Recognition was a long time coming, but the efforts of the Philippine Scouts who fought in the Philippines against the Japanese invaders during World War II was formally given. The Philippine Scouts were organized by the United States Army and worked side-by-side from 1901 until the end of World War II. There were disbanded in 1948.
An April 16th my friend Debbie Regala posted this on Facebook:
“How wonderful it was to be present at today’s ceremony honoring Philippine Scouts who fought along side Americans to protect the Philippines during WW II. They were given the Congressional Gold Medal (highest civilian honor for an individual or unit for outstanding service to the country). They had been denied this recognition for many years but Obama signed the law after passage by Congress in December 2016. My father-in-law, Timoteo V. Regala was given this award posthumously. He was a guerrilla fighter for 5 years who managed to escape from the Bataan Death March. Our family also honors my mother-in-law who managed to survive the horrors of the war and raise her young child despite being alone and having little food.”
I know Debbie and Leo from St. Patrick’s Church and the St. Pat’s parents association. I have a cousin who married a Filipino nurse, so I have a growing family with Filipino heritage. I also have a friend whose two grown sons are half Filipino, but the first Filipino I actually knew was Ed Caceras. We rode the school bus from Ponders Corner to Clover Park High School. I knew him slightly from junior high, too. Ed was perhaps, five-eight and slender. He wore his curly black hair in what we called a jellyroll. He smoked while we waited on the corner by the Biltmore Motel at Pacific Hwy SW and McChord DR SW. Often joining us, Ken Austin crossed the railroad tracks from his home in Nyanza Park. Away from school Ken rolled a pack of cigarettes into the short sleeve of his T-shirt. Ken had the hots for the older sister of my friend with the Filipino sons. I think she was beyond his pay grade. The three of us made up the usual students. I think mostly Ed and I listened. Ken and I were both in band, as were most of my friends. Ed and I chatted. He was quiet but smiled easily. Ed was the first is our class to die in Vietnam.
I never met the one Filipino who touched me the most – Jose Calugas. “On January 16, 1942, his unit was covering the withdrawal of a portion of the U.S. Army Forces Far East (USAFFE), with the 26th Cavalry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts and the 31st Infantry Regiment. Calugas was working as a mess sergeant in charge of a group of soldiers who were preparing the day’s meals, known as KP duty. He noticed that one of his unit’s guns had been silenced, and its crew killed. Without orders, he ran the 1,000 yards (914 m) across the shell-swept area to the inactive gun position. Once there, he organized a squad of volunteers who returned Japanese artillery fire. The position remained under constant and heavy fire for the rest of the afternoon. While Calugas and his squad maintained a steady fire on the enemy positions, other soldiers had time to dig in and defend the line. As the day ended and combat subsided, he returned to KP. For his actions on that day, his superiors recommended Calugas for the United States military’s highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. Before he could receive it, however, all American forces on Bataan surrendered to Japanese forces.” – Wikipedia
In 1998 I was asked to videotape the funeral of Jose Calugas in Tacoma. There were many people in attendance. A retired U.S. Army officer was giving the eulogy and recounted the heroism of Calugas. Near the end of his presentation the officer mentioned that his country was proud of him. A question was shouted out from the crowd, “Which country?” I thought to myself “I wonder why they are asking? What response are they looking for? The country where he was born? Or the country where he became a citizen, lived out his years and died? Or is this about a separate movement?” The officer paused for a second or two, took a deep breath and said proudly, “The United States of America.” The voice answered back, “Thank you.”
One of the reasons I love this country is the mix of people who came here. I’ve met first generation immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants. The rest of us are the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of immigrants who came here hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Perhaps, we’re not all one big happy family . . . but we could be.