BAGUIO CITY — An official of the country’s premier military school, Philippine Military Academy (PMA), on Tuesday underscored the heroism that the Igorots have exhibited to liberate the country from foreign invaders 77 years ago.
“General Douglas McArthur hailed a lavish praise to the men in the Cordilleras, giving credits to the soldiers as he noted that in his lifetime as a soldier, many desperate acts of courage and heroism has fallen under his observation he was then quoted saying, ‘When you tell this story, stand in tribute to the gallant Igorots’,” said Brig. Gen. Evangelista, PMA superintendent, in a message during the commemoration of the 77th “Araw ng Kagitingan”.
It was read by PMA Commandant of Cadets, Brig. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro.
“At this event, no mouth can speak and no eyes can tell how grateful all people to those veterans who fought just for our country to be liberated from those foreign conquerors and to remind everyone the spirit of heroism that should be inculcated in oneself,” Evangelista said.
Thousands of Igorot soldiers from the 66th Infantry Battalion of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL) were part of the “Death March” in Bataan and fought side by side with the Americans against the Japanese soldiers.
Evangelista said Igorot soldiers’ “bravery and skills in warfare” were recognized in one of the magazines on February 23, 1942.
“Our veterans here stand with us as we remember both the horrors and the lessons of the war along with other brave Filipino soldiers who risked their lives for the freedom we enjoy today,” he said.
“As we celebrate the victory of our 66th infantry, to the contingent of the Filipino guerillas who fought hand in hand with the United States Army liberated Tuba, Baguio and La Trinidad in 1945, may we stand for tribute to the heroes who bravely fought to win the war,” he added.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan echoed Evangelista words, in his speech during the 77th Araw ng Kagitingan celebration at the Veterans’ Park.
“Today, we commemorate and give honor to our brave Igorot soldiers who sacrificed their lives to attain democracy in this country. These people are the bravest who pledged with the final lyrics of our national anthem ‘ang mamatay ng dahil sayo’ (I will give my life for you),” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the oldest World War II veterans in Baguio, Private Epifanio Beswayan, 96, of the 66th Infantry, shared his story during the war.
Besyawan said during the war, he cannot stop crying because of homesickness but he tried to shrug it off.
He said he was just 19 years old when he was recruited and there were a lot of casualties on the side of the Filipino soldiers.
Beswayan said he was not yet ready to be a soldier but he had to reinforce the dwindling number of Filipino soldiers in the battlefront.
He said he is thankful to God that he is still alive today and prays that he would still live longer. (With reports from Aiza Caramto and Krystelle Luken Pangpangdeo, OJT/ PNA)