What is Bataan Day?

Introduction

Araw ng Kagitingan (lit. ’Day of Valor’), also known as Bataan Day and Bataan and Corregidor Day, is a national observance in the Philippines which commemorates the fall of Bataan during World War II.

It falls on 09 April, although in 2009, its celebration was moved to 06 April to avoid it from coinciding with Maundy Thursday.

Name and Date of Observance

In April 1961, Congress passed Republic Act No. 3022 declaring 09 April of every year as “Bataan Day”.

In June 1987, Executive Order No. 203 revised all national holidays in the Philippines, referring to the 09 April holiday as “Araw ng Kagitingan (Bataan and Corregidor Day)”.

Less than a month later, another executive order (No. 292) revised the holidays anew, again referring to the 09 April holiday as “Araw ng Kagitingan (Bataan and Corregidor Day)”.

In 2007, Congress passed Republic Act No. 9492 putting into law the “Holiday Economics” policy of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; this put the observance of each holiday, with the exception of New Year’s Day and Christmas, to the Monday nearest it. The order referred to the holiday celebrated on the Monday nearest 09 April as “Araw ng Kagitingan (Bataan and Corregidor Day)”. Starting in 2008, the holiday was called simply as “Araw ng Kagitingan”, and was celebrated on the nearest Monday. This practice was repeated in 2009. In 2010, the holiday was still named as such, but was celebrated on 09 April.

Starting with the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, celebrations of the holiday have been observed on 09 April, instead of being moved to the nearest Monday, and the holiday has been called simply “Araw ng Kagitingan” in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte followed Aquino’s naming and dating of the holiday in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Fall of Bataan

Refer to Battle of Bataan (1942).

At dawn on 09 April 1942, against the orders of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Jonathan Wainwright, the commander of the Luzon Force, Bataan, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., surrendered more than 76,000 starving and disease-ridden soldiers (64,000 Filipinos, and 12,000 Americans) to Japanese troops.

The majority of these prisoners of war had their belongings confiscated before being forced to endure the infamous 140-kilometre (87 miles) Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. En route, thousands died from dehydration, heat prostration, untreated wounds, and wanton execution while walking in deep dust over vehicle-broken Macadam roads, and crammed into rail cars for transport to captivity.

The few who were lucky enough to travel by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga would still have to endure more than an additional 25 miles (40 km) of marching. Prisoners were beaten randomly and often denied promised food and water. Those who fell behind were usually executed or left to die, with the sides of the roads becoming littered with dead bodies and those moaning for help.

Only some 54,000 of the 76,000 prisoners reached their destination; the exact death toll is difficult to assess because thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards. Approximately 5,000-10,000 Filipino and 600-650 American prisoners-of-war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell.

Observance

In the Philippines

The observance usually is centred on Mount Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan. It is usually attended by the President of the Philippines, the Governor of Bataan, the ambassadors of the United States and Japan, and surviving veterans groups.

By 2021, there were only 2,952 defenders of Bataan who are still alive.

2012

In 2012, the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan was commemorated at Mount Samat Shrine in Pilar, Bataan by some of the over 18,000 still-living Filipino veterans.

Then-incumbent President Benigno S. Aquino III and former President Fidel V. Ramos attended the rites. Japanese ambassador to the Philippines Toshina Urabe expressed “deep apology and a deep sense of remorse to the tragedy”, while the United States Deputy Chief of Mission Leslie A. Bassett (representing U.S. ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr.) said that their embassy has provided a total of US$220 million (over ₱9 billion) to Filipino war veterans.

In the United States

In Maywood, Illinois the second Sunday in September is remembered as Bataan Day. Maywood provided Illinois National Guard soldiers of the 192nd Tank Battalion who served on Bataan.

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