by Jewel S. Cabrera and Precious Marian A. Lacson
The 74th anniversary of the Los Baños Raid was commemorated on February 23 at the Baker Hall in the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) campus. The event, attended by 380 participants, was themed “Pagpupugay sa Kagitingan ng mga Bayani ng Bayan.”
Held annually, the activity pays tribute to the act of heroism of Filipino guerillas and American soldiers who helped liberate 2,147 allied civilian and military prisoners at the Baker Hall in UPLB campus, then an internment camp of the Japanese.
A survivor of the raid was present during the activity to share her experience. Sofia Tidon, 92, talked about what she went through in 1945 during the series of events leading to the liberation.
During her speech on what she called as “makasaysayang pangyayari” (historical event), Tidon’s message was for the raid to be remembered still in the future–“hindi dapat mawala sa ating mga isip at dapat nakatatak lagi sa ating isipan, lalo na sa mga kabataan,” she said (should not be erased from memory and etched in consciousness, especially among the youth).
Ang masasabi ko ngayon (I can now say) I am stronger than my misfortunes… Ang masasabi ko sa mga kabataan (My message to the youth), dare to be bold,” she added.
In his speech, Mayor Caesar Perez encouraged the audience—composed of high school students from different parts of Los Baños, several local officials, and UPLB representatives—to become part of change. He said that heroism is not only about sacrificing one’s life and emphasized the roles of being a responsible citizen.
UPLB Vice Chancellor Serlie B. Jamias, representing Chancellor Fernando Sanchez, Jr. said in her message that the university will preserve the historical Baker Hall and the Dambana ng Kagitingan. She assured to value the hardships of the veterans and to keep their noble sacrifices remain alive in the history and memory of UPLB and the country.
“Pwede naming ipangako na pananatilihin naming buhay sa pamamagitan ng pangangaral at pagku-kuwento sa ating mga estudyante at sa kabataan tulad po ng ating mga students ng highschool parara ho ang kasaysayan at ang kabayanihan ng nakaraan ay manatiling sariwa sa ating diwa at puso.”
(We can promise to keep alive [the spirit of heroism] through teaching and storytelling so that the youth, specially high school students, so that history and the heroism in the past may be kept alive in our minds and hearts.)
For the 75th anniversary next year, Tidon expressed her hope that consulates of the eight originating countries of the internees can be present.
This year’s commemoration was spearheaded by the Los Baños Culture History and Arts Tourism Office.