Batuhan: Unvalued valor

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Friday, August 29, 2014

I LOVE watching the History Channel.

This, I believe is a passion shared by many of our discerning readers. After all, in an age where most of the fare on television is composed of gaudy musicals, sappy telenovelas or sensationalized news programs, the History Channel offers an alternative viewing that is informative and educational.

As I write this piece, I am glued to a program featuring Filipino veterans of the Second World War. I grew up with stories of the resistance movement, often told to me by my grandparents. These were tales of derring-do, of brave men who faced daunting odds, to fight for the freedom they thought they were denied by the Japanese occupation. Many of them died for the cause, while most of those who survived were left forgotten and unrecognized by the very same government they were fighting for—the United States of America.


Back then, of course, the country was as American as apple pie. Those were the days when Filipino gentlemen wore full suits to special occasions, notwithstanding the fact that these were the days before air-conditioning was even heard of. No surprise, therefore, that when the Americans were driven out by the Japanese occupiers, the whole country—albeit most doing so secretly—rebelled against the invaders.

Set against the backdrop of the recent “Araw ng Kagitingan” celebrations, the saga of the valiant Filipino guerrillas is a romantic one. In the end, however, the romance turned into tragedy, for the most part.

Soon after the war, the government they thought they were fighting for decided that their valor was not worth compensating. The US congress voted not to award veterans’ pensions to the Filipino guerillas who fought alongside their American fighting men and women, even if they suffered the same fate as the US soldiers did. Unequal pay for equal work, which by any measure is unjust and unfair.

Even many generations hence, this tragedy still makes for painful viewing. Even more painful when we contextualize it with what is happening in the world today. US foreign policy seems unfair and underhanded. So much so that this is often cited as the cause for many rebel groups waging wars of various sorts against America. The Iraqis were American allies before they became their foes. So were many Afghani northern tribes that now find themselves strange bedfellows to the Taliban.

America is well-intentioned in the best of times, but is also often prone to periods of disorientation, when its self-interests are on the line. This is where all the good will they generate quickly degenerates into anger and resentment.

Filipinos are a patient lot, however. Despite the rejection of congress of their efforts against the Japanese (albeit measures to rectify the mistake were taken in recent years), we still continue to support America against their many detractors in the world. But how many are as forgiving as we are?

Not many, is quite possibly the answer. And this is a reality that the US has to come face-to-face with, if they are to reverse their many setbacks in foreign policy these days.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2014.


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