As in the USA, today was a holiday in the Philippines. But it was not Memorial Day. The national holiday here was Eidul Fitr.
The closest thing to American Memorial Day in Philippines would be the annual Philippine Day of Valor, celebrated every April 9th. The Day of Valor marks the 1942 surrender of Philippine and American forces to the Japanese at Bataan (which preceded the ‘Bataan death march’). It commemorates the courage, tenacity and sacrifice which eventually led to Philippine/American victory against the Japanese.
Eidul Fitr marks the end of fasting during Ramadan for Filipino Muslims. There are an estimated 6 to 10 million Muslims in this country of about 100 million mostly catholic people. The date of the holiday varies – and just happened to coincide with the US Memorial Day this year.
There were, however, Memorial Day services led by US embassy personnel today (and every Memorial Day) in the Philippines. As many as 25,000 US servicemen are buried in military cemeteries in this country – mostly casualties from World War ll.
Memorial Day in the Philippines
I happened to be bicycling past a cemetery here in Malay, Aklan on Panay island this afternoon. I noticed some people lighting graveside candles and stopped for a few minutes.
There was fighting on Panay during World War ll as US/Filipino forces liberated the country in mid-1945. In fact, an old news report said there were 574 total WWll veterans from Aklan province (part of neighboring Capiz province at that time).
There didn’t appear to be any military related grave markings where I was today. But there were some headstones with birth dates in the 1920’s. I can only imagine what it must have been like here back then; Japanese and jungle warfare. Even now, this island is very rural. And aside from touristy Boracay island there is not much development.
Walking around the cemetery I thought of my father, a Korean War-era veteran, and Ellen’s dad, a Vietnam vet, and all the other men and women who fought and died for freedom and democracy the world over. It’s because of them that we are able to be in the Philippines now and all the other countries that we have visited in the last four-and-half-years.
Hope on the holiday
Back at our small resort property tonight, some young people had a barbecue set up – just like folks in the US might do on a holiday. Hot dogs, chicken feet, fish for sale. Social distancing in effect. I had some grilled chicken intestine on a skewer – a Philippine fave, while watching the sun set.
It all reminded me that while the current coronavirus pandemic is scary, the world has certainly been through worse. And no doubt, with time and effort and tenacity, mankind will again persevere and prosper.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails, & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Memorial Day in the Philippines.”
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