What is so important about April 9 for the Filipinos?
If you can’t remember what holiday we are celebrating or why we are celebrating it, you are not alone. Most young Filipinos do not feel connected to the date or its importance. It is after all, 74 years ago. Not a lot of people who experienced it are still alive today.
But if our ancestors were here to tell their story, what would we hear about? Most importantly, what would it stir in us?
The Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valour is a remembrance of the heroic acts of our grandparents and great grandparents during the Japanese invasion that started in 1941. This was the day of the infamous Death March.
After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, Filipino and American soldiers marched 60 miles north from Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O’ Donnel. It was not an easy trek, the captured soldiers were treated harshly and most suffered from illnesses and malnutrition, some 10,000 men died even before they reach the camp.
These are the same men that fought for the country tirelessly and courageously. They do have families and dreams like all of us today but they answered a higher call, to defend their countrymen and the whole nation, whatever it takes.
The war we were engaged in was the Pacific War and it was part of the larger global conflict known as the World War 2.
World War 2 left a lot of wounds in all the countries that got involved. It devastated nations and killed thousands. It was a battle of supremacy and a conquest for greater power.
But our grandparents, like those before them, never wavered in courage and strength to defend what is ours. In hopes of freeing the country and giving us today the future most of them never get to see.
If lessons can be planted in their actions, they probably want to teach us to be like them, “magiting” and full of valour. But what does valour mean to us now?
Since the Spanish colonial times, our heroes, like Jose Rizal, voiced out their concerns about the injustices of their rulers even at the expense of their family’s welfare and even their death.
Today, we may not have colonizers in our midst but there are a lot of issues that concern our welfare as individuals and as a nation. Do not just sit and murmur to yourself, speak up. Speak loud.
The technology we have today made it possible to have thousands of information in your hands in an instant. It also opened ways to easily share your ideas and opinions and reach a wide audience.
Use this power to responsibly influence and help change a certain situation by sharing your opinions and reaching out the right agencies and groups.
Be a voice of change.
Actions speak louder than words. Andres Bonifacio believed in it, and after growing tired of the Spaniards and he helped start a revolution against them.
After the Americans came, rebels including then President Emilio Aguinaldo tried to drive the US troops away making the Philippine-American war that lasted three years.
Sometimes voicing out is not enough, you may even be viewed as someone who always complain and not do anything else.
Act. Do something about the situation and change it. Of course, action has to come with knowledge and careful planning rather than hearsays and rash decisions.
Loyalty and Love
Loyalty and love for country elevated the actions of our forefathers to heroism.
Our ancestors may have started to feel patriotic after witnessing an injustice. Their first actions may have been out of desire to protect their families or out of revengeful feelings but most of them –even with their individual differences – were united in their burning desire to defend and free the country.
Sometimes it seems easier to show your loyalty and love for your country when there are invaders and you see yourself fight. It seems more difficult to fight against unknown enemies and easier to stay indifferent and mind one’s individual success and/or family security.
However, if our ancestors thought the same way, what kind of present could we be living in today?
Our forebears invite us to be outstanding, to be great.
Greatness can be in many forms, it can manifest in school excellence, impressive job performance and acts of bravery.
We should all stand proud of who we are as a people and never let any other race make us believe we are inferior. Only with a sense of our true identity as a nation can we stand up against those who oppress us, only with pride can we say no to deals that do not offer equality.
Like in most periods of our history, our heroes bravely continued to fight even if the odds seem against them.
During the Second World War, the fighting continued even after General Mc Arthur left. Led by different guerilla groups in Luzon and Visayas, fighting alongside assimilated Chinese (the Wah Chi), and the Moros in Mindanao, the Filipinos never backed down and tried their best to out power the Japanese.
The Moros were said to be so effective that the invaders actually sleep in their ships out of fear from Moro attacks. In fact, the Japanese only held 40 per cent of the islands under their control the rest were under the control of different guerilla groups. These groups may not have acted as one united group but they have one common goal.
As the song goes, “together we stand, divided we fall,” regardless of differing opinions we all need to be united as one people. It will be easier for opposing forces and terrorists to destroy a country that mistrust each other. Let us not invite another disaster, instead, let us stand together.
The war started 77 years ago, most of us were not even born yet. Still, we should at least honour the lives of the people who fought for our future by remembering them and maybe saying a short prayer and a murmur of gratitude.
Experience is a great teacher that is why it is crucial for us, and especially the youth, to learn of this part of history. The importance and relevance of events should be highlighted more than the dates (although dates can bring light to how events affected another).
Learning about our past helps us to appreciate what we have now and at the same time desire for something better for the next generation.
Learning our history enables us to reflect on the past, connect with the present and plan for the future.
There may be different controversies that hung around the events that happened years ago, controversies and misunderstandings that may still divide us as a people today. However, at that time, and even centuries before, we were all united to free ourselves from oppressing forces.
Now, as ever, we are all called to unite as a people. We may not have visible oppressors nor is there war on the land, but oppression is still present. If we can fight together to free ourselves from others, can’t we all fight to stay united?
April 9 holds so much more importance than just a date. Its significance will forever be etched in history but it will all be useless if it does not echo in the hearts of the Filipinos today and in the future.
If those who marched to their death can speak to us today, what will they tell us? What can they stir in us today?