The Day of Valor or “Araw ng Kagitingan”, as it is commonly referred to in the Philippines, is a national holiday held on the same day every year since 1942 – the 9th of April. It’s an annual commemoration of the fall of the Bataan Peninsula during World War II, which occurred when the united Philippine-US army, after months of battle with the invading Japanese troops, finally surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.
Nevertheless, resiliency is deeply entrenched in the hearts of Filipinos. So, while close to 80,000 Filipino and American troops were traversing an arduous 65-mile march enroute to prison camps in San Fernando, with some of them dying of murder, starvation, dehydration and exhaustion, those who were left in Bataan continued to defend the Bataan Peninsula, making it harder for the Japanese army to progress. As a result, the joint Philippine-US army was able to prepare for battle and eventually defeated the Japanese.
Despite the gruesome circumstances surrounding “Araw ng Kagitingan”, it is worth commemorating to remind the present generation of their forefathers’ courage, tenacity, and self-sacrificing spirit that made it possible for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.
The 77th Commemoration of “Araw ng Kagitingan”
This year marks the 77th year that the tenacious and resilient war veterans of WWII were remembered and given the honor that was due them. I was one of the fortunate ones who received an invite, along with the people of Bataan, other guests, and war veterans to attend the pre-commemoration rites that were held at the Bataan Capitol Compound.
It was actually a 2-day event tipped off on April 8 by a foot parade that somehow made the crowd re-live the infamous “Bataan Death March”. Congresswoman Geraldine Roman opened the festivities with a speech.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was the float parade that was done with storytelling and re-enactment. I recently went back to visit Corregidor Island Overnight Tour, and while there, I had the privilege of re-learning the events that transpired during WWII. Everything that was told during that Corregidor trip was rehashed during the float parade, complete with some re-enacted scenes. I found the re-telling and re-enactment of the story very touching; I tremendously loved it, which is why I can honestly say that was the highlight of my day.
The day was capped off with an awarding ceremony of the best float and performances by the talented Philippines Army Band, Philippine Marines Band and Philippine Airforce Band.
Pilar grabs 3rd place, Balanga bags the 2nd place and Samat wins the 1st place .
Day 2, April 9, marked the actual “Araw ng Kagitingan” commemoration and on hand to lead it was Sec. Eduardo M. Ano of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The “Araw ng Kagitingan” rites were held at Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan at exactly 9:00 AM. This year’s commemoration theme is “Sakripisyo ng Beterano ay Gunitain, Gawing Tanglaw ng Kabataan Tungo sa Kaunlaran”.
Sec. Ano was joined by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda and Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States of America John Law during the wreath-laying ceremonies. After the opening remarks of Bataan Governor Albert S. Garcia, Sec. Ano proceeded to award the winners of the national creative painting, essay writing, and oratorical contests, after which, he went on to give his keynote address.
Importance of Mt. Samat and Plans for Mt. Samat
The choice of Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor as venue for the 77th commemoration of “Araw ng Kagitingan” is very apt since part of the program focused on its role as a flagship tourism enterprise zone (FTEZ). This is in accordance with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ task of promoting Philippine history through museums, publications, and heritage sites.
Those in attendance saw firsthand the Mt. Samat Development Scale Model and Augmented Reality Project for the Underground Museum, which showed what the local government has in store for the FTEZ over the next five years. The scale model and augmented reality project are part of FTEZ’ proclivity to use interactive facilities in the Shrine; thus, making it even more tourist-friendly.
Part of the five-year plan is the building of the Visitors Complex, which will apparently feature three other buildings where tourism activities will be rampant – the Tourism Assistance Center (TAC), the Visitors’ Center, and the Multi-Purpose Building. There will be souvenir shops, information kiosks, a 360-degree theatre room where historical films and videos will be shown, and an orientation room where tourists will be given information about the Shrine when they purchase tickets.
Since February 27, 2017 when the official FTEZ designation was given to Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor, collective efforts have been made to sustain the recently-launched greening program for Mt. Samat National Park.Among these is the on-going rehabilitation of denuded forestlands through tree-planting activities. More plans for tree-planting activities are being cooked up and will be rolled out in the coming days, as the local government is keen on promoting sustainable tourism in Mt. Samat.
Just recently, Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor was declared a smoke-free heritage site, making it one of the first one heritage sites in the country to boast of that distinction. The mayor of Pilar, Bataan herself, Hon. Alice Pizarro, is adamant in preserving and conserving the environment of the heritage site.
With the way things are going at Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor, it looks like the efforts of the local government and other agencies are quickly bearing fruit. I will not be surprised if the place is awarded a World Heritage Site distinction before their five-year plan comes to fruition.