In Capas, trees become tribute to heroes of war
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—There are no marble slabs or crosses to represent the fallen soldiers at the Capas National Shrine in Tarlac.
Visitors will instead find trees—31,000 planted out of a target 76,000 trees—which represent the 25,000 Filipinos and 6,000 Americans who died during the Death March from Bataan to Pampanga in April 1942.
The mini-forest dominated by narra trees is the “government’s way of honoring the gallantry of World War II veterans and on instilling love for the environment among our people,” said Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).
The soldiers continued fighting for five months even as ammunition and food supplies thinned out and malaria spread, delaying Japan’s plan to control Southeast Asia during World War II.
The Capas National Shrine stands on a 90-hectare reservation developed during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino.
In the 1980s, the bones of the dead under the Death March Monument, located at Kilometer 106 of the Manila-North Road (MacArthur Highway) in Capas town, were transferred to the shrine.
The memorial features a 73-meter high obelisk that represents peace in honor of all prisoners of war who died of hunger or dehydration or who were killed during the 102-km march that ended in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga.
Many more died of starvation while crammed in train freight boxes on the way to Camp O’Donnell in Capas.
Sen. Bam Aquino led the wreath-laying rites together with Defense Undersecretary Eduardo Batac, Carolina and Ludovico Badoy, executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa also offered wreaths for Czech soldiers who fought in Bataan.
Veterans Col. Vicente Balbin, 1Lt. Candido Guiam Jr., Pvt. Macario Ilaga, Pvt. Felix Valdez and Cpl. Fortunato Villanueva were recognized in the same rites. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
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