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THE PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN MEMORIAL, BAGUIO (First of Two Parts)


 

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This week marked the observance of Philippine-American Friendship Day (03 July) and the 238thAnniversary of the Independence of the United States of America (04 July) which was enlivened by the invitational Independence Day Golf Tournament at Clark Freeport, Pampanga.  Both these commemorative events were hosted by the U.S. Embassy headed by Ambassador Philip Goldberg. 

Earlier, the Philippine-American Memorial (PAM) at Fort del Pilar in Baguio – home of the Philippine Military Academy – was inaugurated and blessed last 28 June 2014.  This project was conceived in order to memorialize the landmarks, institutions and personalities that served to highlight  the development and strengthening of Philippine-American alliance and partnership through the years. 

Fortuitously, this U.S.-Philippines project was timed by the PMA authorities and AFP Commodore (Ret.) Carlos “Chuck” Agustin (1960 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis), the long-standing Project  Committee  Chairman  since  2004, who saw the relevance of PAM in relation to the Mutual Defense Treaty between our two countries.  This, in addition to the ongoing joint Philippine-U.S. military exercises in Ternate, Cavite and in San Antonio/Subic Bay, Zambales – which are both along the West Philippine Sea. 

In his welcome remarks,  PMA  Superintendent Major General Oscar Lopez (PMA ’81) said:  “One of America’s greatest statesmen, Benjamin Franklin, once said:  ‘Where liberty dwells, there is my country.’  These words powerfully resonate even today as we Filipinos enjoy the fruits of freedom.

“The Philippines and the U.S. have been close allies maintaining a constant friendship based on mutual respect and cooperation, and share an unswerving commitment to democratic ideals. 

“Filipinos are forever thankful to the young American teachers who came to be known as Thomasites, to whom we owe the foundations of our public education system, among other U.S. enhancements. 

“Now, why this Memorial?   History teaches us not only to remember but also to gain insights••••  It serves to fortify our spirit of nationhood and rekindle our sense of interdependence that could strengthen both patriotism and international cooperation.

“The Philippine-American Memorial here in the PMA honors the shared history and legacy of outstanding Filipino and American warriors for liberty and their valuable contributions to the respective lives of our two nations. 

The PAM reminds us of the sacrifices of our Filipino and American soldiers in World War II who unselfishly gave their lives for freedom’s cause, and it is my very hope that this will recall to each one of us how blessed we all are for being able to enjoy the fruits of their herorism.”

The Philippine-American Memorial

The Philippine-American Memorial Project was conceived during the Philippine Military Academy’s Alumni (PMAAA) Homecoming on 14 February 2004, when the PMA Superintendent, MGen. Edilberto P. Adan, agreed to the proposal of the West Point Society of the Philippines (WPSP) to expand the memorial’s concept to one that would include commemorating events highlighting Philippine-American partnership in the history of the Philippines, with the particular focus on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PMA. 

The Filipino nation continues to maintain a deep reservoir of goodwill toward the American people. We continue to consider the United States as our special friend.

The project was immediately supported by concerned officials and stakeholders, principally Defense Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, AFP Chief of Staff General Narciso L. Abaya, PMAAA Chairman and NDCP President Commodore Carlos L. Agustin (Ret.), WPSP President (Ambassador) Jose A. Syjuco, Jr., and USNA Alumni Association Philippines Chapter (USNAPHIL) President (Congressman) Roilo S. Golez.  In endorsing this project, former President FVR strongly suggested that it should include not only the military but a more encompassing historical relationship between our two countries. 

In a letter on 08 June 2004, Secretary Ermita authorized the project.  Subsequently, SND Avelino J. Cruz, Jr., issued Department Order No. 17 creating the Project Steering Committee. 

The U.S. Response And Commitment

On the same occasion, U.S. Navy Captain John Cranston, representative of Ambassador Philip Goldberg, affirmed:  “On behalf of the United States, we thank you for your gracious hosting of U.S. Navy ships for the 2014 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) now ongoing in Zambales. 

CARAT is a testament not only to the United States commitment to the Republic of the Philippines, but also to the professionalism of the AFP and Philippine Coast Guard, and to the Filipino values of ‘ospitalidad’ (hospitality) and ‘bukas palad’ (open palm). 

