Bataan rock of PH, US ties.
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WASHINGTON D.C. Across the Philippines and the United States, the two World War II allies marked the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan.
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. led commemoration rites at the Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy. “The Fall of Bataan has become a cornerstone of our people’s history as well as of the enduring relations between the Philippines and the United States,” he noted.
In the Philippines, it is celebrated as “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Valor). For Americans around the world, the Battle of Bataan and the ensuing Death March has become a standard of resoluteness.
“With the sacrifices made by Filipinos in World War II, the world has seen that we as a people, will do all that we can to preserve freedom and democracy,” Cuisia stressed.
“The Philippines was a young nation at that time,” the country’s top envoy pointed out, “yet we have demonstrated political maturity that is beyond us. We fought for our ideals and we allied with the countries that were on the side of peace.”
In Pilar, Bataan, President Benigno Aquino III assured Filipino war veterans of subsidized health services and vowed to continue the modernization of the Armed Forces.
“The state honors our veterans and I believe we should repay their sacrifices by caring for them,” he said. The President announced that 599 hospitals have been accredited by the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) as regional and provincial extensions, making it easy for veterans to access medical benefits.
This year’s Bataan Memorial Death March was the biggest yet, drawing thousands from all over America, including a number of aging World War II veterans.
The 26-mile run across the New Mexico desert has earned a reputation as one of the toughest in the world. It aims to replicate the distance travelled by Filipino and American soldiers captured after the Fall of Bataan, much of that a forced march where thousands died from Japanese Army atrocities, disease and sheer exhaustion.
“The march I participated in was nothing like what the soldiers had to go through back in 1942,” said Cumming, Ga. native, Specialist Justin Larson, a medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
“I grew a respect for the fallen soldiers of Bataan, the 26.2-mile march I did was difficult, but the conditions were much better.”
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared April 9 as Bataan Day. A Bataan Day in Chicago and in the Village of Skokie were also proclaimed by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago and Mayor George Van Dusen of Skokie, Illinois, respectively.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan presided at the Bataan Day proclamations in the state, which were attended by some 200 government officials, World War II veterans and their relatives, as well as members of the Filipino community in Illinois.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Mary Jo Bernardo Aragón, Philippine consul general in Los Angeles led commemoration rites at the Bataan Memorial Park along Lomas Blvd. NE.
Of the more 1,800 New Mexico National Guardsmen deployed to the Philippines late in 1941, 800 died in captivity by the time the war ended in August 1945, and more died from disease and injuries after liberation.
The Filipino-American Association of Kitsap County, Washington State held remembrance ceremonies at the Bataan Park in East Bremerton on April 7.
The Farragut Brass Band played the national anthems of both the United States and the Philippines. Marines from Security Force Bangor fired a 21 gun salute for the fallen soldiers.
Douglas Gamble, the keynote speaker, discussed his experience as a businessman in the Philippines and Vietnam supplying services for the U.S. military. Cmndr. Manuel (Don) Viadog, a chaplain at Navy Base Kitsap, and pastor Butch Hall, whose brother was on the Bataan Death March, spoke about their recent visit to Bataan.
Amb. Cuisia also paid homage to former army sergeant Guillermo “Emong” Rumingan who vigorously lobbied the US Congress for benefits for thousands of Filipino veterans disenfranchised by the 1946 Rescission Act.
“For many years, Filipino veterans of World War II have been denied of the recognition that they so deserve,” the envoy declared.
“In 2009, more than 60 years after the war ended, the US government passed a legislation that grants benefits to our veterans. This was achieved through the perseverance and hard work of many individuals not least of which are the veterans themselves who tirelessly and relentlessly campaigned in the halls of Congress,” Cuisia said.
Over $221 million has been paid to about 18,000 surviving Filipino World War II veterans here and in the Philippines. But thousands have been turned away, mostly because their names could not be found in the official US Army roster in St. Louis, Missouri.
“We in the Philippine Embassy are engaging the relevant US government officials to clarify the procedure in certifying claims and to assist our veterans who are appealing their claims,” Cuisia disclosed.
“It is certainly a long and arduous process but rest assured that we will remain determined to work with you to clear the roadblocks that confront our veterans,” he promised.