Home Headlines US congressional gold medal awarded to WWII vets, Kagitingan parade held

US congressional gold medal awarded to WWII vets, Kagitingan parade held

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WWII vet Onofre Bugay, 102, receiving US congressional gold medal. Photo: Ernie Esconde

BALANGA CITY — Sixteen World War II veterans who fought in Bataan were recipients of the US congressional gold medal Monday, a day before the commemoration of the 82nd Araw ng Kagitingan.

The awarding was held at The Bunker, seat of the Bataan provincial government, named after the shelter of Filipino-American soldiers during the war. 

Of the 16 awardees, seven aged 94 to 102 are still alive while the rest were posthumous awardees. 

Gov. Jose Enrique Garcia 3rd greeted and thanked the surviving veterans and their families, saying that the day evokes victory now more than ever aside from the yearly celebration of the heroism and selflessness of the WWII soldiers and guerillas. 

“We take special pride to what will transpire today. Veterans who upheld liberty and equality then will be conferred today with the US congressional gold medal, 13 of them are our very own native Bataeños,” the governor said. “Let us honor the bravery, greatness, loyalty and courage of our heroes by living a life of honesty, integrity, humility, hard work, perseverance and love for people in our country.” 

In a message read for him by Defense Undersecretary and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office administrator Reynaldo Mapagu, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. said: 

“It is my great honor and privilege to participate in the 30th United States congressional gold medal awarding ceremony. In the Philippines, the prestigious medal has been awarded to at least 945 Filipino veterans of WWII. Today, we are truly honored to be in the presence of our living heroes and their descendants.

“Their presence here today highlights remarkable resilience, immeasurable value, and continuing contributions of veterans to our society. After surviving the war, they nursed their wounds and resumed their civilian lives. As citizens, they helped rebuild our nation out of the ruins of battle.

“Along the way, they raised a family, built businesses or became productive workers in their chosen profession or vocation. In war, they proved themselves as indomitable warriors. During peace time, they remained productive as individuals, benefitting both their families and communities.

One of the floats that participated in the parade. Photo: Ernie Esconde

“As pillars of their family, they served as living role models, mentoring their children and grandchildren about Filipino values of honor, patriotism, and sacrifice for the common good.”

Mapagu said there are still 960 living Filipino veterans of WWII, with more than 200 of them aged 100 years old and above. “In the PVAO, no stone will be left unturned and every effort is being made to make sure that we honor each and every one of our heroes.” 

He said the medal symbolizes the PVAO’s recognition of their undying love for country, spirit of service, and great courage. “We hope that the medals to be conferred today will somehow approximate the depth of our gratitude, respect, and admiration for our veterans.”

“Our ceremony will also allow us to express our deepest thanks to the families of our WWII heroes. We want to let the descendants know that our grateful nation will never forget its veterans. Our WWII heroes fought for and won the freedom that we enjoy today, that is a debt we can never repay,” Mapagu enthused. 

“However, with our ceremony, we hope that we can let our veterans know that their contributions to our country will continue to benefit the generations to come. Their lives will forever serve as an inspiration and guide, especially to the youth, on what it means to be a Filipino,” he said. 

“A Filipino who does not yield to tyranny, a Filipino who is willing to fight for his country and people, a Filipino who is ready to go through the hell of war so that others may live safely,” Mapagu concluded. 

The provincial government of Bataan held a long colorful foot and float parade in Balanga City Monday in remembrance of the 82nd Araw ng Kagitingan Tuesday and as tribute to World War II veterans.

Different floats depicting war events in Bataan were presented by 11 towns and this city while representatives of different sectors braved the hot afternoon sun with shades provided by big acacia trees lining the capitol road. 

Surviving WWII veterans with their spouses and their descendants watched eagerly the dramatization of war events by students while provincial officials and guests lauded the veterans for their heroism and sacrifices.  

 

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