His Excellency Sergio Osmeña
President of the Philippines
As we celebrate National Heroes’ Day
[Delivered at Capas, Tarlac, November 30, 1945]
It is fitting that this year we celebrate National Heroes’ Day here at Capas. No longer is this just another Philippine town; it is the home of immortal spirits. In its hallowed soil rest thousands of our fellow Filipinos who died for their country as much as those who were slain on the battlefield.
Like Bataan, Capas also stands for Filipino courage. Bataan and Capas represent two phases in the same unfoldment of Filipino valor, sacrifice, and triumph. In Bataan our soldiers fell heroically amidst the din and smoke of battle. In Capas, they succumbed to hunger and disease, victims of enemy cruelty.
But Capas was always more than a prison-camp. It was the heart not only of Filipino suffering, but of the Filipino spirit. In Bataan, though hopelessly outnumbered, our soldiers fought. In Capas they were wholly at the mercy of the enemy. They were starved, beaten, tortured; thousands of them died. But their spirit was unconquerable. Capas has been wiped out as a prison-camp, but it remains as a symbol of spiritual resistance, a symbol of faith.
The enemy seemed everywhere victorious . . . Weak men might have said, “Why die in a hopeless cause? Let us submit. Submit.”
But between the men of Capas and despair an unquenchable flame of faith rose into the skies. The voice of that great champion of human rights, the late President Roosevelt, thundered across the sea—Be brave, he said, the entire resources of America in men and material are pledged to your redemption and freedom. From his exile our beloved President Quezon pleaded: Hold on, whatever the sacrifice, whatever the price, hold on. In the enveloping gloom, theirs could have been mere voices that mocked and taunted. Nevertheless, our people maintained faith. Jose Abad Santos died because he was a man of faith. These men of Capas, our whole nation, held on to the belief that the destiny of the Philippines was to be free; they refused to be slaves.
When I speak of Bataan and Capas I do not have in mind only the geographical confines of these particular places. Every jungle, every mountain pass where our guerillas and volunteers fought, was Bataan. Fort Santiago and every prison throughout the land where patriots were tortured and died still defying the enemy, was Capas. All the occupied area of the Philippines was Capas a huge concentration camp where the Filipino could pit only his spirit and faith against the brutal might of the invader. It is not alone the dead who are the heroes. There are countless heroes among the living, men and women who are now anonymously going about the tasks of peace. It can be said to the everlasting glory of our people that they passed through the country’s hour of trial with a common courage and devotion.
We shall raise a monument here in Capas. It will be more than a memorial—it will rise as a challenge; a challenge from the dead, to us, the living, to be worthy of their sacrifice. Capas will be the voice of our national conscience. If we allow shallow dissention to stand in the way of our duty; if we allow ourselves to be too easily frustrated in the building of a better society,—a voice will cry in Capas: “Have we then died in vain?”
There is only one way in which those of us who live, can repay those who have died and given their all to the cause of liberty. Rizal and Bonifacio, whose memory we particularly commemorate today, and all our country’s martyrs have died in the trust that the Philippines would yet be happy, prosperous, and free. With courage and determination we must strive to realize that vision.
Together with the Filipinos who so fearlessly resisted the invader, we also remember, today, our American comrades who came from across the seas. Many of them gave their lives and sleep beneath our soil, close beside our own sacred dead, thousands of miles away from their homeland. To them also we extend the tribute of our reverence and eternal gratitude.
I enjoin all Filipinos, throughout our land and wherever else they may be, to resolve on this solemn occasion to seek to be worthy of our heroic dead. I pray Almighty God to give us, out of His infinite goodness, the wisdom, the courage, the energy to build a better Philippines, so that we may say truly to the men of Capas, and to all our countrymen who fell in the night, that they did not die in vain. In life and death they are unforgettable. Their memory remains a living presence, tragic and glorious.
Source: Presidential Museum and Library
Osmeña, S. (1945). Address of President Sergio Osmeña as we celebrate National Heroes’ Day. Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 41 (9), 1153-1154.