ILOILO CITY – The commemoration of the 81st Araw ng Kagitingan here on Monday honored the courage of Filipino soldiers who fought during and after the Second World War (WWII).
“Every time we enter the hallowed grounds of this national shrine, we are reminded of the heroism of Filipino soldiers in those long years of suffering against the cruel invaders. Today we also honor the soldiers after WWII. We are gathered here today to honor our service, also for the valor that we have displayed in the field of combat,” said Ret. Col. Guillermo Matiling Jr. of the Sta. Barbara Veterans Post in his message during a short program held at the Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine (BMCNS) in Barangay Quintin Salas in Jaro district here.
Matiling, who served in various capacities when he was still active with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) before he retired in 1998, said he and other post-war soldiers spent years of their youth in distant places and numerous mountains fighting for the country.
“We faced death and we survived while some of our comrades fell into the ground dead,” he added.
As of March this year, there are 1,460 post-war and 25 WWII living veterans from the provinces of Panay and Guimaras, said Glen Castañares, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Iloilo in a separate interview.
Currently entombed at the BMCNS are the remains of the 152 war veterans, including General Macario Peralta, the founder and overall commander of the Free Panay Guerilla Forces, and his wife Natividad.
He said the commemoration held at the BMCNS consisting of flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies was a replication of the ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“The significance is for us to remember that although Bataan has fallen, our determination, our will to liberate our country from the Japanese Imperial Forces are still unwavering,” he said.
The tribute will culminate with a sunset ceremony at 5 p.m. consisting of floral offerings, candle lighting, and releasing of white balloons before the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers inside the BMCNS to show empathy to fallen soldiers.
The commemoration was joined by the Veteran’s Federation of the Philippines, Veterans Federation of the Philippines- Sons and Daughters Association Inc., AFP- PNP Retirees’ Association Inc., American Legion Auxiliary, and active members of the AFP, among others. (PNA)