This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. As Filipino World War II veterans continue to battle for their full equity, one community member is doing his part to make sure they are never forgotten — through his unique collection.
Gil Mislang collects history, culture, and tradition through artifacts of the war.
Throughout the years, the community leader has been collecting WWII memorabilia — scoring this bounty through the internet, auctions, and even rummage sales.
“Got a couple hundred now,” Mislang, from the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. “I picked up these mannequins, so I got a dozen mannequins — now that I can really do a nice job at presenting the history.”
The collection, and his commitment to bring them to the community, are motivated by his own personal ties.
“I got a couple uncles who perished in WWII in Bataan and Baguio, then I met a lot of veterans. I learned about their history and some of the things they went through, and so it encouraged me, and they encouraged me, to really tell the story. And so I promised them that I would tell their story.”
Throughout Southern California, Mislang lends his artifacts to community groups.
Right now, some are deployed to the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate in an exhibit, and a few pieces are at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall.
Some pieces stand guard at non-profit groups.
And it’s not just Mislang and his recently acquired mannequins that don these wearable pieces of history.
Like Mislang, members of the Philippine Scout Society are driven by their own ties to Filipino war veterans.
“The legacy of the Philippine scouts live on proudly,” says Ricardo Molina, the grandson of a FilVet. “I have not forgotten where I came from. I have not forgotten my bloodline. It is my duty and responsibility to remember that legacy, and pass it on.”
“It really helps because people like to see things they like to hold things, and they like to talk about things, that they see so we are really trying to bring out history through artifacts, history through stories, and histories through pictures,” said Mislang.
Despite offers from museums, and some resistance from his wife, Mislang has no plans of letting go of his collection any time soon.
“She’s a little bothered by me taking up one bedroom, and also taking up up the shed we have in the backyard, with all this stuff, so it’s good to get them out in the community so they can see it and share it,” he said. “I’m just happy to share it with the community.”
As Mislang adds to his collection, he’s also helping 18,000 Filipino war veterans get their congressional gold medals of honor.