Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why do Filpinos never forget Memorial Day?

Filipino Veterans. One reason Memorial Day is celebrated. 
Memorial Day isn’t just exclusively celebrated and given relevance in the United States. It certainly is being given importance in Southeast Asia, particularly, in the Philippines. With the numerous Filipino soldiers taking part in the allied forces with the “GI Joes” and making and leaving a great impact in the region, in the country in particular, Memorial Day is fondly remembered.
With the aid of the millions of Filipino war veterans, including my grandfather, American soldiers played a major role in liberating the country from the Japanese occupation during World War II. Quite different from the image other Asians are given to American troops, Filipinos welcome and consider them friends and allies. Though Memorial Day is commemorated in Southeast Asia, there is nothing like the way Filipinos look back to it, being directly a part of that sad event in the past.
The American Cemetery in Taguig.

As a proof of how much connection we Filipinos have with the Memorial Day, the American Cemetery in Taguig serves as the resting place of about 17, 000 American and allied military personnel who defended the Pacific in the war. It is one of the largest overseas cemeteries for US War Veterans second to Normandy American Cemetery in France, but is the largest in terms of the number of graves.  The dead and the missing are also honored here with the grand cemetery’s ground, marble hemicycles, and the chapel that houses the graves of the honored dead and the names of the missing.
The Philippines also served as the site of the infamous Bataan Death March. It is here where 75,000 defeated U.S. and allied servicemen were force-marched by their Japanese captors sixty miles across unforgiving terrain.

Filipino WW2 veterans salute during the flag ceremony.

WW2 Veteran holds the message of how different they are treated with those based in the US.  For years, many has been struggling to get what the American government has promised. 
The poignant words of soldier-poet Lt. Henry G. Lee echo back to us from those dark days when the Japanese held the Pacific and the Americans were on the run; his poem "Death March" tells of the horrors he saw along the way:
So you are dead. The easy words contain
No sense of loss, no sorrow, no despair.
Thus hunger, thirst, fatigue, combines to drain
All feeling from our hearts. The endless glare,
The brutal heat, anesthetize the mind.
I can not mourn you now. I lift my load,
The suffering column moves. I leave behind
Only another corpse, beside the road.
Lee did not see the end of the war - he died aboard a ship headed to Taiwan. His compatriots in the Pacific war are buried (or commemorated) in the largest American cemetery dedicated to the casualties of World War II, the Manila American Cemetery.

The luckier ones.  Filipino WW2 Veterans in the US.
To my grandfather who risked his life to defend this country, we love you! Though you are closer to The Creator, we want you to know how much we appreciate you. You took part in something to ensure the freedom of the Filipinos who succeeded your generation.  The Memorial Day isn’t exclusive to the US, there are many Filipinos who died and sacrificed so much during the war.  I hope we find some time to commemorate their heroic acts.

No comments:

Post a Comment