This is what we are commemorating today

“Twenty-one lang ako noong magka-giyera. Nasa Aurora ako nung dumating yung mga Hapon. Nang ipinatawag kami ni MacArthur, nagpa-alam na ako sa mga magulang ko kasi hindi ko alam kung magkikita pa kami uli. 

“Pumunta ako ng Maynila para mag-report sa headquarters. Nung maging ‘open city’ na ang Maynila, nagpunta naman kami sa Bataan. Doon na kami inabutan ng mga Hapon. Mahirap ang buhay namin doon at kung ano-ano na lang yung kinakain namin.

“Nung sumuko kami, pinag-martsa kami papuntang Tarlac… Bago kami dumating ng Pampanga, tumakas kami. Minamalarya ako noon, pero sa awa ng Dios, nakaligtas naman ako. Yung isang kasama ko ang minalas; namatay sya habang tumatakas kami.  Lumabas na lang yung tubig sa ilong at tenga nya. Pitong araw kaming nagtatago noon, tapos tatakbo lang kami pabalik ng Tarlac sa gabi para hindi kami makita ng mga Hapon.”

Thus my grandfather shared while we were watching the video documentary “In the Hands of the Enemy” which my friend Peter, a teacher and historian based in Florida, sent me a few years ago. This is what we are commemorating today. For my grandparents.

It’s difficult to verify everything now, as only oral history has been passed on from one generation to another. Word has it that my great great grandparents were Katipuneros.  However, although Lola might not have heard of Tandang Sora’s exploits when she was in grade school days, she eventually participated in the guerrilla warfare as a nurse when Japan invaded the Philippines. Suffice it to say that her hands-on medical training was conducted without any modern equipment but only bandages, herbs and kind words to comfort the wounded and the dying.

One of these days, I’m going to scan all the pre- and post-WW2 photos that my grandmother had painstakingly saved in her photo albums. Lola (Tagalog for grandmother) kept dozens…hundreds, maybe…of photographs of years past that told so much about what life was like in those days when everything was simpler but people knew how to live well. Tom Brokaw called the World War II-era generation as his nation’s greatest, and I could probably say the same about those who witnessed and fought through the same war from here.  It’s too bad that their children and their children’s children have all but forgotten whatever progress was made when the country attempted to rebuilt itself after the war.