This coming Thursday, the nation marks the 73rd anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, now known as "Araw ng Kagitingan". All eyes will be focused at the Dambana ng Kagitingan shrine located at the summit of Mount Samat at Brgy. Diwa, Pilar, Bataan.
It was here that the combined Filipino and American troops of the USAFFE led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur took their last stand against the 14th Japanese Imperial Army under the command of Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma in what was considered the fiercest battle of World War II.
What does it feel to be in the middle of the fight and finally overwhelmed by an implacable enemy? Here is an abridged firsthand account of Atty. Renato Tayag, a writer and field artillery officer, who was in charge of Battery "B", a war survivor and became a lawyer after the war and later VP of the PNB. He wrote:
"...On April 6th word reached us that the enemy was on Mt. Samat and that we are going to counter-attack. All of Bataan's remaining guns were to lend artillery support. The firing began at the given signal.
For a few moments the whole of Bataan seems to heave in convulsions. Shell after shell is sent across the enemy lines, but soon Japanese warplanes, the watchdogs of the air, rise and circle like angry eagles ready to swoop and strike. The guns withdraw into stillness not unlike Death.
For three days, Bataan was in its last struggle for breath. And April 9, 1942 was the day we marched as captives of the Japanese Army. I tried to recall the nightmare of the previous night... Distant rifle shots, like the popping of fire crackers coming nearer and nearer... The enemy forces are rushing down like angry waters loosed from a broken dam in a flood. Follow noises of thousand tramping feet of packs of wolves howling.
As we marched, we saw the result of the dam's giving way. Dead Filipino soldier's mostly young reservists lined the sides of the trail. They did not seek refuge or try to flee from the flood that overtook and overcame them."
Let's be inspired by their heroism, let their nationalist fervor be interred in our veins and their greatness be our mandate to be of greater service to our people.
In closing, let me quote the last paragraph of the account of the Battle of Bataan etched on the Dambana shrine's altar hall's huge granite wall that reads, "Let friend and foe recognize the martial spirit that defeat could not break. To the memory of these brave warriors, whose blood soaked every rock of this land so that this nation might endure, this humble shrine is consecrated. OUR MISSION IS TO REMEMBER."