Congress Approves Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino World War II Veterans

Arrangements for President Obama’s signature for  historic legislation to be announced 

Washington, D.C. Today, the U.S. Congress finally granted national recognition to the 260,000 Filipino and American soldiers who served under the United States Army Forces of the Far East (USAFFE). They have waited for more than 72 years.

The House of Representatives approved S.1555, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, passed by the Senate via unanimous consent in July. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

“Today is truly a great day, a significant seminal period in American history – second only to the liberation of the Philippines and surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces on August 15, 1945,” says Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret), chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP). “Now we can tell our veterans with pride in our hearts that this grateful nation has, at last, granted them recognition for the selfless sacrifice they endured in war, and restored their dignity and honor in service to their nation.”

Seventy years ago this past February, the Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, a bill that stripped Filipino soldiers the benefits promised them by President Roosevelt.

In hailing the bill’s passage, Taguba recalls the many conversations he’s had with veterans who endured “a lifetime of injustice and indignation” inflicted by the Rescission Act. “Yet, they remained steadfast and resolute, hoping our country they willingly defended would right the wrong brought upon them. Their courage and strength were their salvation. They placed their trust and expectations on their sons and daughters, on members of Congress, and the American people who believe in them.”

Long overdue

“I’m very happy because this recognition is long overdue,” says 99-year old Filipino World War II veteran Celestino Almeda of Gaithersburg, MD, one of the less than 7,000 surviving veterans residing in the U.S. today. “We responded to President Roosevelt’s call to serve and risked our lives fighting under the American flag. But after the war was over, we were treated unjustly, which was painful and humiliating.”

Rudy Panaglima, 86, of Arlington, VA. has also harbored the same disappointment and frustration over the years, but is nonetheless “thrilled that the U.S. has now recognized us. It’s better late than never.” Panaglima was only 13 when he served with guerilla forces near his home in Cagayan, as a courier and scout. In 1995, he availed of the naturalization benefits granted to Filipino World War II veterans and immigrated with his wife Pura to the U.S.

“If Alberto Bacani were here today, you would see him beaming with joy,” says Marla Miranda Mooney of Stafford, Va. “On behalf of my grandfather and all our family, we are grateful for this timely recognition bestowed on World War II Filipino veterans and for all who worked diligently on their behalf for this day to become a reality.  For my grandfather and all the veterans we honor with this award, the price to ensure democracy and restoration of peace worldwide meant risking personal safety. Though some were not professional soldiers, all of these extraordinary individuals answered President Roosevelt’s call to service.  To them, we were not two separate people — we were One; united against anyone and anything which threatened our lives, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness.” Bacani, who fought in Corregidor as a Major in the Philippine Commonwealth Army, died in November 2013.

Paving the way

The Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 garnered bipartisan support from 312 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 71 in the Senate, paving the way for Congress to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal, which – along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – are the highest civilian awards in the United States.

The CGM bill was introduced in June last year in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), with U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) as lead co-sponsor, and in the House by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2), with U.S. Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV-3) as lead co-sponsor.

“We did our due diligence by securing more than the two-thirds majority required in both chambers, to ensure its passage,” says Marie Blanco, FilVetREP’s legislative director. “We know how much it means to our veterans and their families.”

She adds: “We are extremely grateful to Sen. Hirono and Sen. Heller, and to Rep. Gabbard and Rep. Heck for their leadership in pushing this bill through to the finish line. We are appreciative as well of the senior leadership in both the House and Senate, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and, of course, to all the cosponsors and their staffers for championing this very important legislation.”

Historic step

In a statement released earlier, Sen. Mazie Hirono paid tribute to Filipino World War II veteran Domingo Los Banos of Kaua’i, who joined the Senator last week aboard the USS Missouri “to recount how these veterans were instrumental to our victory in the Pacific, but had to fight for decades to receive the benefits they earned. The unanimous support this bill earned in the Senate and the overwhelming backing it has in the House honors the sacrifice so many of these veterans made for our country.”

“For months, we have said that time is running out to recognize Filipino World War II veterans for their brave service,” adds Hirono. “Today’s House passage is the culmination of decades of work by these veterans and their families to recognize their key role in the Allied victory, and their decades-long fight for benefits.”

“Today, the United States Congress took an historic step forward in honoring the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers that served our country during World War II. With unanimous support from the United State Congress, our bill now heads to the President’s desk,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Our Filipino WWII veterans have waited decades for this recognition alongside units like the Tuskegee Airmen and Hawaii’s own 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion with the Congressional Gold Medal—our nation’s highest civilian honor. With just 18,000 of these Filipino World War II veterans still alive today, we cannot afford to wait any longer. I urge the President to sign this bill into law before the year’s end, and honor our veterans with this long-overdue recognition.”

