Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Army Kicks Off Araw ng Kagitingan and Philippine Veterans Week Celebration

FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City- The Philippine Army participated in the week-long commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan and Philippine Veterans Week, which commenced early morning today, April 4, Wednesday.

The Army Spokesperson, Major Harold Cabunoc, said that the celebration is in pursuant to the Executive Order 203 designating April 9 of every year as“Araw ng Kagitingan” and Presidential Proclamation No. 466 declaring April 5-11 of every year as the “Philippine Veterans Week.”

Army Chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T Bautista led the Sunrise Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUKS) at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, at 6 a.m. here, to kick-off the Philippine Veterans Week.

The attendees during the activity include the officials and members of the military, the different government branches and media practitioners.

In his speech, Bautista praised the veterans for their invaluable contributions to the country.

“We look back to the heroism of our forebearrs. Today’s and the following days’ activities make us witnesses to history and inspire us as well as our children with the change of history that the nation obtained from the priceless sacrifice of our veterans. Some of these veterans have passed on and yet their patriotism and heroic legacy live on,” he said.

A floral offering immediately followed right after the short program which was participated by the members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, Girl Scout of the Philippines, Boy Scout of the Philippines, and other government branches.

The Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, also led the wreath laying ceremony which was culminated by a flower drop during which red rose petals were scattered from the air by a buzzing Huey chopper, to the delight of many attendees.

Gazmin also imparted the importance of this event as he is in fact a son of a veteran who shares the same feelings as that of other patriots’ sons and daughters.

“We are here to salute all of them for their selfless devotion to the cause of freedom, so that to this day we continue to live as proud people in the world of humanity. I am full of confidence that by their example, we shall be true to our theme “Beterano: Tagasulong ng Tunay at Walang Humpay na Pagbabago,” said Gazmin, whose father was among the survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March.

Salute to Filipino Veterans

At 9:00 a.m., the veterans and their widows, guests, and visitors flocked to the Hunters ROTC Guerilla Field to witness the Testimonial Review in Honor of the Veterans, with this year’s theme being “Veterans: Catalyst of Genuine and Lasting Change”.

The program commenced with a parade of troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines contingents composed of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force led by the Troop Commander Brig Gen Fred M Payawan.

Gracing the event are Lt Gen Reynaldo V Mapagu, AFP Vice Chief of Staff; Hon Gregorio A Tingson, Commissioner-at-Large of the National Youth Commission; Retired Gen Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office; and Hon Sigfrido R Tiñga, Representative, 2ndDistrict of Taguig City as the Guest of Honor.

This annual event is the remembrance of the gallantry of the Filipino veterans who are instruments in obtaining the freedom that we all enjoy today.

It is a sight so moving to see the veterans, despite their wobbly knees, still nifty and religiously attend the rites while their wrinkled eyes scream undying patriotism.

Cong Tiñga in his speech highly regarded the veterans for we owe them our lives and future.

“One message I want to share to the Filipino people today, don’t be afraid. The veterans fought in times of darkness, time when our country is in utter woe, but the message then and the message today is one and the same. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what is right. Don’t be afraid to be different,” he added.

Retired Col Frisco F San Juan, the Supremo of the Hunters ROTC Guerilla, delivered a reply on behalf of the veterans.

“More than half a century ago, this field is not a beautiful parade ground, 67 years ago it was not a manicured yard of a golf course, it was a battlefield of war. The freedom fighters before have fought lacking military provisions, they have no salaries, no pensions to talk about just purely sacrifice to win freedom for the country.”

The parade was highlighted by the traditional review of the troops wherein 10 ‘white carabaos’ (military parade vehicles) carried able-bodied veterans in reviewing the formation of troops who stood ramrod straight in honor of their war-heroes.

The Concluding Activities

This year will be the 70th year of the Araw ng Kagitingan and its official commemoration will be on April 9 at the Dambana ng Kagitingan , also known as Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan. The solemn activity will be presided by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

A wreath-laying activity will be held wherein Ambassadors Harry K. Thomas Jr. of the United States and Toshinao Urabe of Japan will be the main participants.

The veterans and their families are also expected to flock towards the shrine to relive the memories of their comrades and loved ones who have already perished.

On April 7, a tribute to all Filipino heroes will be presided by the Philippine Veterans Affairs office (PVAO) in Corregidor Island.

Moreover, a commemoration of the Death March will also be held in Capas, Tarlac on the 10th of April.

To conclude the week-long celebration, there will be a sunset ceremony on April 11 also at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

With the celebration of the Philippine Veterans Week and Araw ng Kagitingan, the Philippine Army intends to pay tribute to our war veterans and our hero soldiers who had honorably fought for our country with their precious lives and have gifted the Filipinos of today this treasured freedom and democracy. 

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