Araw ng Kagitingan (or Day of Valor) is celebrated annually in the Philippines to commemorate the surrender of the combined Filipino and American forces to the Japanese forces. The transfer of these prisoners of war led to the now infamous Death March. Many years after the events of the Second World War, people are now celebrating the heroism of the Filipino war veterans, giving them the biggest salute for fighting to save the country’s democracy (and to a larger context, world peace).
I like the fact that the monument in honor of the Bataan defenders from San Pablo City is found on Doña Leonila Park because many are able to see a marker for our local heroes. They are also reminded (I do hope so) that our freedom was hard fought by Filipinos many years ago, however indirectly. I remember that we used to play around this particular monument when we were still kids, looking out for our surnames and thinking that the names we found with our surnames were relatives.
But it turned out that the fight of the San Pableño did not begin and end in the Bataan peninsula. Stories from lolos and lolas abound on how they tried to subvert the power being exercised by the Japanese forces in the city during the War. And guerillas? We have a lot of them. Although the EDSA People Power of 1986 is far more recent, I see the World War II and its many Filipino heroes, particularly the living war veterans and guerillas, as the closest I could be in this particular period of our history. It’s like to jumping into the pages of the history book and seeing your heroes come alive. A la Bayani (the TV program).
It is my hope that commemorations for the deceased veterans will not end and heroes and continued recognition is given to those who are still living. I have interview some of them and it is very enriching, in fact humbling, to realize that regardless of social and educational background, they were well aware of the need to defend the country that is ours.
Sa mga betrano, gerilya, pumanaw man o nabubuhay pa, saludo po kami sa inyo, mga bayani!