As an important and strategically located ally of the United States of America in the Far East, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was unwittingly drawn into the Second World War. When Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was bombed on December 7, 1941, the US military installations in the Philippines was attacked hours later. In what otherwise could be a festive Christmas season, it was turned into somber, nightmarish and hopeless. Lives and fortunes were irreversibly changed forever from that point onwards.
As the Philippines Campaign or the Battle of the Philippines dragged on, the war seemed to have no end. In Bataan Peninsula in particular, where the War Plan Orange 3 was implemented, the worst battles happened.
The Battle of Layac Junction had witnessed extra ordinary valor of Sergeant Jose Calugas who was awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor. But the 14th Army of the Empire of Japan proved too much to handle. Soon after, even the Main Line of Resistance, the Abucay-Morong Line, was breached and overpowered by the enemy forces and was grudgingly abandoned by the I and II Philippine Corps, under Major General Jonathan Wainwright and Major General George M. Parker, respectively.
The battles were held in the the rivers, valleys, trails and ridges as the USAFFE units were pushed back. But for 26 hellish days from January 23 to February 17, 1942, in what was known as the Battle of the Pockets, heavy and fierce fighting produced yet another exemplary hero. Captain Alfredo M. Santos of the 1st Regular Division led his unit in successfully penetrating the Gogo-Cotar River and Tuol pockets. He was promoted to major as a result of these successful campaigns. On February 18, 1942, the remaining forces of the USAFEE in the Battle of Bataan earned an important victory which further delayed the timetable of the Japanese Imperial Army.
On April 8, 2015, the Philippine Living History Society held a dramatic reenactment of the Battle of the Pockets at the Provincial Grounds in Balanga City.
At the Mount Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan, the Araw ng Kagitingan Commemoration was held. The hallowed grounds of Mount Samat was the scene of one of the bloodiest fights in the Philippine Theater of Operations of the Second World War.During the celebration of the 73rd anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, President Benigno C. Aquino III was the guest speaker. President Aquino reiterated his desire for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.His Excellency Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa of Japan was one of the VIP guests during the Araw ng Kagitingan program. In behalf of his nation, he apologized and asked for forgiveness for the atrocities committed during the Second World War.
As time and age pass on, the significance of the Battle of the Pockets, of the Battle of Bataan, of the Battle of the Philippines need not be lost. The important yet bitter lessons of the Second World War should be reintroduced to remind us the folly and foibles of a war, and the sacrifices, bravery and love for country and freedom our ancestors displayed during those dark times.
Thanks to the Bataan Tourism Council for the opportunity to witness the celebration of the Araw ng Kagitingan. Behold, Bataan!