President Aquino leads commemoration rites for Araw ng Kagitingan 2014

Bataan, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 delivered his speech for the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) and the 72nd anniversary of the fall of Bataan at Mt. Samat National Shrine.

"And now, we have gathered here to look up at the Shrine of Valor—a reminder of just how much we recognize and appreciate the heroism of our veterans during the Second World War; a symbol recognizing their bravery and the sacrifice they went through.", PNoy highlighted.

[This is an English translation of the speech delivered by President Aquino at Mt. Samat, Pilar, Bataan, on April 9, 2014]

"World War II began as the Philippines was preparing to transition from being an American colony to being a truly independent nation. And it was precisely because American forces were still here that our country became involved in a large-scale war. When our country was invaded, their fight became our fight as well. Even back then, it was clear to all Filipinos: small though we may be, if we know that we are on the side of what is right and just, we will fight.

During that time, the damage we took was severe. It is estimated that, out of our then-population of sixteen million, more than a million Filipinos perished. Countless other Filipinos also left the country to avoid the violence and conflict. According to the records, among Allied capitals, Manila was second only to Warsaw in Poland in terms of the extent of damage taken during the war.

More than seventy years have passed since World War II ended, and our situation now is vastly different. Countries that were once on opposing sides, firing at one another, are now on the same boat. Former rivals have shaken one another’s hands, embraced each other, and said, “The conflict is over, my friend. Let us help each other.” The small colony that was flattened during the war is now freely and proudly doing its part to ensure peace and mutual progress.

And now, we have gathered here to look up at the Shrine of Valor—a reminder of just how much we recognize and appreciate the heroism of our veterans during the Second World War; a symbol recognizing their bravery and the sacrifice they went through.

Perhaps if one asks the current generation about the meaning of sacrifice, the most fitting answer would be your example. Was it not you veterans who, for the sake of our flag, charged with full resolve into danger and uncertainty? In the face of great challenge, you withstood hunger, thirst, and pain; you did not think twice about putting your lives on the line for the well-being of the majority.

Through the example you have set, the Filipino spirit remains alive today. This is why, no matter how much time passes, the State will continue to recognize your contributions. What we want: Sufficient care for our veterans and their families, enough to match their devotion to our country.

The government now has the obligation to take care of our veterans. The only problem: Many have joined the list, and have taken a share in the benefits, even if they are not true veterans. But the good news is we are now undertaking the Pensioner’s Revalidation Program. Through making certain that the names of all our surviving pensioners are truly part of the list, we have ceased giving benefits to 22,534 accounts, and have suspended 14,616 accounts. The result: we have retrieved pension remittances worth 396.61 million pesos, and this March, the number of veterans and their spouses who are receiving service from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office has reached 133,784. Now, we are making sure that every peso we give from our national coffers goes to the truly deserving.

When it comes to health, the doors to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), as well as to its other branches across the nation, remain open to veterans who need care. In fact, just for 2013, the amount of medical services given to 1,092 veterans reached 17 million pesos. On top of that, the VMMC has even expanded the scope of the benefits available to you; now, services like cataract operations, coronary angiograms, and cardiac bypasses are part of the list of services the government will pay for.

Let us now turn to the educational benefits of your dependents. Just last year, the PVAO was able to provide for the schooling of 2,059 students. And when it comes to financial aid: we were able to give up to 36,000 a year for each qualified dependent of our veterans.

As we continue to care for our veterans, so too have we continued to ensure that our soldiers in service today have the ability to fulfill their responsibilities. Should we ever need to enter battle, we cannot send our soldiers off armed only with their courage and daring. This is why we have allotted over 36 billion pesos for our AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program. From July 2010 to March 2014, we have already completed 38 projects under this Program. This includes the procurement of modern vessels and equipment that will certainly strengthen our Armed Forces. Even in this way, we will be able to lighten the weight of the responsibilities they fulfill in order to serve our country.

One example of this is the sacrifice of seven of our brave Marines, led by 1st Lieutenant Mike Pelotera, whose last designation was in Ayungin Shoal. Just think of the gravity of their sacrifice: For five months, their entire world revolved around the sea. They had almost no communication with their families; there were even times when the supplies and food they needed were blocked from reaching them. Day and night, on board the stranded BRP Sierra Madre, their dedication was anchored on keeping watch over, and safeguarding our territory. This is why, together with our veterans, soldiers like them are among those we honor today. The Filipino nation salutes all of you.

We are firm in our belief that the lessons of the past should never be forgotten. During the Second World War, a misunderstanding occurred between our countries, and we are all witness to the grim consequences of this. Today, it is clear that we are friends and partners—understanding that we are fellow citizens of humanity, with our own goals and our own fears; capable of comprehending the thinking, culture, and principles of each one; and working together to achieve the collective aspirations of our countries. In this way, we can ensure that dark chapter of our history will not repeat itself.

Throughout its history, the Philippines has undergone many trials. But each challenge we have answered has only allowed the unique Filipino spirit to grow even stronger and shine clearer. As we faced disasters that came one after the other, we showed the world that no calamity can crush the Filipino. We are today overcoming the cancer of corruption—which is why we are now recognized as a bastion of good and honest governance. We have shed our identity as the “Sick Man of Asia,” which is why we are now called a “Bright Spot” in the global economy. And on this day, on the Day of Valor, I ask all of you to join me in declaring: the Filipino will always stand for what is right.

The current generation of Filipinos is indeed fortunate: they need not look far to see and recognize true role models. From names etched in stone, to heroes whose stories did not find their way to being inscribed in books, and even to each Filipino doing his part to bring about lasting change—every single great act makes up and strengthens the identity of the Filipino people: unwavering in principle, brave, and ready to confront any challenge.

Thank you and good day."

Watch: Araw ng Kagitingan - PTV Special Coverage

Learn more about Araw ng Kagitingan and the Filipino veterans of the Second World War here.

Previous Post Next Post