A 91 year-old veteran recalls the horrors of war and laments the insensitivity of the current administration to the plight of veterans.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 10, April 13-19, 2008
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms from Manila) – While veterans of World War II (WWII) in this highland area gathered for the commemoration of “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Valor), a survivor of the Death March said that the veterans are now being forgotten, ignored and still denied the benefits due them.
Francisco Paraan, 91, recalls how these veterans – both survivor of the march and the war – gallantly defended the Philippines from Japanese aggressors. A former mayor of this city after the 1986 people’s uprising, Paraan is the only surviving WWII prisoner of war (POW) in this city.
Despite his age and using a hearing aid, he still remembers their horrible experience 67 years ago when 76,000 Filipino soldiers and 12,000 Americans surrendered to the Japanese. He and other POWs were forced by the Japanese to do the Death March from Bataan to Tarlac.
Despite their contribution to the anti-Japanese war and liberation of the country, however, Paraan said that they are forgotten and their benefits – monthly pensions and medical benefits – have not been given to them since the 1980s. He added that these should come from the Philippine government.
Paraan said that they should have initially received a monthly pension of P1,500 ($36.06, based on an exchange rate of P41.595 per US dollar), increasing by P500 ($12.02) every year.
“I only received P 5,000 in pension in the 1980s. Veterans had never received the agreed-upon P1,500 ($36.06) monthly and an increase of P500 ($12.02) every year thereafter,” Paraan said.
War Plan Orange
“The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in Bataan. They took a stand, uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months,” Paraan said.
He remembers the war plan orange (WPO) by the Americans. The WPO was a contingency plan drafted by the Americans in case the war erupted between Japan and the USA. The plan considered only the defense of Manila Bay and Corregidor Islands for six months until the arrival of reinforcements.
On March 12, 1942, General Douglas McArthur left Corregidor for Australia, affecting the morale of the joint Filipino and American forces.
Gallant Igorot forces
Various infantry brigades were formed in the Cordillera to fight the Japanese even after MacArthur left the Philippines. It included the 11th Infantry that covers Cagayan, Ifugao and Kalinga headed by Lt. Col. Donald Blackburn and the 66th Infantry in the Benguet and Mt. Province areas headed by Maj. Dennis Molintas.
The Igorot warriors were admired for their bravery, like climbing Japanese tank and destroying it through the use of grenades. They were also in the frontline when they cornered General Yamashita in Ifugao until his surrender.
Even civilians participated as “bolo men” and women organized under the Women’s Auxiliary Service to help the guerillas against the Japanese. These efforts by the Cordillerans are not contained in national history books but in local history books like that written by William Henry Scott and books published by the Cordillera Schools Group.
“The world thought that WWII was the end of all wars but no, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and now the war in Iraq followed. What comes next?” Paraan asked. (Bulatlat.com)