Down virtual memory lane: World War II in a click

Voltaire Tupaz
The government's online project features a sequence of historical junctures that lead to the War in the Pacific. Particular events are situated on a map complemented with corresponding relevant information.


MANILA, Philippines – A viral Youtube post once suggested that young people nowadays seem to be clueless about the story of EDSA 1. If that’s the case, how do you expect the older narrative  of World War II to remain in the memory of the so-called millennial generation?

Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the “Fall of Bataan” on Monday, April 9,, the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, launched an interactive web project “World War II in the Philippines” on April 9, 2012.

The Fall of Bataan marked the day when the invading Japanese forces conquered the Bataan Peninsula in Luzon after a fierce, prolonged battle with American and Filipino troops during World War II. The country, then a colony of the United States, was a battleground between imperialist countries, particularly Japan and the US, during the most widespread global armed conflict in the history of humanity. 

“Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy,” announced Third Lt Normando Ildefonso Reyes over the “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcast on that fateful day of April 9, 1942.

The eloquently written philippic, written by Capt Salvador P. Lopez, who eventually became a President of the University of the Philippines, is one of the highlights of the site.

Timeline map

“On this day, we recall the beginning of the Death March: after four months of standing firm, Bataan fell to the hands of the enemy. And the blood of Filipinos and Americans stained the hundred kilometers from Mariveles to San Fernando, before they were loaded into a train to be imprisoned in Capas,” President Benigno Aquino III recalled the horrific experience of the prisoners of war in his “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Valor) speech.

The tumultuous juncture in the country’s history has been chronicled in the yellowing pages of various history books. 

“We have started bringing together disparate resources and we now offer you an official history that, in its essence, is collaborative,” wrote Sasha Martinez, associate editor-in-chief of the  Presidential Communications Group publications divisions, in introducing the interactive timeline map.

The online project features a sequence of historical junctures that lead to the War in the Pacific. Particular events are situated on a map complemented with corresponding relevant information.

Noting that the “disintegration of our collective memory, which was not even as robust to begin with,” Martinez wrote that the project seeks to acquaint the present with the distant past.

“We only make familiar what should have been familiar to us in the first place. For example, Dewey Boulevard, the sweep of coast by Manila Bay, was used by the Japanese as a landing strip—it is now the Roxas Boulevard which has graced countless postcards and has long served as a go-to for weekend jaunt,”  Martinez explained.

“There is a grand narrative to our people’s acts of valor. And through the marriage of new technology and old resources, we can now chart the patterns. We can now forge a stronger memory,” Martinez added.

Comfort women

Meanwhile, the National Youth Commission (NYC), commemorating the Day of Valor, remembered  the plight of “comfort women” during the Japanese occupation.

“It is important that we appreciate their narratives of horror and humiliation – how they were abused, raped and harmed in the comfort stations.  Until now, they have not attained justice and several of them have already passed away. Let us value our history by knowing their stories,” NYC Chairman Leon Flores III said in a statement.

Nearly half a million Asian women, including Filipino women, were believed to have been forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in what was termed as ‘comfort stations’. Survivors and their families have been demanding  an  official  apology  and  legal  redress  from  Japan. [READ: Comfort women: ‘Hustisya para sa mga lola’]

Japan has not accepted historical responsibility for the lmperial Armed Force’s coercion of  young women into sexual slavery during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands during World War II.

President Aquino’s speech did not delve further into the atrocities of Japan in the past.

“The country we once considered an enemy is now a trusted friend. And the alliance we formed with the Americans who were our comrades in war has only deepened. Today, we live peacefully, and history has taught us valuable lessons: that war and violence yield no fruit, that progress cannot be achieved if we do not positively engage our neighbors,” Aquino said.

For Flores, what is important and urgent is that “our lolas know that young people are aware of the issue and are one with them in their fight for justice.” –


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