To any who know enough about me, there is at least an inkling of my intense interest in the Philippines. But few know of how it all began. I am a native of Virginia, USA, the land of liberty and Presidents. Technically I was born in the fine State of Georgia. But I only stayed a few weeks after birth, until my parents made the trek north to lovely rural Virginia.
I suppose I can trace my first brush with the Asian archipelago of 7,000+ islands (Philippines, PH, or just the Phils) to elementary school. It was not at first a pleasant one. As a young student I was an avid reader. I still profess to be one, by the way – but time, responsibilities, and laziness (to be truthful) have seriously encroached on my reading. Note to self: please address this.
I digress, my apologies. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed reading and when my school held its book fair, I was first in line. The book fair was set up in the Library (appropriate), and I relished finding new books to take home and read. One of the books I grabbed did not turn out to be what I imagined. I expected a book about a Caped Crusader battling crime in Gotham City, alongside his partner the Boy Wonder. Of battles with villains, foiling sinister plots, and truth and justice prevailing over evil and crime.
To my disappointment, the title of the book I brought home was not “Batman” but rather “Bataan”!! [See below for a layman’s quick synopsis of the Battle of Bataan] For a young boy, it was disheartening to expect a crime fighting superhero and instead get a war story from before my birth. I will never know why I did not open the book and leaf through it before I bought it!
But this happy accident resulted in two things: (a) a love of military history – particularly World War II – that continues strong to this day; and (b) a fascination with the Philippines. Although this fascination has been dormant at times, the advent of social media has mushroomed it. I have met (remotely) some incredibly special people in the Philippines whom I consider friends. I am forever impressed by the faith, generous and hospitable spirit, and respect for family and elders found in these people.
Although my planned visit to the Phils has been delayed for a variety of reasons, I still look forward to the day I will land there. Perhaps not as dramatic as General Douglas MacArthur’s return to PH in Leyte (“I shall return!”), but it will be a lifelong fulfillment for me.
For now, my longing continues…
Layman’s Quick Synopsis of the Battle of Bataan
During the early part of World War II in the Pacific Theatre, the Japanese empire conquered large masses of territory without great opposition. This was a dark time for the Allied forces, in which American and British interests were lost to Japanese Control. At the time, the Philippines was a protectorate/possession of the United States. General MacArthur served as the American Commander. During the battle for Bataan, Filipino and American soldiers bravely fought the Japanese invaders. MacArthur and the remaining forces were forced to the island stronghold of Corregidor, where they held out until a few (including the General) were evacuated. Hence the “I shall return” quote. The ruthless Japanese marched the Allied prisoners across the Bataan peninsula in what is now known as the Bataan Death March, during which thousands perished from heat, exhaustion, disease, or the brutality of the occupiers.