Last Sunday I visited the Bataan Death March’s Kilometer Zero marker in Bagac. These obelisk white markers line the road side from San Fernando all the way to Bataan, in Bagac is where it starts.
I intended to climb Mt. Samat, to see the “Dambana ng Kagitingan,” but the weather has not been kind. So I observed it (passing it from Balanga to Bagac) from a distance, the hill and its giant white cross. The shrine was commissioned by President Marcos, he was himself a soldier in that war.
The journey to Bagac was long but comfortable. From Cubao, I alighted in Balanga. The trip lasted about 3.5 hours. Passing the towns of San Fernando, Bacolor, Guagua and Lubao in Pampanga; Hermosa, Orani, Samal and Abucay in Bataan.
I’ve been reading a couple of local books about the war in Manila and neighboring provinces lately. This readings relit my curiosity in local WWII accounts. One that I delight in is Pacita Pestaño Jacinto’s “Sleeping with the Enemy,” a diary of a newlywed, educated woman caught in a ruthless occupation. I had the book with me during this trip.
The author wrote for several newspaper and magazines, working along some of the best writers of her generation: Jose Garcia Villa, Salvador Lopez and Teodoro Locsin, to name a few.
The diary (available in National Bookstore for P215. Note, this is the abridged version) provides the reader a rare glimpse into the lives of the Filipinos in Manila during the war. Moving were the accounts of how ordinary people tried to live normal lives in an environment encircled by death and ruin.
The Bataan Death March has come to symbolize the great defeat that took away the invisibility cloak of the Americans. To many, the resistance in Bataan & Corregidor was the last dash of hope. When the defenders capitulated, with MacArthur fleeing in a sub down to Australia, it was the biggest let down.
Hence the expression you hear to this day, “sinuko na ang Bataan,” which means selling out, if not, unnecessary giving in to disadvantageous demands.
But there’s no doubt that the Filipinos and Americans who fought and defended Bataan did so with great valor. Their sacrifice must never be forgotten.
In Pacita Pestaño Jacinto’s diary, she wrote of the surrender, “tonight is like no other night we have passed. The silence is like a pall… This once, the Japanese radio has told the truth, Bataan has fallen. What else is there to say.
* * *
War is cruel, there’s nothing like it my Father always reminds us. His stories about the war were so frightening that when he first told me these they gave me chills. I remember having nightmares!
These accounts along with others come in handy when I get agitated and stressed by the ups and downs of this life. They mean nothing compared to the hardship my Father’s family, and so many Filipinos, went through during the war.
It can be argued that a generation that went through war is greater than a generation who never had one.
I believe they are—without a doubt. They have a deeper perspective in life, they understand how to struggle, to live.
WWII is recent past, there are still people who lived through it around us. But how many still remembers? How many of us asked them about it? How many read about these events in history books?
Not too many I think.
How to get to Bagac, Bataan’s “Death March Kilometer Zero marker”:
- In Cubao, take Bataan provincial buses (like Genesis) to Balanga. Fare is currently P200
- Go down in Balanga “Terminal”
- Take a jeep to Bagac. Fare is P45.
- If the jeep driver, as I’ve experienced, is not familiar with the “Kilometer Zero” marker, go down in Bagac town proper and hire a tricycle. This should cost you P30-P50.