Keeping the ‘Fall’ alive“All were thinking, trying to understand what surrender meant to our country, to our beloved ones left at the mercy of the cruel and ruthless victors, to ourselves. What of the future? Was there a future at all?”—Eriberto Misa Jr., “Philippines Free Press” (April 5, 1947)
APRIL 9, 2020 marked the 78th year since the Fall of Bataan, a painful moment for the Philippines during World War II. Though more than half a century has passed since, the experience of the war remains alive in the memories and narratives of those who have lived through it.
Most of the accounts that were published after the war were written by American soldiers, particularly those who were based in the Philippines. As early as 1944, Lt. Col. Allison Ind published “Bataan: The Judgment Seat.” The book narrates his experience as an air intelligence officer from May 1941 until the eventual surrender of the American forces in 1942. Ind’s narration is gripping, almost like a novel at points, and effectively depicts how disconsolate yet adrenaline-fueled the war experience was.
Filipinos involved in the war would soon join the conversation. Venecio Jalandoni’s “The Silent Sacrifice” (1998) and “Diary of the War: WW II Memoirs of Lt. Anastacio Campo” (2006) both capture how the war abruptly interrupted their lives as civilians, causing them to enter military service. Jalandoni provides the perspective of a young man studying at the Ateneo de Manila whose path in life changed with the arrival of the Japanese forces in the country. Campo’s story, on the other hand, traces how a farmer came to be a hero in wartime Davao.
"Kuwentong Bayan: Noong Panahon ng Hapon” (2006) sheds light on the sector that is often overlooked in terms of historical narratives but was the most affected during the war. The editors compiled excerpts of written memoirs and transcribed interviews with civilians who survived the Japanese occupation. While the stories are undoubtedly despondent and grim, they are punctuated with anecdotes of neighbors helping each other and family ties strengthening in dismal times.
While statistics are often used to understand the scale of historical events, narratives found in memoirs allow us to understand the gravity of World War II. The stories of the survivors serve as beacons to help future generations realize the meaning behind monuments and commemorations such as Araw ng Kagitingan: that the memory and experiences of the people before us also make up our collective identity as Filipinos.
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(Story/Photos by: Briel Lising)