By Maria Lamarca Anderson
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Maria recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of her late father, Rafael J. Lamarca, a Filipino World War II veteran. The first part of this story is a compilation of his writings and his experience of WWII.
In my father’s words
I was an engineering college student doing field work in Luneta Park (aka Rizal Park) when the war started. I watched the bombs fall freely over the city with little resistance from the ground artillery.
The United States Army needed volunteers, so I enlisted. No training required, no training provided. We all lived by our wits.
I was with the Headquarters Service Company Engineer Battalion, a recognized and documented guerrilla organization that operated in the jungles of the Cordilleras.
This battle is preserved in “We Remained,” a book by Col. Russell W. Volckmann, our commanding officer.
We stayed the entire duration of the war and did not surrender. “We remained” was the guerrillas’ reply to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “I shall return” speech, made when fleeing the Philippines in March 1942.
A highlight of the book is the victory in the Battle of Bessang Pass, which led to the surrender and eventual execution of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Imperial Japanese Army General more popularly known as the Tiger of Malaya. It is a shame the battle never got the recognition or publicity it rightfully deserved.
For the fallen and survivors of that hard-fought battle, we won with pride and glory.
I was honorably discharged on Nov. 11, 1945. There was no whoopee homecoming or tickertape parade of any kind, not even a week or month of R&R vacation for me. Without delay, I prepared to resume my college studies at the University of the Philippines, College of Engineering.
More than 40 years later, after much inquiry and research, I received the following awards: the World War II Victory Medal Code 24, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal Code 22, and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon Code 46.
There was no official pinning or fanfare. Just as there was no rest for the young veterans discharged; still suffering, chilling from malaria, their natural brown turned yellow from the effects of Atabrine, an effective cure. Sort of a wonder drug for the troops in the jungle at that time.
The following 60-plus years have been a roller coaster ride, a full adventurous life. After graduation and a full year all-expenses paid training grant with the Philippines and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey — now the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration — work and retirement led me to various venues and disciplines all over the planet. I have “been there, done that.”
I have gone around the world full circle and from top to bottom, once beyond the Arctic and Antarctic circles. Stepping on the ground of all the seven continents, sailing most of the known seas—Pacific, Drake Passage across the Southern Ocean to the Argentine Naval Outpost in the Antarctic; Bering and Black seas, the Mediterranean and Aegean, the Gulf of Alaska — were all an exciting and memorable experience.
The initiations after every crossing of the equator and the international dateline were a respite from the long voyages.
While far below Everest, Ayers Rock in the outback Down Under and Mt. Whitney in the lower 48 both placed me on my own top-of-the-world, with a full 360-degree, unobstructed view of the horizon.
May 6, 2003
I witnessed the historic homecoming of the USS Lincoln at the Everett waterfront’s Navy pier from the balcony of the main library. I watched her coming out slowly at the waterpoint intersection, obscured by South Whidbey Island and the mainland, with moist, nostalgic eyes on my binoculars. No known relatives or friends on board, but the bond, kinship, and feelings rekindled from memories past engulfed me all over again. “Red, Right, Returning” for entrance channel buoys on starboard … the uncontrolled tears of joy and thanksgiving for a safe return to homeport with a new full deck of memories and experiences after each voyage.
The American Dream is real and achieved. Mabuhay! Long Live!
In Maria’s words
September 14, 2017
My father had a long life, passing peacefully in his sleep on Sept. 9, 2017, two weeks shy of his 95th birthday. Five days later, the Speaker of the House announced that on Oct. 25, he and leaders of the U.S. House and Senate would present a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of Filipino veterans of World War II for their service and sacrifice during the war. This was in accordance of Public Law 114-265, signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 14, 2016.
I was, of course, elated. The one thing my father hoped for — recognition for his service — was finally in sight. At the same time, I felt profoundly sad that he just missed the fanfare he and all those who served, deserved.
October 25, 2017
Accompanied by my brother Rolando, and clutching a portrait of my father, I watched as the gold medal was unveiled in front of a 650-person audience at the U.S. Capitol, 71 years and eight months after President Truman signed the Rescission Act of 1946, stripping all Filipino veterans of the benefits guaranteed by President Roosevelt in 1941. Of the 66 nationalities that fought on behalf of the United States, only those from the Philippines were denied benefits. I listened as Speaker Ryan said, “Let this ceremony serve to ensure that those who fought for freedom are never forgotten, and always remembered.” I wanted to shout, “Those who fought for your freedom have never forgotten.” But out of respect for my father, who waited so patiently for so many years, I stayed in my chair.
That evening, I proudly accepted a bronze replica of the medal on behalf of my father, Rafael J. Lamarca, United States Army Forces in the Philippines, Northern Luzon. This one’s for you, Daddy-Oh! You have achieved your dream.
Maraming Salamat po! Love you always, all ways.
Maria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.