U.S. Rep. Coleen Hanabusa (D-HI-lst), in her remarks during the House proceedings, acknowledged former Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, for championing the cause of Filipino World War II veterans during their many years of service in the Senate. “They fought to repeal the Rescission Act,” Hanabusa said, “and they did everything they can to restore their rightful benefits. They would be proud to know that Congress finally did the right thing.”

Grassroots support

Ben de Guzman, FilVetREP’s Outreach Director, expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support for the national effort to raise awareness about the critical role Filipino World War II veterans played in the Pacific Theatre. “A coalition of national advocacy groups serving Filipino Americans, Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders, veterans service organizations, and countless local organizations and advocates at the local level took part in this national campaign. Their engagement with their senators and representatives in the last 17 months was instrumental in moving the CGM legislation forward,” de Guzman said. “Without grassroots support, it would have been difficult to mount the kind of campaign needed to bring us to this historic moment, which we celebrate with pride today.”

Among the advocacy groups that assisted in the nationwide effort is the San Francisco Veterans Equity Center (SVEC), which has helped hundreds of Filipino World War II veterans over the years. “They are so delighted to finally receive the recognition they have been waiting for a long time,” says SVEC Exec. Director Luisa Antonio, who is also a FilVetREP Board Member. “Leo Ansis, an 89-year-old New Philippine Scout, felt that his service has been forgotten, but very excited to hear of the bill’s passage. Mrs. Lourdes Poblete, a member of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and a recognized guerrilla who served from 1942 to 1944 is also overjoyed to receive the honor while she is still alive. She is 92 years old.”

Preserving an American story

The stories of veterans Almeda, Ansis, Los Banos, Panaglima and Poblete have inspired the work of the Bataan Legacy History Society (BLHS), which has been educating the American public since 2012 about the role of Filipinos in World War II. In 2014, it started working with the California Department of Education to have their stories taught in public classrooms, a program that was finally approved in July.

“The recognition of their sacrifices and valor comes at an auspicious time when we are about to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines,” points out BLHS Exec. Director Cecilia Gaerlan. “The Filipinos formed the majority of the USAFFE and they forged an unbreakable bond with their American brothers in the trenches of Bataan and Corregidor. Their forces were able to delay the timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army despite suffering from massive disease and starvation and fighting without any air support.  These facts are now included in the U.S. history curriculum framework for Grade 11 in California.”

“Indeed, our heroes accomplished their mission and we are deeply and eternally grateful to them for defending our country, for preserving our freedom, and granting us to live free for generations to come,” Taguba said. “Now, we have to accomplish ours by ensuring that this American story is preserved for posterity.”


The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, community-based, an all-volunteer national initiative whose mission is to obtain national recognition of Filipino and American WW11 soldiers across the United States and the Philippines for their wartime service to the U.S. and the Philippines from July 26, 1941, to December 31, 1946. For more information about Filipino WWII veterans and how to get involved, visit our website at www.filvetrep.org or find

PHOTOS

Sen. Mazie Hirono (center), who sponsored the Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 in the Senate, pose with leaders and members of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), shortly after Congress approved the bill granting recognition to Filipino World War II veterans. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Hirono’s office).

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who sponsored the Congressional Gold Medal Award legislation in the House, congratulates Filipino World War II veteran Rudy Panaglima following the passage of the Congressional Gold Medal bill. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Gabbard’s Office).

The Filipino DJs of Houston

The Filipino American National Historical Society will kick off October as Filipino American History Month with a toast to the story of the Filipino American DJs of Houston. Watch the Texans game at Lincoln Bar and then help us toast our Filipino DJ History in Houston!

Background
East Coast and West Coast have recognized the contributions of Filipino American DJs’ influence on community and culture building. It is time we do this in the South.

We will share the profiles and stories of a few of the DJs we have identified as contributing to the story of Filipino American Houston DJs. We hope to further discover more stories.

You can listen to interviews here: Houston Filipino American DJ interviews.

October is Filipino American History Month

Filipino American History Month, also known as the Filipino American Heritage Month, is celebrated in the United States during the month of October. The Filipino American National Historical Society established Filipino American History Month in the year 1988.

October 2, 2016

FAHM Kick-off -Our DJ History
Lincoln Bar
3:3o p.m.
FREE/All Invited

October 8, 2016

Buffalo Soldiers and the Filipinos
Buffalo Soldier Museum
FANHS President + PK McCarey Tour
10:00 a.m.-noon
$10

Register

October 12, 2016

Mayor Proclamation of Filipino American History Month
and Forum
BEST OF FILIPINIANA
9671 Bissonnet Houston Texas 77036
7:00 p.m.

