CHICAGO (JGL) – The Consulate General of the Philippines is inviting the Filipino American community and the general public to join the commemoration of the 73rd Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) to mark the Bataan Death March on Thursday, April 9, at 9 a.m. at the Bataan-Corregidor Bridge corner of State and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, Illinois.
Meanwhile, ahead of the commemoration of the event where thousands of Filipino and American soldiers died during the 65-mile long march, thousands marchers from all over the United States and the Philippines joined the re-enactment of the infamous march at the White Sands Missile Range in Alamogordo, New Mexico last Sunday, March 22.
After the wreath laying ceremony at the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge, a short program will be held at 10:00 A.M. – 11:30 A.M., at the Kalayaan Hall of the Consulate General of the Philippines at 122 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1600, Chicago, Illinois.
This wreath laying ceremony on April 9 of the Bataan Death March celebration at the Bataan-Corregidor Bridge in Chicago will be the first for the year. Another group known as Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO) marks the Bataan Death March every second Sunday of September since 1964 when the U.S. Congress passed a resolution declaring the event a National Day.
“Being here with you on the year that we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Philippines, is the least I can do to pay tribute to the Filipino and American soldiers who gallantly fought together in Bataan during the Second World War,” according to Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. in his early morning address to some 6,000 participants at the White Sands Missile Range to the event led by the “Battling Bastards of Bataan,” a group of American soldiers called into action in Bataan.
Considered to be the largest commemoration of the Bataan Death March outside the Philippines, the annual 26-mile march at White Sands has been participated in by more than 72,000 people since it was started by Army ROTC Department of the New Mexico State University in 1989.
The event is in remembrance of the more than 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers who were force-marched 65 miles by Japanese troops following the surrender of Bataan on 9 April 1942. As many as 10,000 men—9,000 Filipinos and 1,000 Americans—perished in the march while many more died at the concentration camps in Capas and Cabanatuan and in the sinking of prisoner of war ships that were transferring them to Japan and Manchuria.
“The Bataan Memorial Death March began and will continue to provide a way to honor those who perished and those who lived through a horrific chapter of World War II,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin, commander of the White Sands Missile Range, which hosts the event.
“The legacy of the march keeps its history alive and insures the sacrifices made and lessons learned are not forgotten,” General Coffin said before asking Ambassador Cuisia to address participants.
In his remarks, Ambassador Cuisia paid special tribute to the surviving members of the New Mexico National Guard who were among the more than 1,800 troops who were deployed to the Philippine as part of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiments before the outbreak of the war.
“Many, especially in the Philippines, are not aware that New Mexico played a crucial role in the defense of my country during the last war,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “Not many are aware that when Japanese bombers made their first attack in Luzon on 8 December 1941, it was the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment from New Mexico that fired the first shot in defense of the Philippines.”
Ambassador Cuisia told the marchers, who included active-duty service members from the various branches of the US armed forces that members of the 200th and the 515th Coast Artillery also fought gallantly in Bataan until the order to surrender was given. They were also among those who were forced to take part in the Death March.
The Ambassador later took part in the march. He was accompanied by his wife Ma. Victoria and Minister Elmer Cato, Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, and Chief Supt. Jose Gentiles of the Philippine Embassy and members of the Filipino-American Community in Washington, D.C. led by former US Consul General Sonny Busa of the Philippine-American Foundation for Charities.