Defense and military officials said Filipinos from all walks of life must be able to defend the country from all forms of threats if called upon.
"As we remember our heroes, let us not forget that they put their lives on the line when they were needed and we must always prepare, just as we are doing in these exercises with our allies, for the day when our nations call us to action during disasters or when our freedom is threatened," Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson, Arsenio Andolong, said in a statement Monday, ahead of the country's commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor).
Andolong added that this year's "Araw ng Kagitingan" observance is made more meaningful as it coincides with the annual "Balikatan" exercises.
"This year's 'Balikatan' is more meaningful because it coincides with our 'Araw ng Kagitingan', which commemorates the courage and sacrifice of Filipino veterans and our Allies, who valiantly fought side-by-side to defend the Philippines during World War II," he said.
Some 4,000 Filipino, 3,500 American and 50 Australian troops are participating in the annual military maneuvers, which formally started April 1 and will end on April 12, while acting as observers are military personnel of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, said the annual "Day of Valor" observance signifies the shared sacrifices of Filipino and American troops in World War II.
"It signifies the shared sacrifices the Filipino and American soldiers during World War II. That was the start of the infamous Bataan Death March (140 km. from Bataan to Capas). Thousands died before reaching Capas, Tarlac," he said.
While honoring the sacrifices of these fallen troops, Detoyato said that Americans and Filipinos will be together again in this year's "Balikatan" exercises.
"Filipino and American soldiers will be together again in a different situation that is, delivering basic services, training together to prepare for calamities and shoulder to shoulder in the rigors of exchanging skills in anti-terrorism training and exercises," the AFP public official said.
"Times have changed, but the camarederie is still as warm as ever, exemplifying the best of military diplomacy while remembering the heroism of our forefathers who gave the best of soldiery," Detoyato pointed out.
Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said this year's "Balikatan" exercises is a good tribute to Filipino and American troops who have fallen in defense of Bataan.
"This comes as a gesture to pay tribute to the heroism and indomitable courage of Filipino and American soldier-patriots as they fought side by side, shoulder tobshoulder, against seemingly insurmountable odds," he said.
"To date, the friendship and the fight continues alongside one another in combating contemporary challenges of terrorism and in capacitating one another towards resilience to natural and human-induced disasters among other events of significance covered in the exercise," Arevalo added.
Earlier, AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said the 35th iteration of the "Balikatan" is a testament to the Philippines and US' enduring defense partnership.
"It was in this crucial moments of insurmountable odds when our forebears, the forebears of our great nation, our soldiers have truly embodied, understood and experienced the real meaning of 'Balikatan', carrying the load together on our shoulder, however heavy the load, however huge the obstacle, and at whatever the cost," he added.
Underequipped and meagerly supplied American and Filipino forces, fighting in the Bataan front lines, were forced to surrender on April 9, 1942 after 93 days of gallant resistance against the superior Japanese force.
Some 60,000 Filipino and American troops were made prisoners of war by the Japanese.
They were made to walk some 140 km. from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac under the scorching heat of the sun with no food and water for days in what is known the world over as the “Death March”.