Days of Filipino valor
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2018 - 12:00am

After three months of fighting, on April 9, 1942, General King – commander of the  Philippine and American forces in Bataan, met with General Kameichiro Nagano and after several hours of negotiations surrendered to the Japanese forces.

The Allied forces in Bataan were composed of more than 60,000 Filipinos and 15,000 Americans. Soon after, these survivors were forced into the infamous Death March. General Wainwright, who commanded the Philippine and American forces in the Philippines after Douglas MacArthur left, later wrote that the Philippine Army had been “...doomed before they started to fight...They never had a chance to win.” They were caught half trained and in the process of mobilizing when the  Japanese invaded the Philippines. But despite all the military errors, lack of training and shortages, The Filipino officers and men fought gallantly. It was mainly due to sickness, hunger and weariness that finally caused the decision to surrender.

The three-month last stand in Bataan is also credited with costing the Japanese forces valuable time and preventing an immediate victory across the Pacific.

We celebrate April 9 as the Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor. The term valor is defined as great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle. Philippine history is full of stories of courageous men and women who dared to fight against superior arms. They may have lost but their stories should never be forgotten.

The Battle of Mactan was only the first fight against imperial Spain. In 1574, a group of Filipino tribal chiefs fought against the Spanish invaders then led by Legaspi. They were defeated by superior arms and their leader Rajah Soliman died in battle. Bohol had two major revolts. The first one was led by Tamblot in 1622. 

One of the most successful Filipino revolts was Dagohoy’s rebellion in Bohol in 1774. Dagohoy was able to declare independence of Bohol; and, for 55 years Bohol maintained an independent status by repelling all Spanish attempts to reconquer the island. After Dagohoy’s death, his subordinates carried on the fight; but they were finally defeated in 1829. 

One of the most serious revolts was led by Diego Silang who was able to wrest control of the Ilocos region from the Spaniards and remained undefeated until his assassination in 1763 by an assassin paid by the Spanish authorities. His wife Gabriela Silang continued the fight until she was caught and hanged on Sept. 29, 1763.

The defeat of the Spanish forces during the Philippine Revolution was completely the work of the Philippine revolutionary army. Cavite was the first province to be cleared of enemy forces Led by General Aguinaldo, the entire province was in the hands of the rebels by the end of May and the Spanish commander, General Pena was a prisoner. In nearby provinces, other Filipino generals were active – Gregorio del Pilar in Bulacan, Paciano Rizal in Laguna, Makabulos in Tarlac, Maximino Hizon in Pampanga, Miguel Malvar in Batangas and Vicente Lukban in Bikol.

The invasion of the American forces put an end to an independent Philippines. The Philippine American War saw many gallant stands by the Filipinos led by General Antonio Luna. The Battle of Tirad is another Day of Valor in Philippine history.

During the Bataan Death March, an estimated 10,000 or more Filipinos were able to escape. Many of them became members and leaders of the guerrilla movement. In the rebellion against the Spanish and American authorities, the Filipinos also resorted to guerrilla warfare. The Resistance Movement against the Japanese is another glorious chapter in Philippines history. After Bataan surrendered, there was a broadcast by the Voice of Freedom from Corregidor. The broadcast ended with this message:

“ Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand – a beacon to all liberty loving peoples of the world – cannot fail.” 

Letter from Rene Saguisag

Two weeks I had a column titled Passion for Books which was an essay written by my son Roel about his love for books and how it influenced his life. It elicited a lot of comments from readers. One response came from former Senator Rene Saguisag who has remained as erudite and readable as ever. I am sharing his message with my readers. Here is Saguisag’s message to me:

“Growing up in Makati, at six, near a US army office of sorts, I got a copy How to Make Good Pictures and a fascinating glossy serial of US history in Makati Elementary, Dick and Jane, the Reader’s Digest, Coronet and Life [ magazines].

I cannot remember who taught me to read. Self taught? My parents never rode shotgun during my school days.

The Manila Times columns of sportswriter Red Smith, who wrote about Thomas Grey’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard, supplemented by Damon Runyon and Collier’s many years later. And Sports magazine Selecciones de Reader’s Digest. 

Berkley [University] in a non-degree program, gave me the leisure time to read the Jerusalem Bible cover-to-cover, Crane Brinton’s Anatomy of Revolution and the Durants’ nine volume Story of Civilization. 

Competing for the DeWitt scholarship at the University of Michigan, Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, came up. And when I showed some familiarity with it, that might have clinched No. 1 for me (but which I waived when Harvard’s acceptance came).

My having been named as among ten pioneer Fulbright alums was due to my being a “wide reader” as much as anything else. San Beda lost to UP 2 to 3 in Anything Goes but the powerhouse teams benefited from wide reading. We were Alejo “Jun” Villanueva, Jimmy Licauco, Pabling Trillana, Eddie Chow, Claro Mamaril and I for San Beda and Jimmy Abad, Tristan Catindig, et al for victorious UP. 

One Lent in San Beda I read Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain. Happy Easter.”

Summer creative writing classes and workshop for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on April 14, 21 and 28, May 12, 19 and 26 (1:30 pm-3 pm; independent sessions); Wonder of Words Workshop on May 7, 9, 11, 14, 16 and 18 (1:30-3:30 pm for 8-12 years old/ 4-6 pm for 13-17 years old) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration contact 0945-2273216 or

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