Frail Thread

by Juan L. Mercado

“Memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from.” Why is April 9 a national holiday?, a college student,  merchant, jeepney driver, and stall vendor were asked. They hemmed, then hawed on Bataan Day 2012 

Queries on  the “Death March”  drew a blank stare from an engineering sophomore. “I’m  playing Dota with my friends later”, he shrugged.

The “Death March” stretched 98 kilometers  from Mariveles in  Bataan to prison Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac. Over 21,000 Filipino and American  prisoners of war died from disease, starvation, untreated wounds —  and wanton execution.“

“Koga — what?,” asked the  Cebuano merchant  On April 1.1944, a Japanese four engine seaplane from Palau crashed off  Barangay Balud in San Fernando town. That triggered a brutal juez de chucillo in Cebu by Col. Takeshi  Watanabe’s troops.

They sought the VIP seaplane passenger: Admiral Minechi Koga who commanded Japanese fleets in Asia Troops scoured Naga to Carcar for Koga’s briefcase.

Guerrillas waterproofed  Koga’s papers into an empty artillery shell. Couriers hustled it to Negros Oriental. From there, a submarine ferried  the  papers to General Douglas MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Command in Australia .

Japanese accurately anticipated US  forces to first invade Mindanao, the “Koga Papers” revealed. They fortified defenses.  However, the intelligence windfall redirected the Allied into thinly-defended Leyte . “Huh?” the Naga merchant marveled.

Isn’t Araw Ng Katingingan “about easing traffic?”  a  jeepney driver wondered. He never heard of  Lt.  Salvador Manulanas of Cebu .  Along with other Filipino pilots, Manlunas scrambled in obsolete P-26s to battle sleek Japanese Zeroes. He was killed in action.

Manulunas is buried in Libingan Ng Mga Bayani. There is a Manlunas street in the airbase named after his squadron commander: Capt Jesus Villamor. Like other veteran families, Manlunas kin lashed  President Joseph Estrada’s plan to bury the late dictator’s corpse in Libingnan.

A  stall vendor admits she never heard about  “Voice of Freedom broadcasts from besieged Corregidor Island. “Bataan has fallen,” the last  broadcast said. “Troops are not made of impervious steel.  The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of battle must come.

With heads bloody but unbowed, they’ve yielded to superior force and numbers of the enemy…“The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan .

We  forgot  faster than anybody predicted.  Eight out of 10 students in, September 2002 surveys barely recalled  Sen. Benigno Aquino. Or why he was gunned down.

Who remembers the officers, handpicked by Marcos, for Military Commission No. 2?  In November 1977, they  sentenced Aquino to die by musketry, after  a kangaroo trial, in Fort Bonifacio .

No one of you can name the tribunal members who sentenced Andres Bonifacio”, Aquino told his “judges” then. “But this camp, where you try me, is named after the very man they sentenced to death.”

Politicians try to scrub the national memory blank. Under House Resolution No. 1135,  Gloria Macapagal Arroyo & Clan, Imelda Marcos, plus 210 representatives badgered President Benigno Aquino:  allow Libingan interment for the late dictator. PNoy said no.

Exploiting national amnesia  becomes rife whenever national elections approach.: “The first step in liquidating a people,” historian Milan Hubl  cautions, “is to erase its memory.”


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