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08/04/2009: Philippine Embassy Honors and Remembers Sacrifices of Filipino World War II Veterans on “Araw ng Kagitingan”

08 April 2009. “The peace we enjoy now was fought – and won – amid the deafening din of the guns of war. We owe our greatest generation a debt of gratitude that we and all freedom loving peoples of the world can only repay by honoring them,” Philippine Ambassador to the United States Willy C. Gaa said during his remarks at a reception he hosted at the Philippine Embassy to commemorate the “Araw ng Kagitingan” and to render honor and to remember the sacrifices and the service made by Filipino veterans during World War II.

Ambassador Gaa also expressed his appreciation to those veterans present and noted that they were beacons of valor and hope during the darkest hours of our world’s collective history and that it is only fitting on this occasion that their achievements be remembered and honored. Ambassador Gaa said, “Today, we are blessed to have them join us as we give them honor: By recognizing their acts of courage and bravery; By being ever vigilant against any attempt at aggression and oppression in our country and beyond; And by doing our part in pursuing greater peace, progress and prosperity in the Philippines and throughout the world.”

The reception was preceded earlier in the day by a flag raising ceremony at the Embassy and a wreath laying ceremony at the World War II Monument in Washington D.C. together with Filipino veterans, leaders and representatives of the Filipino community, media and Embassy personnel. Ambassador Gaa was joined at the wreath laying by M/General Antonio Taguba (Ret) who came as a representative of the U.S. Veterans Administration Secretary, General Eric Shinseki (Ret.).

At the reception, M/Gen. Taguba handed out the very first batch of compensation benefit checks in the United States in the amount of US$15,000.00 to those qualified veterans present at the reception. In his remarks, M/Gen. Taguba said, “I cannot underscore enough the significance of today’s ceremony. It is not only a day of remembrance of those who fought valiantly at Bataan, but a historic moment for those who have long since passed and those who are with us this evening.” M/Gen. Taguba also added that this period could be considered a bittersweet victory for the long struggle to achieve a most deserving recognition for services rendered by Filipino veterans to the U.S. government in a time of war and assured those present that the USVA under Gen. Shinseki’s leadership is committed to complete the disbursement of all the benefits checks to all qualified veterans not later than February 2010.

Among the first to receive their checks from M/Gen. Taguba at the reception was 98 year old veteran Alberto Bacani. Mr. Bacani said he was excited and pleased to receive his benefits checks, he said, “We, the Filipino Veterans of World War II, who fought bravely and dangerously side by side with the USAFFE are delightfully excited over the fact that our relentless effort and energy to win recognition of what we had long been fighting for, namely, to win that great war to preserve the ideals of freedom, of peace and justice, and return to democratic ways of life which all nations of the free world enjoy today, have at last been truly and amply rewarded.” END.