Retracing the Death March trail
On April 9, 1942, more than 78,000 Filipino and American USAFFE soldiers surrendered in Bataan to the Japanese Imperial Army after a gallant last stand during World War 2.
The prisoners of war were gathered in Mariveles and Pilar to take on the infamous Death March where they were forced to walk 88 kilometers to San Fernando, Pampanga under the sweltering heat of the sub. From there, they were loaded onto jampacked freight trains to Capas, Tarlac.
From the train station, they were forced to walk another seven kilometers to Camp O’Donell where they were imprisoned until 1945. Only 54,000 reached the concentration camp, as some 10,000 died or were killed along the way in what is regarded as among history worst war crimes. Thousands more subsequently died due to famine, diseases, and poor sanitation.
Freedom-loving groups have joined hands to relive the uncommon valor of the country’s defenders during this fateful event with a unique run-ride-march for a cause.
Dubbed Mariveles-San Fernando-Capas Freedom Trail set on March 24 to 25, the commemorative march integrates three previously independent events—the Bataan Death March Freedom Trail Relay, the Freedom Ride, and the Capas Freedom March.
The Trail is among the highlights of the Philippine Veterans Week observance which culminates with the 76th Araw ng Kagitingan rites on April 9. Themed “March for a Veteran,” the event also provides a seamless connection among the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, and Tarlac where the march passed through.
Bataan Death March Freedom Trail Relay is an 8-man ultra run relay, while Freedom Ride is a big bike tour which will both commence at the Death March Km 0 in Mariveles on March 24.
Some of the participants will carry 10-pound rucksacks containing useful food items and relief goods for victims of calamities.
Both events will converge on March 26 at the Capas People’s Park for the final leg—the Capas Freedom March, an 11-kilometer walk spearheaded by the Automobile Association Philippines and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.
Co-presented by the Department of Tourism and the Tourisms Promotion Board in partnership with the Province of Tarlac and the Municipality of Capas, the CFM will end at the Capas National Shrine for the commemorative program with former president Fidel Ramos as guest of honor.
Proceeds of the CFM will go the construction of the Capas Concentration Camp Replica.