Thursday, April 1, 2010

We invite you to walk the Death March route

The question is, would you be interested in walking the complete route of the Bataan Death March with us some day?

In early March we walked from Mariveles to Cabcaben, the first 15 kilometers of the primary Bataan Death March route. Last Friday we walked the next 25 km, from Cabcaben to Pilar. The DM route is sometimes along the National Highway, but the old road often passed further to the east, so to follow the actual route we had to stay on the parts that were labeled as the Old National Road. This takes you through Cabcaben, Limay, Orion, and Pilar, towns you would otherwise bypass nowadays.

Going between Corregidor and Bataan meant once again taking banca rides. There was a little more excitement than usual. First, the winds were stronger than typical, causing higher than usual waves. Second, we passed very near ocean freighters in both directions. These ships create two very high parallel wake waves from each side of the bow, probably at least six feet high, having a single trough maybe 10 feet deep between them. Going toward Cabcaben meant heading into the winds and waves, so the first large pair of waves hit us rather hard, and we passed through them very quickly. The second pair of waves was heading in the other direction, and once we caught up to them it took a while to climb the first one, and then slide down it. Once we were in the deep trough, we had to reach just the right speed to climb the second crest, then speed up to outrun it. We were grateful for Mang Emilio, whom we have mentioned before, who speaks very little English and is mostly deaf, but is very experienced in crossing Manila Bay in his small double-outrigger. On the return trip, it at first appeared that we would cross in front of a freighter. Then it became apparent that we were heading for a direct collision and the ship warned us twice with its fog horn to back off, which Mang Emilio decided to do, literally at the last minute.

Getting back to the Death March, walking 25 km in one day in late March in the Philippines is not an easy task. Again, we want to emphasize that there is no comparison between us –well fed, well watered, fit and healthy – and what the Japanese put the sick and starving Filipinos and Americans through 68 years ago. Nonetheless you can only get somewhat of an appreciation by actually doing it. The heat, the humidity, the hills, the stagnant creeks and rice paddy channels, the surroundings, these are things that in combination can only be experienced in this one place on earth. Our goal is to eventually walk the entire distance to Capas National Shrine, formerly Camp O’Donnell. We also want to include the secondary route, which goes from Bagac in the west to Pilar in the east of Bataan.

Our goals are twofold. First, we just want to do it. Second, we want to scout the route to look for such things as water stops, restroom availability, restaurants, and sleeping accommodations should the need or desire arise to accomplish the entire DM in one continuous trek.

We would like to find out if there is any interest in an actual Death March hiking tour. The goal would be to hike from Mariveles to Camp O’Donnell on the same roads as the DM took place. We know that a few of our readers are DM survivors, and at their ages there is no way they will ever repeat their feat in this lifetime. But a great many more of our readers are descendants or acquaintances who might have thought of what it must have been like, and maybe even thought about giving it a try. There are many considerations, including whether you are in good enough shape to walk 70 miles in five or so days in tropical conditions. There may be some who would like to walk as much as possible, but might need occasional rides. A “sag wagon” would cover this need, as well as first aid provisions and water supply.

In any case, before we spend a lot of time and energy planning for something that may never happen, we need to know if there is an interest. If so, are you interested in just walking the DM? If you have never been to the Philippines, you probably would want to spend a couple of days in Manila and on Corregidor, so let us know that as well.

For the fourth year in a row, we will be escorting Valor Tours’ Ghost Soldiers of Bataan & Hellships Memorial Tour, which begins next Monday and lasts nine days. We have 13 guests, including two WW II vets and two whose fathers were POWs here. It is too late to sign up for this year’s tour, but we highly recommend that you consider it in the future. The year 2012 will be the 70th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor, and if we have enough interest, who knows, there could be two tours, one in April for Bataan and another in May for Corregidor.

We are disappointed that this year’s tour will not include Harold “Malcolm” Amos, who has been with us the last four years, and whom Steve first met in 2002. Malcolm, who was rescued in the “Great Raid” at Cabanatuan, had to choose between the tour and the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Convention. This year’s convention is being held at the same time as our tour, which is always scheduled to include the actual anniversary dates of the beginning of the Death March. We can’t blame Malcolm for wanting to spend time with his remaining few survivor friends, and hope that maybe we can see him again next year. We are including a picture of Malcolm from last year, taken at his Death March marker, which is located only two kilometers from the entrance to the infamous Camp O’Donnell.

P.S. Today, April 1, is Marcia’s birthday (no fooling). To see the tribute to my wife of 37 years that I wrote last April, see Marcia’s email is


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