October 15, 2016

Filipino American History Film Fest + lectures
Rice University Anderson Hall
Room 117 | Intergenerational Youth Panel |
FilAm Author – Ray Burdeos |
Filipino Martial Arts | Ancient pre-Filipino Script | BaybayinFILMS + Discussion |
Duty to Country 20 min |
Little Manila 30 min |
Delano Manongs 30 min
Map
Register

October 19, 2016

OCA TEa Talk – Why is Filipino American History important for all Asian American History
Red Cross 2700 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 777098
6:30-8:30 p.m.

October 22, 2016

Isang Mahal

SIFA-UniPRO
Connect with Miko Jao

College Station

October 29, 2016

Filipino Street Fest

Bayou City Pavillion

Meet our new FANHS intern

miko

Michelouis “Miko” Jao is a recent graduate from Houston Baptist University, with a B.A. in Government and a minor in Latin. In his new role as an intern with The Filipino American National Historical Society, he will work on GOTV, collaboration with other Asian Pacific Islander interns for OCA, maintain the non-profit database, phone bank, event management to increase group capacity, and liaise with other student groups to ensure Filipino American history is integrated in key activities such as Isang Mahal, and facilitate youth discussion for Filipino American History Month. Positions he has held in community-focused organizations include: Vice-President of Houston Baptist University’s Filipino Student Association (HBU FSA), President of the Southern Intercollegiate Filipino Alliance (SIFA), and Ambassador to the South for the Empowering Pilipino Youth Conference (EPYC) board. He is currently serving as a mentor to the SIFA board, a board member of EPYC, and is looking to help Pilipino American Unity for Progress, Inc. (UniPro) start a chapter in Houston.

His passion for community work is driven by the need for young Fil-Am students and leaders to have the cultural and historical education necessary to understand their own identity as Filipino-Americans. In his personal time, he enjoys reading/writing shorts, stories, and raps, playing video games, making films, and spending quality time with his family and friends.

Twitter/Instagram – @TheOfficialMiko

Houston Chefs Take Note: Filipino Cuisine in Texas Unraveled by Yana Gilbuena

By Christy Panis Poisot

(HOUSTON, TX) Self-proclaimed gypsy chef Yana Gilbuena, held a pop-up dinner in Downtown Houston’s Henke and Pillot on December 27, 2015, Kamayan style –where you eat with your hands. Gilbuena laid down ground rules before commencing the Sunday dinner – “serve with your left hand, eat with your right.”

Filipino cuisine in Houston, much like Filipino American history and identity has been perceived as a mystery to many Americans.  Origin stories are not well known to young Filipino Americans due to the lack of a formal curriculum in mainstream education.  The colonial past plays a huge part in these mixed emotions and stories.  There are high points and low points.  “A lot of young chefs who want to try their hand at doing Filipino food, I said, ‘you need to learn your history,’” reflects Gilbuena.  “You need to learn why certain things are cooked a certain way.  For me, I understand adobo.  The reason why adobo was created was there was no refrigeration.  My goal is for Filipino Americans to appreciate their country and where they came from.  How they got here.  The struggles we have been through to get where we are.”

In spite of this ambiguity of Filipino-American identity, one thing is clear: Filipino food is delicious and access to the food can prove to be a mystery to a Houstonian.  Ambitious foodies can seek out steam table options or turo-turo at Filipiniana, Godo’s, and Pugo de Manila.  Jollibee, a national chain, offers a fast-food approach to dishes with fun names like Fiesta noodles, known to the Filipinos as pancit palabok.  Anyone wishing to access the cuisine must be friends with a Filipino who has a mother living nearby and hope for an invitation.  Gilbuena explains, “As someone born in the Philippines, our only connection is food,” she said.  “Food, like the flavor or any odor, is a big memory invoker.  We go to the mom-and-pop places because it reminds us of home.  I wanted to share that, what home is defined for me.”

For one night, Gilbuena demystified the cuisine as a rebellious gypsy chef.  The dishes were both traditional and deconstructed.   Her holiday visit to Houston showcased dishes from the three regions of the Philippines:  Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.  Gilbuena visited earlier in 2015 and sold out in minutes to a few fortunate souls who jumped on the invitation at Phoenicia Marketplace in Downtown Houston.

A full house, hosted by Henke and Pillot, provided an ambiance of old friends and foodie adventurers looking to experience something very different and delicious.  Deep Eddy Vodka concocted drinks such as the Manila Mule made from the citrus found in Filipino gardens known as calamansi.  Gilbuena was pleased to find that the year-round tropical weather of Houston was able to provide her with fresh calamansi and banana leaves for her traveling dinner.

