April 27, 2023
Every April 9 in the Philippines, the nation commemorates the fall of Bataan and Corregidor to the Japanese Imperial Army, which invaded and occupied the country for three years. This holiday is now observed in the U.S. as “Araw ng Kagitingan,” or “Day of Valor.”
Here in Washington, D.C., the event is held annually at the National World War II Memorial, and organized by the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5471.
On April 7, on the 81st anniversary of ‘Day of Valor’, veterans and their families, community leaders, Philippine embassy diplomats and military leaders gathered at the World War II Memorial for a Wreath Laying Ceremony. Delivering remarks were FilVetREP Chairman Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (US Army Retired), Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, Senior Petty Officer Remigio Cabacar (US Navy Retired), Brig. Gen. Jimmy Canlas of the U.S. Air Force and Capt. Henry Quinto, Defense Armed Forces Attache, Philippine Navy.
In his opening remarks, Gen. Taguba said that Bataan and Corregidor “were not just battlefields. They are hallowed grounds where thousands of Filipinos and Americans, men and women, fought to defend their homeland in the Philippines, and for a country far away – the United States of America. The huge losses of lives in battle, in captivity, from hunger and disease, many still missing in action, and those wounded for life were interminable.”
Taguba also paid tribute to two Filipino World War II veterans who had passed away recently: Celestino Almeda, 104, and Ciriaco Ladines, 95. There are still two living veterans in the DMV area: Rudy Panaglima, 95, and Remigio Cabacar, 95. “It’s remarkable they are still alive to remind us that defending two countries in war is the price they paid for their duty to country,” Taguba said.
Ambassador Romualdez noted that this year’s anniversary theme is “Kagitingan Ng Mga Beterano, Pundasyon Ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino” (Gallantry Of The Veterans, Pillars Or Foundation Of Filipino Unity). “We will never be able to repay our forebears, for their sufferings and ultimate sacrifice. But we are reminded that freedom comes at an enormous cost. We can only memorialize their misery, principles, ideals and deeds, so that we may be guided by the same undying convictions they held until their final breath,” the Ambassador said.
Gen. Canlas talked about the “real faces behind the stories of heroism,” in sharing his own grandfather’s experience during the war. Joaquin Nicdao Canlas, who originally served in the Philippine Scouts and later in the US Army, survived the Bataan Death March by escaping when the march passed through his hometown in Pampanga. After the war, he continued to serve in the Korean War. “We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and without a doubt, I stand on those of my Lolo. He, like thousands of others, had more bravery and courage on the tip of their fingers than I will ever have,” Canlas said.
In his remarks, Mr. Cabacar – one of the giants Gen. Canlas paid tribute to – recalled singing the Star Spangled Banner and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag as a young child. Proud of his 25-year service in the US Navy, he called on all Filipinos and Americans “not to hold grudges against the oppressors” and to “honor the sacrifices of our forbears,” because the “ideals of democracy are meant to enable a society where all live in unity – respecting our differences and building a better society.”
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, community-based, all-volunteer national initiative whose mission is to obtain national recognition of Filipino and American WW11 soldiers across the United States and the Philippines for their wartime service to the U.S. and the Philippines from July 26, 1941 to December 31, 1946. For more information about Filipino WWII veterans and how to get involved, visit our website at www.filvetrep.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.