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Every April 9th, the Philippines celebrates the Day of Valor, translated as Araw ng Kagitingan. This is to commemorate the heroism of Filipinos and American soldiers during the the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

At dawn of April 9, 1942, 76,000 Filipinos, Chinese and American soldiers were surrendered to the Japanese by Major General Edward P. King of the United States Army. was forced to do it. Thousands of soldiers died when the were forced to take about 145 kilometers hike to Camp O’Donnell in San Fernando. It is also known as the Bataan Death March. Some of the soldiers tried to escape, but only very few made it. Most of the soldiers died of starvation, dehydration and diseases even before they could reach the camp.

The soldiers who were seized stood strong in spite of all the many trials, challenges, and down falls they have encountered. Heroes were born from what seemed to be a cold-blooded event. If the surrender of Bataan did not take place, the fall of Corregidor would not have happened hastily. On the other hand, the Japanese might have quickly overrun all of the US bases in the Pacific if not for the stand that happened.

The event in Bataan forced the Japanese troops to slow down, giving the allies valuable time to prepare for wars such as the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, which followed closely thereafter. On February 8, 1945, American and Filipino liberation forces eventually took over Bataan again.

The Day of Valor used to be a national observance. On  26, 1980, a Letter of Instruction No. 1087 made “Araw ng Kagitingan” a national public holiday. This is to honor the people who, during the World War II era, helped bring democracy and freedom in the Philippines. On June 30, 1987, Executive Order No. 203 further proclaimed April 9 as “Araw Ng Kagitingan.” It is to pay tribute to the heroes of Bataan, Corregidor and Bessang.

In 1942, during the Battle of Bataan against the Japanese Imperial Army, Mount Samat was the site of one of the most vicious, most bloody battle in the history of the Philippines.

With Mount Samat, being the scene of the Filipino and American troops’ last stronghold, the Dambana ng Kagitingan was erected to honor the valiant soldiers.  The shrine was conceived as a suitable memorial to the heroic gestures, as well as the struggle and sacrifices of the soldiers who fought and died in that historic upholder of freedom.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines valor as strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness; personal bravery. We must understand that valor is not only displayed through armed conflicts, or hand-to-hand combat.

Right now, we are at war with an invisible enemy. In this battle against Corona Virus Disease 2019, all valiant individuals are working together to fight the virus. These mighty warriors are our front-liners.

According to the Department of Health, 252 health workers have been infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, as of April 8, 2020. Seventeen health workers succumbed to death while in the frontline battling the virus. The deaths are attributed to the lack of personal protective equipment for the front-liners.

The front-liners are our modern-day heroes. Despite the high risk of acquiring the Corona Virus Disease, doctors, nurses, other health workers, the armed forces, food service providers, media men, barangay tanods and other members of the local government units, volunteers – all of them are giving their services so that we can stand a good fight against our invisible enemy.

While we are all in the comfort of our homes, the front-liners risk their lives for us. While we get to spend time with our loved ones, the front-liners chose to stay far from their families to keep them safe. They can’t even tell if they will ever get to hug their parents, or their spouses, or their children ever again. While we battle against boredom, the front-liners face discrimination. Who are we to complain then?  

This years Day of Valor is specially dedicated to all our front-liners. As Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia puts it, doctors, nurses, and other medical workers are just like “our [World War 2] soldiers who put up a blocking force to delay the arrival of enemies.”

Our front-liners deserve all the help they can get, not just from the government, but from all of us. We can help raise funds for the personal protective equipment of our front-liners. Some helped in sewing and donating face masks. Others rally volunteers to gather donations of food and other supplies for the front-liners. If we feel that we are still not capable to do any of these, we can help the front-liners by staying home, and most especially, by praying for them, and the nation. Also, a simple “thank you” is more than enough to lift their spirits up.

To the front-liners, you are appreciated!

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