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Why April 9 is in red

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

What does it mean when you have to see a doctor abroad for “personal health management”? Are there no local physicians who can deal with that?  The puzzle bothered me when I heard a report that Presidential daughter Sara, who is also  mayor of Davao City, is now in Singapore for “personal health management”. Is it something that they don’t want the public to know? But she is a married woman, so it cannot be discounted that she might be in that “interesting condition”, which could mean a presidential grandson or granddaughter. Let’s hope so, I am sure that would make our President very happy, if that is confirmed.

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Today is April 9, and if you are wondering why the date is  printed in red in your calendar, it is to commemorate one memorable day in our history during the war between the Philippines and Japan who treacherously sent troops to invade our country and sent our people scampering to the distant countrysides upon hearing of the atrocities being committed by the invaders. Well, not exactly “invaders”, because it was later discovered that hundreds, maybe even thousands of the Japanese working in our towns and cities as merchants or contractors were only disguised as such.

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As soon as the Japanese military landed, and their planes dropped bombs on some areas, our people discovered to their great surprise that the Japanese merchants, storekeepers and engineers and contractors, were actually military men, some of them high-ranking, too. We heard reports of how the corner store owner suddenly  took off his apron and soon came out in a Japanese military uniform! Luckily for our family, my father took us all to his parents’ farm in Pontevedra where we spent a lot of the war years, before evacuating to their fishpond located between  Pontevedra and Hinigaran, and was a very secluded place.

***

Best of all for us, and for the children of other evacuees like the elementary school principal and the district nurse, who was also a close family friend from Bacolod, there was a site in the area they called “pasto” that was ideal for grazing of cows and goats, with the latter providing healthful milk for the babies. And the “pasto” was ideal for baseball and other games we could play even at night when the moon was full and very bright. The Japanese soldiers never discovered that place that I remember clearly even now.

***

Bataan was always mentioned  among our elders because we got news from the radio about it and Corregidor being the strongholds of our military as they awaited  American aid. But it was on an April 9, when we heard that Bataan had fallen and we saw our elders, moping and the women crying. But that hardly affected us children – there were a lot of us there, we continued with our games and sometimes took boat rides in the river that fed our fishpond. Ah, what memories Bataan Day has brought back!

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Now that I think about it, I realize how good the Lord had been to our people during those times. We hardly got sick, except for my sister, Perla, who was finicky about food, the rest of us thrived on vegetables and fruits, native ones, of course that grew aplenty in our grandparents’ farms. We seldom asked for merienda, we just went out and gathered guavas, melons, sirguelas, santol and even coconuts. We had a helper, Adelina, who was from Capiz and got stranded with us, and our grandparents had a helper, Cente, who was as agile as a monkey in climbing fruit trees.

***

See  what a memorable day April 9 is? I know that most of those who had witnessed it have passed away, but it is one day that will always be remembered because it has been declared a National Holiday. And it also brings back the heroism of our Pinoy soldiers, then waiting and hoping for aid from the U.S.A. but  never giving up and when things seemed hopeless, formed what they called the Guerilla Units that also bothered the Japanese a lot. And our guerillas, especially those from Sum-ag, like the Rodrigo brothers, even composed beautiful songs which I will try to recall, or look for someone who is still alive and remembers them.

***

Oh! Suddenly I remembered a portion of that song that says “We are not bandits/ We are not brigands/ We are just men, desirous to be free/ Although we suffer/ Although we perish/ Sweeter to us is death/ Than life in slavery!” It can be sung to the tune of an old hit titled “With Wine and Music”.

Ah, Bataan Day should never be forgotten and must always be underscored in the history classes of generations yet to come. The struggle there earned the respect of the world for Filipinos who never gave up and remained in hiding until the “double-bodied” American planes started flying over our skies, and dealt with Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the final shots that send the invaders to their knees – through the Atomic bomb!*

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