SAN FRANCISCO — Ago Pedalizo grew up in a military family.
When he met some senior citizen patients while working as a pharmaceutical agent in San Francisco back in 200, and heard about their dire situation, he knew he had to help them — especially that they reminded him of his own father.
“Yung kilos nila kasi parang kilos ng tatay ko siya sundalo… so madali kami makipag relate. Until, finally sa pag-uusap namin nalaman kung ano sila veterans sila ng WW2 nag-kwentuhan na kami. gradually na naliwanagan ako sa pag-uusap namin na essentially naging sundalo sila pero pero hindi sila kinikilala at US Veterans.”
An estimated 200,000 Filipinos fought alongside US troops during World War II.
They were promised full military benefits by the US government. But these were taken away when the Rescission Act of 1946 was passed.
Ago made it his life’s mission not only to expose the injustices committed against these aged war heroes — but to fight for what’s rightfully theirs.
He became the Northern California coordinator of the Southern California-based group: Justice for Filipino American Veterans, or JFAV.
And through the years, they helped lobby for the passage of a number of benefits for Filipino vets — burial benefits, a visa parole program for the vets’ families and a one-time lump sum payment for their services.
But the fight for equity is not over. Ago and JFAV are still pushing for lawmakers to provide lifetime monthly pensions to about 18,000 surviving Filipino vets and about 40,000 of their widows.
The Filipino Veterans Equity Bill — which was refiled by Senator Jackie Speier last year — has yet to advance in Congress.
“Ang pinaka-ugat yung hindi pagka-kilala…isyu ito ng recognition. pag naresolba mo yun, everything follows.”
But time is of the essence in that fight for justice.
One veteran Ago was particularly close to was Felino Punzalan, who died before ever receiving the benefits he deserved.
Ago and JFAV also made sure to fight for the families and widows left behind by the Filipino vets — and their fight for justice, he says, will continue, however long it takes.
“Walang bibitaw sa pangako naming ipagpapatuloy naming mga advocates at yung mga kabataan na darating — Ipaglalaban namin hindi tapos ang laban Hindi natapos ang laban … hangga’t hindi natatapos yung usapin ng equal recognition for service.”