Marathoners to trace Death March anew but now with religious twist

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Marathoners who will again retrace the path of the infamous Death March during World War II from Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac have added a spiritual dimension to their annual historic event which is now on its 24th year.

    Unlike the Filipinos and Americans who were killed with bayonet thrusts for failing to catch up with the Death March 67 years ago, the marathoners look up forward to doing a “visita iglesia” or church prayer visit at the famous San Guillermo church in Bacolor as part of their marathon slated on April 14 and 15.

    Ed Paez, founder of the San Fernando Runners Unlimited (Safer Run), said the marathon dubbed the 24th Araw ng Kagitingan Ultra Marathon will again be a “tribute to World War II veterans”.

    “At the church, the runners will pray for unity, peace and deliverance from all troubles facing the country and the world,” he said.

    Paez noted that his group’s marathon “is the longest-running, oldest and the only privately-initiated tribute run for Bataan war patriots”, adding “we started it after the 1986 People Power revolution,” he said.

    Paez said the marathon is a 114-kilometer relay-run that will again “retrace the dreaded Death March route from Kilometer Post 0 Marker in Mariveles, Bataan at 10 a.m. on April 14.”

    The opening rites, he said, will feature a five-meter walk with the so-called “heroes portion” to be led by actual survivors of the Death March led by war veteran Abelardo Regala.

    Paez said Regala will light the marathon torch then give it to Mariveles Mayor Jesse Concepcion who, in turn, would turn it over to Paez to launch the two-day run.

    “The runners from Safer Run, Philippine Army Special Services Unit & Light Armor Division, City of Sta. Rosa Runners, Tarlac City Running Club, Caloocan North Runners Club, RunCPI and Kalayaan Riders, will be passing through Balanga City and eight towns in Bataan, stay overnight at the Lubao, Pampanga municipal gym with Mayor Dennis Pineda and his mother, former provincial Board Member Lilia Pineda rolling the traditional red carpet,” he said.

    Paez also said “the Bataan-Pampanga phase will end at the Death March Shrine near the City of San Fernando’s railway station with Mayor Oscar Rodriguez and local officials joining the living veterans, headed by Eleuterio Mercado and the ultra-marathoners in another ‘Walk with the Heroes’ portion”.

    After a simple closing rites, the runners will board their back-up vehicles to the Capas railway station in Tarlac, where they will run the remaining 12 kilometer spread to Camp O’Donnell where the marchers, 67 years ago, were jailed.

    “Capas Mayor Rey Catacutan will lead the closing ceremony at this solemn place, now known as Capas National Shrine, with the lighting of an urn by the symbolic torch brought by the runners from Mariveles, Bataan,” Paez added.

    The actual Death March lasted for six says after Japanese forces captured Bataan. It was estimated that some 72,000 Filipinos and Americans were forced into it. Some historians said that only about 54,000 of them reached Camp O’Donnel alive, indicating that two out of every seven marchers died or had been killed during the march.

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