For most Filipinos not aware of US objectives in the Pacific Rim, its return to reclaim the Philippines from Japanese occupation through excessive bombing was an acceptable price to pay for what was thought as liberation. Some 100,000 Filipino civilians died in the retake, the business district of Manila destroyed, along with most of public utilities, factories and stores, including many of the most beautiful houses. In the Visayas, the campaign razed Cebu City to the ground.

The US entry subverted years of local resistance against Spain which culminated in the 1896 Philippine Revolution. While most of Philippines’ elite quickly capitulated to the US, the toiling Filipinos—mainly the peasants and workers and many progressive individuals from the local elite, continued their resistance.

When the first workers union the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD) was established on February 2, 1902 with Isabelo Delos Reyes as head, it declared freedom from US colonization as a main agenda aside from workers’ livelihood improvement. The call was also taken by Congreso Obrero de Filipinas, the first union federation founded in 1913 under the leadership of Crisanto Evangelista. The same was true for the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (old PKP), founded in 1930, with workers and peasants as main contingents.

After Japan captured Manila on January 2, 1942, they tried to convince the PKP leadership of their anti-US imperialism stance and that Philippine independence would be given. Refusing to collaborate, Evangelista and del Rosario were tortured and killed. Abad Santos also refused, but old and sick, was spared.

Despite the lukewarm attitude of colonial officials against the Japanese invaders, PKP-led labor and peasant unions voluntarily formed labor battalions to help organize military defences. The unions organized over 50,000 workers and peasants and put them under the command of the US Corps of Engineers. The defensive perimeter in Calumpit crossing point on the Pampanga River for instance, enabled to hold up Japanese forces while the USAFFE retreated to Bataan for the strategic position.

Rather than remaining as a limiting example of bravery of US and Filipino soldiers, the Araw ng Kagitingan should also serve as a totem pole for Filipino working people’s bravery and sacrifices, and their continuing struggle for better lives and more democratic society.


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