April 9, 2014 is the 72nd anniversary of the fall of Bataan. This year’s commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan is a nationwide holiday, by virtue of Proclamation No. 655, s. 2013.
By all accounts, the anniversary of the Fall of Bataan was a day of solemnity, observed even during the Japanese occupation with speeches to convince Filipino civilians and veterans alike, to convince the public to support the Japanese. It became a solemn date of commemoration among Filipino resistance fighters as well as the Philippine government-in-exile, which promoted “The Fighting Filipinos” poster on the first anniversary of the fall of Bataan, as part of the “Avenge Bataan” War Bonds campaign, to rally Allied support for the Philippines. The date would become one commemorated in speeches and other observances in the immediate postwar years.
Americans, too, commemorated Bataan: Field Marshal MacArthur’s Australian HQ answered to “Bataan,” while his command aircraft was also called the Bataan; as was a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier (the first American vessel named after a World War II battle); even the streets that demarcate the present Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. carry the names Bataan and Corregidor. Annually, the fall of Bataan is marked by the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico (a large number of American National Guard troops had been dispatched to the Philippines shortly before the outbreak of the War).
Official commemorations on the part of the Philippine government include the decision by President Sergio Osmeña to set aside public land for a Bataan National Park. This was by virtue of Proclamation No. 24, s. 1945, it would be the future site of the Dambana ng Kagitingan, itself an idea first conceived by Manuel Roxas. Writing in his diary, a young officer named Felipe Buencamino III recounted that during a momentary lull in the fighting, Roxas told Carlos P. Romulo on February 26, 1942 that,
“Romulo and Roxas were talking about the fighting in Bataan and Roxas said that after the war, a big national shrine should be constructed in Mt. Samat to honor all the heroes that have died and are now dying in this battle.”
In 1953, the eleventh anniversary of the fall of Bataan, President Elpidio Quirino declared April 9 as Bataan Day, by virtue of Proclamation No. 381, s. 1953. The commemoration was, for President Quirino, a “fitting homage to the unparalleled heroism of Filipino and American forces who, despite overwhelming odds, fought side by side to the last in their stubborn defense of freedom and democracy.”
President Ramon Magsaysay then signed Proclamation No. 11, s. 1954 the following year, declaring the twelfth anniversary of the fall of Bataan as a special public holiday. In 1955, President Magsaysay signed Proclamation No. 140, s. 1955, once again declaring Bataan Day as a special public holiday. The proclamation enjoined Filipinos and Americans residing in the country to observe “a one-minute silence at 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon of that day, and to hold appropriate rites in honor of the heroic defenders of Bataan.”
In 1961, the House of Representatives passed Republic Act No. 3022, which declared April 9th of every year as “Bataan Day,” a legal holiday. The law followed Magsaysay’s proclamation’s call for one-minute silence at 4:30 p.m., and enjoined that “appropriate rites in honor of the heroic defenders of Bataan and their parents, wives and/or widows” be held.
Twenty-six years later, under the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino, Executive Order No. 203, s. 1987, revised the roster of all nationwide holidays of the Philippines and renamed Bataan Day to “Araw ng Kagitingan (Bataan and Corregidor Day).” Among other revisions, April 9 was changed from being a legal holiday to, simply, a regular holiday. A month later, theAdministrative Code of 1987 was instituted, retaining the name of the April 9 holiday.
In 2007, the Administrative Code of 1987 was amended by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, with the creation of moveable holidays—the policy popularly known as Holiday Economics. Under Republic Act No. 9492, s. 2007, Araw ng Kagitingan (Bataan and Corregidor Day) was commemorated either on April 9th or on the nearest Monday.
The administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III reverted to commemorating the fall of Bataan every April 9th of a given year. The past four holiday proclamations of President Aquino have all declared April 9 as a regular nationwide holiday, and have called the commemoration, simply, Araw ng Kagitingan.
- View this commemorative page for Araw ng Kagitingan 2013.
- View this commemorative page for Araw ng Kagitingan 2012