Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, July 06, 2009

Filipino war veterans honored in Hawaii

Filipino veterans were among those honored in the United States’ July 4 celebrations in Hawaii over the weekend, online editions of Hawaiian dailies reported.

About 140 Filipino veterans, many of them in their 80s and 90s, where honored in a private reception sponsored at the Hale Koa Hotel by the Hawaiian House of Representatives’ Filipino Caucus and a local bank, reports said.

Among dignitaries present at the gathering were by Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the United States Pacific Command, and Zambales Representative Antonio Diaz, reports said.

The honorees included former guerrilla fighter Salome Calderon, 84, of Angono town, Rizal province, who was a member of a Filipino intelligence team that spied on Japanese military positions, making it easier for the Allied forces to pinpoint targets during the liberation of the Philippines.

At the team’s secret headquarters in Angono’s town proper, the then 17-year-old Calderon guarded intelligence reports to be transmitted to US General Douglas MacArthur’s staff and took care of children whose fathers left to join the guerrilla forces in the hinterlands.

“My position was not in the field, but I was always on the battle front because intelligence work is a very delicate position, because any little mistake could put lives in danger. Because of our reports, the US knew where to bomb, and that saved civilians from becoming casualties,” she was quoted as saying by the Honolulu Advertiser (www.honoluluadvertiser.com).

Another veteran, Artemio Caleda, 85, served in the advance infantry unit sent to surround the forces of Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita in Ifugao. He recounted the difficult jungle combats and how he and his comrades got sick of malaria and dysentery.

“We did it not for the benefits that were promised to us, but to defend our country. It was the US and multinational presence that made us a target, but it was up to us to defend our freedom and democracy,” he said.

The veterans each received certificates and commemorative medals from Hawaii's congressional delegation and the state legislature.

They thanked the US federal government for including long-deferred benefits payments to Filipino veterans in President Barack Obama's stimulus package but complained that many of the veterans in the US and the Philippines have yet to receive their checks after five months of waiting.

The veterans also lobbied for the passage of the proposed Family Reunification Act of 2009, set for hearings in the US Congress later this month, which would reunite veterans, who are either US citizens or residents, with their children in the Philippines who have languished for years on the visa waiting list.

Inouye and fellow Hawaiian senator Daniel Akaka are among the co-sponsors of the bill.

Of the 30,000 surviving Filipino World War II veterans, about 7,000 are US citizens residing in the US. Many have filed visa petitions for their children who remain in the Philippines.

The bill, if enacted into law, would exempt some 20,000 children of veterans from the quota on immigrant visas for humanitarian reasons.

In 1941, over 200,000 Filipinos were drafted into the United States armed forces and fought during WW II. In 1946, the US Congress passed the Rescissions Act, which authorized a $200-million appropriation to the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, provided that their service is not deemed part of the active military or air service of the United States.

It took the US Congress more than four decades to acknowledge that Filipino WW II veterans had served in the US armed forces. The Immigration Act of 1990 included a provision that offered the opportunity to obtain US citizenship.

Last February, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 (Public Law 111-5) authorized the payment of benefits to the 30,000 surviving Filipino veterans: $15,000 for US citizens and $9,000 for non-citizens. By Jerome Aning - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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