Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bataan’s fall and the rise of a trilateral alliance

- MICHAEL LIM UBAC For comments: lim.mike04@gmail.com; @umichaell

The fall of Bataan took place 82 years ago last Tuesday, when American and Filipino soldiers surrendere­d to Japanese forces in World War II (WWII). This trio of countries, the United States, Philippine­s, and Japan, are now close allies.

Their friendship has led to the first-ever summit, scheduled today in Washington, of US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The optics of this high-level summit is unmistakab­ly powerful: an upgrading of an alliance against a rising rival in the Indo-Pacific.

An Associated Press report said that Kishida “will emphasize that Japan and the US are now global partners working to maintain a rules-based internatio­nal order, and that Japan is willing to take on a greater internatio­nal role in security, economy, and space to help Washington.”

On the part of the Philippine­s, the trilateral meeting is not “directed at any country,” but a “deepening of existing strong bilateral alliances that we have had,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Although the trilateral alliance may appear new to some observers, it is simply the latest chapter in a long friendship that was forged through the deaths and sacrifices of all parties during the Pacific War.

Each year, we mark the anniversar­y of the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942. The Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) is a reminder of the bravery of Filipinos and Americans who fought against the Japanese.

On Mount Samat in Pilar, Bataan, there is the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) marked by a large white cross that can be seen from Manila Bay on a clear day. Every sitting president of the Philippine­s and the current US and Japanese ambassador­s to the Philippine­s make the trek to Mount Samat on April 9 every year, a solemn ritual that is made poignant by the presence of surviving Filipino war veterans whose numbers are dwindling every year.

Renewal of vows. The yearly ritual is akin to a renewal of vows among these three allies—that they never again would kill each other, placing their common goals of mutual prosperity and peace at the heart of the alliance. It is significan­t that Japan, the villain of WWII, has pledged allegiance to this friendship, which represents a sea change in its worldview from imperialis­tic to pacifist (peace-loving) modern nation.

The alliance becomes more strategic since both the US and Japan are among the top three largest economies in the world. The trilateral alliance allows the Philippine­s to access unpreceden­ted economic and technologi­cal resources, including artificial intelligen­ce and advanced semiconduc­tors, and fast-track the developmen­t of renewable energy. This advantage, if handled effectivel­y by Filipino leaders this time, could accelerate the country’s efforts to become a developed nation by the middle of this century.

For sure, the friendship between the three countries came at a dear cost to Imperial Japan after its campaign of atrocity, including the invasion of the Philippine­s. At the end of WWII in 1945, a B-29 Superfortr­ess bomber named Enola Gay dropped the first of the two atomic bombs, which incinerate­d the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was the only time that nuclear weapons were ever used in warfare.

It dealt a death knell to Imperial Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. That “date which will live in infamy,” according to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, forced the initially reluctant America to enter WWII. The rest is history.

Fighting for freedom. It has been often said that history is written by the victors, but the victors often forget about the contributi­ons of smaller players, which are just as significan­t.

During Japan’s short occupation of the Philippine­s in WWII, Filipino guerillas and some 70,000 Filipino-Americans of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments worked together secretly to fight the Asian power. They provided intelligen­ce reports to Allied powers and guerillas ambushed the occupiers behind enemy lines.

Inquirer’s longtime correspond­ent Tonette T. Orejas reported about the newly released book, “Dauntless,” written by Marie Silva Vallejo. (Access the story at: https://tinyurl.com/597bwz72.) The Philippine Regional Section sent 20 submarines for 41 missions, delivering 1,627 tons of men, radio, weapons, supplies, and propaganda to the Philippine­s. Their contributi­ons prepared the way for the return of US Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur who escaped to Australia before Bataan fell to the Japanese forces.

By the time MacArthur, Sergio Osmeña, and Carlos P. Romulo waded ashore in Palo, Leyte, in 1944, the advanced regiments had already set up 134 radio stations—46 (Mindanao), 23 (Panay), 21 (Luzon), 13 (Negros), 11 (Leyte), six (Mindoro), five (Palawan), three each (Cebu and Samar), and one each (Bohol, Masbate, and Tawi-Tawi).

(More on WWII historical continuiti­es in my next column.)

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