“The friendship and partnership between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines is one of the strongest and closest in Asia, and the relationship between our two countries is enduring and exceptional.  This Memorial is an eloquent reminder of the common efforts and shared sacrifices of the Philippines and the United States together through our long and close friendship.

“Our MDT, one of only five bilateral mutual defense treaties the United has signed, is a stabilizing influence in the region and a beacon of the mutual respect and affinity between our two nations.  Our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will continue to make the region secure and prosperous. 

“This is not to say there have not been challenges.  But, our combined experiences over the years – in the Southern Philippines for example – illustrate that together we can overcome challenges and bring peace and hope to those in need.

“Operation Damayan (Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation), for instance, is a tremendous example of the power of cooperation to save lives and bring relief and comfort to a disaster stricken area. Our inter-operability is the result of years of bilateral training such as the Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) manuevers and the Philippines-U.S. Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX).

“In closing, I stand here today confident, knowing that our militaries are strong, and that the common friendship and respect of the American and Filipino nations for each other will continue to endure.  This is a path through which to make an already strong partnership even stronger, and a close friendship even closer.” 

Courage, Integrity, Loyalty – Duty, Honor, Country

As one of the invited speakers, FVR recalled that as a the first post-WWII U.S. Military Academy graduate (1950), he drew from West Point the values of Duty, Honor, Country, and also much of his commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom.  In this context, FVR’s participation at the inauguration of the Philippine-American Memorial was more than a just sentimental sortie (though arduous for an 86-year old soldier), but also a great opportunity to help reinvigorate the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States.

In his closing message at the new Philippine-American Memorial, Ramos underscored that “there were 19 Filipino West Point graduates who fought side by side with their American comrades in WWII. When that war broke out, 267 American West Point graduates – drawn from 39 classes – were on active duty in the Philippines. Nearly two-thirds of them – 173 to be exact – perished here and in the Asia-Pacific. 

One million Filipinos died during WWII either as combatants of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), as guerilla resistance fighters during the three-year occupation, or as innocent bystanders in a war our people did not understand as to why it happened in the first place.

The most prominent West Pointer who served in the Philippines was General Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1903, who was instrumental in the organization and training of the Philippine Army in 1935, fought the defense of the Philippines on Bataan and Corregidor in 1942, escaped to Australia, and led the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, fulfilling his pledge of "I shall return".  

During his early days in the Philippines, another famous alumnus, then Major Dwight Eisenhower (U.S. President, 1953-1961), assisted Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur as a staff officer. 

FVR brought up these facts of "ancient history" to remind younger generations that the relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. is one forged in blood – and that West Point, Annapolis, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine alumni of both countries have played a prominent role in that relationship (previously mentioned in his Manila Bulletinarticle, 01 June 2014).  

Even after the Philippines became independent, the close relationship between the two countries and their defense forces continued to be enhanced. Filipinos, including myself, fought under the Philippine flag on the same side as the Americans in two Asian conflicts – Korea and Vietnam. 

Central, Constant Realities About the U.S.

AS ONE CONTEMPLATES THE HORIZON OF PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN RELATIONS, THREE MASSIVE AND COMPELLING FACTS INSTANTLY OBTRUDE IN ONE'S MIND:  FIRST, OUR TWO COUNTRIES HAVE A CONTINUING COMMUNITY OF STRATEGIC AND ECONOMIC INTERESTS. SECOND, THE UNITED STATES IS THE BIGGEST COLLECTIVE INVESTOR IN OUR COUNTRY GIVEN THE TOTAL PERIOD OF PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN POLITICAL, DEFENSE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS.  AND THIRD, THE UNITED STATES REMAINS THE UNDISPUTED MILITARY LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD.

THESE CENTRAL REALITIES TRANSCEND FLUCTUATIONS IN THE POLITICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CLIMATE OF PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN RELATIONS. THEY CONSTITUTE INVARIABLE CONSTANTS IN OUR BILATERAL AFFAIRS, WHICH EITHER COUNTRY CAN ILL AFFORD TO SUBORDINATE TO TRANSIENT CONSIDERATIONS AND SHORT-TERM EXIGENCIES.  OVERALL, OUR PARTNERSHIP AND ALLIANCE GETS STRONGER WITH EACH PASSING YEAR!!!

Abangan,Part II, More on the Philippine-American Memorial.

Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org.  Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.

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