Daily Archives: July 28, 2013

FACLA and Philippine Town Inc Marks 11th Historic Filipinotown Day, Aug 2.

Press Release

    Filipino Community of Los Angeles (FACLA)
    July 28,2013

    FACLA and Philippine Town Inc Marks 11th Historic Filipinotown Day, Aug 2.

    Los Angeles—On August 2, 2002, the City Council of Los Angeles declared Historic Filipinotown as an official entity in the city of Los Angeles. Thus, FACLA celebrates the `11th year of the designation of Historic Filipinotown as a district honoring the contributions of Filipino-Americans in this city of United States.

    In honor of this day, the Filipino American community of Los Angeles (FACLA) and the Philippine Town Inc. the prime mover of the designation of Historic Filipinotown as a district will host and , honor this day by marking the historic day, with a celebrations in FACLA on Friday, August 2 at 5 ;00 PM.
    Awards for Community Service

    There will be a short program to commemorate the designation with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the invited guest.

    Awards

    FACLA and the PTI will also give awards to five outstanding community leaders who have greatly contributed to FACLA and the Filipino American community of Los Angeles. One of the awardees is Romy Borje, the “dean of the Filipino journalists in Los Angeles.”

    Music will be provided by Maestro Buddy Reyes/Letty Reyes and the occasion will be graced by candidates of the beauty pageant Ms. Philippines –USA.

    The dance party will follow the brief program that will last 11;00 in the evening.

    For more information please contact Claire Julian at (213)484-1527 or email at newfacla@yahoo.com or visit our website

My Dad Fought in Bataan But was Never Recognized

JFAV UPDATES
July 26, 2013

My Dad Fought in Bataan But was Never Recognized

By Romana Figueroa-Gella

MANILA, Philippines—It was with justifiable sadness that I read in the Inquirer the proud announcement by American ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. that “Pinoy vets got $214 million from the US last year,” in reference to the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Program.

My father, who passed away on June 16, 2010, at age 103, had the misfortune of being excluded from the “… more than 18,500 World War II veterans … who received a total of $214.4 million in benefits … from the United States’ Department of Veterans Affairs …” due to what I believe was a mere technicality.

Reason for denial

The official reason for the denial given by the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) based in St. Louis, Missouri, was that it “found no evidence” that my father served in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, including the recognized guerrillas, “in the service of the Armed Forces of the United States.”

That he was recognized as a war veteran by the Philippine government did not seem to count.
After this rejection, my father made a subsequent request for assistance in accessing his files, but the
NPRC wrote back that the information he requested “… was lost in the July 1973 fire that destroyed millions of records at the (NPRC).”

Since my father was already bedridden and ailing on June 15, 2010, I filed on his behalf a notice of disagreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs and enclosed additional supporting papers for his claim. The claim was again denied on December 21, 2010, as a result of my father’s death.

Losing war again

For my father and for the thousands of hapless defenders of Bataan, the denial of their claims was like fighting another war and losing again.

I remembered how, as my father was getting dressed at 4 a.m. on the day of his required personal appearance at Camp Aguinaldo, he turned to me and in all seriousness asked, “Will they laugh at me?”

I thought, what a strange question! Then I recalled his story about being ridiculed while in captivity by Japanese soldiers who were in a drunken stupor. Those dreaded war memories lodged in his subconscious have a way of flashing back when the right trigger is pulled, in this case, being “ordered” to report to a military camp.

When we got to Camp Aguinaldo, however, we were turned away because they had “ran out of numbers to give out.” We were instructed to proceed instead to the US Embassy. On reaching Roxas Boulevard, we were confronted by the pitiful sight of a queue that snaked from the far end of the Manila Bay breakwaters to the gates of the embassy. Lining up patiently were confused, white-haired and bent old men, most of them in wheelchairs, with a few determinedly standing or leaning on the shoulders of their companion.

Heart-rending scene

On our second day at the US Embassy, I watched a veteran, probably in his 80s, as he struggled with the help of a relative to step down from the sidewalk to the street. He was clutching a plastic pail. Given his age, it was not hard to surmise what the pail was for.

