by Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN News
The 21-gun salute was one of many commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March here at the Presidio, which is the former military outpost in San Francisco, CA.
Survivors of the death march and other WWII veterans were the guests of honor.
“I’m happy because of surviving 75 years of what I experienced in the Bataan Death March, and now I am with all of you, the youth, and we are celebrating the hardships we overcame,” said survivor David Tejada.
“It’s wonderful to see all these people around enjoying the privilege of freedom,” said veteran Lourdes Poblete.
For 10-year-old Fil-Am Austin Daniel Guevara — as the great, great grandson of a filipino world war two veteran — it was an honor to meet and shake the hands of these veterans.
“I’d like to thank them so much for sacrificing themselves for the freedom of America and the Philippines,” said Guevar.
Thanks to the lobbying of Cecilia Gaerlan and her organization, the Bataan Legacy Historical Society — Assembly Bill 199, which requires California classrooms to teach students about the role that Filipinos played in the war — was signed into law.
“The role of the guerrillas during the liberation that is not in the books here in the United States, and not even in the Philippines,” shared Gaerlan. “We need the support of the community, because we need to hire teachers to develop the lesson plans. It has to be developed by vetted teachers.”
Also in Southern California, Los Angeles officials continued the celebration for the region’s remaining veterans and their families.
“My grandfather was killed by the Japanese,” said WWII veteran Wilfredo Credo. “When they approach them if I want to join guerilla, I said yes I will do it.”
“I’m very happy I survived the war. I witnessed the brutality of the Japanese when I was a teenager,” said veteran Marcelina Gawat.
A new exhibit was opened at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles, which is also home to the Filipino Veterans Foundation.
It was on April 9th, 1942, when 75,000 US forces surrendered to the Japanese in the Bataan Peninsula.
Approximately 63,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans were forced to endure a 65-mile march to the Camp O’Donnell prison camp.
Thousands died during the march, while more died at the camp.
After 75 years since the Bataan Death March, Filipino veterans and their advocates are also continuing the fight for full equity and benefits promised to them by the US government.