FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City — The United States government has given the Congressional gold medal award to 29 Filipino veterans for their loyalty, valor and sacrifices in the defense of freedom and justice during World War II (WW2).
“The congressional gold medal is given to the Filipino war veterans in recognition of their dedicated service, and selfless sacrifice during the war,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, in a ceremony at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here on Saturday.
“This declaration is awarded to an individual or unit who performed outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States.,” he told veterans and their families and witnessed by hundreds of PMA cadets and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The US ambassador added that the Congressional gold medal is also the highest expression of national appreciation from the US Congress for the distinguished achievement and contribution of veterans.
Shared experience fighting the Japanese during the World War II and defeating a post-war communist rebellion further cemented the “special relationship” between the two countries, Kim said.
Santiago Busa Jr., a Filipino-American graduate at West Point and a PMA professor of Internal Relations, said the recognition will not stop in just giving medals, education component is perhaps the most important.
“Americans and Filipinos shall be taught about the sacrifice of both nations, which the medal symbolizes that is proof of the involvement of the Filipinos in WWII” he said.
The medal will serve as a reminder that this history will not be forgotten and will be forever passed on to succeeding generations, he added.
Busa is a member of a “lobby” group belonging to the Philippine Veterans Recognition and Education project that went to all the 314 Congressmen and 70 Senators of the United States to get their support for the passage of Public Act 114-265, entitled “Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act 0f 2016.”
“Public Act 114 is the law that grants the congressional medal to the Filipino veterans of World War II,” Busa said on the sidelines of the awarding ceremony.
The medal does not have an accompanying benefit. No health care or a visa or an education, but only a recognition of the WW II veteran’s sacrifice. “These guys didn’t fight for that, they fought for themselves, they fought for the country, they fought for each other but it’s also good to give them recognition,” he said.
Even if the award was given 76 years after, Busa said “now they feel that they are being appreciated after all these years.”
The veterans who received the Congressional gold medal is led by centenarian Corporal Cato Pulac of La Trinidad; Corporal Rizalino Alingbas, 95, of La Trinidad Benguet; Sergeant Angelo Andrada, 92, of Baguio City; Private Camilo Atas, 94, of Buguias, Benguet; Private First Class Mateo Bakian, 92, of Atok Benguet; Private Cosme Baltazar,94, of Kayapa Nueva Vizcaya; Private First Class Tuacan Barian, 97, of Kapangan Benguet; Private First Class Timoteo Boado, 90, of Baguio City; Private Alberto Bugtong, 93, of Itogon Benguet; Private Camilo Bugtong, 93, of Itogon Benguet; Private First Class Graciano Clavano Jr., 89, of Central Baguio City; Private Pio Doro, 92, of Kapangan Benguet; 2nd Lieutenant Wilfredo Estandian, 96, of La Trinidad Benguet; Private Pedro Hipol, 91,of Bauang La Union; Private Magno Lamsis, 94, of La Trinidad Benguet; Private Vicente Madarang, 92, of Rosario, La Union; Private Ernesto Luis, 91; Private Enrique Sobrepena Jr. of Carmona Cavite; Major Jaime Tabernero, 97, of Rosario La Union; Corporal Jose Tadifa, 97, of San Fernando City, La Union; Sergeant Jose Tiangao, 93, of Itogon Benguet; Private Garcia Wakit, 92, of Sablan Benguet; Private Salvador Yapyapan, 93, of Balaoan, La Union, and Private First Class Orlando Pimentel, 94, of Bakakeng, Baguio City.
Posthumous award was also given and received by the families of General Vicente Lim; LTC Pastor Martelino, 1Lt. Francisco Paraan and 3Lt. Jose San Juan.
One of the honored veterans, Federico Mandapat Sr. of Baguio City, represented by his son, was also recognized but was not given a medal during the ceremony as he already received his in California, USA last October 13.
The awarding, the second in a series, is just the start of the giving of the Congressional gold medal. Busa said the first batch was given to 13 veterans in a ceremony at the US Embassy in Manila and the next will be on November 13 in Lingayen, Pangasinan, then to each province in the country where the veterans are located.
“What better place to have this ceremony than the PMA where the ideals of the nation converge- the ideals of the beauty of the country- honor, integrity and courage are part of their daily existence,” Busa said.
He urged the cadets to recall history, the reason for their continued existence. Pamela Mariz Geminiano/PNA-northboundasia.com