remember and honor them everyday for it, as remembering them only in times of national observances is not enough. They did so much for us that not knowing their stories beyond the commemoration of their heroism is a disservice to the selfless sacrifice they did for our countrymen.

Knowing their stories and perpetuating their heroic deeds are some ways in which we can pay tribute to our veterans. Supporting the causes that matter to them, ensuring their welfare, and advocating for their rights and increased benefits are things we should prioritize, especially now that the number of war veterans alive today is dwindling. 

As the country marks its one year of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, we should take heart and gain strength from the courage and love for country our veterans have displayed during the war. The Filipino brand of valor exemplified by our veterans in the Second World War is the same kind of courage needed by Filipinos in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our frontline workers, healthcare personnel and medical professionals who are in the center of battling this pandemic emulate the courage and heroism our veterans have embodied in their very own battle for freedom and liberty.

They have endured sleepless nights, toiled countless hours and even put their lives at stake to save the lives of others. Some even got infected by the virus but fought hard and came back to serve the people. Their courage and heroism is truly reminiscent of the “kagitingan” of our veterans. 

Now that the country is experiencing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, it is not only the frontline workers and healthcare professionals who are called to be courageous in facing this unseen enemy. It is high time for everyone to mirror the bravery our Filipino veterans have displayed in the past.

Everyone has a heroic role to play. In the midst of this unprecedented health crisis, everyone is called to be patriotic and courageous enough to put the benefit of the whole nation before his own. This is the Filipino brand of courage our veterans are known for.

Let us embrace this kind of courage and let it be our guiding light in today’s ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Undersecretary Ernesto G. Carolina is currently the administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office. Prior to this, he was appointed as undersecretary for Civil, Veterans and Reserve Affairs, presidential assistant and designated chairman of the Joint Defense Assessment Planning and Implementation Group, and subsequently as undersecretary for Philippine Defense Reform.


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