An exhibition on the World War II Veteran with images from Rick Rocamora, Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, Life Collection, the Filipinas Heritage Library, and “Little Brown Man in San Francisco” by Howie Severino
God Bless America (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Filipino Guerillas (1944)Filipinas Heritage Library
A Long Road to Dignity features 1940-1945 images of Filipino soldiers from FHL’s Retrato and Rod Hall collections , paired with the documentary work of acclaimed photographer Rick Rocamora . Together they portray Filipino veterans’ wartime experiences and a long struggle in its aftermath.
Who is Ernesto Fajardo? (1999) by Howie SeverinoFilipinas Heritage Library
Supplemented with audio and video materials from the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project and Howie Severino’s Little Brown Man in San Francisco (1999-2001) , the exhibit aims to highlight the Filipino veterans' struggle and contributions in the states and in the motherland---to put a lens on how they value themselves, as well as, materially, to maintain a document of their dignified existence as aging besets them.
Cut into these traces are tough choices made throughout eight decades (1940-2020). These traces carry oaths to the nations the veterans served, and to their families and peers. The choices hinge on how the veterans value themselves.
In July 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued a military order calling into service of the United States Armed Forces all organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. A few months after, in December 1941, the Japanese air forces attacked the Philippines marking the start of the Second World War spreading to the Pacific. Filipino soldiers responded to the call of duty, fighting alongside American allies.
The war effort encouraged Filipinos to join the USAFFE, the Philippine Army, and various guerilla factions. They took on different roles in their respective platoons.
“My duty is to train recruits in the art of marksmanship, scouting and patrolling and so on, within a short span of time.”
“My task was to gather intelligence information on Japanese positions, their whereabouts and if they are nearby”
Death March Begins
Roughly 76,000 prisoners of war (66,000 Filipinos and 10,000 Americans) were forced to walk 106 kilometers from Bataan to Tarlac. Many died, either killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to fend off starvation and disease.
The Bataan Death March was one of the moments of deep tragedy in WWII history. Veterans contend with memories of the cruelty they endured in that fatal passage
These guerillas helped liberate prison camps and areas in Japanese control. On February 23, 1945 in Los Baños, many Filipino guerillas fought alongside members of the US 11th Airborne to rescue 2,132 allied prisoners of war.
By Carl MydansLIFE Photo Collection
Scenes of wartime brotherhood happened across the Philippines. American and Filipino soldiers and guerillas alike waged battles against the Japanese.
“Leaflets were being dropped from the planes urging the Japanese to surrender"
The Philippines was liberated from the Japanese. Manila became one of the world’s most devastated cities as bombs dropped just before the war ended.
The struggle goes on for the veterans in the prolonged aftermath of war.
In 1946, The Recission Act was signed by the US Congress declaring that Filipino military service during the Second World War “shall not be deemed active for purposes of any law of the US conferring rights and privileges, or benefits, except for those who were maimed or separated from active service for physical disabilities.”
Wait for Equity (1999/2001) by Howie SeverinoFilipinas Heritage Library
Veterans Citizenship (1999/2001) by Howie SeverinoFilipinas Heritage Library
After 44 years, the US Congress passed Section 305 of the Immigration Act of 1990. The section allowed naturalization for once-active members of the USAFFE, the Philippine Army, and recognized guerilla groups from September 1939 to December 1946.
Simeon Gacuray (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Jose Cabrera Hernani (1993/2001) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
For 18 years, Rick Rocamora documented the lives of Filipino World War ll Veterans as they waited for equity. The veterans confided in him their memories of war and the struggles of living overseas.
Simeon Laure (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Unfinished carpeting, portable heater, and rice cooker (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
First Day of the Month (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Little Brown Man in San Francisco
The filmmaker Howie Severino gives Floro Bagasala, a Filipino veteran, the moniker "little brown man" in San Francisco. Before repatriating to the Philippines, eventually passing away in Marikina, Bagasala rented out chairs and chess sets along San Francisco's Market Street. He sent his earnings to his family back home.
Excerpt from Little Brown Man in San Francisco (1999/2001) by Howie SeverinoFilipinas Heritage Library
Veteran playing the violin (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
The Fight Continues
The Philippine Veterans Equity Movement held ground in the 1990s. Founded in 1999, the San Francisco Veterans Center meets Filipino veterans’ urgent needs, offering them culturally and linguistically appropriate services. The members of the equity movement also lobbies for laws to let them claim equitable benefits and recognition.
Pat Ganio and other Veterans with Rep. Benjamin Gilman at the US Congres (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Demetrio Carino (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Jose Bognot's remains in a box (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Justo Despuyart (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Magdaleno Duenas on his walk (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Magdaleno Duenas (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
Going Back to San Francisco (1999) by Howie SeverinoFilipinas Heritage Library
Felizardo Ticao wears his uniform and war medals with pride. Unseen in the photo are veteran documents he often tucks in his cap. He carries them as both reminder and proof that he is a war hero.
Congressional Medal Awarding (2019) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library
To share your thoughts on the exhibition, scan the QR Code or go to this link: bit.ly/RoadToDignityFeedback
Rick Rocamora (b. 1947) is an award-winning documentary photographer and author of photo books—among them, Filipino WWII Soldiers: America’s Second Class Veterans, and Blood, Sweat, Hope and Quiapo; Rodallie S. Mosende Story. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts keeps his work in its permanent collection. His photos now form part of the U.S. State Department Art in Embassies Program as well as of private and institutional collections. Museums and galleries have exhibited his work internationally. His images have appeared online, in print, and in broadcast news. In the homeland, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ben Cab Museum, Vargas Museum, and Ateneo Art Gallery have showcased his work. His exhibition Bursting at the Seams: Inside Philippine Detention Centers won national and international awards for Filipinas Heritage Library. Before pursuing documentary photography, he worked in the American pharmaceutical industry for close to two decades.
Horacio "Howie" Severino (b. 1961) is an award-winning Filipino broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker best known for his work at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, GMA's I-witness, and the Probe Team. From 1999 to 2001, he made the Little Brown Man in San Francisco . The film is part of a series he produced as a Documentary Fellow at Pusod, the Filipino American center for culture, ecology and bayan at Berkeley, California.
Research and Curation: Sofia Santiago
Text: Sofia Santiago, Monica Araneta Tiosejo, John Labella
Digital Imaging, Video Conversion and Tech Support: Andre Angeles, Louisa Marquez
Research and Collections Assistance: Cecil Ayson, Louisa Marquez, Marianne Bugnosen
Overall Project Direction: Suzanne Yupangco, John Labella, Monica Araneta Tiosejo
Images are from Rick Rocamora, Filipinas Heritage Library and its Roderick Hall Collection, Google Life Collection, and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project
Selected Video Clips are from "Little Brown Man in San Francisco" by Howie Severino
Special thanks to:
Jonathan Melegrito of the PhilVetRep
Ellen Robles and Arnold Legaspi of the Ayala Museum Shop
Krysten Tan and Jezelle Ong of Ayala Museum Marketing
This exhibit is for all Filipino World War II soldiers and veterans who lived and died in the Philippines or overseas.