During the Japanese-American war in the Philippines from December 7, 1941 to September 2, 1945, over one million Filipino lives were lost. In the one month Battle of Manila from February3 to March 3, 1945, perhaps the most devastating battle of World War II, 100,000 Filipino civilians lost their lives to the brutal savagery of the Imperial Japanese Army and the all out bombardment of Manila by the US Armed Forces. Gone were the vast number of university buildings, churches, monasteries, government and other public buildings dating back to the three hundred years of Spanish occupation. In one month, the "Pearl of the Orient," was obliterated to rubbles. The US rebuilding of Manila after the war hardly came as the rebuilding of Japan took precedent due to threats of communism from neighboring China. Japan got its cultural infrastructure back. The Philippines lost her cultural soul forever.
During the course of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, 250,000 Filipino soldiers volunteered to fight side by side with their American counterparts in the great battles of Corregidor, Leyte Gulf, Manila and the infamous Bataan Death March. As a commonwealth of the US during the war, these Filipino soldiers were promised benefits entitled to all veterans for their service and valor. However, President Harry Truman signed into law the Rescission Act of 1946, reneging on that promise, leaving those who served with nothing.
After years of countless efforts to reinstate the benefits owed these Filipino veterans during the Bush and Clinton years, President Obama finally signed the $198 million veterans package in February 23, 2009, finally granting restitution to the remaining 15,000 veterans of war. Veterans who are US citizens received $15,000 each, while non-US citizens received $9,000 each. A very small sum considering the original 250,000 veterans who served, not including benefits such as education and medical. It is not much, but Filipinos are thankful.
While admiring the beauty of the National World War II Memorial in the National Mall last week, I discovered a 17-ft. granite memorial pillar dedicated to the Philippines, alongside the 48 US states (1945), District of Columbia, territory of Alaska and the commonwealths of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In addition, I was pleased to see Philippine battle sites recognized in the memorial (pictured below). I paused, took pictures of each acknowledgment, and cherished my moment of discovery and pride.
Finally, those Filipino veterans have their rightful place in history. Maraming salamat, po.