Every April 9, the Philippines commemorates Araw ng Kagitingan, also known as the Bataan and Corregidor Day. The last two strongholds of the United States Armed Forces, Far East (USAFFE), which include the Philippine Army and the US Regular forces, were Bataan and Corregidor.
[See also map and directions]
After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese air attack crippled the US air force and navy stationed in the Philippines. By January 1941, the Japanese had occupied Manila and in March, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the commanding General of the USAFFE, left for Australia. The remaining forces in Bataan (see Dambana ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat, Bataan) surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. If you’ve noticed, that’s the date of the Araw ng Kagitingan.
But Corregidor kept on fighting for one more month. If you’re the enemy and this piece of rock stands in the way of totally conquering a country, what would you do? Bomb the place to hell. And that’s exactly what the Japanese did. Corregidor is the second most bombed island during World War II, next to Malta. On May 6, 1942, Corregidor surrendered.
The Pacific War Memorial stands at the Topside of Corregidor Island (read more of Corregidor here). It’s a reminder of the bravery and heroism of the combined US and Philippine forces against Japanese aggression. It’s also a reminder of the suffering and horrors that war brings, something which the world still sees up to this day.
At the end of the Pacific War Memorial is the Eternal Flame of Freedom, a steel sculpture erected on the cliff overlooking the tail of the island. The monument has this inscription at the bottom: “To live in Freedom Light is the Right of Mankind.”
After this generation, what happened in Corregidor, and the Philippines in general, during the war with Japan would be reduced to something read in elementary textbooks. Today’s generation could cling to that memory through the heart-wrenching stories of grandparents who fought — many of whom died — during the dark days of Japanese occupation. Our generation must not forget the sacrifice waged and blood spilled in Corregidor and elsewhere in the Philippines. So, while the big guns in Corregidor might look impressive during your visit to this historic place, remember that the bravery of those who fought the invaders is even more impressive. Let’s not forget what they fought, and died, for.