Lifestyle Blog from the Philippines

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Thoughts on the Holiday: Bataan Death March

Today is a holiday – Araw ng Kagitingan here in the Philippines, otherwise known as Day of Valor in the US, which commemorates the Bataan Death March from 1942. The death march was the transfer of thousands of American and Filipino prisoners of war by the Japanese during World War II. They traveled more than 100 kilometers from Bataan to Tarlac where many were physically abused and killed during the journey. 

bataan death march
Photo from Pixabay

For most Filipinos, myself included, this means another day off from work. I don’t think that many people actually have the Bataan Death March in mind when it comes to this day. Yes, we may be aware of what the day is about, but I think that most of us just think of it as an event in the past. It’s just a moment from our history books that we are being reminded of on this holiday.  

I’ve always been fascinated by history. I am curious about historic events and places as well as how people from different times have lived. It is that curiosity that often makes me look up historical events, people, and places when they are brought to my attention and the Bataan Death March is no exception. I’ve seen photos of the march, the emaciated bodies of the soldiers who survived and it is horrifying to even imagine what those soldiers went through during this ordeal.  

Stories of war like this always make me cry. I remember when I watched Pearl Harbor in the cinema and cried so hard during the attack scenes – I can only imagine how scary and difficult life must have been for the people who lived during the periods of war. I’ve read about how the Philippines was affected by World War II. I’ve seen photos. I’ve heard the stories from people who have experienced it themselves. It is, for lack of a better term, horrifying. It also reminds me of how lucky we are to be living in these times. War and terrorism may still exist in specific areas of the world, but a majority of us are still fortunate to live away from the experience of it.  

We are not like our grandparents who remember what it felt like to live in a period of war and to survive it. We are blessed to not have experienced it. We are lucky because we have had freedom from war our entire lives. We have never lived in fear and uncertainty the way people at that time most likely did.  The commemoration of events like today reminds us of the freedoms that we take for granted. It reminds us to appreciate the people who came before us who fought for the freedom that we enjoy today. In a way you can say that they suffered so we don’t have to.   

Stories of a war that has long passed are hard for people to relate to but will always be something that needs to be remembered. We need it to appreciate the life we have now and to remember to pray that our generation does not live to see the ravages of war in our lifetime the way it has for our grandparents.   

Tonight, please say a prayer of thanks for a life of freedom. Please pray for the souls who suffered and died during the death march that happened 77 years ago. If we can’t do anything to commemorate this holiday let us at least do that.


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