This year’s Araw ng Kagitingan marks the 75th anniversary of the heroism and sacrifice by Filipino WWII veterans
On Apr. 9, the nation celebrated Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), paying tribute to the heroism of Filipino soldiers who fought alongside American forces during World War II. This year’s Day of Valor marks the 75th anniversary of the surrender of more than 76,000 USAFFE soldiers by American Army General Edward P. King after a heroic stand, resulting to the Fall of Bataan, and the subsequent Death March from the town of Mariveles to Capas in Tarlac.
Aiming to promote and memorialize the heroic deeds and ideals of our veterans, the celebration began with the annual commemorative rites on Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan. Attended by veterans, their families, local and foreign officials, the program included a ceremonial wreath-laying by President Rodrigo Duterte, Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa, and US Chargé d’affaires Michael Kleches on the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) culminating into President Duterte’s announcment that he had signed an Executive Order expediting the release of PhP6 billion for veteran pension funds.
After the formal event, the festivities continued in a field in Pilar, where a drum-and-lyre competition among public elementary schools in Bataan opened the afternoon program.
The title was bagged by Timog Tomahawk Drum and Lyre Corps of Orani South Elementary School, which wowed the crowd with precise gymnastics performed by its majorettes.
Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Ernesto Carolina addressed the crowd right after.
“We may have not forgotten,” he said. “But we have definitely forgiven.”
Following the announcement of winners, and formal addresses was a concert by homegrown talents including Koro Bangkal Magbikin – the first Aeta children’s choir.
The main event, sponsored by Japanese Kenji Mori, was the 25-minute firework display. Before the “Grandest Pyrotechnique” began, Mr. Mori implored the audience to “remember the Japanese well.” He then compelled them to their feet as he sang a rendition of the Philippine National Anthem.
Moments later, the 75,000-shot spectacle began. Prepared by pyro-expert Dragon Fireworks, the show lit up the skies of Bataan, wowing the crowd – a fitting grand finale to the celebration in honor of courage and sacrifice.
Text by CELINE REYES
Photos by DENNIS MURILLO