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Remembering our heroes

Bing C. BraniginBy Bing Branigin

As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of Bataan Day, I remember the sacrifices of all Filipinos who gave their lives during World War ll.

One of the unsung heroes was Guillermo “Emong” Rumingan. He was enlisted by the US army into the New Philippine Scouts.

Emong is the face of Filipino WWll veterans lobbying in the US Congress. In the mid 1960′s, he became aware of the possible benefits for his colleagues as veterans. He coordinated with then PVAO in the Philippines to have representations in the United States.

After 20 years, the Philippine government finally set-up a veterans office at the Philippines to facilitate the veterans needs and also to look into getting more assistance for them.

Mang Emong was the researcher, driver, volunteer, and historian. He retired in the Office of Veterans Affairs in 2002 but continued to work as consultant pro-bono.

Guillermo "Emong" Rumingan

Guillermo "Emong" Rumingan

Manong Emong would spend his own money for photo copying materials from his research at the war and Naval archives. He would give money to fellow veterans, provided airline tickets to a lobbyist. He drove and paid for gas when they go to the U.S. Congress to meet with officials.

Yes, he did this and many more.

He bought copies of the Ghost Soldier by Hampton Sides. The book tells the heroic epic story of soldiers both Americans and Filipinos in raiding the prison where they freed hundreds of dying and emaciated prisoners by the Japanese in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. Emong gave away these books to his fellow veterans, friends, and media. Emong was part of that unit that took part in that successful raid. Prior to the book, there was also a film, “The Great Raid”, where Filipino actor, Cesar Montano played the part of Filipino guerrilla, Col. Pajota.

Since Mang Emong was part of the historic raid in Cabanatuan, he told Hampton Sides some minor mistakes in the book. Since then the two became friends.

Filipino actor Cesar Montano and the rest of the actors of the Great Raid, were excited to meet with Mang Emong during the films’ premier in Washington, D.C.

Last March 1, Mang Emong, Eric Lachica, and I met with Maj. Gen. (Ret) Delfin Lorenzana at the OVA Office, Philippine Embassy.

Emong was assisting another WWll Filipino veteran Celestino Almeda, 94 years old, to get his lump sum benefit.

Due to some bureaucratic process, Almeda has been denied the benefit. Mang Emong due to his researched found a way to convince the U.S. Veterans Affairs.

So for two hours that day, we discussed on the procedure for Almeda’s appeal.

Unfortunately, Mang Emong will not be there to celebrate with Almeda when he gets his check because he passed away, March 27.

On April 2, family, friends and colleagues packed the memorial service for him. This was also the same date that Mang Emong and wife Febe were supposed to fly back to Manila to attend the 70th Commemoration of Bataan Day.

The author with the Guillermo "Emong" Rumingan (right) who passed away recently after a decades-old struggle for Filipino veterans rights in Washington DC.

He was really looking forward to this trip because he thought it would be his last as he was getting old to travel.

Journalist Tom Brokaw describes the World War ll veterans as “The Greatest Generation”. He said “these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.”

Yes, Mang Emong was just that.

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