Today we remember the surrender of the 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers (87% were Filipinos) against the hegemon that was the Empire of Japan. From December 1941 to April 1942, the Philippine forces valiantly held out in Bataan amidst impossible odds against the attacks of the overwhelming Japanese forces and with their backs on the sea. Famine, illnesses, fatigue, and a lot of casualties took toll on the troops. Bataan peninsula witnessed the heroism of individuals from all over the archipelago, laying down their lives for freedom. My very own grandfather was a member of the 14th Engineers Regiment of the prestigious Philippine Scouts tasked to build bridges, trenches and prepare defense lines for efficient retreat and offense. He died on April 6, a mere three days before the surrender of Bataan, showing the great casualties suffered by the troops on the days leading to April 9th, 1942. From the Malinta Tunnel at Corregidor would be heard the sad announcement on that fateful day through the radio program “Voice of Freedom”:
Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.
The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.
For what sustained them through all these months of incessant battle was a force that was more than merely physical. It was the force of an unconquerable faith—something in the heart and soul that physical hardship and adversity could not destroy! It was the thought of native land and all that it holds most dear, the thought of freedom and dignity and pride in these most priceless of all our human prerogatives.
The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds.
But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more than flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come.
Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world—cannot fall!
If not for their sacrifice, the Japanese invasion plan would have been fully implemented as scheduled and it would have been difficult to stop the Japanese from conquering Australia, thus compromising the Allied offensive which was done in 1945.
Thank God for our heroes. And as we remember those who have fallen, we must also remind ourselves that even Death itself is a defeated enemy.
Here are some posts related to this part of Philippine History.
– To remember those who have fallen
– In commemoration of the Fall of Corregidor
– Olympics and the Philippines: The Filipino Pioneers
– Visiting the Pacific War Memorial
– Coconut Fiber helmet of the Philippine Constabulary