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Reflections on Bataan

Here are brief summaries and reflections on last night, written per request by the vigil's primary organizer Saffiyah Madraswala and attendee Lizzie Shen.

Sixty-six years ago today, Bataan was surrendered by Filipino and American soldiers during World War II. Over 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers marched for 3 days, covering over 60 miles in their trek to prison camps. Along the way, over 10,000 soldiers died.

Last night, Liga Filipina and AAA PC hosted a vigil to commemorate the Bataan Death March. While a solemn occasion, it was also a night to revitalize ourselves as a community. With less than 20,000 of these Filipino veterans alive today, well into their 80s and 90s, dying at the rate of 7-8 a day, students must take up the struggle for full equity now.

In 1941, 200,000-250,000 Filipino soldiers were inducted into the US Armed Forces by military order of President Roosevelt. They fought courageously throughout WWII alongside American soldiers.

On February 18, 1946 the Rescission Act deemed these soldiers’ service inactive and stripped them of their veterans’ status. Of the approximately 66 US allied countries, only the Philippines was denied full US veterans’ status.

As Riya Ortiz, member of Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (a Filipino/Filipino American youth organization based in NYC – http://ugnayan.blogspot.com/), stated at the vigil last night, the Filipino/Filipino American youth can only explain this injustice by calling it what it is: systemic racism. When the Philippines was attained by the United States (for $20 million dollars along with Cuba and Puerto Rico) at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States set out to “civilize” the natives of the Philippines and did not grant the Philippines its independence until nearly 50 years later in 1946. During this time of direct imperial rule, the US actively fought against the Filipino people who were advocating for the freedom of their country. The Filipino-American War resulted in the death of nearly 20,000 soldiers and at least 250,000 civilians.

It is with this imperialist legacy that the US passed the Rescission Act. While progress has been made in restoring Filipino Veterans’ rights, we are still advocating for full equity. In Congress, S.1315 and H.R. 760 the “Filipino Veterans Equity Act,” must be passed in order to grant pension benefits to all remaining Filipino Veterans equal to those of American Veterans.

At the vigil last night, students and community organizers linked arms and observed a moment of silence in remembrance of the horrific loss of life of the Bataan Death March. Today, we continue the struggle to restore due respect to those brave Filipino soldiers by advocating for the equity they deserve. Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop.


Wednesday night marked the sixty sixth anniversary of the surrender of Bataan by Filipino and American soldiers. As I learned that night, the Bataan Death March has not been recorded in American textbooks.

To send people to war is to bring them one step closer to death. Over 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers marched for 3 days, covering over 60 miles in their trek to prison camps. Along the way, over 10,000 soldiers died. Filipino soldiers fought for the US and their valor, strength and honor should be, and need to be recognized as such. And yet the US government chooses not to do so: the Filipino Veterans Equity Act has not been passed. Out of a total of 66 countries that fought on behalf of the US in World War II, only the Philippines has not been acknowledged. All of these things are evidence of systemic racism, and to deprive people of their rights is something we are so quick to condemn, but as Bataan shows, is still in existence today.

The men who fought did not die in vain. It is crucial as a community we step up, and unite by our concern. Hopefully, more events will be held on this campus to promote positive action. While many veterans have died, some 20,000 live on, and the onus is on us to try and help them. Perhaps the US government will wait until all the veterans are dead, and then ignore the violation of rights completely. This should not be something that only interests a particular group of people, or concerns those directly related. As Saffiyah said, these veterans are our grandfathers; they fought so we could live in a better world.

While the vigil was to commemorate, it was also to educate. The more people learn about the atrocities humans inflict upon each other, perhaps the greater consideration we will take for one another. After all, at the end of the day, we are human, and the harm we inflict upon each other is what will some day be read in our children's textbooks. Although like in the case of Bataan, perhaps not.



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