Freedom march rekindles the spirit of 'bayanihan' As it commemorates fallen heroes of Bataan

In the early hours of March 16, 2024, hundreds of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), civic group representatives, descendants of World War II veterans, and various community members, gathered at the historic Kilometer Zero in Mariveles, Bataan, to embark on the poignant 160-km Freedom March.

This momentous event, organized by the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) in collaboration with the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and the Department of National Defense (DND), is a profound act of remembrance and honor, marking the 82nd anniversary of the Fall of Bataan.

The Freedom March, resuming after a hiatus, traces the actual route of the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942 and culminates at the Capas National Shrine in Tarlac. It commemorates the courage and sacrifice of World War II's Filipino and American heroes and serves as a solemn tribute to their enduring spirit.

"Eighty-two years later, we return to these hallowed grounds, not as witnesses to the sorrow and pain, but as bearers of remembrance and respect. Those WWII veterans went beyond the call of duty defending or country despite their vintage weapons and limited ammunition. They fought starvation, sickness and a well armed enemy. As they marched, they still did not think of their own, but thought about their comrades. Our presence here today honors those heroes. We walk this path to relive history, not to reopen old wounds, but to ensure that their example lives on and is passed on to the next generation." said Mike Villa-Real, PVB first vice president for marketing and communications.

Photo by AXL Powerhouse

Participants, spanning generations and backgrounds, are offered a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of heroes, engaging in a powerful educational experience that deeply connects them with this pivotal moment in history.

The Freedom March covers the route taken by approximately 76,000 POWs, transforming each step into a personal encounter with the past, and reinforcing the narratives of endurance and resilience that are foundational to our heritage.

The 2024 Freedom March extends an open invitation to the public, encouraging everyone- students, families, and local communities to join in this moving tribute. The arduous walk can be made lighter with offerings of food, water, and encouragement from passersby.

Decades ago, residents risked their own safety by throwing food and water to the starving soldiers passing by their houses.

This display not only shows the kindness of Filipinos towards strangers but also illustrates how humanity can shine even in the darkest times. Walking under the heat of the sun is no mean feat, yet this reenactment serves as a small, symbolic sacrifice compared to the unimaginable horrors our fallen heroes endured.

Through these acts of communal support, participants and onlookers alike breathe life into the timeless spirit of 'bayanihan,' demonstrating a collective memory and unwavering respect for the past.

As we come together to retrace these historic steps, we reaffirm our commitment to remembering the lessons of history. ensuring that the bravery, suffering, and ultimate sacrifice of those who came before us are never forgotten but honored and learned from, generation after generation.

At each Freedom March, we do more than remember; we pledge to uphold the values, courage, and spirit of those who walked before us, ensuring their legacy endures for generations to come.

For more information about the event, follow

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