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Dec 03rd
Home Columns San Diego Happenings San Diego's Fil-Am Community to Mark Philippine Liberation Day
San Diego's Fil-Am Community to Mark Philippine Liberation Day PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Monday, 03 September 2007 09:05

There are a good number of people in our community who still have vivid memories of the life and conditions during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and still distinctly remember the day our island nation was liberated by U.S. Forces. And there are just as many different visions of this phase of Philippine history etched in the minds of those who were around at the time by the mere mention of the liberation depending, of course, on where one lived and/or where they evacuated to.

The important phase of Philippine history and World War II titled, "Commemorating the Liberation of the Philippines," will be observed on Saturday, September 8th, at the Veterans' Museum and Memorial Center (VMMC) in Balboa Park from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Council of Philippine-American Organizations (COPAO) is a principal sponsor of the event. It is open to the public and admission is free.

The opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. with the parading of the colors, an invocation, and the singing of the U.S. and the Philippines national anthems by the United Filipino American Senior Citizens of San Diego. Then there will be a presentation of the Museum’s "Baguio Flag" to the president of the local Baguio City Association, Rudy Liporada.

Historical U.S. Flag


The museum’s "Baguio Flag" by itself has historical significance. It is a tattered 48-star U.S. flag desecrated by the Japanese showing bayonet marks. It was retrieved by a Philippine Scout, put away in a sealed bamboo stalk, and brought out when Baguio was liberated. The flag is framed and on permanent display at the Museum.

Following the Baguio flag presentation is the keynote speech by Colonel Edwin Ramsey. He is followed by recollections of General Douglas MacArthur presented by David Valley, and memories of life in a POW camp by Tom Crosby.

The VMMC event is an opportunity where one can get a chance to listen and reminisce with others’ first person account of their personal experience with the Death March, Prisoner of War camp life, life under the Japanese regime, guerilla and clandestine activities paving the way for the landings of the liberation forces

Working with the planning committee for this event has been a learning experience for me. Just listening to what the principal participants have to say, I couldn’t help learning and being touched by the events surrounding the history of the different phases of the war effort against the Japanese. I have to admit that I am not a history wiz and most of the important events that occurred then were during my early grade school days. For a keynote speaker, for example, the Museum was able to line up Colonel Edwin Ramsey who commanded the guerilla units in Central Luzon during the occupation.

Living Hero

Col. Ramsey is a living hero of the battle of the Philippines. Fighting desperate rear guard action, he was personally awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action by General Jonathan Wainwright for leading the last U.S.Horse Cavalry charge at Morong, Bataan, in January 1942. After escaping when Bataan fell, the guerilla units under his command fought both the Imperial Japanese Army and the Communist Huk guerillas, and sent critical intelligence information to General Douglas MacArthur in Australia in preparation for the liberation of the Philippines.

Upon Gen. MacArthur’s return, he personally awarded Col. Ramsey the Distinguished Service Cross for his guerilla activities with the accompanying citation, "For extraordinary heroism in the Philippine Islands from 21 April 1942 to 30 April 1945."

The second half of the program will cover personal short stories by five speakers. Each speaker will give a short account of his personal first person recollection of a period in the Philippines immediately after the Japanese invasion and events preceding the liberation.

The short story segment begins with a short talk by Dr. Riz Oades, History Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University. Dr Oades will give the audience a historical overview of the Philippines and World War II.

A Bataan Death March survivor, Dr. Bill Torio, will tell his story about his participation in the Death March, his escape from his captors, and his activities with the guerillas in Northwestern Pangasinan, Philippines.

Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Bob Medina will recall his days as a young teenager during the Japanese occupation that eventually led to his joining the guerillas at the tender age of 15.

As to clandestine operations preparatory to the landings of the liberation forces, the event planning committee was able to convince 96-year old Mr. Alfredo Lim to share his stories from the time he was drafted into the Army in Berkeley, California, to his landing by submarine and working with the guerillas in Luzon.

Army Ranger Ralph Melendez, uncle of VMMC Director Ret. RADM Rod Melendez, played an important role in the liberation of the Cabanatuan POW camp. Director Melendez will talk about this aspect of his uncle’s Ranger service.

In talking with the individual speakers I found out that their eyes light up and, given the time, they can deliver a lengthy discourse for hours about their war experiences. However, because of time constraint, each speaker is only allowed about 5 minutes for their own presentation after which they can make themselves available on the museum floor after the program to answer individual questions.

When I first met Mr. Lim he seemed soft-spoken and withdrawn, not saying much unless spoken to. And then when we got to talking about World War II, he became somewhat vocal, but guarded, with Mrs. Lim filling in the missing links in his personal narration of things. But when we got to talking about the clandestine action he carried out against the Japanese forces in Central Luzon, he hesitated and clammed up. According to him he couldn’t discuss or talk more about his work because it was classified Top Secret.


"An Untold Triumph" Documentary


Although what he did happened more than sixty years ago, I was surprised by his firm belief on the matter of secrecy. I then carefully explained to Mr. Lim that the exploits of his volunteer unit from the First Filipino Regiment organized in the mainland U.S. is available online. In fact, a PBS documentary movie, "An Untold Triumph," has been produced touching on the many sacrifices endured by members of the all-Filipino regiment

A fitting part of the day’s program is the recognition of Mr. Alfredo Lim’s service to this country in addition to the many medals he had already received. VMMC Director, RADM Rod Melendez, USN, Retired, will be awarding Mr. Lim the General MacArthur Commemoration Medal.

Another interesting sidelight to the September 8th event preparation is the production of a black and white photo of official surrender of General Tomoyuki Yamashita (Tiger of Malaya), commanding general of the Japanese forces in the Philippines to General Jonathan Wainwright. The Life Magazine photo, from the collection of COPAO V.P. Fred Gallardo, was taken at the Baguio residence of the U.S. ambassador on September 3, 1945. It is a touching, graphic picture symbolizing the end of Japanese control of the Philippines.

In a commendable gesture, Fred and his wife, Cyd, had agreed to shoulder the expenses to have the surrender photo enlarged, framed, and donated to the Museum in the name of COPAO. COPAO President Rita Andrews will do the official honors of handing the photo over to VMMC Board Chairman Will Hays during the VMMC event just before the conclusion of the day’s program. # # #

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2007 01:04

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