MANILA -- Today marks the 75th anniversary of one of the darkest days in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
When the Japanese Imperial Army, led by General Masaharu Homma, landed in Northern Luzon, they pushed back the combined forces of American and Filipino soldiers into Bataan. After three months of fighting, Bataan fell to the Japanese.
Maj. General Edward King, the officer in charge of defense of the Bataan Peninsula, surrendered on April 9, 1942. Corregidor and the Philippines fell shortly after on May 6, 1942 after the surrender of General Jonathan Wainwright.
The Bataan Death March will be remembered for the brutal treatment of the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers by their Japanese captors.
When King attempted to surrender Bataan, the Japanese did not accept this as they wanted the surrender of the entire Philippine islands, which King had no authority to do. This is why the Japanese were particularly savage to the soldiers.
The weakened soldiers were forced to march from Mariveles in the south, and Bagac in the west up into Bataan and into San Fernando, Pampanga covering a distance of around 100 kilometers. From San Fernando, the 60,000 soldiers who survived were loaded like cattle into boxcars and shipped to Capas, Tarlac.
Here is a road trip itinerary that visits points of interest for those who might be interested to take a trip back into history.
On the southernmost part of the Bataan Peninsula is Mariveles. This city was home to logistics facilities of the US army. This was a strategic location for its close proximity to Corregidor. At the fall of Bataan, around 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers were gathered in the warehouses and logistics complex to start the arduous march.
The Kilometer 0 marker is right near the water and the unofficial Mariveles bus terminal. If you are adventurous enough, check out the hidden roads that mark the first couple of kilometers. One particularly dreadful realization is that the first 10 kilometers of the march for the hungry, sick, wounded and shell-shocked soldiers was an uphill climb towards the northern part of Bataan. You will find more death march markers as you travel north to the other destinations in this list.
Other points of interest are the viewpoint overlooking Sisiman Cove right before entering Mariveles and the swanky Oriental Hotel. Look around the city as you may luck out on sales on products that are manufactured in the export processing zones.
Bagac was the starting point for the Death March. A contingent of 5,000 soldiers started out from Bagac. The road going east to Balanga crossed mountains and would have been absolute torture for weakened soldiers.
JJ Linao Road, the mountainous zig-zag road that connects Bagac to the Bataan highway, has Death March markers and several memorials of skirmishes in the mountains. The Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower with the Friendship Bell at the entrance of Bagac is a gesture of peace and friendship from the Japanese
Today, Bagac is a sleepy seaside town. You can head for the western shore where you can find pump boats to bring you island hopping or to La Playa De Caleta beach in Morong.
Las Casas Filipinas de Alcuzar, the heritage resort known for its reconstructed traditional Filipino houses, is running a specially curated photo exhibit by the Ortigas Foundation to commemorate the anniversary of the Fall Of Bataan.
MT. SAMAT, BATAAN