At their age and with all their unimaginable infirmities, it would definitely take these octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians forever to negotiate the distance from their place in the line to the closest lavatory. To this day, this heart-rending scene keeps playing back in my head.

The arduous Bataan Death March scarred my father for life and to his dying day, its horrible memories hounded and haunted him. Malaria, which he contracted in the concentration camps, and an enlarged liver brought about by poor nutrition and the lack of potable water, did irreparable damage to his body. Psychological injuries, meanwhile, battered down his spirit.

Daily ration of ‘kangkong’

As prisoners of war (POWs), my father recounted how they subsisted on a daily ration of kangkong (swamp cabbage) leaves and a thin slice of beef swimming by its lonesome in a cauldron of what looked like pig swill. This was on a good day when their captors were feeling “benevolent.” The POWs were also made to dig with their bare hands trenches for the five to seven corpses a day, under the scorching heat of the sun or in drenching rain. Some had to run and catch a cow for the officers’ meal.

The long march from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac, rendered the prisoners exhausted beyond human endurance. So as night fell, they lay down to sleep wherever darkness caught up with them. There were times when they woke next to a dead comrade. But there were also times when the Japanese guards were not looking, that a handful of them managed to break away from the group, running to the bushes or taking refuge in houses of Filipino sympathizers before eventually escaping to freedom.

Unfortunately, others were not as lucky and were shot on sight. My father chose to stick it out to the end, not knowing what fate awaited him.

No sanitary facilities

Since my father was a medic in the Air Corps, he was made to attend to dysentery patients with no sanitary facilities. One time, he ministered to a fellow soldier who was so sick that he practically swam in his own feces. The monstrous health problems brought about by improvised and hastily dug latrines that were left open and which served as breeding ground for flies, were compounded by the utter lack of a decent water supply.

In our family’s genealogical tree record aptly entitled Arbol, my father proudly wrote: “I wish to be remembered as somebody who has contributed his bit to the defense of the Fatherland, being a member of the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East) of the Second World War.”

Sadly, my father died without him being remembered as such.

Pittance for unsung heroes

It has been said that of all the virtues, gratitude has the shortest memory. If one may ask, who owes a debt of gratitude to whom in the battle waged against the enemies of freedom? Is there a price tag on gratitude? I

Indeed, what is the $9,000 for, this sum being promised to every Filipino war veteran? Isn’t it a pittance of a recompense for all the cruelties that these unsung heroes suffered?

Today, as we revisit the memories of World War II and recall once more the denial of claims for benefits among Filipino war veterans, we sadly realize that as in the Death March, these soldiers have lost another battle.

It is a battle for what was justly and rightfully theirs, a battle fought with absolute determination for what seemed like an eternity. It is a battle of attrition that, sadly, was lost not in the battlefield but in the confines of air-conditioned rooms and through the callousness of bureaucratic rigmarole.

My father, the late Maj. Ramon Guerrero Figueroa, was a bona fide veteran of the infamous Bataan Death March, and an enlisted Captain of the 54th Infantry Regiment, 5th Military District, under the command of Lt. Col. L.P. Lapuz.

( The 54th Rgmt fought bracely in Bataan and held on for four months before the American generals surrendered to the Japanese.

But still they are not recognized as America’s Veterans. What a shame to America! -Underscoring ours )

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STRUGGLE ON, FIGHT RACISM, FIGHT FOR EQUITY AND BENEFITS FOR OUR VETERANS AND WIDOWS!

JFAV UPDATES
JFAV Statement on the 72nd USAFFE Day, July 26, 1941

    July 26, 2013

    STRUGGLE ON, FIGHT RACISM, FIGHT FOR EQUITY AND BENEFITS FOR OUR VETERANS AND WIDOWS!

    Today, we in the Filipino American community in the United States commemorate the 72nd year of Conscription Day or what they call here in the United States as USAFFE Day, July 26, 1941.

    On July 26, 1941 by an Executive Order by US President Franklin Roosevelt, the Army of the Commonwealth of the Philippines was placed under the command of the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), six months before WWII erupted.

