No war photos of ‘soldier Bondad’ but peer account enough | Inquirer Opinion

No war photos of ‘soldier Bondad’ but peer account enough

12:13 AM July 04, 2016

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) found the story of “Francisco B. Bondad, former soldier” (Letters, 6/4/16) deserving of publication in its quarterly newsletter. In a letter dated June 7, 2016, PVAO requested additional materials to complete the story: “old photos” as a member of the “Philippine Commonwealth Army,” “most recent photos as a veteran,” and “how he survived the infamous Death March.”

Piecing together an account of “how he survived the infamous Death March” could be a daunting task. In those rare instances when Francisco B. Bondad was on a furlough, years after World War II ended, talk on all topics over family meals was prohibited. World War II photo albums were nonexistent. The quarter of a million Filipino patriots who defended the nation from “tyranny” were oblivious of the privileges, accolades due returning war heroes, victorious or vanquished, when they enlisted in the military.

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War diaries? How could youthful fighters have endured  writing “notes” of torture, extreme thirst and hunger, “convulsive gasps”? In those days, dying in the service of the country was not extraordinary.

I am not in a position to give an account of how “Veteran Bondad” survived the Death March, realizing  belatedly that I took his survival for granted, and the subject matter was not touched upon whenever I devoted time to bond with him in America. But I am certain my father did not escape during the “march” to survive, nor did he break ranks in that long march from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga to the ultimate destination— the concentration camp in Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.

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That he ended in O’Donnell is borne by his narration in 1997 that he linked up with the father of the late Maximo V. Soliven, Benito Soliven, in the “camp.”

Gen. Jaime A. Catral’s account is most telling: “We were both in the Death March, our final destination was the concentration camp at Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac … there were times when he was shaking …  a result of our sufferings in the concentration camp when we were prisoners.”

For decades after the war ended, thousands “endured hardships in silence,” and their number could be more, if we include those whom President Harry Truman denied of the “promised benefits and citizenship” as their service was “not considered as active service in the United States Army.”

Significantly, concrete and positive steps under President Barack Obama’s administration to “right a wrong” are certainly welcome (“New US program reunites Pinoy war vets with families,” News, 11/6/16). But with the number of survivors fast dwindling, the processing of entry permits for the veterans’ immediate family members, who wish to be reunited with them in the United States, should be expedited. And both the United States and the Philippines should focus on postwar health issues, such as my late father faced—issues that to this day afflict many survivors, except that they have no means to communicate their concerns.

We look forward to a sustained program for veterans in dire need of assistance of whatever form.

—MANUEL Q. BONDAD, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur

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TAGS: Francisco B. Bondad, opinion, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, PVAO
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