CLARK FREEPORT – A Filipino survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March has died at 100 years old in California, after having spent years fighting for war benefits for Filipino war veterans who had fought alongside US forces in World War II.
The US military publication Stars and Stripes identified the Filipino centenarian as Ramon Regalado, who died Dec. 16 in El Cerrito, California following a lingering illness.
The publication described him as “a San Francisco Bay Area man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolized the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during World War II.”
Stars and Stripes quoted Cecilia I. Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, as saying that Regalado “really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country.”
Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines and, during the American era, became a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under U.S. Army Forces.
Regalado fought the Japanese for three months until he and his other troopers were compelled to surrender to the Japanese in 1942.
He was among the thousands of Filipinos and Americans who were forced by the Japanese to join the Death March stretching 105 kilometers from Mariveles, Bataan to a train station in San Fernando, Pampanga from where they were herded into a train for incarceration at Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac.
Thousands died during the trek, but Regalado and two Americans were able to escape although stricken with malaria.They were taken care of by Filipinos but only Regalado survived, Gaerlan said.
Brought back to health, Regalado joined the resistance movement against the Japanese until the war ended. He then moved to the San Francisco Bay area where he worked as a civilian for the US Navy.
Regalado is known to have promoted the heroic deeds of Filipino war veterans and batted for their benefits including US citizenship, but many of his dreams on this were never realized.
He was among those credited for lump-sum payments for veterans as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.
Regalado was in Washington, awarded the coveted Congressional Gold Medal, Washington DC’s highest civilian award, although he failed to get the award personally as he was then already ailing.