We need another ‘Araw ng Kagitingan’

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - April 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Today, in the midst of Covid 19 national and global crisis, we are celebrating the 78th anniversary of what used to be called the "Bataan Day'', or the "Fall of Bataan". It was a day of heroism and valor. Thus, from a name that connoted ignominy and infamy, it was named "Araw ng Kagitingan.

More than ten thousand starving and disease-ridden Filipinos died on that day, April 9, 1942, while being forced to walk, many barefooted, from Bataan to Tarlac, a distance of 140 kilometers under the scorching heat of the summer sun. Against the specific orders of his superiors, General Douglas MacArthur, the over-all commander of the US Pacific Forces, and also the instruction of US commanding general of the whole Philippines, General Jonathan Wainwright, the Luzon commander of the US and Filipino forces, Major General Edward King decided to surrender more than 79,000 combined US and Filipino soldiers who were dying of hunger and diseases.

It was called The Death March, and the total number included no less than 67,000 Filipinos, 11,796 Americans and some 1,000 Chinese Filipinos. The excessively cruel and inhuman Japanese Imperial Army, instead of allowing the pitiful hungry and ill-clad warriors, ordered them to walk from Bataan to Camp O'Donnel in Capas, Tarlac, a distance of 140 kilometers. Those who fell down out of starvation and fatigue were hit by bullets or bayonets, and others who fell into canals either died or were able to escape. Out of 79,000, only 54,000 reached Capas. More than 10,000 Filipino soldiers died and were never buried, only left to rot or to the dogs and other vultures. 650 Americans perished and all the rest were unaccounted for.

In 1961, under the presidency of D Macapagal, Congress passed Republic Act 3022 declaring April 9, as Bataan Day. In 1987, President C Aquino issued Executive Order 203 renaming the day as Araw Ng Kagitingan. In 2007, upon the prodding of President GMA, Congress passed RA 9492, the so-called Holiday Economics law which provided that the day should be transferred to the Monday nearest April 9. On April 2012, the 70th anniversary of that historic day, Presidents PNoy and FVR attended an important ceremony in Mount Samat Bataan. The Japanese ambassador Toshima Urabe delivered an impassioned speech expressing the deepest apologies and remorse of the Japanese people.  My father, who was a wounded veteran, of the second world war, shed tears witnessing that occasion.

Of course, the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese. That was a retaliation by the Americans for the treacherous attacks by Japanese forces of the Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, killing thousands of US forces in stationed in Hawaii, which included a number of Filipinos who were inducted into the US army, navy, marines and air force. But the million or so Filipinos killed in the second world war, and the total devastation of our country could never be repaid by the Japanese. They have raped our women, made them sex slaves and pulverized our economy, aside from inflicting wounds on the psyche and soul of each of our parents and grandparents.

Today, our enemy is a microorganism that can be more destructive and treacherous than the Japs. Our heroes are the doctors, nurses and other health workers who are having their own Death March. We need to help them and support all their sacrifices. Many of them have already fallen in trying to save the lives of others.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with