Nonetheless, it's still an important day. Even though "Araw ng Kagitingan" is a remembrance of one of the worst military disasters in Philippine history, it's also a remembrance of the grim lessons of World War II. So for the benefit of those who have more than a passing interest in this event, here are some bits and pieces about the Fall of Bataan.
"Araw ng Kagitingan" Had Two Other Names
On April 6, 1961, Republic Act No. 3022 proclaimed April 9 as "Bataan Day," where Filipinos are requested to observe a one-minute silence at 4:30 P.M. There would also be "appropriate rites" to honor the families left behind by the fallen defenders.
On June 30, 1987, Executive Order No. 203 called April 9 "Bataan and Corregidor Day" or "Araw ng Kagitingan." Eventually (though it's unclear exactly when), April 9 would simply be "Araw ng Kagitingan."
The Philippines Has a "Veterans Week"
On September 14, 1989, President Corazon Aquino proclaimed that the period between April 5 and 11 be "Philippine Veterans Week." Here, all Filipino war veterans — including those who survived Bataan and Corregidor — will be honored with activities intended to commemorate their contributions to the war effort. For details on how Veterans Week will be celebrated this year, click here.
The Fall of Bataan Was One of the Worst Military Disasters in U.S. History
If you Google "worst military disasters in U.S. history" (without quotation marks), chances are the Fall of Bataan (or Fall of Corregidor) will be mentioned at least once. That's because, out of the 130,000 Filipino and American troops who fought in Bataan, 10,000 were dead, 20,000 were injured and around 75,000 surrendered. This made it the largest surrender of American troops since the Civil War.
The Battle of Bataan Was a Series of Conflicts
To be accurate, the "Battle of Bataan" should've been "Battles of Bataan." It was basically one skirmish after the other, following the departure of the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) in December 1941, after the Japanese destroyed their air bases in the Philippines. The most famous of these skirmishes was the Battle of the Points, when a few hundred Filipino-American soldiers made a last stand against an overwhelming number of Japanese troops.
There Are Several Bataan Death March Memorials Around the World
In the Philippines alone, there's a "Dambana ng Kagitingan" (Shrine of Valor) built on Mount Samat in Pilar, Bataan. The shrine consists of a museum, an esplanade, an altar and a Memorial Cross that measures around 302 feet (or 92 meters) in height. There are also the Battling Bastards of Bataan Memorial and the Capas National Shrine — both in Capas, Tarlac.
In the U.S., there are several memorials named after this ill-fated place, like the Bataan Bridge in Carisbad, New Mexico, the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge in Chicago, Illinois and the Bataan Death March Memorial Park in Spokane, Washington.
The U.S. Also Commemorates the Death March
The Death March is commemorated in no less than three U.S. states. There's the yearly marathon at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. There's the annual Bataan Memorial March in Brainerd, Minnesota. And then there's "Maywood Bataan Day" in Maywood, Illinois, held every second Sunday of September.
The Fall of Bataan Produced Its Fair Share of Heroes
In times of darkness, even the tiniest specks of light shine bright. As terrible as the events of Bataan were, more than a few people displayed incredible strength during those times.
You have Sgt. Jose Calugas, who delayed the Japanese attack on January 6, 1942 and was awarded the Medal of Honor. You have the "Battling Belles of Bataan," made of 88 army nurses and 12 navy nurses, who never flinched even as they treated horrible injuries on the defenders. And then there are the many nameless men and women, who did what they could to help with what was ultimately a futile war effort.
The Ghosts of Bataan
When a place has a bloody history, ghost stories are bound to crop up all around it. It's said that, on some nights, the residents of Bataan can still hear the shuffling of feet, the dying cries of men and the remnants of soldiers who have died before their time. Of course, it's possible that it was all imagined by people who lived through — or have heard of — those times. Or is it?
To outsiders, it may seem absurd to celebrate a major moment of defeat. However, ignoring disastrous moments like these in history won't do anyone any good. In fact, the greatest lessons are often found in the greatest failures. Let's give "Araw ng Kagitingan" the honor it deserves.