Fall of Bataan

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


MY LATE uncle Cente loved to describe a female relative who had either eloped, got pregnant, or who rushed to marriage, “Sirender ne ing Bataan.”

Bapa Cente loves the metaphor that likens the voluntary loss of virginity to the Fall of Bataan which is being observed in certain historic sites today.

While the 9th of April was the gloomiest day for the USAFFE soldier in Bataan, it could be the most exciting experience and most memorable moment for the girl who had lost her innocence.

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If Bataan was the last bastion of freedom and democracy in the country 72 years ago, a girl’s virginity was, at that time, her most precious attribute. It was a woman’s “tanging yaman,” in the book of my uncle, a guerrilla leader in our village.

A chaste woman is indeed a rarity in today’s culture. Many a young girl, however, managed to remain “innocent” while persevering to avoid the untimely “Fall of Bataan”.

My uncle truly admired our female kin who valiantly defended their honor and chastity in the face of overwhelming odds.

Bapa Cente liked to dramatize the surrender and the harrowing events that led to the Death March while extolling the virtue of chastity.

The soldiers who perished in Bataan succumbed to malaria, dysentery, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition and starvation. The f fallen woman would suffer from disgrace, loneliness, and deprivation, the consequences of a bad relationship.

The woman who surrendered her own Bataan did so because of her illusion of happiness, misconception of love, and the allure of the enemy’s glowing promises.

If the surrenders were herded to Capas, most victims of fraudulent love ended in a virtual concentration camp. This could either be a rented room, a place in the boy’s close relative or the cramped quarters of the boy’s family abode.

The girl’s unseen enemies are neither tropical diseases nor pneumonia. After youthful passion has dried out, she begins to battle disillusionment, disaffection, and unfulfilled aspirations.

In Capas, for instance, the prisoners’ death rate rose from 20 a day to a horrendous 350 to 400 daily. Love’s death toll is endless.

I know of many nubile girls, some of them distant relatives who had eloped. They would live in their lovers’ houses which had inadequate facilities, especially for privacy. In the time of Uncle Cente, the average household members slept on the bamboo floor; plumbing was non-existent, and water for cooking was fetched at a distant well.

On this day, even as we remember our soldiers who fell by the roadside, we also recall the traumatic saga of many Pampango women who had lived a prisoner-of-war existence with unhappy and deprived lives. Like the war heroes, our women have been bruised, battered, and maltreated in a bad union.

They have endured male tyranny and alienation. The Pampango girl in love, being obedient and loving by nature, remains loyal, steadfast, and stoic under the worse circumstances.

It no joke when Bapa Cente ribbed his teenage niece who just eloped with her jobless suitor-invader, "Sirender me ing Bataan."

But the young girl wisely replied, "Masikan ya ing kalaban, Bapa."

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on April 09, 2014.

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