By Deedee M. Siytangco
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. —Coretta Scott King
Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.—Helen Keller
On April 9, 1942, more than 78,000 Filipino and American troops surrendered to Japan after a gallant last stand in Bataan during World War 2, in what is now known as Araw ng Kagitingan. Two days later, the USAFFE prisoners of war (POWs) from Mariveles and Bagac towns were forced to walk 88 km to the train station in San Fernando, Pampanga, where they were loaded onto freight coaches for a jampacked rough ride to Capas, Tarlac.
From the train station, they were forced to do another seven-kilometer walk to Camp O’Donell where they were incarcerated. Only 54,000 reached the concentration camp, as up to 10,000 died or were killed along the road of this Death March, regarded as one of history’s worst war crimes.
Thousands more died due to famine, diseases, and poor sanitation until they were set free during the liberation of the archipelago in 1945. This uncommon valor will be re-lived once again at the Capas Freedom March (CFM), which gathers like-minded and freedom-loving civil society groups, government agencies, the military, and the private sector to mark the fateful event.
Presented by the International School of Sustainable Tourism and Globe Telecom, the 10-km predawn walk, with the theme “March for a Veteran,” is set on April 11 from the People’s Park to the Capas National Shrine where the commemorative program will be held. Boy Scouts of the Philippines senior vice president Roberto Pagdanganan will be the guest of honor.
According to Globe Tarlac field sales channel development management Frank Rheberg, the telecom firm is taking a major role in the fourth year of the memorial march to promote a sense of patriotism among Filipinos, especially the millennials.
The Capas Freedom March was started in 2015, led by former president Fidel Ramos and ISST president Mina Gabor, the event’s project director.
The commemorative day is supported by AAP Travel, Department of Tourism-Region III,Petron, Philippine Airlines, Jeep, Anflo Management and Investment Corp. (Anflocor), and Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (TADECO).
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As One We Can.” This is the battle cry of the Ayala Foundation in its corporate goal of empowering the communities they serve. Ayala Foundation president Ruel Maranan told their partners—the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the Department of Education, local government units, presidents of partner organizations, artists, lenders, and media—that they all share a common belief: That every Filipino deserves the opportunity to live a better life. This was at the celebration of the foundation’s Partners Night at the Ayala Museum, with vice resident Leni Robredo as guest of honor and Ayala Corporation chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala as special guest.
“In our Social Development front, we gained inroads in the advocacies of community leadership, or LeadComm, and also in livelihood and education.” Maranan said, noting highlights of their programs. And in LeadComm, they added new areas like Carles and Anilao in Iloilo, Talisay and Bago city in Negros Occidental, Cagayan de Oro city, and Butuan city. The foundation also closed and turned over the Bangsamoro Young Leaders Program to the former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao officials. And the good news here is that they will soon officially discuss the establishment of the Mindanao Young Leaders Program under the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Mindanao.
Another institutionalized program, Maranan said, is Filipino Young Leaders with the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the US Embassy, Philippine Airlines, and other donors who want to make the dreams of many movers and shakers a reality.
The Ayala Foundation is also exploring more suitable livelihood initiatives in Calauan, Laguna, where they have established an ornamental plantation that provides 35 farmers—mostly women—more sustainable engagement. For this project, they partnered with Don Bosco Canlubang.
Local farmers from Lio, Palawan have been helped to supply Ayala’s hotel resort with quality rice and they will do the same in Mindoro, with the help of the DA, Seda Hotels, and the Ayala Cooperative who are addressing the needs of the farmers.
Then there is the ProFuturo program that gives access to technology and educational content nationwide, to 94 public elementary schools or at least 13,000 public school students. This, Maranan stressed, is thanks to the support of Telefonica Foundation and DepEd.
Maranan also singled out their CENTEX Program, which has been a continuous beneficiary of many kindhearted individuals and organizations, like prima ballerina Stella Abrera and the American Ballet friends. They were responsible for the success of STEPS dance studio. CENTEX Program and the Ayala Museum also conducted STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts & Mathematics) training to 1,100 teachers nationwide, sponsored by the Enrique Zobel Foundation.
“In the Arts and Culture space, our Diorama Virtual Reality Films featuring Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Emilio Aguinaldo, has been recognized in the latest Boomerang and Anvil Awards. Cheers to the IAMCardboard team,” the foundation head said with pride.
The Ayala Museum also received recognition from the Leading Cultural Destinations Awards or the deemed equivalent of the Oscars of museums for its “Bursting of Seams” exhibit.
The Ayala Foundation also launched the Maging Magiting Campaign to rekindle nationalism, with Bayang Magiting shown in all Ayala theaters. The foundation has also partnered with the NHCP, Bounty Agriculture Ventures Industry (BAVI), IMI, Generika, and Entrego to pursue a flag distribution campaign to public schools. To date, they have distributed 10,000 flags all over the country.
“To further keep the light of hope burning, we have the Istorya ng Pagasa Film Festival, now on its second year, a partnership with the Office of the Vice President,” Maranan added. To the Ayala Foundation, mabuhay! And yes, as one we can!