The sourcing of fresh local ingredients allows flexibility in the recipes. “That is the beauty of Filipino cuisine, it is very adaptable.  The reason we have pinakbet is that those are the only vegetables you can grow,” explained Gilbuena.  “So, what if you grew other vegetables?  You would still make pinakbet, but with a different mélange.  Why would it not be a pinakbet anymore if I put kale in there or turnip root?”

Bringing people together throughout all fifty states has been a learning experience for the chef. About eighty percent of all the pop-up guests were non-Filipino.  “It all comes down to being able to share food with or without utensils, without the pomp and theatrics at the table.  Breaking barriers and making connections while you are eating.”

The SALO Project has big plans going forward. “I want to inspire people to keep spreading the word and spread culture through food.  I am not saying I am a world-class Michelin star chef,” said Gilbuena.  “I am far from that, this is my language and food is my currency.  For me, being able to share that experience with people and give them a concept of what Filipino food is and Filipino culture, I think that is one of the best rewards I can ever get.”

Gilbuena will start her South American tour in 2016 starting in Bogota, Columbia. “I want to finish the Americas and two continents and then go on to the other five.”

To see the full interview go to www.american-filipina.blogspot.com or to join Yana on SALO Project Goes to Cuba, go to www.CulturalContrast.org.

Congressional Gold Medal for WWII Filipino Veterans Gets a Boost in Texas

Students attending “Isang Mahal” (One Love) take a moment to support the Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino Veterans.

HOUSTON, TX (Nov. 17, 2015) – Filipino American National Historical Society – Houston Chapter (FANHS-HTX) and National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) have joined forces to support the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVETRep).

On a rainy weekend on October 24, 2015, Patlindsay Catalla, Deputy of FANHS-HTX, Anthony Guevarra – NaFFAA Regional Rep, and Christy Panis Poisot, FilVETRep Board member set out to engage with 400+ students in College Station for the Annual Isang Mahal (one love) Talent Show and to celebrate Filipino American History Month. The show is hosted by the Philippine Student Association (PhilSA) of Texas A&M University and brings together all Filipino Student Associations across Texas.

One hundred and fifty letters to Congressman and Texas Senators were signed. Photos and videos captured the event and were shared on social media – all pleading one message to Texas leaders, Pass the Congressional Gold Medal now!

Southern Intercollegiate Filipino Alliance (SIFA) President Miko Jao observed, “it was the most successful collaboration with an organization outside of SIFA. There were positive remarks and everyone enjoyed the (FilVETRep) booth.” Following the event, University of Texas Filipino Student Association (UT-FSA) Vice President of Culture, Kelsey Banaglorioso, continued efforts at Filipino Heritage Night in Austin by doing a read-out on veteran contributions and soliciting one hundred signatures to petition Texas Congressman to support the Congressional Gold Medal bill. “It’s amazing to see how many people care about the Filipino soldiers that fought for this country,” said Banaglorioso. “I take pride as a Filipino, but also as an American.”

Filipino American History month concluded with a TV appearance by Poisot and Guevarra on Channel 13 “Visions” with Miya Shay. The two paired up to recap efforts to support the Congressional Gold Medal in Texas.

To date, only two Congressional Representatives support the Congressional Gold Medal Bill from Texas: Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee representing the Houston area.  No Texas Senators have shown support for the bill to date. A majority of Congress must show support by the end of the Obama administration or the bill will need to be re-introduced in the next administration.

There were an estimated 200,000 Filipino soldiers who fought in WWII. Only 16,000 to 17,000 soldiers remain in the US and the Philippines and their death toll is growing. According to the Census 2010, there were 137,713 Filipino Americans and Multiracial Filipino Americans in Texas. In 2011, five percent (86,400) of all Filipino immigrants in the United States lived in Texas.

The initiative behind the recognition of Filipino and Filipino-American World War II veterans is the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), a nonpartisan, community-based, all-volunteer national initiative whose mission is to raise awareness through academic research and public information and obtain national recognition of Filipino and Filipino-American WWII Soldiers across the United States and the Philippines for their wartime service to the U.S. and the Philippines from July 1941 to December 1946.

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We have been here a lot longer than you think…

The history of Filipinos in Texas goes a lot further back than most would think.  From the nurses to the veterans to the first Filipino at Rice University.  We believe we are a part of American history and deserve to be recognized for our contributions to Texas history.  We look to uncover these stories, share them, and work towards integrating these facts into American mainstream education.

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