April 9 is Day of Valor. It is more poetic in Filipino, “Araw ng Kagitingan.” It is sometimes called Bataan Day. Unfortunately, our commemoration of this important day has been reduced to thinking of it as a day of rest or vacation since it is a non-working holiday. Well, it’s good for local tourism and the economy but bad for our collective memory.
“Araw ng Kagitingan” commemorates the bravery of Filipino soldiers during World War II defending the country with the last ounce of their strength against the invading Japanese forces. It actually honors two historical events — the Fall of Bataan and the Fall of Corregidor. We used to celebrate them separately, Bataan on April 9 and Corregidor on May 6.
I have heard some people ask why we celebrate defeats. Why, the cynics ask, do we have a holiday for days when we were defeated? I think it is a misplaced and uninformed question.
First, we are honoring not the defeat itself, but the gallantry of Filipino and American soldiers who stood their ground until the final hours. We were the last country in Southeast Asia to fall to the superior Japanese military juggernaut. It took the Japanese five months before securing the Philippines.
Second, the Day of Valor also commemorates the horrific Bataan Death March where an estimated 70,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war (POWs) were forced to walk under the scorching sun by the Japanese. Historians estimate that 5,000 to 10,000 Filipino soldiers perished while traversing the 128-kilometer walk from Mariveles, Bataan, to San Fernando, Pampanga. If that is not the love of country, I do not know what is.
Third, we need to understand these “defeats” in the context of the whole Filipino resistance. Years after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the Philippines would rise up to become an independent nation in 1946. Our eventual freedom was defined by temporary setbacks and how we fought back from those adversities.
But more importantly, whether they are triumphs or defeats, we need to remember our history. These events, while they happened decades ago, form part of what we are as a people. Those defeats must be viewed as predicates to victory. Despite those downfalls, we recovered and won for ourselves our independence as a people.
Just like ordinary life, defeats are part of our path to greatness. I always tell my children that failures are as important as success. No person has ever gone through life without failing, or without falling down.
As Winston Churchill puts it more eloquently, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” This is especially true with entrepreneurs. Going into business — be it MSMEs or big business — is no guarantee of success. On the contrary, many fail on their first try.
Try to read the life of some of the most successful entrepreneurs and you will discover that what made their achievements sweeter is the fact that they had to struggle their way to the top.
My first venture was a seafood supply business. It did well initially until one of the establishments I was supplying stopped paying me. I had to ask the owner for “meal tickets” or vouchers in order to recover.
Our history as a people is replete with triumphs and victories. But they were made more glorious and more heroic by the obstacles we had to endure. Our accomplishments as a nation is made more illustrious by the heroism of those who died.
Jose Rizal’s character Elias pointed us to the challenge at hand: “I die without seeing dawn’s light shining on my country… You, who will see it, welcome it for me… don’t forget those who fell during the nighttime.”
Let us remember.