Duty to Country education project shares untold history of Filipino WWII veterans

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A new education project called Duty to Country – Under One Flag tells the stories of Filipino veterans who fought for the United States during World War II and the history of “America’s Broken Promise to the Philippines.”

The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FILVETREP) created a collection of free, downloadable resources to raise awareness about a little-known chapter of U.S. history.

Ten years in the making — the project highlights efforts to repeal the U.S. Rescission Act and correct injustices against Filipino veterans.

Materials look like superhero comics, and like comics, these illustrations tell the stories of heroes — brave Filipino men and women who served the U.S. during World War II.

The war ended nearly 80 years ago, but this group is still fighting for recognition and benefits they were promised but denied.

“They rob you of your honor and betray your the promise that was made to you. They don’t pay you, and then they discount you. That’s hard. No, it’s tantamount to being nonexistent,” says U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba in one of the videos in Duty to Country.

FILVETREP Vice Chair Marie Blanco worked on the project while working for the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye for 34 years.

“Not many people knew about the Filipino veterans,” said Blanco said. “We worked to put it together to tell the story of the Filipino veterans because their history was omitted.”

Blanco, Senator Inouye, U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, Senator Mazie Hirono and many others advocated for Filipino WWII veterans — passing legislation in 1990 that allowed them to be naturalized citizens, creating an equity compensation fund in 2009 and awarding them Congressional Gold Medals in 2017.

Now the Duty to Country project aims to educate future generations — with lesson plans, explainer activities, animations, profile cards, and a graphic novel based on 25 hours of oral histories of key figures.

Hawaii native Aria Villafranca created some of the illustrations.

“It’s a good way to get it out into the schools. That’s the goal is to get it out first in Hawaii,” Blanco said.

The Hawaii DOE approved the curriculum for use in schools. It is now being taught at Leilehua High School, St. Louis School, and Sacred Hearts Academy.

“It’s a great example of just active work in democracy and active like civil rights work,” said Jennifer Knerr, a teacher at Sacred Hearts Academy. “Hopefully, drive them to take action, so all my students talk to me about if they could contact their representatives about repealing the Rescission Act. And I was like that, yes!”

“I’m a historian, I’m a Ph.D. in US history, and I never heard the story,” said Valerie Mendoza, Education Outreach Coordinator for Duty to Country. “With other WWII topics, like the Navajo Code Talkers or the Japanese internment, this is also one of those U.S. topics that kind of gets covered up.”

“It’s not taught from that grassroots guerrilla fighter perspective. Hopefully, Duty to Country will change that.”

A change that’s a long time coming for heroes who’ve waited a lifetime to be recognized.

To download the free educational materials, visit DutytoCountry.org.

To learn more about the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, visit filvetrep.org.

The Filipino Community Center is hosting an event to honor Filipino WWI and WWII veterans on Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Waipahu Public Library from 10-11:30 a.m.

For the Zoom presentation link, visit fahsoh.org.

For more info, email fahsoh808@gmail.com.

Copyright 2023 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.


The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, community-based, all-volunteer national initiative whose mission is to obtain national recognition of Filipino and American WW11 soldiers across the United States and the Philippines for their wartime service to the U.S. and the Philippines from July 26, 1941 to December 31, 1946. For more information about Filipino WWII veterans and how to get involved, visit our website at www.filvetrep.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.