Monday, April 09, 2007

Bataan: Dambana ng Kagitingan in Bataan

Every year, April 9 has always been among the much-awaited public holidays in the Philippines. This year, it fell on Easter Monday giving everyone a five-day vacation which I'm sure kept resorts nationwide filled to the brim. But, aside from it being a holiday, do most Filipinos know what Araw ng Kagitingan is all about?

On April 9, 1942, approximately 75,000 Filipino and United States soldiers, commanded by Major General Edward "Ned" P. King, Jr., formally surrendered to the Japanese army under Lt. General Masaharu Homma. Over the next few days, these prisoners of war were transferred to Camp O'Donnell in what would become the Bataan Death March.

To commemorate the gallantry of these troops, April 9 of every year was declared Araw ng Kagitingan. The Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) was also built on top of Mount Samat in 1966 in memory of the soldiers who saw action during the Second World War.

The most distinct feature of the shrine is the Memorial Cross, a 92-meter marble, steel and concrete structure built 555 meters above sea level. At the base of the cross is a sculptural bas relief that depicts important historical events and battles in the Philippines. An elevator takes visitors up a viewing deck in the arms of the cross.

Every April 9, the President together with the ambassadors of the United States and Japan, leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and surviving WWII veterans visit the shrine to commemorate the said surrender and the start of the Bataan Death March. Although she was scheduled to join the ceremonies this year, President Arroyo had to beg off due to the medical situation of the First Gentleman.

Anyway, to remember this day, here is the transcript of "Bataan has fallen" which was written by Salvador P. Lopez and read from the Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor on the Voice of Freedom radio broadcast: Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.

The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more that three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.

For what sustained them through all these months of incessant battle was a force that was more than merely physical. It was the force of an unconquerable faith--something in the heart and soul that physical hardship and adversity could not destroy! It was the thought of native land and all that it holds most dear, the thought of freedom and dignity and pride in these most priceless of all our human prerogatives.

The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds.

But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more that flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come.

Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand--a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world--cannot fall!

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