[ Note : I’m so happy when Generation Y-ers can engender nostalgia for values of a bygone era, even happier when the member of Generation Y is our own son. It acquires triple satisfaction when it coincides with today’s commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan. Lifted with permission from both the author and publisher of Issue No.1 of Pinoy Stop (Wellington) newsmagazine, maraming salamat po! ]
Every journey begins with one step. We go on for miles and miles, sometimes knowing where we are going and what we’re looking for. Most of the time we just walk down roads idly, letting our instincts lead the way. We see different things along our different paths. Some things we wish to take with us or at least know more about. We share our experiences to other people but some things we won’t even bat an eyelash for.
That is how I saw the Philippines five years ago, a country proud of its people and their achievements but apathetic to its misgivings and failures. A country that has taken a path unique in many ways, such as being an Asian democracy albeit a flawed one at that. It has millions of skilled workers, all with warm hearts; countless natural resources, filled with so much unrealized potential.
This is what thousands of Filipinos and Americans died for during the infamous Bataan Death March. They marched down a seemingly-endless road their captors forced upon them. Many of them did not survive. Whether by starvation, dehydration, exhaustion or by a bullet, their death neither came quick nor easy. Now in remembrance of their deeds and what they fought for, the Philippines commemorates the said event the same day it happened seventy-one years ago on April 9.
April 9 is a public holiday in the Philippines, with most of the workforce and the student population exempted from work and school, respectively, and the usual Filipino past times would follow such as going to the mall or just resting. As a young person myself I can recall that I did the same on that holiday, enjoying my free time and disregarding the story behind it. That I regret doing, not only because I feel that as a Filipino, I am indebted to those people who died on that road but also because there are lessons to be learned. Our country’s history has shown us many things. It has shown us that we as a nation bend. We do not break. We have been given a myriad of paths through the years, all of which would not have been possible if not for the people who lost their lives during the death march.
A period of nation-building followed the war. We chose the paths we have taken. We took the lead. Our neighbors looked up to us. As the rest of Southeast Asia grappled with nation building, weak economies and civil wars, the Philippines was the shining beacon of prosperity and democracy in the region. Unfortunately because of dictatorship, we entered a period of economic stagnation and political crises. We then, overthrew that regime in a bloodless revolution. After the democratic transition, the expectations of the international community was high. We did not meet those expectations, we didn’t even meet our own. Now under the current government we are seeing a slow but steady and assured resurgence of our country, not only in the economy but with our political ideals, moral and ethical principles as well. If we have any captors at present, it is us.
We as a people have always chosen what we want to tell others about our experiences. We are proud of our country’s rich history and culture and are known for our resilience, perseverance and work ethic. But we ignore the lessons from the past. Events such as the ‘Fall of Bataan’ and the subsequent death march should serve as a reminder to us all of the hardships our people have experienced. That is something we should never take for granted. We owe it to them to aim higher to accept criticisms so we can make ourselves better and make our country proud of all our actions. We may be forced down a road we have not chosen but we persevere through it and learn from that experience. We survive — stronger and wiser.
To my countrymen, we do not take holidays so we can take a break off from work and rest. It has a far greater purpose than that.
- generation gap, clash of civilizations, pinoy orig vs malansang isda (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- ” ARAW NG KAGITINGAN / DAY OF VALOR : Much respect and love to our World War II veterans. “ (aionlineshop2013.wordpress.com)
- Confession: I had colonial mentality (psych108portfolio.wordpress.com)
- Financial markets closed for Araw ng Kagitingan (business.inquirer.net)
- Death March, N.M. soldiers remembered (krqe.com)
- Filipino, Chinese, Spanish (hapavoice.com)
- Remembering the Bataan Death March (themoderatevoice.com)