It was almost springtime when I first set foot Japan in 2001. I was one of those fortunate enough to represent the Philippines for the Philippine ASEAN-Japan Friendship Association for the 21st Century Programme in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The most significant moment during my month-long visit was when we stayed in Hiroshima, visited museums, saw famous landmarks and World War II Memorial. A Japanese war veteran who shared his experience highlighted the event.
Upon my return to Manila, I took a trip to Bataan and visited another WWII Memorial known as Dambana ng Kagitingan or Altar of Valor. A fellow PAJAFA-21 member hosted that visit. Indeed, it was a great trip.
View from the top. The Memorial Cross, a 92-meter marble, steel and concrete, is a viewing place 555 feet above sea level. One can go to the top through an elevator in just a few seconds.
Then, in 2005, I accompanied and toured an American visitor to Corregidor, Bataan, and at Capas, Tarlac WWII Memorial. It was during this time that I was totally awed by the valor of POWs who were forced to march a distance of over a hundred kilometer that started from Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, thus, the famous Bataan Death March.
Capas National Shrine, Capas, Tarlac, Philippines
Then, in 2006, I met another war veteran, Hans Kasten IV, an American-German soldier. David Jones, a British friend, introduced him to me so I can encode his manuscripts, which, to my understanding, will be a part of his memoir. He was ninety years old when I met him. He was a gentleman with pretty sharp memory. He was a prominent figure in some WWII history books. I had a chance of working with him and edited the few chapters of his memoir. Unknown to us, we have in our country a holocaust survivor who stayed in the Philippines for six decades and married to a Filipina. I have lost touch with him in the latter part of 2006 and it was only last month that I knew of his death. He passed away in 2007 before reaching his 91st birthday.
And just last month, I visited Corregidor once again.
Different war stories and experiences but with one common role, valiant soldiers during WWII. Philippines had suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction by the time the war was over.
On April 5, Sunday, to commemorate the Bataan Death March, the 1st Bataan Death March 102k Ultramarathon Race was held. 81 brave warriors ran under the scorching heat of the sun. 65 runners reached the finish line within the cut-off time of 18 hours. What a magnificent display of valor to run and finish 102 kilometers!
I salute you for your bravery to run, endure, and survive the Bataan Death March.
You may also visit Bald Runner’s blog for the recap of this great run.