In Flanders Field the Poppies Grow

Remembering veterans, remembering my father..

 

By Ted Alcuitas

 

Yesterday Cora and I attended a Remembrance Day Assembly at my granddaughter’s school, Bryne Creek in Burnaby in which she recited the poem ‘In Flanders Field, the Poppies Grow’.

The simple but moving ceremony moved me to tears as I listened to my only granddaughter said the words of the poem especially the last paragraph: ‘ Take up our quarrel with the foe/To you from failing hands, we throw/The torch be yours to hold it high/If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.’

I was not only reflecting about my own father who fought during war in the Pacific but more so on the events that happened the day before in America.

I’m pretty sure a lot of veterans are turning in their graves today as they see what is supposed to be the greatest nation on earth turned against the very ideals that they fought and died for – the values of freedom and democracy where every person is respected regardless of who they are.

America is in the Heart

I’d like to believe that despite what has happened, the American people has enough good in their hearts to sustain them and survive through this dark period in theirs and the world’s history. Like the great Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan’s ‘America is in the Heart’, he had hope for America:

“Despite the bitterness however, Bulosan reveals in the final pages of the book that because he loved America no one could ever destroy his faith in his new country.[5] In this personal literature, Bulosan argued that despite the suffering and abuses he experienced, America was an unfinished “ideal in which everyone must invest (…) time and energy, (…) this outlook leaves us with a feeling of hope for the future instead of bitter defeat.”

With Trump’s election, there is eminent possibility that the sufferings endured by Filipinos in the America of the 30’s will be repeated.

Let’s hope that Bulosan was right!

Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_Is_in_the_Heart

Artwork by Maya Lorena Arradaza, Byrne Creek Community School

Artwork by Maya Lorena Arradaza, Byrne Creek Community School

A veteran’s son remembers

By Ted Alcuitas

This month as we pause to remember the men and women who served in our armed forces,I would like to share my memories of my father and the Pacific War that engulfed the Philippines.

A war that shaped so much of our lives and many others.

I never had a picture of my Papa in uniform, but I found a laminated certificate of his military training which he proudly kept.

I was exactly two years old on Dec.8, 1941 when the Japanese invaded the Philippines, ten hours after they bombed Pearl Harbour which started World War 11.

Papa was the encargado or overseer of Hacienda Osmena, owned by the Commonwealth Vice-president Sergio Osmena, Sr.

He joined the guerrilla forces immediately and rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was of course in the battlefield leaving my mother with seven of us (me as the youngest). I remember Japanese soldiers come to the house looking for our father with me tugging at my mother’s skirt scared.

An internal rivalry within my father’s guerrilla unit forced him to flee our town to save his life. Leaving his whole family behind, he fled to the neighbouring province of Leyte to join another guerrilla forces commanded by his namesake,Lt. Col. Ruperto Kangleon.

According to my sister Pauline, Kangleon and his family were helped by Papa when he escaped Imprisonment and passed through Carcar before going back to Leyte to regroup his force. That is how the two men knew each other.

Papa quickly rose to the ranks and was made Quartermaster – in charge of procuring and distributing supplies.

A harrowing crossing by sea

Less than a year after joining Kangleon’s forces, Papa came back to fetch us. With two of his trusted men, he huddled all of us in a wooden boat and hopped from island to island until we finally landed in Maasin, Leyte.

I did not have any recollection of the horrors of this ocean trip but my siblings recounted that one night, our boat was intercepted by a Japanese patrol.

Papa ordered his men to be ready to fight it out in case the Japanese boarded our boat and discover the whole family huddled covered with coconut leaves.

The stars must have been with us that night and Papa was able to convince the soldiers that he just an ordinary fisherman and allow us to continue our journey.

We returned to our native Carcar when the war ended in 1945.

Papa, like other WW11 Filipino veterans were supposed to be compensated for veteran’s benefits by the U.S. for they were deputized and fought under the American flag.

But sadly, after sacrificing their lives and their families to fight a war not of their own making, these veterans were abandoned by the American government and were not given recognition.

And so another battle began lasting for more than 60 years.

In February 2009, President Barack Obama finally signed the bill that gave them recognition and each qualified, living veteran was awarded a one-time lump sum payment of $15,000.

Papa died on September 21, 1989.

Originally published; October 2015
Philippine Asian News Today