Veteran Rumingan: One man made a difference
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By Jennie L. Ilustre
You would probably not notice World War II veteran Guillermo Obedoza Rumingan if you met him on the street. He himself would be the first to say, cracking a smile (he knew he didn’t look like Brad Pitt): “I’m just an ordinary guy.”
But he was an ordinary guy who accomplished extraordinary things. He passed away last March 27 in Virginia , a result of aortic abdominal aneurysm. In the course of his 86 years on earth, he touched the lives of so many, in an enduring legacy.
The individuals and families, some he casually met, who became U.S. citizens through his help? Their clans are assured of a brighter future. The guy everyone called Manong (Elder Brother) Emong was not a lawyer, but he was as good as one.
He and two other friends set a goal to become a lawyer. But the war broke out. Rumingan joined the guerrilla movement, foregoing college. Later, he would send relatives to college. Those he helped become a nurse or a teacher? Why, their future generations will owe thanks to one man, by then long gone.
Rumingan was sensitive about not being a college graduate, which, to be sure, is not the true measure of a man. “Thou have been weighed in the balance and found wanting” did not apply to him.
He was not religious, by his own admission. But he was a true Christian. “I’m probably the only man in the world,” he would softly say, “who was able to forgive the man who killed his father during the war, and the man who killed his son.” (The former would later save his life.)
True, Rumingan did not have a college diploma framed on the wall. But he rated summa cum laude<D> in Life 101. And he was always educating himself. He read history and other books, and late in life, went high tech, via Google.
He liked to quote Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios.<D> Churchill was another favorite. “They also serve who stand and wait,” referring to those who were not in combat. But with Rumingan’s sense of humor, it also related to his life as a driver to eight ambassadors in the nation’s capital a source of pride for him.
Rumingan was proudest of his lobbying efforts and also assistance to fellow veterans and their widows, after the war and later as Service Officer of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans. He liked to “come home,” following up pension claims with the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office. For veterans in the U.S. , including Hawaii , he researched their records at the National Archives. Many received approval of previously denied claims.
With Febe Antolin Rumingan, since 1963 he opened his home to visiting Philippine government and veterans’ officials, lobbying for an Office of Veterans Affairs in the capital. “I’m lucky to have a wife who is very supportive,” he said.
During the war, Rumingan joined the 201 Squadron of Capt. Juan Pajota of the Central Nueva Ecija Military Area, under the overall command of Maj. Robert Lapham of the Luzon Guerrilla Army Forces.
Lapham sent runner (intelligence courier) Rumingan on a mission to pass information to Pajota. (The rescue mission of allied Prisoners of War in Nueva Ecija was depicted in “The Great Raid.”) No one knew his role. At a recent book signing, he told “Ghost Soldiers” author Hampton Sides about it.
Retired U.S. Army General Antonio M. Taguba wrote in a tribute: “Rumingan was truly a Soldier’s Soldier…He faithfully and honorably served his country of birth, and the nation that granted him a place in history: the Philippines and the United States . He coveted the heart of the Soldier’s Creed ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’
“Even in retirement, he was a stalwart advocate for veteran’s rights to gain their rightful benefits. For over fifty years, he tirelessly assisted his fellow veterans in pursuit of their compensation and benefits up to time of his untimely death.
“Recognized by three U.S. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama he was the fierce warrior who gained their full attention on the plight of his fellow veterans. He was a soldier above all whose greatest acts of sacrifice in war and peace disclosed his uncommon character to many lives he touched. Sergeant First Class Guillermo Rumingan, U.S. Army Retired, will not be forgotten.”