Every 9th of April, the Philippines celebrates Araw ng Kagitingan. On this day back in 1942, during the Second World War, the Philippines was invaded by the Japanese forces, culminating in the battle and eventual the fall of Bataan. This day also commemorates the infamous Death March wherein approximately 76,000 Filipino, American, and Chinese soldiers were forced by the Japanese to march 90 miles (or about 145 kilometers) from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. The hike was a truly grueling one for the Filipino, American, and Chinese soldiers – thousands perished due to starvation, dehydration, fatigue, and abuse from their captors.
Facts about Araw ng Kagitingan
Most people often confuse Araw ng Kagitingan with National Heroes’ Day. The former commemorates the day of the Philippines’ last stand before ultimately being occupied by the Japanese during World War 2; National Heroes’ Day is often celebrated every last Monday of August to commemorate the Cry of Pugad Lawin in 1896, which started the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers.
Among the Southeast Asian countries that Japan occupied during the Second World War, the Philippines was the last country to surrender to their rule. Japan started their offensive across the Southeast Asian peninsula during December 8, 1941 and spanned for 5 months. Among the occupied countries were Singapore, Malaysia (then-called British Malaya), and Indonesia (known as the Dutch Indies). Their campaign for the Philippines took the longest to succeed, as it began in December 8, 1941, and ended with the Fall of Bataan in Corregidor on the 6th of May, 1942.
After the Battle of Bataan, the Death March was executed under the orders of Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu. This is to address the logistics issue of having too many Filipino, American, and Chinese soldiers-turned prisoners of war and being ill-equipped to hold them captive.
April 9 was named “Bataan Day” and declared a holiday after the Republic Act 3022 was passed by Congress in 1961. The act states that at 4:30pm during this day, a moment of silence must be observed by citizens and public offices. The holiday was later renamed to “Araw ng Kagitingan” as part of the Executive Order No. 203 in 1987.
In 1989, Proclamation 466 declared the week of April 5 to 11 as “Veterans Week” to honor all the veterans of the Philippine military, not just the ones who served during the Second World War. Bataan Day is also celebrated in the US, specifically in Maywood, Illinois. This is the hometown of the members of the 192nd Tank battalion who took part in the defense of Bataan. However, they celebrate Bataan Day every second Sunday of September instead of April 9.
Finally, former President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the creation of the Mount Samat Shrine during 1966 on the site where the Battle of Bataan had its fiercest campaign; it was completed in 1970.
The ICT Office acknowledges that proper information about days of remembrance and commemoration such as these are important in order to enlighten the public of the reason why such holidays are worth celebrating.
If you’d like to know more about the other upcoming Philippine holidays for this year, kindly visit the ICTO website (www.icto.dost.gov.ph).