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BALANGA City, Bataan - Much attention is focused on the War Memorial Shrine in Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan on Monday due to the observance of the 70th Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, and more so with President Benigno Aquino “Noynoy” Aquino III as guest of honor and speaker.
At this hallowed mountain stands the huge 92-meter-high War Memorial Cross some 555 meters above sea level.
War records showed that Gen. Masaharu Homma, commanding general of the Japanese Imperial Army, unleashed the full fury of an all-out offensive in Bataan on April 3, 1942 that turned Mt. Samat like an inferno. But the shrine is not just the only memorial in Bataan.
Today, travelers heading to Mt. Samat, upon passing the big arch dividing Pampanga and Bataan, will notice some historical markers that symbolize the important role Bataan played during World War II.
These can be found along the stretch of MacArthur Highway from Hermosa to Mariveles.
A few meters from the territorial arch lies the Bataan and Democracy marker in Balsik, Hermosa town. It says that it recognizes the role of Bataan in the fight for freedom and the preservation of democracy.
KM 72 of the Death March marker comes in next which calls attention to the fact that Filipino and American soldiers were subjected to the harsh 111-kilometer Death March. The soldiers hiked 72 kilometers from Mariveles, Bataan.
It should not be forgotten that for many years before the celebration was known as Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan), April 9 used to be celebrated as Fall of Bataan or Bataan Day.
This was to commemorate that sad part in history when in 1942, Maj. Gen. Edward King, Jr., commanding general of the Luzon forces of the United States Armed Forces in Far East, surrendered his command in Bataan to Col. Mootoo Nakayama of the 14th Japanese Army.
This scene was vividly depicted in the Surrender Monument at the Balanga Elementary School in Balanga City that Homma used as his command post.
The historical markers do not only depict the fall of the province but also the bravery and heroism of thousands of Filipino and American soldiers in defending Bataan.
At the Layac junction in Dinalupihan, the Front Line of Defense monument stands. It was at this site that combined Filipino and American soldiers put up the first strong line of defense against the invading Japanese soldiers.
At the approach of a big bridge in Orani, a stone-marble Death March marker can be seen “dedicated to the heroism and courage of Filipino soldiers.”
In Bgy. Mabatang in Abucay, heavy fighting took place as depicted in the Abucay-Morong Line marker.
A century-old acacia tree still stands near the municipal hall of Abucay, as do the big sampalok tree in Sta. Rosa, Pilar and some mango trees in Balanga—all deaf-mute witnesses to the horrors of war.
A Filipino soldier marker is located in front of the Church of Abucay that became the headquarters of Japanese soldiers after Bataan fell on April 9, 1942.
In Pilar town, meanwhile, the Flaming Sword monument majestically stands as a “symbol of courage and gallantry in the face of external forces to fight for the nation’s freedom and peace.” This was where Filipino and American soldiers coming from two directions—Mariveles and Bagac—forced to take part in the grueling Death March met.
KM 26 Death March marker shows the Death March came from Bagac some 26 kilometers away.
KM 41, on the other hand, indicates marchers hiked 41 kilometers from the Death March starting point in Mariveles. –KG, GMA News