By Tara Yap
Thursday, April 9, is supposed to be the day a daughter honors her father, the only Filipino to have been awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor by the US government for his role in World War II. But the COVID-19 pandemic has given the 78th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, which is now commemorated as the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), a different meaning.
“Unlike the enemies my father and other heroes of World War II fought, our enemy now is unseen,” said Minerva Calugas Javier, the 78-year-old daughter of Capt. Jose C. Calugas.
Capt. Calugas of Leon town, Iloilo province was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the 1942 Battle of Bataan, where he voluntarily ran across a battle field to help besieged soldiers fire back at advancing Japanese troops.
If not for COVID-19, Minerva would have wanted to have the younger generation of Filipinos to remember the 75,000 Filipinos and Americans, including her father, who endured the Bataan Death March.
“I have given our current situation some thought. During World War II, we had soldiers willing to die for freedom. Now, we have the bravery and dedication of our doctors and nurses fighting this invisible enemy,” Minerva told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.
“Our doctors and nurses are dying and are in danger. If we really want to honor them as heroes in this time of crisis, we need to do our part and continue to stay home,” Minerva pleaded.
Like many Filipinos here and abroad, the Calugas clan has family members who are health workers and who risk their lives in the fight against COVID-19.
For Minerva, COVID-19 is a lesson in humanity.
“There should be love among people. There should be love among countries,” she said. “In this war, COVID-19 will be defeated. God will answer our prayers and we will be ok again.”