by Mike Baños
Veterans organizations plan to set up a monument recalling the unity of Filipinos during World War II in Mindanao.
The plan was disclosed following Liceo de Cagayan University President Dr. Alain Marc P. Golez welcome address where he saluted the Mindanao Guerrillas Exhibit honoring USAFFE General Douglas MacArthur and the Filipino war heroes who bravely fought for our country during World War II.
“This exhibit is a tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives to defend our freedom and independence. We honor their courage, their sacrifice, and their unwavering commitment to our country,” Dr. Golez noted. It is our hope that this exhibit will not only commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of our war heroes, but also inspire future generations to continue the legacy of heroism and patriotism. Let us remember their bravery, their sacrifice, and their unwavering love for our country.”
“As we celebrate the courage and sacrifice of the Mindanao guerillas and Filipino was heroes, we are also reminded of the many who may have been forgotten but who fought just as bravely for our country. We remember their sacrifice, and we honor their memory,” he added.
In response, MGen. Romeo D. Alamillo (Ret.), national executive vice president of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP), shared in his message the program being pursued by the VFP which was kindled by the book, “Guerrilla Days in the Philippine South : 1943-1945” authored by Col Cesar Pobre with Dr. Ricardo T. Jose to honor the guerrillas.
Col Pobre, whose father was also a guerrilla, is the incumbent national president of VFP, a 62-year-old federation of more than 1,200 veterans organizations all over the country, including veterans surviving spouses, and their sons and daughters who are also affiliated with VFP.
“The book describes how there was unity among the lumads, the Muslims and the Christians, especially in Northern Mindanao, during the guerrilla days,” Gen. Alamillo said. “We are looking for historical sites where we can put up markers, and monuments, to remember and honor the accomplishments of our Filipino guerrillas. And it so happens most of them are situated along the Northern Mindanao corridor.”
“When we learned of this event, we thought this an opportunity for us to be there, because we are trying to do the same thing all over the country,” he added.
The VFP already visited Oroquieta, Ozamiz (Misamis Occidental), Marawi (Lanao del Sur), Iligan, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon in search of a suitable site for the Unity Monument.
“We would like to focus our efforts on similar museums dedicated to guerrillas. In Northern Mindanao, we would like to focus on looking for a place to put up what we call a Unity Monument,” Gen. Alamillo disclosed.
However, he stressed that the project cannot be undertaken by the VFP alone and needs the support of stakeholders, because they are looking at something like the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) in Bataan, and the Capas Memorial Shrine in Tarlac.
“We already have the concept, template and model of the Unity Monument that the whole of Mindanao can be proud of. This requires an area of around 10 hectares which can be donated by philanthropists, promotion through the local and regional tourism agencies, and the support of our senators, congressmen up the Office of the President.”
Meantime, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) expressed its support for the project through the message of Undersecretary Reynaldo B. Mapagu during the same occasion.
“PVAO supports the mainstreaming of the narratives of the heroism and valor of our heroes here in Mindanao. It’s high time that the heroes of Mindanao be recognized, rather than only from Luzon,” Usec. Mapagu noted.
Besides the aforementioned book “Guerrilla Days of the Philippine South: 1943-1945”, PVAO also supported the publication of the book “The Battle of Ising” by Marie Silva Vallejo, whose father was a key player in the aforementioned action.
“These are narratives written by Filipino authors through the lens of the Filipinos, rather than other nationalities,” Mapagu observed.
Not the least, the PVAO chief executive encouraged local governments to replicate activities the agency would be holding for the Veterans Week which is fast approaching this coming April.
“We are also supporting bills in Congress that will rationalize the disability pension for veterans. We’d like to increase the P1,700 they are receiving now from P4,500 to P10,000; and also working to have another bill passed to increase old age pension from P5,000 to P8,000.00,” Mapagu said.
“The living senior Filipino veterans led by World War II fighters, together with veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, remain a priority of the federation’s assistance and benefits,” he emphasized.
For instance, Mapagu cited how a 15-bed Veterans Ward has already been established with the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro City, where any veteran or their dependents can avail of all hospital services. Under a Memorandum of Agreement signed with PVAO, there will be zero billing for all confinements since PVAO will pay their bills.
PVAO is working to establish more veterans hospitals although Mapagu admits funding sources remain very challenging. However, he stressed that “No Veteran should be left behind. He/she must not pay for their own medicines, as well as their dependents.”
PVAO also continues to award the US Congressional Gold Medal to all veterans, especially those who are still alive. The US Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award the US Congress can bestow on an individual or organization that significantly impacted the entire US National Interest.
So far, PVAO has conducted 23 awarding ceremonies for the medal to date, including one held 27 Nov 2018 with then Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and US Veterans Affairs Dir. Tracey A. Betts and AFP, PVAO & PHIVIDEC officials at the Limketkai Center Atrium during PHIVIDEC Veterans Day.
“We would like to express our gratitude to all those who contributed to this exhibit, including the Mindanao guerillas, historians, and artists who helped bring this event to fruition. Your hard work and dedication have made this exhibit a reality, and we are deeply grateful,” said Dr. Golez as he concluded his welcome remarks.