This column is the second part of the recount of Conrado (Sluggo) Rigor, son of the distinguished World War II war veteran, the late Conrado Rigor, a major of the USAFIP NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon), culminating the Battle of Bessang Pass that finally led to the surrender of the commanding officer of the Japanese Occupation forces, General Tomoyuki Yamashita and ended the reign of the Japanese Occupation for almost four years.
Sluggo Rigor is based in Seattle, Washington and is publisher-editor of a community newspaper.
According to Sluggo Rigor, the life and existence of Filipino war veterans in the United States among those who got repatriated and became US citizens is both pathetic and pitiful.
There are still a handful of the remaining WWII veterans in the Northwest state, but they are now in their late 90s and no longer lucid and can understand and realize what is happening to them.
The pathetic and pitiful existence of Filipino WWII veterans is replicated in California, mostly in San Francisco and also in Honolulu, where WWII veterans chose to live where it is both warm and also populated by Filipinos.
What is pathetic and pitiful is that despite its many promises. the US government took decades to fulfill its promise, especially on their promised pension plans and reunification of their families.
They are waiting for their long-promised pension and benefits.
It’s a pathetic and pitiful life for those Filipino war veterans because of unfulfilled promises of the US government.
It took decades before the aging Filipino war veterans finally got reunited with their families.
Sluggo Rigor is a war veteran’s son and is Executive Director of a non-profit special services organization based in Seattle.
He was a correspondent of the Bureau of National and Foreign Information (BNFI) and served as information attache of the Philippine Consulate General in Seattle.
Here’s the second part of Rigor’s account of aging WWII veterans.
“Today, the promised reunification of veterans’ families is bogged down in a bureaucratic maze. Scores of aging soldiers, sickly and invalid, impoverished Filipino-Americans, still waiting for their children, many granted temporary status as virtual visitors.
“The best that Uncle Sam could do for Filipino WWII veterans was to award them a one-time lump sum pension (conveniently timed with the Obama stimulus drive to jumpstart a lethargic economy).
“And only to those who were still living.
“For those who have died, even if they are listed in official rosters in U.S. military archives, their widows and families were excluded!
“To address the family issue, petitioned families waiting for visa numbers are selectively given what is known as a parole agreement.
“Parole visas renewed every three years and issued by the U.S. INS are very limited because the veterans’ children can come to the U.S. but are not allowed to hold permanent jobs.
“They must wait until their visa numbers come up before qualifying for a green card that leads to permanent residence. Which could take another decade!
“Meanwhile, if their fathers should die while waiting, the petition could be annulled. What a deal!
“The situation cries for an advocate in the U.S. Government to pick up the cudgels for the remaining aging warriors.
“It is a situation that is not known to the public, both in the U.S. and in the Philippines. Amidst all the glorious medal-awarding ceremonies, we hope the old soldiers’ supporters can take another serious look at this sad situation.”
“U.S.-based Filipino WWII advocacy groups like the FilVetREP are doing an admirable job at drawing attention to heretofore unknown fragments in the continuing saga of the forgotten warriors.
“When the medal awarding ceremonies are over, the next sequel will be an educational program to perpetuate the sacrifices and valor of the Filipino soldiers in WWII.
“Among the supportive organizations proposing to fund a Professional (sic) Chair in the University of the Philippines’ Department of History is the Beta Sigma Fraternity of the Pacific Northwest.
“Fraternity officers have met with Prof. Rico Jose in Diliman, Quezon City to propose an academic research and Professional (sic) Chair to study the role of Filipino soldiers in helping win the Pacific War.
“Because that part of our history is a personal matter to me and my siblings, I have immersed myself in research and advocacy work even before I migrated to the U.S.
“All gone now – my father, my father-in-law, two of my brothers brothers, and three uncles – were soldiers who fought in WWII.
“In my youth, growing up in old Camp Murphy and then at historic Ft. William McKinley in Taguig with fellow army brats (children of Philippine military officers), I was a member of the Sons & Daughters of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (DBC) which was envisioned by General Dionisio Ojeda to be a generation of caretakers of our fathers’ legacies.”
“My father’s comrades had shared awesome tales about the war and lamented how pitifully lacking post-war records are in mentioning the role of the Filipino soldier in crucial encounters and bloody battles against the enemy.
“They were disappointed to discover that After-Battle Reports on military operations in the Philippines were based mainly on American records, viewpoints and writings.
“There were hardly any wartime reports from Filipino sources.
“It was explained the country was under the Japanese for three long years and operations were conducted underground.
“It was foolish, they reasoned, to have maintained paperwork in that situation.
“Other Filipino officers held the view that WWII happened at a time when racial prejudice was raging in the U.S. and Filipino soldiers were condescendingly looked upon as the Little Brown Brothers.
“Service records do show that Filipinos recruited in the U.S. were assigned as ammo carriers, airplane cleaners, latrine and kitchen crews, bootblacks, battleship rust scarpers, utility and laundry aides.
“Contrary to dramatized post-war tales, there were few who saw actual combat.
“In the Philippines, young men in their 20s recruited by General MacArthur to form the Commonwealth Army bore the brunt in defending the country from the invading Japanese.
“Filipino historians and academic researchers should help establish true accounts of WWII in the Philippines from oral and written testimonies.
“The book written by U.S. Army Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, ‘We Remained,’” is considered a classic tweak to General Douglas MacArthur’s ‘I Shall Return’” promise but records true accounts of the war.”
“Generations of Filipinos and the youth in schools must be able to read true accounts of how their forebears sacrificed for the cause of freedom in the Pacific War.
“Seven decades later, Filipinos must memorialize genuine accounts of that war – especially in operations where Filipino soldiers wrapped themselves in glory and uncommon valor, thousands paying the ultimate price.
“Accounts about brave, selfless Filipino men and women, written by Filipinos for Filipinos should be a guiding element.
“Because war accounts can hold many truths, it is our solemn duty as a people to be discerning, to set apart what is genuinely ours. We must distinguish the deeds of others from those that rightfully belong to Filipino patriots.”
What was not written about post-war guerillas was the aftermath when the US government granted backpay to those who fought the Japanese after the surrender of Commonwealth soldiers after the surrender of Bataan and Corregidor.
This gave rise to many fake guerilla organizations.
Believe it or not, my eldest brother Desi, who later became an associate justice of the Court of Appeals and was declared a hero at the Battle of Bessang Pass against the remaining Japanese that retreated to the Cordilleras after the “Rape of Manila” when American forces liberated the city, said, and I quote, “Why should I get paid fighting for my country.”
It was 1945 when my brothers took me to Camp Spencer in Luna, La Union, where I first met the late Ferdinand E. Marcos, then a major and also Major Conrado Rigor, Sr., who was then the commanding officer and Battalion commander of the USAFIP-NL under then Col. Russel Volkman.
As Sluggo Rigor lamented, unfortunately, there was not much to read about the guerrilla movement because historians and researchers did not bother to find heroic deeds on Filipino warriors of freedom.