MANILA - Filipinos must unite and echo the bravery and resilience of war veterans as the country marks Thursday the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) at a time when the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Wednesday.
In a statement, Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), urged the public to honor veterans whose "heroic courage and sheer determination led to the triumph of the Filipino people" during the wartime period.
"78 years ago, our valiant heroes demonstrated sheer grit, valor and love of country as they fought for the nation’s independence and resisted the advances of the foreign oppressors in Bataan," Carolina said.
"May our veterans’ bravery and resilience inspire us and be our beacon of light in this trying time. Mabuhay ang mga beterano! Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino!"
The agency has postponed Veterans' Week activities due to the pandemic, which is found to be deadly for the elderly, immunocompromised, and those with underlying condition.
It also canceled commemorative events for the 78th Araw ng Kagitingan due to the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine across Luzon to curb the spread of the COVID-19.
The annual Bataan Run and Freedom Trail, which was launched only a few years back to promote awareness about the sacrifices of tens of thousands Filipino and American soldiers forced to walk from Bataan to Tarlac by the Japanese invaders in April 1942, are cancelled as well.
After being defeated by the Japanese army on April 9, 1942, over 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers were evacuated mainly on foot from Bataan to Tarlac, via Pampanga, for a distance of over a hundred kilometers.
The so-called Bataan Death March ended six days later, or on April 15, 1942, with only an estimated 54,000 survivors who reached their concentration camp in Tarlac.
"the Filipino and American troops were marched day and night, under blistering sun or cold night sky," and were only given "brief rest and some water," according to markers set up along the Death March trail.
While saddened that the country cannot publicly commemorate the Day of Valor this year, Philippine Veterans Bank chairman Roberto de Ocampo said the health and safety of everyone must take precedence.
"Just the same, we urge all Filipinos to remember our World War II veterans not just on April 9th, but also as we fight this battle against COVID-19," said de Ocampo.
"These days, the veterans' example of bravery, sacrifice and patriotism shine even brighter. Like them, let's do our part to overcome this crisis."
Metro Manila and the entire Luzon, home to about half of the country's 100 million people, is under lockdown until April 30 to address the contagion.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded 3,764 cases of COVID-19, including 177 deaths and 84 recoveries.