While I was writing about the incident with the gun and the lizard in Bataan, I digressed from the topic and began to think about Memorial Day. I am thinking about my not half-, but full brother, Felix, who died in the Capas Concentration Camp in May, 1942. He was born on May 18, 1920. He was single.
When I went to Manila in 1993 to attend my son Tony’s promotion to Commodore, I visited Elix’s grave in Ft. Bonifacio. On the cross marking his grave was a name, BENIGNO AQUINO.
I guess I am the only one thinking of him today, although our stepmother, Anicia Javier Sibayan, second wife of Father, is receiving a monetary pension as Elix’s beneficiary, since 1946, because he and I were both minors when Father married her in 1933, one year after Mother’s death.
If Elix were alive, he would be 75 years old now. I would not know what career he could have taken, but, like me, I know he would now be a PENSIONADO. That was our ambition when we were small kids. We wee going together to the slaughter house to buy “lomolomo” for breakfast, and I asked him what he would like to be. I gave examples as lawyer, doctor, engineer, teacher, etc. We both agreed, to become a PENSIONADO. Why? Because at the end of the month our neighbor, Mr. Guerson, would pass by and Father would tell him, NAIMBAG KAPAY GIEM TA AGAWAWATKA TI CUARTA NGA SAAN NGA AGTARTARBAYO.” (You are very fortunate, my friend, because you are receiving money without working.) I asked Father why, and he said because he is a “PENSIONADO.”
Elix and I thought that “pensionado” was a profession. Hence we decided to become a PENSIONADO!
I helped him enter the service as a private in the Ordnance Service before the war. He died as a Corporal, a survivor of Bataan Death March as a POW.
We saw each other in Bataan twice. The first time was when he came to my office in the G-2 Section, Hq. 2nd Regular Division (PC) USAFFE Bauto Pt., across Corregidor. There I gave him food to eat because he was very tired and hungry, coming from the front lines.
He promised to come back with a Springfield rifle to be our souvenir when we went back to Manila. When he came back with the rifle and its bayonet, he was quite a bit thinner but with high spirits because of the news about a “one-mile convoy” headed for the Philippines from America to liberate us.
I fed him again with crackers and condensed milk, which he liked very much. I even gave him some dried carabao meat and sugar to take back to the front lines. That was our last meeting.
After our surrender on April 9, 1942, I met his boss, Col. Hugo Cunanan, near Corregidor Island, and I asked about my brother. He said, “They are behind, following us.” I delayed my trip to Mariveles, trying to look for Elix. Col. Cunanan was with several officers then. He left his men behind. (I found out after the war that they boarded a boat to cross Manila Bay but they were strafed by Japanese planes.)
I failed to see Elix in the Death March or when we were going down Little Beguio. I could have escaped by riding a banca on Hagmoy River to Bataan if not for Elix’s sake.
On April 9, 1995, I was one of the honorees in the POW Program in the Veterans’ Hospital.
On May 20, 1995, I was honored to raise the Philippine flag at the ceremonies in Kissimmee, Florida, during the program for the unveiling of the bronze life-size monument in honor of the Bataan Death March.
In an auditorium where we had luncheon, I was awarded five (5) medals by Gen. Toyumpay Nanadrigo, representing the President of the Philippines. I was the last speaker in that Awarding Ceremonies program, where several veterans were awarded medals from the Philippines. I was the last honoree to be called separately from the others, who got two medals each, because I got the largest number of medals! Praise the Lord!
I just said: “There are no atheists inside a foxhole; no atheists in a Death march; no atheists in a Prisoner of War camp; and no atheists among released Prisoners of War. I, therefore, endorse all honor, praises, and glory to God, for without Him we are nothing! Praise the Lord!”
On May 28, 1995, I was the guest speaker in the Church of Jesus of Nazareth on the invitation of Bishop Eugenio Loreto to their Memorial Day Mass, being the only Filipino Veteran of WWII.
He introduced me as the first President and a founder of the CIN, found and first President of PAAT, and as organizer and first Commander of the Knights of Rizal, Florida Chapter, for whom he has high admiration and respect, etc. I read Psalm 91, and then endorsed all praises and glory to God, in whom we trust. Praise the Lord.
I also mentioned the fact that I was the only Filipino honored as WWII ex-POW in the Tampa Veterans’ Hospital.