Igorot World War II veterans (from l-r) Esteban Esco, Epifanio Beswayan, and Tuacan Baryan were present at the 77th Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration at the Veterans Park in Baguio City. Credits to RMC PIA-CAR

The Philippines honored its Igorot war heroes as the country observed its 77th “Araw ng Kagitingan” or Day of Valor in Baguio City on April 9.

The city government of Baguio spearheaded the “Araw ng Kagitingan” commemoration held at the Veterans Park as part of the nationwide events honoring the nation’s freedom fighters during World War II which included the awarding of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal to veterans in Bataan.

Three surviving World War II veterans were present during the occasion – Epifanio Beswayan, 96 years old; Tuacan Baryan, 98, and Esteban Esco, 94.

Thousands of Igorot soldiers belonging to the the 66th Infantry Battalion of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL) were part of the “Death March” in Bataan and fought side by side with the Americans against the Japanese soldiers.

Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan said that Filipinos should remember and give due respect and honor to the great soldiers who sacrificed their own lives to ensure that peace and freedom would be attained in the country.

“Today, we commemorate and give honor to our brave Igorot soldiers who sacrificed their lives to attain democracy in this country. These people are the bravest who pledged with the final lyrics of our national anthem ‘ang mamatay ng dahil sayo (to die for you),’ “he said in a PIA report.

“As we celebrate the victory of our 66th Infantry, to the contingent of the Filipino guerillas who fought hand in hand with the United States Army that liberated Tuba, Baguio and La Trinidad in 1945, may we stand for tribute to the heroes who bravely fought to win the war,” Brigadier General Ronnie Evangelista, Philippine Military Academy Superintendent, stated in a message read by PMA Commandant of Cadets BGen. Bartolome Bacaro.

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