Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Between the Lines: A Matter of Honor

There was an enterprising and astute Filipino expatriate based in Washington DC who once cooked up a yearly ego-boosting project based on one’s perceived public image in exchange for “donations.” For about four years, the fellow succeeded in “honoring” unsuspecting and na├»ve community folks from all over the U.S. by doing superficial research on them, dropping names of dignitaries, and asking them to fly to DC to accept an award. Every year there would be about seventeen to twenty-five awardees from different states. The formal reception, according to one honoree, was complete with printed magazine-souvenir programs that appeared sleazy and amateurish. One look at the invitation and publication put out by the enterprising dude would astonish any professional PR practitioner at how utterly delusional some people are. Reminds us of those mailed invites for list-up in “Who’s Who in Wonderland.” Such clever come-ons are often spiked to make you part with hard-earned bucks. Either the acceptors are just gullible souls acutely hungry for attention or are obsessed by any form of ego-tripping. What is outrageous is the barefaced demand for money as a prerequisite to receiving honors. This counts among the more scandalous acts crossing our radar screen. Money asked in the guise of a donation, a veteran strongly voiced out, cheapens any form of tribute-giving. Which sadly throws a monkey wrench on well-meaning gestures by those not steeped in dealing with tender sensibilities. It is a matter of honor and not the amount asked, the aging soldier insists—referring to a particular situation. Well, we ought to know better next time. Maybe protocol (or is it propriety?) should first be studied before we honor people. How about that fellow in DC? We learn he no longer runs his yearly image pakulo. You’ll probably guess why.

Among the blessings and abstracts we receive, the not-so-obvious always catches our fancy. For instance, we cherish written bits and pieces of wisdom that come our way. We share a gem that we’ve treasured through the years. You could say that it is a roadmap that has guided us well. Written anonymously, it is entitled “Anyway.”

People are often unreasonable, illogical
and self-centered: Forgive them anyway;
If you are kind, people may accuse you of
selfish, ulterior motives: Be kind anyway;
If you are honest and frank, people may
cheat you: Be honest anyway;
If you spend years building, someone may
try to destroy overnight: Build anyway;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may
be jealous: Be happy anyway;
The good you do today, people will often
forget tomorrow: Do good anyway;
You see, in the final analysis, it is between
you and God; it was never between you
and them, anyway.


I would say that in about three more years, the World War II veterans you see today could fade away and belong to history. Now in their mid or late 80s, these gallant warriors of freedom, in case you are not aware, are sending out faint but profound signals. They need help. In this month of November when we mark Veterans Day, let us say a prayer for them. Their signals are directed at those who can do something about their plight. We do not mean only the old Filipino-American WW II veterans living in the U.S. but their counterparts who are in the Philippines and rapidly dwindling in numbers. The veterans here need their immediate families to rejoin them in the U.S. to be their main support system. Back in the Philippines, the veterans there need economic and medical benefits as they grow old. For over sixty years, too much lip service has been said about the compelling war veterans issue. Analyzed to the bone these past few years, the benefits due the frail and aging soldiers have been parceled out in trickles. Certainly better than nothing. Thanks to the lobbying of earnest groups like the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV) led by former journalist and veteran’s son Eric Lachica, the veterans can look forward to some concessions like conditional medical and burial benefits. But that is like band-aid on an amputated joint. The infamous Rescission Act of 1946 had cut off the Filipino soldier from his military service benefits and he is suffering. Analysts say that after the mid-term election win by Democrats in the U.S. Congress, there is hope. In early December, Senators Inouye and Akaka, hopefully to be joined by Washington state Senators Murray and Cantwell, will file what will be known as the “Stand Alone” bill to accelerate the coming to this country of the veterans’ immediate families. If you have access to a PC, please send letters to your U.S. Congressional representatives to support pending bills that will benefit these aging soldiers. In our state of Washington, the outlook since two years ago has been optimistic. Through the help of the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA), the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the International Drop-In Center (IDIC), local WW II veterans are being surveyed to determine the actual number of families petitioned more than twelve years or so ago. No less than Governor Christine Gregoire and State Senator Margarita Prentice have demonstrated uncommon support for the aging Fil-Am veterans. Also in December we hope we can accompany local veterans’ leaders to Washington DC for an invitational conference to address issues surrounding pending benefits and to craft a unified front as a community. Realistically, that meeting in the nation’s seat of power could be the old soldiers’ last chance to voice out their appeal. On the national level, the Philippine Embassy in DC and the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) have re-charged their efforts to help the fast-fading old soldiers. The veterans will take slow, painful strides in DC in what one advocate grimly calls a “Debt March.” By now everyone realizes that their cause has turned into an issue of conscience. And it is everyone’s hope that all the concerted attention being beamed on the old soldiers and their families will soon come to a crescendo of fulfillment. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the veterans live a little longer so they can taste the fruits of any hard-earned triumph.