UP Los Baños sharpens collective memory | Inquirer Opinion
The Learning curve

UP Los Baños sharpens collective memory

Los Angeles — On April 9, Filipinos all over the world will mark Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) and remember the Bataan Death March. On that day in 1942, Usaffe’s Maj. Gen. Edward King Jr. and a combined force of 10,000 Americans and 58,000 Filipinos surrendered to Col. Mootoo Nakayama of the 14th Japanese Imperial Army after three months of bitter combat.

The prisoners of war were force-marched from Mariveles, Bataan, to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, via San Fernando, Pampanga. The sick, wounded and bone-weary multitude trudged through 65 punishing miles of jungle and high humidity with no food, water, or medical provisions whatsoever. As many as 18,000 Filipinos and 650 Americans died during the march, many succumbing to fatigue and illness, and many more due to the brutality of their Japanese captors.


In the United States, the White Sands missile range in New Mexico has been the venue for the Bataan Memorial Death March for 28 years now. Last March 19, a record-setting 7,200 retired and active military personnel queued for the 26-mile marathon on hilly desert terrain. Many ran in their military uniforms and lugging backpacks stuffed with 35 pounds of nonperishable food items, which they later donated to the Albuquerque Roadrunner Food Bank. Before the start of the marathon, for the first time, “Lupang Hinirang” was sung right after the American national anthem.

The Bataan Death March holds special significance for New Mexico because many US troops then serving in Bataan were from the state’s 200th and 515th Coast Artillery of the National Guard. The “Heroes of Bataan” memorial sculpture that features two Americans and one Filipino assisting one another stands at Veterans Park in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as well.


Carolina Johnson, the captain of a five-member women’s Army team from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said: “We all wanted to march for the simple purpose of being part of something larger than ourselves and to honor those who survived and gave their lives on our behalf.”

Organized events like this are a great way to call attention to significant historical events. The courage and heroism that those American and Filipino soldiers showed 75 years ago half a world away remains alive, because today’s communities actively choose to remember them.

Unfortunately, sharply focused collective memory seems to be elusive in this era of populist presidents. The cutting-edge technology that enables us to instantaneously access bodies of research in any library on the planet has also been turned into a devastating tool for obfuscation and sophistry.

Prof. Dwight David Diestro and other faculty members of the Department of Social Sciences at the university of the Philippines Los Baños must have felt the same way, because they decided to go old-school.

Things came to a head last year when the strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ heirs managed to inter his remains in hallowed ground. Said Diestro: “The moment we came to know of the illegal act of burying Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, our department scheduled a faculty meeting to contribute to the groundswell against the dictatorship. Since Nov. 18, 2016, we have been scheduling activities, big and small, to make UPLB students realize the importance of collective memory in charting the national direction. The claim that we should just move on and accept as part of what is normal the disregard for human rights and democratic processes during the 1970s and ’80s is simply absurd. The faculty members of the Department of Social Sciences believe that it is a duty to remember the bitter lessons of the past.”

Since then, the Social Sciences faculty has gotten quite creative in organizing symposiums, informal gatherings and musical events to underscore the UPLB community’s sense of idealism and nationalism.

Considering their renewed vigor, I’m excited to hear how the UPLB community will mark Araw ng Kagitingan.

Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Araw ng Kagitingan, Death March, Inquirer Opinion, The Learning Curve, UP Los Baños
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Fearless views on the news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.