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AAPI Heritage Month: Remember Filipino World War II veterans

Posted at 8:05 PM, May 30, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Filipino veterans fought alongside the United States in World War II, but their battle was not over after the war.

Benefits promised to those who helped the U.S. were taken away and advocates are making sure contributions from Filipino veterans are not erased from history.

Eduardo Cabling was one of those who fought in World War II. The 96-year-old grew up in the Philippines and now lives in Paradise Hills.

“I’m proud of myself being a veteran,” Cabling said, with his grandson by his side.

Cabling was a teenager during World War II and one of many Filipinos who fought for the United States. “I'm fighting for the Americans because the Philippines was under the American government before,” Cabling said.

The war came at a time when the Philippines was still a U.S. colony. While Cabling is proud of his service, there’s a sad fact.

“Even though I'm a World War II veteran, they don't recognize me,” Cabling said.

In 1946, President Truman signed the Rescission Act. It took away benefits promised from the U.S. government to the Filipinos who helped in the war.

“They conveniently said that we will revoke your US nationality, which is a precursor for gaining US citizenship, and also your benefits. Ultimately, they were not paid,” said retired Major General Antonio Taguba.

Taguba served in the U.S Army. Since his retirement, he has worked with the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. More than 260,000 Filipinos answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt's call to defend the United States and the Philippines during World War II only to get promised compensation revoked.

“It was a blatant way of discriminating against people who served, fought, died, wounded, missing in action for the United States of America,” Taguba said.

The Filipinos fought for the United States and in the years following, the veterans and supporters fought for recognition for their service and sacrifice.

Finally in 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which authorized the release of a one-time, lump sum payment to eligible World War II Philippine Veterans.

It wasn't until 2017—as the reality of time took more of the greatest generation—World War II Filipino veterans were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. It's the highest civilian award in the United States.

“I just wished that it was easier for all the veterans to be recognized. I guess it's better to be late than never,” said Cabling’s granddaughter Analyn Riego.

The recognition is too late for those who passed, but it is a small token for those still alive.

“I’m very, very proud of my service because of this,” Cabling said, holding his medal. “Without this, I don’t know where I am… it’s my life.”

Taguba said the fight is not over. Filipino leaders want the U.S. government to formally repeal the Rescission Act—something Filipino leaders continue to fight for today.

A documentary titled "A Long March" was recently shown at the San Diego GI Film Festival which details the fight of the Filipino veterans.