Day of Valor relives the gallant stand of true patriots in Bataan

At 113, retired Army Sgt. Malomalo Salag, born on February 14, 1909, who fought against the Japanese Imperial soldiers in the 1940s, is the oldest living Filipino World War 2 veteran, according to retired Lt. Gen. Nesty Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.

THEN AND NOW. File photo (above left) shows Filipino and American soldiers who were forced to march from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac. The siege and defense of Bataan lasted 93 days, ending on April 9, 1942.

According to Caolina, there are 2,022 Filipino veterans of WW2—from the total 151,824 Filipino troops who fought in various parts of the archipelago in 1941-1942—still alive as of April 8, 2022, who continue to receive their undisclosed monthly pension, plus free health care. Of this number 236 are more than 100 years old.

Two of the 236 are 111 years old: Macaalang Ditanto and Alangadi Mauna. The hometowns of Salag, Ditanto and Mauna were not disclosed.

It was on Maundy Thursday, on April 9, 1942, when Filipino and American allies surrendered to the Japanese forces at the now historic Mount Samat—where the 545-meter tall Shrine of Valor or Dambana ng Kagitingan now stands in memory of the gallant men who fought against the Japanese—in the Bataan peninsula overlooking Manila Bay following a three-month summer fierce gunbattle.

That led to the now infamous Death March, where Filipinos and Americans walked from Km 0 in Samat to San Fernando in Pampanga, heavily guarded by their captors, from where they eventually were brought to the concentration camp in Capas, Tarlac, , nearly 100 kms north of Manila.

Retired Constabulary Col. Jose Agdamag Jr., a Filipino veteran who saw action in the battle of Bataan on the eve of the Allied surrender, said in a book he wrote with his son, retired Navy Capt. Vicente: “There was an atmosphere of chaos and pandemonium. It was hell!”

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The older Agdamag described the bravery and heroic deeds of the more than 100,000 Filipino and American soldiers, who defended Bataan against the onslaught of the Imperial Japanese Army, who invaded the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941 after Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor.

Before invading the Philippines, the Japanese conquered one after the other neighboring Asian countries in their blitzkrieg offensive.

But Filipino and American defenders showed their bravery in combat and withstood the Japanese wave of attacks and held Bataan for over three months or 122 days before they surrendered due, according to Agdamag, to exhaustion and extreme hunger.

“On 8 April 1942, Day 122 of the invasion, there was chaos in our position. I could see many Filipino and American soldiers in our immediate vicinity. The troops were disorganized and confused. As far as my platoon was concerned, we were still moving and operating as a team,” Agdamag wrote.

But with the bombardment by the Japanese, his platoon retreated to Cabcaban and Mariveles areas within eye range of the tadpole-shaped island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay.

Then the Japanese, particularly “the 65the Brigade, 4th Division, and Nagano Detachment, were advancing towards Limay and Lamao area,” he said.

“As we retreated, artillery fires were raining over us,” he said, while the Japanese Air unit bomb their foxholes.

Agdamag added, “three months of malnutrition, malaria, and intestinal infections, left the soldiers weak and disease-ridden totally incapable of the sustained physical effort necessary for a successful defense.”

THEN AND NOW. Eighty years later, members of the US and Philippine Marines stand shoulder-to-shoulder during a close quarters battle range exercise at the Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim in Cavite during this year’s Balikatan. Some 9,000 Filipino and American service members participated in the 37th Balikatan 2022 exercises that ended Friday.

The fall of Bataan was not the end of the war as Filipino and American soldiers who escaped continued the fight—buoyed by the promise of Gen. Douglas MacArthur “I shall return” made in Corregidor before he left for Australia.

He returned with a fleet of Allied troops and landed in Red Beach in Palo, Leye on October 20, 1944, nearly two years before the Philippine independence was restored on July 4, 1946.

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