Every year, the Philippines commemorates Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor. With compliments from the Provincial Tourism Office, me and fellow travelers were able to experience the celebration of a significant national holiday in the province.
It was my first time to attend an event like this, much to my chagrin since I have always professed a deep love for my country. So when the opportunity presented itself, I prayed and fervently hoped that I can come. And so I did.
There were no cool winds to comfort us as the sun’s rays pushed our patience to the limits. The day was hot and humid but the skies were blue – a clear sign that a good weather will last through out the day.
As my companions and I climbed up the last steps of Mt. Samat National Shrine, I can feel my heart balloon with such great pride. Our national flag was up there, waving strongly. Up high.
74 years ago, on April 9, 1942, Bataan has fallen from invading Japanese forces. More than 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers fiercely defended Bataan despite the lack of supplies and in the midst of fatal diseases like Malaria. I was unaware that we were actually attending the Araw ng Kagitingan celebration and that no less than the Ambassadors of Japan and USA and the Philippine President will be there. We arrived early to ensure we can appreciate the place before the crowds arrive. Just before proceeding to the top, several buses arrived with the veterans. I stood there, like a starstruck fan and waited for them to come down. Once they alighted, I paid my respects, kissed their hands and fondly greeted them.
It was surreal for me. And I felt humbled too. I even began questioning myself what have I done to make my country proud? These men and women sacrificed their lives for my life and freedom. After a few moments, excitement filled the air as Pres. Aquino and his entourage passed by the red carpet. He spent a few moments greeting and smiling at the nearby audience. He shook hands with many before he was warmly received by Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia and other local politicians.
Afterwards, the President gave his speech. It was simple and not overly dramatic. It emphasized on what has been done for our war veterans and what needs to be done in order to continue the straight path and in recognition of the gallantry our forefathers have shown. After a couple of hours, the program ended and the president had his closing remarks. I felt a sudden surge of Filipino pride as I watched the veterans being ushered to leave the venue. I knew that at that moment, I could never be more proud of being a Filipino. For we are decent, God-fearing, law-abiding and righteous people.