By virtue of Executive Order No. 203, s. 1987, April 9 of every year is Araw ng Kagitingan, while Proclamation No. 466, s. 1989, designated April 5 to 11 of every year as Philippine Veterans Week in order to “promote, preserve, and memorialize the principles, ideals, and deeds of the Filipino war veteran as a means to enhance patriotism and love of country, especially among the youth of the land.”
The week-long observance is an occasion to honor not only the Filipino war veterans who died or served the country but also to remember those who rendered honorable military service in defending the country in times of war or peace. This is to gratefully acknowledge their contributions in preserving our sovereignty and defending our national security.
This year, the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan was moved to April 10 in accordance with Proclamation No. 90, s. 2022, signed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., to enable Filipinos to enjoy the benefits of an ultra-long weekend, which can stimulate travel and boost local tourism.
Just in case the inordinately long weekend has led us to forget the spirit of the holiday that made it possible, we commemorate Araw ng Kagitingan to remember the 93-day siege, ferocious defense, and eventual fall of Bataan to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942.
Despite their valiant effort, more than 76,000 starving and disease-ridden Filipino and American soldiers surrendered and were then forced to endure the infamous 140-kilometer Bataan Death March where thousands died from dehydration, heat exhaustion, untreated wounds, and wanton executions. The exact death toll from the march is difficult to assess, but it is generally accepted that tens of thousands died during the march and while in captivity as prisoners of war.
The recently celebrated Holy Week that focused on the passion, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ might have overshadowed the additional holiday that we enjoyed yesterday and that is why we have deemed it important to redirect the focus on Araw ng Kagitingan, before we return to the humdrum of our lives after enjoying one of the longest weekends in recent memory.*