Veterans Bank Freedom Trail Inspires Legacy of WWII Veteran Heroes
The scorching heat, fatigue, and unquenchable thirst did not deter the determination of over 600 participants who participated in the Mariveles-San Fernando-Capas Freedom Trail (Freedom Trail) from reaching the finish line at the Capas National Shrine in Tarlac after two gruesome days of marching that started from Mariveles, Bataan.
Organized by Philippine Veterans Bank in commemoration of the 76th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March, this year’s Freedom Trail saw reserved units from the country’s armed forces – the Philippine Army, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine National Police – gamely and wholeheartedly took on the challenge of traversing the 160-kilometer stretch from Mariveles to Capas. Under sweltering heat and changing terrain through three provinces, the marchers experienced for themselves the hardship endured by Filipino and American prisoners-of-war more than 70 years ago in what eventually went down in history as the infamous Bataan Death March.
The Death March, considered as one of the darkest days in Philippine History, was the forcible transfer of 60,000–80,000 Filipino and American prisoners-of-war (POWs) from Mariveles and Saysain Point, Bagac, Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac. The prisoners were loaded onto trains in San Fernando, Pampanga. The march began sometime on April 11, 1942, and left thousands dead and seriously wounded after enduring torture under the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
The Freedom Trail was also made more memorable with the participation of members of the Philippine Living History Society who, garbed in WW2-era uniforms and regalia, performed skits during the opening ceremony in Mariveles, at the 102-kilometer mark in San Fernando, Pampanga and at the closing ceremony in the Capas National Shrine.
This year’s Freedom Trail culminated in a torch lighting ceremony at the Obelisk in the Capas National Shrine meant to symbolize the indefatigable spirit of bravery, sacrifice, and love for the country first manifested by our World War II heroes and which now continues in our modern-day heroes. No less than former President Fidel V. Ramos lit the torch joined by Veterans Bank Vice-Chairman Guillermo Parayno Jr., Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Administrator BGen. Ernesto Carolina, and Pangasinan 2nd District Representative Congressman Leopoldo Bataoil.
Inspired by the success of the Freedom Trail, Pres. FVR called on all Filipinos to unite and continue to uphold the legacy of our WWII veterans, especially among the youth of today. He also hoped that next year’s Freedom Trail will be bigger and see participants from other provinces join the march.
The 2018 Freedom Trail was presented by Philippine Veterans Bank with its partners — Without Limits, PVAO, History Channel Asia, Stradcom, Robinsons Land, and the Provincial Governments of Bataan, Pampanga, and Tarlac.