The US government on Monday honored 40 Filipino war veterans with the US Congressional Gold Medal for their service and sacrifice during World War II.
The award, the highest civilian honor conferred by the US Congress, was given to 19 living veterans. Twenty-one veterans were honored posthumously.
US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission John Law, assisted by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator and Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, handed out bronze replicas of the award to the veterans at a ceremony held at Camp Aguinaldo.
The 19 living awardees are:
- Staff Sergeant Alberto Galarpe, 90
- Colonel Francisco San Miguel, 91
- Private Elino Evangelista, 90
- Sergeant Jose Felix Caparas, 91
- Staff Sergeant Hilario Lascota, 92
- Private Venancio Oblena, 93
- Private Elias Miranda, 93
- Private First Class Pedro De Jesus, 94
- Sergeant Enrique Lim, 94
- Private First Class Policarpio Baguisi, 94
- Private First Class Luis Mendoza, 95
- Private Wilfredo Valenzuela, 95
- Corporal Mauricio Jandomon, 96
- Sergeant Miguel Perez, 96
- Jaime Grafil, 99
- Second Lieutenant Eugenio Palileo, 100
- Private First Class Eduardo Abaya, 100
- 1st Lieutenant Alejandro De Castro, 102
- Sergeant Jose Quilatan Sr., 104
The veterans who were given posthumous awards are:
- Brigadier General Arnulfo Banez
- Colonel Artemio Alejo
- Colonel Felipe Fetalvero
- Colonel Floro Henson
- Colonel Ciceron Dela Cruz
- Colonel Jose Agdamag Jr.
- Lieutenant Colonel Leon Valencia
- Lieutenant Colonel Saturnino Silva
- Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Caballes
- Major Rafael De Leon
- Major Francisco Millena
- Captain Delfin Wenceslao Sr.
- 2nd Lieutenant Jesus Delos Santos
- 2nd Lieutenant Reynaldo Bayona
- 2nd Lieutenant Vicente Bayona
- 2nd Lieutenant Louis Pike Jalbuena
- Technical Sergeant Primo Santos
- Technical Sergeant Adriano Sagun
- Sergeant Dionisio Villanueva
- Sergeant Eufrocino Tagayuna
- Private Pedro Calleja
In his speech, Law told the awardees that "every one of you shaped the world's history for the better."
"Your stories are testaments of lasting patriotism and bravery, and they serve as an indelible reminder to all of us of the enduring friendship between the Filipino and the American people," he added.
"We salute you, we thank you... We honor your legacy, we honor your sacrifices. They have helped build a lasting peace in this part of the world," Law said.
He then thanked the PVAO and the Department of National Defense for their commitment to recognize Filipino veterans.
In his speech, Lorenzana recalled that he was personally involved in the campaign to have the Filipino veterans honored by the US Congress. It needed the approval of two-thirds of the US House of Representatives and two-thirds of the US Senate for the veterans to be bestowed the US Congressional Gold Medal.
In November 2016, the US Congress passed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act. It called for the giving of the US Congressional Gold Medal collectively to 260,000 Filipino war veterans who fought alongside American troops during WWII.
In December 2016, President Barack Obama signed the said bill into law.
“The awarding of the US Congressional Gold Medal to our veterans is a timely and admirable way of memorializing their heroism and gallantry. Their bravery and selfless sacrifice should never be forgotten,” Carolina said in his speech.
Retired Rear Admiral Vicente Agdamag, son of veteran Jose Agdamag, in his response on behalf of the awardees, thanked the US Congress and PVAO for the award.
"The US Congressional Gold Medal acknowledges the hardships and sacrifices of the Filipinos in WW2, renews the bond of special friendship and brotherhood with the US and this exceptional relationship has endured even in times of wars, peacekeeping missions, and human assistance and disaster response operations," he said.
The first awarding ceremony was held in Washington, DC in October 2017.
Another ceremony was held in September 2018 at the US Embassy in Manila, with 13 veterans receiving a bronze replica of the award.
In April this year, 10 other veterans received the award.
The PVAO was tasked to hold regional ceremonies around the country to enable veterans or their relatives to personally receive the award.
Carolina said that to date, 167 veterans have already been awarded in several ceremonies. — BM, GMA News