MARCH TO HONOR VETERANS
WITH names of war heroes held high, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Americans Legions, the Sons and Daughters of Bataan, the Women Auxiliary Group, local government units, non-governmental organizations, academia, students and corporations are set to march for a cause on April 11. In commemoration of the valor and sacrifices of American and Filipino soldiers during the Death March, the day will be marked by the second Annual Capas Freedom March that will start at the Bataan Death Memorial Shrine and end at the Capas Monument Shrine.
With this year’s theme, “March for a Veteran,” the event will have each participant carrying a name card in memory and in honor of a veteran. The march also aims to raise funds for the production of the miniature diorama of the Capas Concentration Camp that will be displayed at the Capas Memorial Shrine, and for the educational scholarship of children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.
“The price of freedom that we all now enjoy is partly the result of the long, arduous ordeal that our Bataan Death marchers endured. [With this event] we want to instil the value of nationalism to the younger generation, and promote peace and freedom,” said Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) administrator.
The daylong activities include a film showing, historical seminar and performances from the military groups. The organizers—the Department of National Defense (DND), PVAO, the Department of Tourism, the province of Tarlac, the municipality of Capas and AAP Travel—hope to gather more than 2,000 participants, the number of individuals who joined last year’s march.
AAP Travel President Mina Gabor said the Freedom March promotes historical tourism by revisiting historical places while underscoring the lessons of the past that Filipinos should not forget. As part of the DND’s weeklong celebration of the National Veterans Week, the Capas Freedom March retraces the last miles of the fateful event.
“Local and foreign military personnel who have fought in a war, and family members and friends of veterans will march together, united as one in remembering the sacrifice of the heroes,” Gabor said.
On April 9, 1942, some 60,000 Filipino and American troops underwent the infamous Death March, shortly after the United States Army Forces in the Far East surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
Regarded as one of the worst war crimes in history, the prisoners of war (POWS) were forced to march 88 kilometers from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. From there, they were herded to jam-packed trains to Camp O’Donell in Capas, Tarlac, where they were interred until 1945.
Under the heat of the sun and extreme conditions, only 54,000 reached the camp, some 10,000 soldiers died along the road. More POWs died at Camp O’Donell due to hunger, diseases and poor sanitation.
FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos with Capas Freedom March head Mina Gabor on a vintage Army jeep
CAPAS National Shrine
CAPAS National Shrine memorial slab
CAPAS Concentration Camp historical marker