PINOYS have always marked April 9 as a red letter day on their calendars for Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor.
From History lessons learned in elementary and high school, Filipinos have an idea that the holiday is a commemoration of the Fall of Bataan, one of the last battle frontiers in the Philippines during World War 2.
Thousands perished to defend the country’s freedom against Japanese invaders in one of the most brutal uphill battles in world history.
Here are some choice trivia about the heroism and sacrifice of Filipino soldiers during the war, in a milestone in Philippine history that enables us to enjoy our democracy today.
- War Plan Orange was the name of the battle plan devised by the US wherein, after the Fall of Manila, troops retreated to the Bataan Peninsula so that Filipino and American soldiers could regroup and make a final stand against the Japanese.
- The Battle of Bataan, involving the final remaining forces in Bataan and Corregidor managed to stave off the Japanese Imperial Army for three months.
- On April 9, 1942, Major Edward P. King, the commander of the Luzon Force negotiated the terms of surrender with Maj. Gen. Kameichiro Nagano against the orders of General Douglas McArthur. After the Fall of Bataan, Corregidor managed to repel the Japanese forces for another month until it too, fell to the enemy. However, the stand proved crucial to defending Australia and US bases in the Pacific from Japanese invasion.
- A group of historians cited that one reason for the surrender was that “the (US and Filipino) t soldiers had been fighting and surviving on many days with only a bowl of rice and a glass of contaminated water.” They were pushed to the brink of starvation and despair, forcing Gen. King to make the decision to surrender, “no doubt feeling that continuing longer would be synonymous as to committing suicide.”
- The Imperial Japanese Army, meanwhile, seemed to have “an unending supply of men and artillery.” General McArthur, who was then based in Corregidor, assured the troops that “there would be reinforcements coming and they should remain strong.”
- Between 60,000 to 80,000 Filipino soldiers, and US most of whom were already sick and injured, were ordered to march from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac. An estimated 5,000-10,000 soldiers died from dehydration, hunger and maltreatment at the hands of their Japanese captors.
- The Bataan Death March, started from two points – the troops from Mariveles started their journey to Capas on April 10, while those who came from Bagac started their march on April 11. To commemorate their fateful and tragic journey, markers were erected in the starting points of the march. They are known as “Kilometer Zero.”
- April 9 was originally declared Bataan Day in 1961 via RA 3022 to commemorate the Fall of Bataan. In 1987, the holiday was renamed Araw ng Kagitingan/Corregidor Day through EO 203 to commemorate the valiance of the soldiers who fought long and hard in the historic Battle of Bataan.
- The Mount Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan, also known as the Dambana ng Kagitingan, was established in 1966 during the 25th anniversary of WW2, to honor the courage and bravery of Filipino soldiers. The Shrine Complex features a war museum, a Colonnade and a memorial cross 555 meters abve sea level. Both the Colonnade and the cross feature artwork by National Artist Napoleon Abueva.