From a press release courtesy of the Philippine Consul-General’s office here in Chicago, Illinois:
PRESS RELEASE No. LMHL – 2013
12 September 2013
Last Sunday, Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim led the Filipino community as they took part in a special service at the Veterans Memorial Park in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, to pay solemn tribute to the heroes of World War II, particularly the American and Filipino soldiers who made a gallant stand against the Japanese invasion in Bataan seventy one years ago.
In his remarks, Consul General Herrera-Lim acknowledged the presence of Filipino war veterans, their families, and other members of the Filipino community, as they joined their American counterparts in honoring the valor and sacrifices of both Filipinos and Americans who fought shoulder-to-shoulder in various theaters of war. He also emphasized the historical significance of the strategic and heroic defense put up by some 66,000 Filipino and 12,000 American troops holed up in Corregidor, Bataan that delayed the Japanese occupation of Luzon and dramatically altered the Japanese timetable in its push towards Australia.
This event, which has become an annual tradition in Maywood, started when a small group of anguished mothers, whose young sons were called into active duty and deployed to the Philippines under the 192nd Tank Battalion, took it upon themselves to make sure that food, clothing and other items were provided the prisoners of war.
They organized an extraordinary parade and political rally on the second weekend of September 1942, highlighting a united and energized national focus on the war effort. Their initiatives then turned to persistent advocacy for reinforcements for the forces fighting in the Pacific while continuing to mark Bataan Day – the anniversary of the capture of American and Filipino soldiers by the Japanese Imperial Army on April 9, 1942 – every month of September with bond drives and parades. Their legacy has been kept alive to the present through the efforts of what is now known as Maywood Bataan Day Organization.
Consul General Herrera-Lim also introduced the special guest speaker for the event, Mr. Jaime Pesongco, former Commander of the Filipino-American Veterans of Illinois.
Manong Jimmy, as he is fondly called, though already in his 90s and afflicted with COPD, managed to convey with great clarity through his son Jose the story of his struggle, sacrifice, and survival as a guerrilla in Antique. He gave a first hand account of the war from a Filipino perspective, recounting how his ragtag unit helped drive the Japanese to the boondocks and to a crushing defeat before the successful return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American forces to Philippine shores. His heroism was given recognition during the program with several medals presented to him by the MBDO.
The august assembly, attended by both veterans and active officers from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, also listened to Ms. Leticia Jimenez, RN, a war survivor who spoke of the horrors she witnessed as a young child, and how she has come to grips with such realities and overcame her suppressed pain by dedicating her service at the veterans hospital and volunteering for the homeless.
Captain Lionel Gonzales, who saw combat in Afghanistan, gave a keynote speech to the gathering that included the American Legion; Philippine Campaign Survivors; Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago; Merchant Marine Veterans Association Chicago; Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County; Daughters of the American Revolution; and George Rogers Clark Chapter, River Forest. Mayor Edwenna Perkins of the Village of Maywood and Bishop Dr. Reginald Saffo, a Maywood pastor, also graced the occasion.
After the speeches, VietNow, a Vietnam era veterans’ organization, performed a solemn ritual called “field cross” ceremony consisting of a rifle, helmet, blank dog tags, bare tread boots, and a folded American flag. As each item was brought out and presented to the assembly, it was inspected and placed in its designated place in the park. The items were assembled into the “field cross” while the master of ceremonies explained to the audience the significance of each item.
While the shadows lengthened, the afternoon program gave pause for the playing of the taps in memory of all the brave soldiers who laid down their lives in wars past. The air crackled with a crisp 21-gun salute. And to the tune of an old military rhythm, wreaths were laid at a model light tank similar to the one used by the 192nd Tank Battalion during the Bataan campaign.
Consul General Herrera-Lim thanked retired Col. Richard McMahon, President of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization, for organizing a meaningful 71st Maywood Bataan Day memorial service, and once more honoring the memories of the lasting brotherhood, shared virtues, and joint heroism of all American and Filipino war veterans in the hearts and minds of old and young generations not only in Maywood, but also in the general public.