Philippine Embassy and FilVetREP representatives walk together in honor of those who suffered in the Bataan Death March. (PH Embassy DC Photo)
WASHINGTON, D.C.— “The Philippine Embassy in the United States is honored to have been able to participate in the 2021 virtual edition of the Bataan Memorial Death March as Filipinos and Americans commemorate the bravery and heroism of all those who suffered through the Bataan Death March seventy nine years ago.”
Thus said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez in a statement on the occasion of the 32nd Bataan Memorial Death March hosted virtually by the White Sands Missile Range for the first time in the annual event’s history.
Consul General Jose Victor V. Chan-Gonzaga and Public Diplomacy Officer Darell Ann R. Artates led a small band of Embassy personnel in doing the Bataan Memorial Death March on 17 April 2021. The memorial march took place on a 14.2 mile route on the Mount Vernon Hiking and Biking Trail along the Potomac River.
Normally taking place in New Mexico, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the annual commemoration of the Bataan Death March a virtual event and so anyone could do it, anywhere, and any time between 9 and 18 April 2021.
Philippine Embassy contingent meets up with the team led by FilVetREP Regional Director and Executive Committee Member Sonny Busa at the half-way mark of the marching course. After the "salubong," the two groups finish the remaining 7.5 miles together. (PH Embassy DC Photo)
The Embassy group joined the contingent of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) led by Chairman Major General (ret.) Tony Taguba, Regional Director Sonny Busa, and Executive Secretary Jon Melegrito, together with a few other community organizations.
Aside from Consul General Chan-Gonzaga and Ms. Artates, the Embassy team was also composed of representatives from the Consular Section (Bess Assidao, Mylo Fausto, Chester Semaña), Political Section (Renz Tabil), Economic Section (Avela Semaña), Defense & Armed Forces Attache’s Office (IS1 Oliver Carbonell, T/Sgt. John Adam Florino), and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Assistant Labor Attaché Marie Josephine Borromeo, Eliza Lucido, Meriam Nicolas, Jeane Reyes-Mendoza).
“It was truly an honor for us who serve in the frontlines of Philippine diplomacy to take each and every step today in remembering and celebrating all those who sacrificed so much for our freedom during World War II,” Consul General Chan-Gonzaga said after the event.
“It was an honor and privilege to march with the Philippine Embassy contingent. The ‘salubong’ with the local Filipino-American team was symbolic on many levels. The ties between the United States and the Philippines are strong, and will always be owing to dedicated professionals assigned at the Embassy here in the Nation’s capital,” Director Sonny Busa also said in a statement on Facebook after the event.
FilVetREP Regional Director Sonny Busa (left) and Consul General Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga (right) lead their contingents during the Bataan Memorial Death March on 17 April 2021. (PH Embassy Photo)
Other Embassy personnel who were unable to join the march likewise participated in the cause through generous donations by sponsoring a specific number of miles walked by the marching team in remembering and celebrating those who were in the death march. All donations will go to the FilVetREP in support of its efforts to continue raising awareness and obtaining national recognition of the wartime services of Filipino World War II soldiers to the United States and the Philippines.
“We couldn’t have done it at a more meaningful time than the 75th year of PH-US relations, and with better company than with Filipino American community leaders who do so much for kababayans, including our veterans,” Consul General Chan-Gonzaga also said, noting that the Philippines and the United States are celebrating in 2021 the 75th anniversary of the establishment of formal bilateral diplomatic relations with the theme Philippines-United States Thriving at 75.