PH to observe 76th anniversary of Araw ng Kagitingan on April 9

By Ben Cal

MANILA – The gallantry and heroism of Filipino and American soldiers who fought in World War II will be honored during the 76th grand anniversary of “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Valor) in Bataan on Monday.

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office said that President Rodrigo R. Duterte will be the guest of honor and speaker.

When the Japanese invaded the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941, they thought they would conquer the country in less than a month, but they underestimated the heroism and sacrifices of the Filipino and American defenders who held their ground in Bataan. The fighting lasted for three months and two days.

Pvt. Teodoro Clarin, this writer's uncle, was killed in action in Bataan.

The delay altered the war plan of the Japanese Imperial Army to conquer countries in Asia.

This also enabled Gen. Douglas McArthur, commander of US forces in the Philippines, to undertake a daring escape to Australia aboard a torpedo boat on his way to the United States where he planned a counter attack to retake the Philippines to fulfill his promise to the Filipino people of “I shall return.”

Meanwhile, guerrilla forces were organized across the archipelago to continue the war against the Japanese. This writer's mother, Milagros Bautista, joined the guerrilla movement as a courier, while his younger brother, Jose Bautista, was drafted to the Philippine Scout as a second lieutenant with headquarters in Palawan.

When Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942, some 60,000 Filipino and American troops were taken prisoners of war by the Japanese.

They were made to walk some 112 kilometers from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac under the scorching sun with no food and water for days in what is known the world over as the “Death March.”

Some 18,000 Filipino soldiers and 650 Americans died during the “Death March” due to exhaustion or were either shot or bayoneted to death.

For the next three years, Filipino and American guerrilla forces continued the fighting against the highly superior Japanese Imperial Army.

On Oct. 20, 1944, McArthur fulfilled his promise of “I shall return” when he led US and allied forces made a triumphant landing in Palo, Leyte to liberate the Philippines from the clutches of the Japanese invaders.

The Japanese were clobbered and forced to retreat, the first time since they occupied the Philippines, but they were pursued wherever they went.

A week later, the USS Submarine Gar (206) transported guns, ammunition and other logistics to Filipino guerrilla freedom fighters in northern Luzon to fighting the remaining Japanese forces until they were crushed and forced Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita and his men to surrender.

The “Araw ng Kagitingan” on Monday will honor the thousands of Filipino and American forces, who fought and gave their lives for freedom and democracy to live in peace in the years to come. (PNA)