A Long Road to Dignity

By Filipinas Heritage Library

Filipinas Heritage Libray

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.

Separation, Rick Rocamora, 1993/2011, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

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.

Filipinos inducted into USAFFE (1941)Filipinas Heritage Library

Oath

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.

Filipino Soldiers Drill, 1941, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more
Help in the War Efforts Flyer, Provincial Government of Bulacan, 1945, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more
Filipino Soldiers Training, 1941, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

Guerilla Image on the front cover of an underground newspaper (1942)Filipinas Heritage Library

The Soldier

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.

Celestino Almeda, The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, 2019, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

“My duty is to train recruits in the art of marksmanship, scouting and patrolling and so on, within a short span of time.”

Potenciano Dee, WWII Guerilla and Veteran, The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, 2019, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

“My task was to gather intelligence information on Japanese positions, their whereabouts and if they are nearby”

Death March Begins (1942)Filipinas Heritage Library

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.

Death March (1942)Filipinas Heritage Library

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

American Soldier with Filipino Guerillas, 1943, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more
Guerilla Soldiers, 1944, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

Liberation at Los Banos (1945)Filipinas Heritage Library

War Liberation

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.

Carl Mydans, 1945-02, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Show lessRead more
Celebrations During Liberation, 1945, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more
Ciriaco Ladines, FilVetRep, 2019, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

“Leaflets were being dropped from the planes urging the Japanese to surrender"

Japan Surrenders, 1945, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more
Carl Mydans, 1945-03, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Show lessRead more

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.

Florentino Naverete (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

The Veteran

The struggle goes on for the veterans in the prolonged aftermath of war. 

Citizenship and Veteran Documents (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

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

Simeon Gacuray
00:00

Jose Cabrera Hernani (1993/2001) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Dama at Powell Street, Bart Station (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Daily Life

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. 

Pork Rinds, Eggs, Jesus Christ, Underwear, Rick Rocamora, 1993/2011, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

Simeon Laure (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Simeon Laure
00:00

Unfinished carpeting, portable heater, and rice cooker (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Christmas with no electricity
00:00
Flea Market, Rick Rocamora, 1993/2011, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more
Weekly Food Rations, Rick Rocamora, 1993/2011, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

First Day of the Month (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Floro Bagasala (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

Equity Meetings (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

Demetrio Carino
00:00

Final Respect (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Honor and Dignity

Jose Bognot's remains in a box (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Living with Honor and Dignity
00:00

Justo Despuyart (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Magdaleno Duenas on his walk (1993) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Magdaleno Duenas
00:00

Magdaleno Duenas (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Going Back to San Francisco (1999) by Howie SeverinoFilipinas Heritage Library

Going Home (1993/2011) by Rick RocamoraFilipinas Heritage Library

Going Home

Purple Heart Awardee, Rick Rocamora, 1993/2011, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

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

Recognizing and Remembering the Filipino
00:00
Guerilla Soldiers, Filipinas Heritage Library, 2021, 1944, From the collection of: Filipinas Heritage Library
Show lessRead more

To share your thoughts on the exhibition, scan the QR Code or go to this link: bit.ly/RoadToDignityFeedback

Credits: Story

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.

Exhibition Team:
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.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps