Why Retreat to a Dead End?

In the film, The Great Raid (2005) starring James Franco and Benjamin Pratt, the narrator reiterated the overwhelming Japanese invasion of the Philippines, where “U.S. forces, including 10,000 Americans and 60,000 Filipinos pulled back to the Bataan Peninsula. Without the navy to rescue them, with their backs to the sea, they were trapped.”

They were trapped. Retreating soldiers were all huddled together at Bataan and Corregidor Island and other islets. Why would the retreating Filipino and American forces retreat to a dead end? While many who do not study history and geography would be quick to judge at the merits of this “foolish” turn of events, the answer lies on these two fields—history and geography, with a little bit of wise strategy ala Zhuge Liang. 

Manila Bay, as you could see in the map above, is one of the finest harbors in the world, mainly because of its topography. Forming as a gulf, it is protected by the Bataan Peninsula and Cavite, with a slight opening in between those land masses which is the only harbor entrance of ships to the Bay from West Philippine Sea. Fleets could stay on the safe harbors of Manila Bay if defenses are set up on Bataan and Cavite. This was what precisely happened before the invasion, although the guns at the time were already outdated (circa 1920s).  The slight opening between Bataan peninsula and Cavite has Corregidor, El Fraile, and Caballo islands. All of them, at the time of the war, were fortified with guns which could fire anything that passes through the opening. Not to mention the entire opening to the Bay, from Bataan peninsula to Cavite, were filled with mines. It is therefore accurate when people say before that Manila Bay is the mouth, and Corregidor with its outlying islets are the mouth’s jagged teeth. 

This explains why even when the Japanese took Manila on January 1, 1942, they could not use the Manila Bay as the staging ground of their navy for further assault to Southeast Asia. The defenses at Bataan and Corregidor formed a barricade impeding Japanese naval ships to enter the bay and use it. Furthermore, by retreating to Bataan, the enemy would be funneled only attacking the Filipino and American forces on one side.

But then again, such a strategy was only to give more time for reinforcements—reinforcements which would never come (since the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific was crippled in the attack of Pearl Harbor). From January 2 to April 9, 1942, more than three months, the Filipino and American forces, surprisingly withstood the Japanese against all odds. 

*Map 1: Shows the route of march of the Filipino and American troops to Bataan to defend against the Japanese coming from the Lingayen Gulf.

Map 2:  The reach of defenses in the Bay shown in red, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

Map 3: Close up of the island at the Harbor Entrance to Manila Bay

*All photos belong to their respective authors.


Filipina Activist Named New Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples
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The United Nations has named Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Filipina Indigenous leader and activist, as the next UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Corpuz, a member of the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines, will be the first woman to hold this position.

Corpuz has been a leader in Indigenous issues for decades. Corpuz joined the Indigenous Peoples movement in Cordillera in the 1970s and headed the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) from 1992-1994. Corpuz lobbied before the United Nations for more than 20 years to bring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to fruition, and was the first Filipina to hold the position of chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in 2007. Corpuz cofounded Tebtebba: the Indigenous Peoples’ International Center for Policy Research and Education in 1996, and is a convener of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network.

“Vicky’s lifetime commitment and passion in her own country has been evident in the way in which she has supported the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her ability to emphasize, network, and support other Indigenous Peoples across the world as well as working collaboratively and constructively with governments globally makes her an excellent choice,” says Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.

Corpuz was chosen from 14 other candidates for the position; Corpuz herself says she is surprised she was chosen because most of the other nominees had obtained Masters or Doctoral degrees, while Corpuz holds an undergraduate nursing degree; she identifies her many years of work in the field as her best qualification for the job.

“The local Indigenous Peoples movement will have a hearing ear to their complaints and whatever is reported to me, based on strong evidence, I will reach out to the necessary authorities and actors who should address these,” says Corpuz.

Corpuz says that while she holds this position she will focus on the impact of big business, such as mining, plantations, and narco-trafficking, on the rights and land of Indigenous Peoples. Corpuz is expected to be formally appointed to the position on March 28th, the last day of the 25thsession of the UN Human Rights Council, taking place now in Geneva. Corpus follows current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, a Native American lawyer and professor who was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.


Sizzling Lomi, Inosluban, Lipa City, Batangas


The Faces of Our Kapwa.

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