By Francis Wakefield
Ambassador Sung Kim presented 13 Filipino World War II Veterans with bronze replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Sept. 13, marking the first time the honor has been presented on Philippine soil.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the US Congress’ highest civilian honor.
The 13 Filipinos who received the award are: Col. Paterno V. Viloria, of the Luzon Guerrilla Army Forces – Hq and Hq Svc Co. Central Nueva Ecija Military Area; Pvt. Roberto G. Agustino of the 7th Military District – 7th DHQ troops and G-2; Pfc. Manuel R. Pamaran of the 47th Regiment Hunters ROTC – “O” Co.; Pfc. Jose A. Sepulveda of the North East Cebu Sector – 38th MP Co., Cebu Area Command – 38th MP Co.; Brig. Gen. Pedro F. Zafra of USAFIP-NL – Hq and Hq Co.; Pvt..Sixto R. Guanzon of the 7th Military District – Battalion S-2 Headquarters Battalion 76th Infantry; Pvt. Bienvenido C. Sermonia of ths USAFIP-NL -Hq Co., 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment; Pvt. Ricardo B. Madayag, USAFIP, NL – C Co., 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry; Corporal Oscar M. Buenconsejo of the United States Armed Forces of Far East (USAFFE) 2nd 7 FA Regiment 2nd Division, Philippine Army Hq Air Corps, Air Surgeon; Major Maximo P. Young of USAFFE 7th Military District – 72nd Infantry; Lt. Col. Frisco F. San Juan, Hunters ROTC Guerrillas – Chief of Staff, Lt. Commander Bienvenido A. Alano Sr., Philippine Army USAFFE Luzon Guerrila Army Forces – Lapham guerrilla unit: and T/Sgt. Sixto A. Navidad of the USAFFE – B Co. 1st Battalion 93rd Infantry Regiment.
“As we remember those who defended Bataan, those who fought in Corregidor, and those who liberated Manila, we pause to reflect and honor their lives and legacies,” said Ambassador Sung Y. Kim at the ceremony.
“What they have freely given is beyond our power to repay, but on this day and at this time, we recognize our debt for their sacrifices with deep respect and profound appreciation,” he added.
In July 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called over 250,000 Filipinos into service with U.S. military units and guerilla forces in the defense of the Philippines. Between July 1941 and December 1946, Philippine service members fought with the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, Major General Jonathan Wainwright, and Major General Edward King.
Many gave their lives in the defense of their homeland and in service to the United States.
“It is of great honor and pride to be bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress,” said Col. Paterno V. Viloria, Philippine Army, retired.
“I am overjoyed that after more than seven decades, we Filipino Veterans of World War II, who fought side by side the United States Armed Forces, are finally getting the honor and recognition we deserve for our bravery and heroism, and our selfless sacrifice and dedicated service during the war,” he said.
Congress passed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act in November 2016 and President Obama signed the bill into law in December of the same year.
The first ceremony was held in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on October 25, 2017.
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) will hold regional ceremonies around the Philippines. The regional ceremonies will give veterans and their families the opportunity to honor and celebrate the wartime service and sacrifices of Filipino Veterans of World War II.