By Albert B. Lacanlale
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- A granddaughter of a war veteran is sharing the City Government’s enthusiasm to convert the old San Fernando Train Station in Barangay Sto Niño here into a World War II museum.
Indira Manaay Kane, descendant of a soldier who died in the hands of the Japanese soldiers at Camp O’Donnell Concentration Camp in Capas, Tarlac, said the train station is rich in history.
“Though it had been historically significant even before World War 2, it played a crucial role in the history of WWII because it is where the Death March ended, and where the hell trek to Capas, Tarlac started,” Kane said.
The train station, historical accounts say, was where Dr. Jose P. Rizal disembarked on June 27, 1892 to recruit members of the La Liga Filipina.
On April 9, 1942, Gen. Edward P. King surrendered the Luzon Force in Bataan to the 14 Imperial Army under the command of Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma. The surrendered men were ordered to gather in Mariveles, Bataan.
The Filipino and American soldiers were then forced to form columns of 100 to 400 men. These columns, guarded by Japanese soldiers, were forced to march to the train station in San Fernando, Pampanga.
The first two columns began the march on the evening of April 9 and the last column left Mariveles on April 16, 1942.
This march was to be completed in two phases: first, was from Mariveles to Balanga, Bataan; second, from Balanga to San Fernando, Pampanga.
This forced, four-to-six-day march was later memorialized by the name “Bataan Death March,” which for Filipinos and Americans symbolizes the greatest example of patriotic sacrifice, heroism and man’s inhumanity to man.
Upon arriving at the train station in Barangay Sto. Niño, the malnourished, dehydrated and diseased men collapsed from exhaustion in the area around the train station. Many citizens of San Fernando risked their lives, in full view of the Japanese, by attempting to give the Marchers food and water.
Most of the marchers ere kept in those open fields over night -- many died there. The next day, they were packed like sardines into steel box cars for their train ride to Capas, Tarlac.
Although the end of their journey was Camp O’Donell in Capas, the marching portion of the Death March ended in San Fernando.
“I believe that if we enforce that part of history in the minds of our people, we don’t only re-educate them, we are also making them aware of its importance, thus, we can get their support for this project,” Kane said, referring to the idea of housing WWII memorabilia in the train station.
Recently, the National Historical Institute (NHI) declared the train station as among the country’s protected historical sites.
“We need to develop the train station as tourists get to visit it all year round. Its preservation is a must. There are lots of WWII veterans here and abroad who are supporting this project so there is a need to make the people of Pampanga aware about it,” Kane said.