March is the third month of the year. It is the second month out of seven to have a length of 31 days. This month comes from the Latin word "Martius" or "Martius mensiswas", named after Mars, the Roman god of war. In ancient Rome, this was also the month when armed conflicts would resume after the winter months.
Tomorrow will be the last day of March for this year. But what's something special about March?
A lot of things happen every month of March. In countries with white influence, the month is regarded as Women's Role in History Month to tribute and highlight the women's notable roles in pursuing and proclaiming a change in society. This celebration is also observed in the country.
In the Philippines, then President Ferdinand Marcos assigned the month of March as the Fire Prevention Month under Proclamation 115-A due to the alarming increase of fire incidents happening across the country in this particular period. Ironically, his nemesis, former president Corazon Aquino also declared March as the Burn Prevention Month through Proclamation 320. The proclamation, signed in 1989, aims to disseminate knowledge in burn prevention and enhance education in all phases of burn care.
In the health sector, the month of March is celebrated as Rabies Awareness Month as per Executive Order No. 84, series of 1999. Every March, a massive information drive about rabies prevention and control is conducted, along with a free, mass dog vaccination campaign throughout the country.
In the finance sector, the third month of the year is observed as Tax Consciousness Month, under Proclamation No. 1239. This observation reminds taxpayers to file their income tax returns on or before the April 15 deadline set by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and avail discounts offered by the tax agency.
But aside from these celebrations, what are the significant events that we should not forget about the month of March?
Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine
On March 12, 2020, President Duterte announced a partial lockdown in Metro Manila beginning at midnight of March 15 up to April 14, limiting domestic and international travels and implementing social distancing guidelines on mass transportation.
Four days later, President Duterte expanded the lockdown to Luzon and imposed the enhanced community quarantine to combat further the effect of the continuing and widening spread of the virus. It took effect on March 17 and was supposedly scheduled to end on April 12 but extended it to April 30, and eventually on May 15 for Metro Manila, Calabarzon, most parts of Central Luzon, and other areas in Luzon that are deemed high-risk for COVID-19. On May 31, the national government downgraded the quarantine status to modified enhanced community quarantine for Metro Manila and Laguna.
The country is still under such restrictions with different phases - the general community quarantine and the modified one. These quarantine measures reached overseas publications, citing the country being placed under one of the world’s longest lockdowns. The pandemic has claimed the lives of nearly 13,000 Filipinos while the virus infected 640,000 others, despite the government’s claim of ‘excellent’ coronavirus response.
Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines
As we usually hear in the song of Yoyoy Villame, on March 16, 1521, the Philippines was “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan after leaving a land now known as Marianas Islands. After that, he befriended local leaders on the island of Limasawa, and on March 31, held the first documented Catholic Mass in the country and raised a tall cross near the shore. Magellan was about to convert the locals to Christianity. Most of the people accepted the new religion readily, but the island of Mactan resisted.
On April 27, Magellan and his men tried to conquer the Mactan natives by force. Still, Magellan was struck by a bamboo spear by Lapu-Lapu’s troops and eventually surrounded and finished him with other weapons.
By the way, 1521 is now used to settle speakership post disputes. It’s called the “Magellan Formula.”
General MacArthur escaped the Japanese-occupied Philippines
"I came through, and I shall return," those are the words uttered by General Douglas MacArthur on March 20, 1942, when he arrived in Australia after his bold escape from the Japanese-occupied Philippines.
Over the next two years, bitter fighting would allow MacArthur's promise to come true. On October 20, 1944, MacArthur landed on Leyte's shores after his troops had invaded and secured a beachhead. He then declared triumphantly: "People of the Philippines: I have returned."
The Philippines had suffered great loss of life during the Second World War, with roughly 527,000 casualties.
President Magsaysay died in a plane crash
Magsaysay's term was supposed to end on December 30, 1957, but cut short by plane trash. On March 16, 1957, President Ramon Magsaysay went to Cebu City to speak at three educational institutions. At exactly 1:15 AM of the following day, he boarded a newly reconditioned twin-engine C-47, going back to Manila.
In the early morning of March 17, the plane was reported missing. By late afternoon, newspapers had reported that the carrier had crashed on the side of Mt. Manunggal in Cebu, killing the president and 25 others while leaving journalist Nestor Mata as the sole survivor.
Several sabotage theories, planted bombs, drunk pilots, and overloading came up, but initial investigations found that technical lighting errors were to blame in the said tragedy. On the other hand, the president's namesake, Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., believes that a heavy load of mangoes caused the plane's crash carrying his father.
Isn't it that too much mangoes, and not love, will kill you?
Ozone Disco Fire Tragedy
Proclamation 115-A of Marcos was a long time ago enacted, but the worst fire tragedy in the country came. On March 18, 1996, 162 individuals, mostly graduating students, died while 93 others were severely injured in a blaze inside the Ozone Disco Club along Timog Avenue in Quezon City.
