Business Mirror - - TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT - Carla Mor­tel

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

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