The essence of Araw ng Kagitingan

Apart from knowing that the reason for the nationwide holiday today is because of the commemoration of the “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Valor), the young people of the Philippines must realize the significance of this occasion.

Today, as the whole country celebrates the Filipino gallantry, bravery and heroism, the country pays tribute not only to the war heroes many of whom gave up their lives during World War II but also to the veterans who fought in the name of freedom.

Bataan was the last province to surrender to the Japanese invaders during the War. The Battle of Bataan saw local forces alongside American allies engaging in war against the Japanese. After the Fall came the infamous Death March–a long and difficult walk from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac that the captured Filipino and American soldiers were subjected to. For many, it was fatal; almost 10,000 fatigued and starved warriors perished along the trail.

The march, involving the forcible transfer of 90,000 to 100,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese in the Philippines from the Bataan peninsula to prison camps, was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse, murder, savagery, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon the prisoners and civilians along the route by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan.

Beheadings, cut throats and being casually shot were the more common and merciful actions — compared to bayonet stabbings, rapes, guttings (disembowelments), numerous rifle butt beatings and a deliberate refusal to allow the prisoners food or water while keeping them continually marching for nearly a week (for the slowest survivors) in tropical heat. Falling down, unable to continue moving was tantamount to a death sentence, as was any degree of protest or expression of displeasure.

As a fitting tribute to the heroism of these Filipino heroes, a 60-foot cross was erected on Mount Samat in Pilar, Bataan. It is now a World War II military shrine called the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor). Completed and inaugurated in 1970, the Dambana ng Kagitingan consists of the Colonnade and the huge Memorial Cross. The Colonnade is a marble-capped structure with an altar, esplanade (walkway) and a museum.
Nowadays, the Filipinos are not being required to do the same act of heroism, the best proof of patriotism and love of country. All that is asked is for the Filipino youth to be guided by the gallantry and valor of the World War II Veterans.

Today, the Filipinos are fighting another kind of war, that of the looming effects of the global economic meltdown.

It is hoped that the Filipino youth and all Filipinos for that matter will look up at the Filipino veteran as their guide towards unity, peace and progress.

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