    We call it conscription day, the day Filipinos were placed under the USAFFE and were forced to fight for America as conscripts or as soldiers of the United States armed forces. That day, the newly formed 120,000 Philippine Army, the Philippine Constabulary (PC), the newly formed Philippine Army Air Corps and naval units of the Philippine Commonwealth formed in 1935 together with the 26,000 US Army in the Philippines was formed as one integrated military unit, the USAFFE under the newly re-activated General Douglas Macarthur.

    The Largest Garrison Outside of the Mainland

    By a stroke of the pen, President Roosevelt made the Philippines as the largest US armed garrison outside of the US mainland. Whether he liked it or not, the Philippines became a magnet of Japanese attack for it was the largest garrison that blocks the Japanese expansion in the Pacific.

    No wonder the Philippines was the subject of the Japanese attack at the same tie Pearl Harbor was bombed. Japanese planes from Formosa (Now Taiwan) bombed and disabled US military bases in the Philippines including Clark Air Base, Fort McKinley, Sangley Point and major Philippine cities.

    Days after, the Japanese land forces invaded the Philippines forcing the USAFFE to retreat into a defensive pocket in Bataan and Corregidor forcing it to surrender after four months fighting on April 9, 1942. They forced the surrender of the whole Philippines after Corregidor fell on May 10, 1942.

    But even after the surrender, the Filipinos and a few American officers fought a war of resistance against Japan using guerilla troops for more than three years against the Japanese Occupation. Filipinos suffered untold hardships and brutalities under the Japanese yoke but they continued to fight for freedom until the US liberating forces came back on October 20, 1944.

    More than 500,000 Filipinos under the US force, as guerillas of independent units and under the Philippine Republic fought the liberation of the Philippines until the nation was finally liberated from Japan on September 6, 1945 after more than two years of a war for national liberation.

    Rescinded/Discriminated for Three times

    Yet, the United States only recognized 250,000 guerillas and Filipino forces under the US Army as World War II veterans. But on February 18, 1946, they rescinded this recognition by law calling their “military service as inactive for the purposed of benefits and rights’ in a racist act of discrimination.

    Again on October 2008, they passed the second rescission act by deleting the provision for SB 1315 the Equity provisions for the Filipinos or the New GI Bill of Rights of 2008 and instead gave the Filipinos a lump sum. They legalized this by inserting the lump sum provision in the Stimulus Act or the ARRA Law of 2009.

    Again, in a final act of insult, for the 3rd time, the US Senate marked up the Heller Bill , recycled it to be called Sander’s Bill or the Improved Filipino Veterans Health benefits Bill , two days before the July 26 USAFFE Day.

    This so called improved bill will “reconsider” giving benefits to 4,000 Filipino veterans who filed their appeals disregarding the Shatz Bill or the Senate version of the Filipino Fairness Act of 2013. By this act they disregarded the 20,000 denied claims of Filinos veterans and again excluded the 60,000 widows of departed Filipino Veterans.

    What a shame, what a shame, what a shame!

    The US Congress again for the third time perpetrated to the remaining 41,000 Filipino veteran and 60,000 widows the racist and discriminative fiats like the Sander’s Bill and SB 744 or the the punitive immigration law of 2013 that they wish to punish the 11 million immigrants of this nation.

    As if the US Congress is saying that we cannot get any kind of justice or equity from this legislative constitution they call “ the chapel of democracy” for racist and bigots alike.

    So today we raise our voices not to celebrate or commemorate the USAFFE Day but to gather our strength to fight on these evils of racism and discrimination we suffered at the hands of the legislative branch of this government that masquerades for equality.

    In the face of institutionalized racism and discrimination to our veterans and widows, let us gather our strength and we must FIGHT ON!!

    We made this promise to our departed and living heroes who started this struggle for equity and rights in 1993. We will fight for our community in the United States and our nation who were insulted and despised by these legislators who passed these racist laws.

    TO THE LAST VETERANS, TO THE LAST WIDOWS, WE WILL FIGHT!

    AND WE WILL WIN!!!

    Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV)
    National Committee

    July 26, 2013

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