The towers along the Chicago River
glistened, as the sun rose, on a
refreshingly crisp Saturday morning,
April 8th, 2017. Nearby, a small
group gathered at the intersection of
State Street and Wacker Drive. Their
purpose was to remember the
fall of Bataan, and those who died and
those who were imprisoned, back in 1942,
when the Philippines were overrun by
Japanese military forces.
The remembrance is an annual observance,
in Chicago. Each year, on or
around April 9th, the Consulate
General of the Philippines, in
Chicago, hosts Araw ng Kagitingan
(Day of Valor).
This year, the remembrance was held a
day before the actual anniversary of the
surrender. As is customary, a
wreath was briefly placed under one of
three plaques that adorn the watchtower
of the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial
Bridge. After photos were taken,
the remembrance moved to the Consulate
General, which is located a few blocks
south of the bridge, on Michigan Avenue.
The Day of Valor draws individuals
from the Philippines, as well as Filipino-American communities
across the Midwest, and beyond.
They are joined by American veterans and their loved
ones, as well as local and state
officials. They all gather to pay homage to the thousands
of American and Filipino soldiers who
were trapped on the Bataan Peninsula, in
the Philippines, four months after the
Japanese Imperial forces bombed Pearl
This year, the United States Armed
Services were represented by Col.
Mark Jackson, Assistant Adjutant
Army National Guard.
Inside the Consulate General, the entry
contained a display of World War II
uniforms, worn by American service
personnel, along with other memorabilia
from the war in the Pacific. The
display was prepared by a representative
of the Philippine Scouts Heritage
Society, Sean Conejos, who
wore the top half of a uniform that
belonged to a close family friend,
Sgt. First Class, Dan Figuracion, of
the 26th Cavalry Regiment.
Conejos told the gathering that Sgt.
Figuracion, who had fought against the
invading forces, and had survived the
war, died on April 3rd, 2017, five days
before this year's Day of Valor.
After a light lunch, featuring Filipino
staff of the Philippine Consulate
General welcomed all who were in
attendance. The proceedings were
expertly conducted by Romulo Victor
M. Israel, Jr., Deputy Consul
General. During the proceedings,
the deputy consul recognized members of
various Filipino-American communities
and organizations from across the
When the Consul General, Generoso D. G. Calonge,
addressed the gathering, he
spoke with great admiration for
those who resisted the Japanese
occupation of his homeland.
He expressed his personal
appreciation for the service and
sacrifice of two
Filipino-American veterans, who
were in attendance, and had
fought in the Battle for Bataan.
The two veterans, Emilio
Garcera and Dominador
Ramirez, were commended by
nearly every speaker during the
event. Everyone in
attendance recognized that the two men
provided a direct, but fading link to all who
withstood the tyranny visited upon the
Philippines, in the spring of
day had great significance for Consul
General Calonge, in part, because it was
the last such event he will preside over
in Chicago. In August, Calonge will conclude
his assignment with the Consulate in
Chicago. At the end of
the commemoration, the Consul General
disclosed privately that the Day of
Valor will always be a personal matter
for him, because his wife is from Bataan.
The Bataan region of the Philippines
was well represented at the day's events. Among the delegation
from Bataan was a gentleman named Jose
Maria 'Joemar" Camacho, who shared with
me his personal connection to the war.
Camacho's father, a law student at
the time of the Japanese invasion,
was rounded up and imprisoned by the
Japanese, along with other law students
A torturous session left his father
paralyzed; but Camacho's father was
lucky, he survived. The
Japanese were notorious for their cruel
interrogations, many of which ended with
Camacho said he was proud to
represent the Bataan region, especially
this year, which marks the 75th
anniversary of the fall of his region.
Seventy five years is a long time; and
during the time, the special
connection, which Chicago and the
surrounding areas have with Bataan, and
the people of the Philippines, has been
forgotten by most residents of Illinois.
But, if one knows
where to look, the connection between
the Philippines and Chicagoland remains
evident and strong. There is a large
Filipino-American community in Chicago,
and in surrounding communities, which
explains the strong turnout during the
second half of the Day of Valor.
Another connection rests in the fact
that during World War II, a significant
number of young men from the Chicagoland
area were assigned to the Philippines,
and were caught up in the Battles for
Bataan and Corregidor.
Commemorations of their valor and
service are held twice a
year, in the Chicagoland area. In April,
the Philippine Consulate General hosts a
remembrance, that starts at the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial
Bridge, and is followed by a reception
at the Consulate on Michigan Avenue.
In September, the Maywood Bataan Day
Organization (MBDO), hosts a
commemoration, at Veterans Memorial
Maywood Park, in Maywood, Illinois.
Maywood is located
approximately 15 miles directly west of
downtown Chicago. The community of
Maywood lost many of its sons in the
infamous Bataan Death March; and several
mothers of the captured soldiers formed
the organization that became the Maywood
Bataan Day Organization, to
ensure their sons were not forgotten by
the nation, or its government.
This year, three members of MBDO's
board attended the April observance in
Chicago, including Edwin H. Walker, IV,
vice president of MBDO, Ed Brotonel,
and Jose R. Galarza, Jr.
The Bataan delegation expressed great
interest in working
with members of MBDO to create a
meaningful and endearing 75th commemoration
for both communities.
A key objective of the September
commemoration in Maywood is to sustain the
longstanding friendship between the people of the
Philippines and the American people.
Political leaders in both countries have
expressed interested in honoring that friendship, which has endured
for over a century.
Several American politicians sent
representatives to this year's Day of
Valor, including U.S. Congresswoman,
Jan Schakowsky. Each representative
read proclamations regarding the day. Thomas Choi, Public Engagement
Manager for Illinois Governor, Bruce
Rauner, read a
proclamation, signed by the Governor,
which recognized the importance of the
relationship between the people of the
Philippines and the people of Illinois.
The City of Chicago asked Evelyn
Rodriguez, Advisor for Neighborhood
Development and Community Engagement, to
read a proclamation from the Mayor,
expressing the City's interest in
supporting continued good relations between
Chicagoans, Filipino-Americans, and the
people of the Philippines.
Over the next few months, the MBDO
board will reach out to state and local
leaders, and others, with invitations to its
September commemoration, in Maywood.
For its part, the Village of Maywood,
under newly re-elected Mayor Edweena Perkins, is
erecting a wall of honor to enhance the
southeast corner of Veteran Memorial
Maywood Park, where the annual
commemoration is held.
As this year's Day of Valor neared its
conclusion, one of the presenters recalled
an exchange with a veteran, who had
survived the Battle of Bataan. The
veteran said of the
enduring relationship between Americans
and Filipinos, (and I am paraphrasing), "This is what I was fighting for,
and this is worth dying for."
The Day of Valor proceedings concluded
with a hearty round of applause for the
two Filipino-American gentlemen who
America, on behalf of the people of the
Philippines, on April 9, 1942, and
The MBDO Board eagerly awaits its turn to again
recognize Emilio Garcera and
Dominador Ramirez, on September 10th, in Maywood.