What is the Day of Valor in the Philippines All About?
“Bataan has fallen,” Third Lieutenant Normando Ildefonso Reyes, who was reading the words of Captain Salvador P. Lopez, said on April 9, 1942. This marked the formal surrender of Filipino and American troops to the Japanese forces after 93 days of siege in Bataan.
After the Japanese bombed the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, they came to invade the Philippines. They were able to capture the country’s capital within a month. They were also forcing the Filipino and US troops to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula.
The Bataan surrender is considered the largest in both Philippine and American history. Around 60,000 Filipino troops and 11,000 to 15,000 US troops waved the white flag.
However, the Philippines was the last to surrender to the Japanese forces in Southeast Asia at the time. The Japanese invaded the British Malaya, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies as well.
After the surrender, the prisoners of war were forced to march from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac for six days. They were only giving them one meal a day. In between, they made a stop-over in San Fernando, Pampanga and the captured troops rode in boxcars to Tarlac. This event is known as the Bataan Death March.
At least 9,000 Filipinos and 1,000 Americans died on the march. Many more passed away in the camp because of execution, diseases, and terrible living conditions.
In 1961, the Congress passed Republic Act 3022 to make the Day of Valor in the Philippines a public holiday every April 9. It was then called “Bataan Day.” Executive Order 203, released in 1987, amended the name to the current one.
Meanwhile, Proclamation 466 in 1989 declared April 5 to April 11 as Veterans Week to recognize all the veterans of both the Philippine military and World War II.
Things You Can Do During Day of Valor in the Philippines
While the Day of Valor in the Philippines is not particularly a joyous occasion, there are still things you can do to commemorate the act of heroism our fellow Filipinos, along with the Americans, showed during the war.
- Visit shrines and statues commemorating the Day of Valor in the Philippines. There are memorial landmarks in Capas and Bataan. That is where shrines and statues were built in order to honour the fallen Filipino and American troops. You can pay a visit and see for yourself how everything has changed since the war.
The government has also named schools, roads, parks, and national landmarks after the heroes of the Bataan Day.
- Take a moment of silence and offer a prayer. Coming together to pray for the souls of the deceased war veterans is the most peaceful way of honouring them. This is best done during a ceremony where many are gathered to commemorate the Bataan War.
- Honour the war veterans by keeping their memory alive. The war in Bataan, despite it being a tragic moment in Philippine history, is something that people should always talk about. The stories of our fallen heroes deserve to be passed on the next generation of Filipinos.
How Day of Valor in the Philippines is Celebrated
The veterans of the Second World War are showcased in parades in different cities on April 9. The president, meanwhile, usually gives a speech at Mt. Samat Shrine in Bataan where the Filipino and American troops fought off the all-out attack by the Japanese army.
Days before April 9, 2020, Cabinet Secretary and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said that it was only necessary to honour both the sacrifices of the Filipino soldiers and this generation’s “own set of heroes.”
In the 2020 celebration, the government gave recognition to the health workers as well for their heroic acts amid the coronavirus pandemic. The health workers in the Philippines have been doing their best to navigate a very challenging situation, and it is only imperative to acknowledge their efforts.
Meanwhile, Nograles also recognized overseas Filipino workers as modern-day heroes because they are helping the Philippine economy recover through remittances.
Venues and Specials Events for Celebrating the Day of Valor in the Philippines
Visiting historic landmarks honouring the fallen Filipino and American troops can help remind you of the things they did—but failed—to fight the Japanese invasion.
Capas National Shrine
The Capas National Shrine in Tarlac was declared as the memorial site in 1991 to the Filipino and American soldiers who tragically died at Camp O’Donnell after the so-called Bataan Death March.
The 54-hectare shrine houses several sites that commemorate the fallen soldiers. For example, at the heart of the park stands a 70-meter tall obelisk and memorial wall engraved with the names of the dead war veterans.
Shrine of Valor (Dambana ng Kagitingan)
The construction of this shrine complex in Mt. Samat, Bataan was completed in 1970 during the 25th anniversary of the end of World War II. The complex includes a colonnade, museum, and across.
The marble colonnade is designed by Lorenzo del Castillo. It is surrounded by an open esplanade wherein the narrative of the Battle of Bataan is depicted at both ends. It also features three large stained-glass windows crafted by national Filipino artist Ceno Rivera.
Bataan World War II Museum
It is situated at the back of the Balanga Elementary School compound. It houses donated artefacts and a diorama of 120 dolls depicting the Bataan Death March.
Zero Kilometer Death March Marker
Located in Bagac, Bataan, this marker shows the starting point of the 97-kilometre march of the captured Filipino and American troops.