Sunday, July 24, 2011
Family History - Endings and Beginnings
My Uncle died last week and I am a little in shock because he is the youngest of all my father's brothers. I have been misplaced on how to grieve, so I write and maybe I will arrive somewhere in the process.
I dedicate this tale of four brothers. A real story from Agoo, La Union, Luzon, Philippines. The concept of death somehow makes me feel the need to revisit birth.
The tale starts with their father, Francisco, who fought as an ally with US troops in WWII.
The history is relevant because had he not survived, I would not be here today. War heros are ironic in a way that you can be proud, but ashamed at the same time.
In a way the details of this story served as a backdrop of my child hood. Images that both horrified me, but made me proud to come from a hard core lineage. I am determined to make sure grandfather does not become a forgotten soldier. This brings about the story of the impact that war has on generations. Until this day, although I was not there, I feel the heat from the tension and the jungles grandfather survived. He was a farm boy, he was able to endure the heat.
Grandma would read books and try to well verse herself on pieces of the story. I am not sure how much of the story grandpa shared. The post trauma was just too much to relive I imagine. He managed to have four sons, and from what I hear ran the house like a military man - disciplined.
My sister managed an interview of our grandfather before the cancer and alzheimer's ended up taking him. I wonder about other artifacts, other than the memories of his story told. The United States have all kinds of medals and pomp and circumstance around honoring their soldiers. I never heard or saw of such honors from the Philippines. I suppose that they should just as soon forget. That is the trouble I think of why I have a problem. There sits a whole host of forgotten soldiers, forgotten like they had to be in order for Truman to concentrate on ejecting Hitler. No reserves were sent to save them so they sat in that prison camp for two long years.
According to Wiki: The Battle for Corregidor was the culmination of the Japanese campaign for the conquest of the Philippines. The fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942 ended all organized opposition by the U.S. Army Forces Far East to the invading Japanese forces on Luzon in the northern Philippines.
Grandfather was part of the war in Luzon. He fell into enemy hands in the Bataan Death March.
Also according to Wiki, they were to be marched 25 miles to the central collection point of Balanga, after which they would be marched an additional 31 miles to the town of San Fernando. From there, they were to be transferred by rail to Capas, where they would then be marched 9 miles to the abandoned military outpost Camp O'Donnell.
Grandfather survived the march and the prison camp. He was a high ranking officer, protected in secrecy by his men. It was told he drank from a stream where a dead body was. Stories of eating the soles of their shoes to survive have been told. Rumors of a nurse, who snuck food to my grandfather also pepper the archives of chronicled memories.
The prisoners were never released. The Americans and other allied forces had to get them free by killing the Japanese at the POW Camps in the Philippines
It was not until January 27, 1944 that the U.S. government informed the American public about the march, when it released sworn statements of military officers who had escaped from the march.
Dad said that in Agoo, there was one train that carried the survivors home to Agoo. If your loved one was on this train, then they survived. Amidst the reunions, people were falling to the ground as they discovered their loved one was not on that train.
30, Jan 1944, the Bataan Prison camp was recaptured, releasing the war camp prisoners.
In October 6, 1944, my father was born, almost exactly nine months from grandfather's release.
After WWII, Franciso and Valeriana Ofiana had four sons.
The youngest was Ferdinand Panis, my uncle.
Rest in Peace Uncle Nanding. January 8, 1959 - July 16, 2011.