The incident started allegedly with sparks flying inside the disc jockey's booth followed by smoke which the survivors' thought was part of DJ's gimmicks. Still, the party-goers panicked when the electricity shut down and saw flames inside the area. Guests and staff got stock along the corridor as they could only open the door inwards. The security also locked the pathway because they thought there was a commotion going on.
Are you interested in this story? Read the article: How do you know when you've had enough pleasure? to know more insights about this tragedy.
Ironically, March 18 is not only the day of one of world's worst nightclub fire incidents. According to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., it is also the day when a rain of gunfire mowed Moro army recruits in the island of Corregidor after "Operation Merdeka" failed to destabilize Sabah.
The Philippines is claiming Sabah from Malaysia because the Sultan of Borneo had given the island to the Sultan of Sulu as a reward after helping quell a civil war in Brunei.
In 1967, around 135 to 180 Tausugs and Sama Muslim recruits were trained in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, and transported to Corregidor for "specialized training" through a Philippine Navy vessel. When trainees found out that they will not only be fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there, they demanded to be returned home.
It was alleged that there was only one choice to the planners, the "Jabidah Massacre".
The mandatory ROTC was repealed after the death of Mark Welson Chua
On March 18 of 2001, Mark Welson Chua's body was found floating in the Pasig River, near the Jones Bridge.
In January 2001, Chua, a cadet of Reserve Officers' Training Corps in the University of Santo Tomas, divulged his first-hand knowledge of corruption within the organization to UST's official student publication "The Varsitarian," together with fellow student Romulo Yumol. This move resulted in the relief of then-commandant Major Demy T. Tejares and his staff. Chua received death threats after his revelation.
Three days before the authorities have seen his dead body, he was supposed to meet with an agent, but he was never seen alive again. His decomposing body was discovered wrapped in a carpet, his hands and feet tied, and his face wrapped in cloth and packing tape. An autopsy report showed that sludge was seen in his lungs, indicating that he was alive when he was thrown into the river. To mislead the investigation, his abductors had pretended to demand ransom from the Chua family.
His death led to the passage of the "National Service Training Program Law", which removed the completion of mandatory ROTC as a precondition for graduation for male college students in the country.
Do you want to know what happened to the UST first-year student who died in the hands of his supposedly "fraternal brothers"? Check out The Hazing and Death of Atio Castillo episode of PH Murder Stories.
Happy Anniversary NPA
The military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People's Army (NPA), was founded on March 29, 1969, to overthrow the government through prolonged guerrilla warfare.
Although primarily a rural-based guerrilla group, the NPA has an active urban mechanism to conduct terrorism and uses city-based assassination squads. It derives most of its funding from supporters' contributions in the Philippines, Europe, and elsewhere and so-called revolutionary taxes extorted from local businesses and politicians.
Its founder Jose Maria Sison reportedly directs CPP and NPA activity from the Netherlands, where he lives in self-imposed exile.
In the past 50 years, over 50,000 Filipinos have been killed by the insurgency group, mostly military, police, and civilian people.
Birthdays of Controversial Presidents
Aside from the tragedies that happened in March, four Philippine presidents celebrate their birthdays in this particular month: they are Emilio Aguinaldo, Jose P. Laurel, Fidel V. Ramos, and of course, the sitting Rodrigo Duterte.
Emilio Aguinaldo was born on March 22, 1969 in Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), in Cavite to Carlos Aguinaldo and Trinidad Family. He was the seventh out of eight children of the couple. Aguinaldo became the first and the youngest president of the Philippines and the first president of a constitutional republic in Asia. But his tenure was tinted with controversies after being linked with Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna's death.
On the other hand, Jose Paciano Laurel was born on March 9, 1981, in Tanauan, Batangas. His parents were Sotero Laurel I and Jacob Garcia. Ironically, his father had been an official in the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo. Laurel was the Second Philippine Republic president, a Japanese puppet government during World War II from 1943 to 1945. As mentioned above, an estimated 527,000 Filipino had been killed during the Japanese occupation in the country.
Fidel V. Ramos, meanwhile, was born on March 18, 1928, in Lingayen, Pangasinan. His father, Narciso Ramos, was a lawyer and a government official, while her mother, Angela Valdez, was an educator and a woman suffragette. Ramos served as the 12th president from 1992 to 1998. The one who enabled Marcos before being his constabulary vice chief also enabled a Marcos legacy: the death penalty. In 1992, Ramos signed a bill that retired capital punishment with the electric chair. However, the previously used chair was destroyed before his assumption and instead adopted lethal injection.
And finally, Rodrigo Duterte, the president who will not take the Sinovac vaccine because he celebrated recently his 76th birthday. Duterte was born on March 28, 1945, in Maasin, Southern Leyte, with Chinese roots. His father was Cebuano Lawyer Vicente Duterte, and his mother was teacher Soledad Duterte. Duterte is the 15th president of the Philippines and the first from Mindanao to hold office. However, Duterte became more prominent with his war on drugs campaign that took 6,011 lives since his office assumption.
We are talking about murders, aren't we?
Do you want to know the case that brought the controversial war on drugs on its demeanist point? Check out the Abduction and Killing of Jee Ick-Joo episodes of PH Murder Stories.
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