A Salute to Bataan War Patriots on a Silver Platter
Forty four years later, in 1986 shortly after the People's Power Revolution, sportswriter and president of the San Fernando Runners Unlimited, Inc. (SAFER RUN) Ed Paez, pioneered the rediscovery of of the old death march trail of 1942. However, two years before this, ultramarathoner Max Telford of New Zealand made earlier attempts to retrace the dreaded route. True to our Filipino trait of hospitality, the Paez-led SAFER RUN tried to put up a supporting role by escorting Telford out of Cabalen country in 1985. But Telford did not want the local runners to run side-by-side with him.
Stung by the humiliating experience, Paez, a Novo Ecijano from Guimba, personally did his own historical research and interviewed original death marchers, the late Veterans Federations of the Philippines Post Commander Fortunato Cuyco and others, read books and visited historical markers to find out later that the track the New Zealander took was erroneous. He failed in his two tries to retrace the original route.
"Lumakas ang loob ko nang malamang mali siya, kaya isinulong ko na ito, na may basbas pa ng mga beterano mismo, kaya mga pinoy pa rin ang nakauna at hindi isang banyaga," said Paez.
The following year, a rag-tag band of 29 SAFER Run marathoners, with only a dump truck in tow as back-up vehicle, successfully took turns in negotiating the punishing 1942 path on April 8 and 9, 1986. The sun-baked route took them to the Bataan towns of Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Abucay, Samal, Orani, Hermosa amd part of Dinalupihan, before spending the night at Sta. Cruz, Lubao, Pampanga. The next morning, they completed their historic run after traversing the territories of Guagua and Bacolor to reach the town of San Fernando.
Today, what has began as a solemn vow to give homage to the fast dwindling war heroes, is now one of the most awaited events in the Philippine sports calendar. This unique running tradition went on and on through the years, spanning four Philippine presidents in more than two decades. Olympians Mona Sulaiman and Orly Bauzon, National Milo Marathon titlists Rey Antoque, Cresenciano Sabal and Bernardo Desamito, Jr., and Pinoy Global Runner Cesar Guarin were just few of the prominent running figures who joined this running tradition.
Now on its record 25th consecutive annual staging, the oldest, longest-running and the only privately-initiated run saluting our war heroes will hit the highways of Central Luzon again on April 8 and 9, 2010.
By walking (this time running) through the past, guiding the present via its long forgotten doors, showing the meaning of love, honor, compassion and sacrifice, sharing the secrets that enabled man not only to endure and survive and prevail makes this tradition worth running for beyond the last (man) Bataan patriot standing.