Tarlac students relive Death March trail

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CAPAS, Tarlac: Adrian Avellera of Capas National High School was wearing a different uniform on Friday along with his classmates and they were not inside the classroom but outdoor.

The same goes for Mark Ryan Dizon of Cristo Rey High School who was sweating after their lesson on history, nationalism and physical education.

Avellera and Dizon were among at least 2,000 Capaseños, including around 1,750 other Grade 11 senior high school students, who joined the “Heroes’ Walk” trail in commemoration of the infamous 1942 Death March.

“This is a good part of our student life because our minds are being opened about the importance of history,” Avellera said.

“I never thought this (walk) was hard. I only hear this story and read in history books, and now that I experienced it I realized how hard it must have been for our forefathers who walked much longer than we did today,” Dizon, on the other hand, said in the vernacular.

The students from private and public high schools in this town were mandated to undergo six to seven kilometers walk as requisite for graduation, based on Executive Order (EO) 8 signed by Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan who led the march himself.

The EO requires the students to walk from the Death March marker in Barangay Santo Domingo to Capas National Shrine (CNS) in Barangay Cristo Rey, site of the former interment camp for around 60,000 Filipino and American soldiers who died in the hands of the Japanese during the Second World War.

The order aims to instill nationalism and patriotism among the youth, particularly students, of Capas who play a significant part in nation-building.

“The state recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being,” the EO said.

“It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs,” it added.

The “heroes’ walk” was supposed to take place last March 11 and as stated in the order that it shall be held every second Saturday of March each year, but for unknown reasons it was moved to Friday.

During the historic Death March, Filipino and US soldiers were forced to march from Santo Domingo to Cristo Rey without food or rest, beaten up mercilessly along the way, causing, many of them to die before reaching the interment camp here.

It was the last phase of their journey that began in the province of Bataan. Today, both the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Bataan and the CNS serve as the center of commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan every April 9.

Jerry M. Hernandez

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