75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March of 9th April 1942

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The day after the Japanese attacked the US Naval Base in Pearl Harbour in Hawaii on 7th December 1941, their troops invaded the Philippines. Within a month Manila was occupied, and the Filipino and American troops became isolated on the Bataan peninsula where pitched battles raged on and off for 3 months, before the Filipino and US troops, dehydrated, starving, sick and worn out, surrendered on 9th April 1942 – the event now known as the ‘Fall of Bataan’. Somewhere around 70,000 (including 12,000 from USA) allied troops were then subjected to the humiliation of being marched as prisoners for a minimum of 5 days, most from Mariveles and some from Bagac, all the way to San Fernando – some 100 kilometres. From there they were squashed like sardines into enclosed and very hot rail cars and trained to Capas, in Tarlac Province, before a final 11 kilometres walk to Camp O’Donnell. This was the prison in which tens of thousands died over the next 40 months due to continuing starvation, disease and dehydration. The background to this shameful period during the 2nd World War (1939-45) was the fact that the Japanese soldier was a very proud individual, and had been deeply instilled with the belief that it was entirely honourable to die in battle, rather than to live with absolute dishonour after surrender to an enemy. With this philosophy in mind, the Japanese troops treated the surrendered Filipino and American forces with extreme dishonour, and thousands of hideous tales have subsequently been told of the shameful treatment of the fallen allied prisoners at the hands of the Japanese troops in charge of the event which rightfully became known as the Bataan Death March. On the march, when prisoners were weak and worn out and fell down or fell behind, Japanese soldiers bayonetted some, and shot others. Beheadings were recorded, and it became known that over the 5 or more day walk the prisoners were only fed with rice on one occasion, and drinking water was very scarce.. Stronger prisoners were disallowed from helping the weaker ones. When Japanese troops found Japanese items like money in the pockets of the prisoners, they reacted with vengeance and killed those who had such items on their person. The true numbers of deaths on the Death March are not known, but some estimates believe that up to 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans died or were killed during that vengeful period during the month of April in 1942. It is all a very sad reflection of the viciousness and wicked dehumanising affect of warfare. In February 1945 Filipino and American troops recaptured the Bataan Peninsula after pitched battles, and by early March Manila was liberated. Finally the Japanese surrendered and the war in the Philippines was over, although one Japanese soldier held his ground till 1976 (31 years after the 2nd WW had ended) on Sabang Island north of Mindoro, believing that the war was still going on – perhaps a hideous reflection of that depth of honour that epitomised the ugly events of the Bataan Death March. The Bataan Death March was declared as a ‘war crime’, and General Homma Masaharu, the leader of the Japanese invasion forces into the Philippines was held responsible and executed by firing squad on 3rd April 1946. Bataan Day is again upon us on 9th April, and the Bataan Death March of April 1942 shall never be forgotten on these shores were so many gave up their lives in the on-going struggle to free the Philippines from warfare and occupation. Long Live the Philippines!

Travel

A 2 Day Outing South of Manila

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A Scouser, a Greek and a Scotsman rode out of Makati on motorbikes t’other day …. 2 Royal Enfield classic bikes were the main order of the day (now being imported into the Philippines) and the trip through Cavite, Batangas and Laguna was on the cards. The Scouser’s Filipina wife thoroughly enjoyed the trip despite her initial doubts, and the first order of the day was to escape from the hell of Manila traffic …. into the bliss of the Batangas countryside and beachside at Matabungkay.Once through the recent tunnel near Caylabne in Cavite the raw hillsides were an encounter with bliss. A four foot monitor lizard scurried across the road as we roared through the greenness and purity of nature. The Coral Beach Club was a pleasant break from the ride, before the one hour trip up to Tagaytay, and a place with a magnificent view of Taal Lake with a room at $US15 a night. The next morning an early sunny ride winding around the west side of Taal Lake to the historical wonders of Taal Heritage town. There our first visit was to the biggest Catholic church ever built in the whole of Asia, and then the Camera Museum next, with photos from the Philippines as far back as the 1880s. There are several museums in this town which is the 2nd best preserved Spanish town in the whole country after Vigan in Ilocos Sur. The town is brimming with beautiful classic styled Spanish houses on every street corner. A garden break at a classic Spanish house converted to a hotel -Paradores Del Castillo – within its quiet solitude, before we pressed on to Los Banos, and the abundance of its hot spring water pools that are thanks to the active volcanic springs from Mount Makiling with its bubbling mud pools on its upper slopes. A long nights rest re-invigorated us all before we flew back on the Southern Expressway into Manila to be swallowed by the aggressive angry traffic that is the increasing hallmark of Manila.

The Magic in Laguna

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There are a total of 81 provinces in the Philippines. Thirty kilometres south of Manila begins the diversified and dynamic province of Laguna. The best known place historically is the birth place of the national hero Jose Rizal in the town of Calamba. The younger generation though are more tuned in to the 23 world-class rides and attractions just 40 kilometres south of Manila, which has already claimed over 10 million visitors at Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa. The centre of worldwide rice research in Los Banos is funded by companies and countries worldwide, recognising the fact that half the word population lives on rice. Every type of rice from all over the world is stored here in a rice vault, and they have a brilliant Rice Museum open to all, that both fascinates and educates all visitors about the place and importance of rice on our planet.

The Magic of the Philippines

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I was talking today to Russell who spent years #travelling throughout interesting places in South East Asia … and now, as a Filipina, realizes that her own country is full of endless magic throughout the 7000+ islands. We spoke of far off places in the north of the country like the Batanes Islands which has a burial culture also found in southern Japan; of the Guimaras Islands in the Central #Philippines where the indigenous tribe is claimed to originate from Australia; #Butuan in NE Mindanao where the ancient #Balangay boat used to sail as far as Japan, China, India and to Africa over a thousand years ago. The variations and rich intensity of diverse local culture is endless as one travels throughout the Philippine Islands.