Marikorea: Marikina’s Korean War Memorial

Apart from the recent US Presidential Elections, another hot topic these days is the controversy behind the Supreme Court decision and the sudden burial of the late and controversial President Ferdinand Marcos. And it bears repeating here that the Urban Roamer is and will not be a venue to make an opinion on a highly-charged political issue like this one, so don’t even try your luck. Nevertheless, this issue provides an opportunity to write something today about valor, forgotten valor in this particular case.

This story of forgotten valor takes us today to the hilly part of Marikina called Marikina Heights where one can find a monument to revisit and remember a forgotten chapter in the Philippines’ postwar history: its participation in the Korean War that raged from 1950-1953.

The story of the country’s participation in the Korean War is something that has been touched upon in The Urban Roamer sometime back, which you can read up here. Nevertheless, this post is an opportunity to provide more context to the country’s participation in the war, which was primarily borne out of two things. One is to show support to the United Nations’ call to support the forces led by the United States in fighting the invasion by communist North Korean forces of South Korea on June 25, 1950.

The Filipino troops in action in the Korean War (image courtesy of generlada)

The Filipino troops in action in the Korean War (image courtesy of generlada)

The second factor was something close to home. At that time, the Philippines was trying to contain its own communist threat in the form of the Hukbalahap; a North Korean victory would have emboldened the Huks further and mean what many feared would be a communist takeover of the country.

One must remember that this war happened just 5 years after the war, at a time when most of the world was still reeling from the effects of World War II and the Cold War was unfolding at the same time. As such, the Philippines had meager resources  as it was still recovering from the war. Nevertheless, the country committed to send troops to participate in what was to be known as the Korean War, a participation which eventually saw about 7500 men belonging to 5 battalions of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces To Korea (PEFTOK) dispatched to defend South Korea from North Korean incursion.

In preparation for the war, the men extensively trained in the hilly terrain of what was then the town of Marikina. It’s been said that this particular choice of location was due to the fact that the terrain there was similar to the terrain they would likely encounter when they get to battle in Korea. Because of this, the men christened this particular area “Camp Marikorea,” a portmanteau of Marikina and Korea.

Today, the old Camp Marikorea is now largely a mixed development that consisted of a commercial complex and pockets of parks, offering a refuge from the chaos of the metropolis. One of these parks is the Marikina-Yeongdo Friendship Park, inaugurated in 2013 as a symbol friendship between the city and Yeongdo District, South Korea. It was a fitting choice for such a park as it was here in this area over 60 years ago where the friendship not only of the two local governments but, in a greater scale, that of the Philippines and South Korea as well.

It is also fitting that it would be in this park where one can find a monument dedicated to the gallant Filipino veterans of the Korean War called the Marikorea Monument. This 20-foot monument was actually built much earlier in 2005. It also holds the distinction of being the first structure built in honor of the Filipinos who participated in the Korean War.

While the structure is not as imposing as the Dambana ng Kagitingan monument in Bataan honoring the Filipinos who fought in World War II, particularly during the heroic stand in Mt. Samat, this memorial serves to commemorate the valor of these men who endured the hardships fighting on a foreign land for the sake of the ideals of liberty and democracy.

 

Acknowledgements as well to MarikeñoThe Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK): 1950-1955, and Bryant Ocampo

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