Maryland Filipino WWII Veteran fighting for recognition

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now)—During WWII, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos joined the U.S. armed forces to fight side by side with Americans.

They were promised veterans benefits but that was later rescinded by Congress after the war.

Remigio Cabacar is one of the last remaining Filipino WWII veterans in the DMV still fighting for that promise.

“The occupation at that time was harsh,” said the 96-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Remigio Cabacar as he remembers the violent rule of Japanese forces when they occupied the Philippines during World War II.

“Some of them go around to small villages and see to it that people are obedient to the rule of the Japanese. If you did not…they will arrest you and that’s the end of your life,” said Cabacar.

The Philippines was under attack and after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to defend the Philippines which was an American commonwealth at the time.

He called on Filipinos to help Americans defeat Japanese forces in the Pacific. Tens of thousands of Filipinos left their villages to answer the call.

“We walked 32 miles and when we reached the destination, this recruiter was out of the gate shouting, ‘Who wants to join the Navy?’ So because that was my intention, I raised my hand,” said Cabacar.

Cabacar grew up in poverty.

“I decided to join the military or the Navy because I wanted to serve the country. America. That is because of course we were under the American flag and then I wanted to see the world because of poverty. I come from a poor family that’s why I was urged to join the Navy,” he said.

Filipinos gave life and limb fighting side-by-side with Americans in the Battle of Bataan. When Japanese forces overpowered them, Filipinos were among the estimated 10,000 soldiers who died during the Bataan Death March.

“Because when the war broke out I imagine the first casualty was a Filipino and the blood spilled was for this country,” said Cabacar.

Filipino fighters continued to resist Japanese forces until the war ended in 1945. Roosevelt’s promise was soon after broken when Congress passed the 1946 Rescission Act which ripped away the benefits promised to Filipino fighters who helped end the war.

“Why must we (be) left behind? Why was the service that we rendered for America useless?” said Cabacar.

Cabacar would work for years fighting for his fellow Filipino veterans to get the recognition they deserved. Even protesting and marching on Washington as part of a group of veterans that later organized into the advocacy group known as FilVetRep.

5:09 “We created FilVetRep with a three-pronged mission,” said the Chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. “One was to get a Congressional Gold Medal which is the highest honor that Congress can bestow.”

FilVetRep and its partners worked tirelessly to finally get Congress to award some of these Filipino veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2017. Seventy-two years after the war ended.

“It was really an honor,” said Cabacar. “Physically, I received the medal but I also include those who have fought and died for America.”

Taguba says they are fighting for even more.

“That was the first step to get them recognition,” said Taguba. “Recognition is the first step in getting them to be called ‘veterans’.

FilVetRep’s second mission is to develop this education program and documentary called ‘Duty to Country’.

“That story is not going to be told unless we do this education project and we commit ourselves to make sure that story becomes enshrined in American history,” said Taguba.

The third and final step is the repeal of the Recession Act.

“Last year, we formally started that process by meeting with Senator Maxie Hirono and provided her with the background on why we should repeal and provided her with a draft legislation for them to consider and we are looking for a sponsor in both the Senate and the House of Representatives who will sponsor the bill,” said Taguba.

Cabacar later retired & opened the “Friendly Barbershop” in Fort Washington, Maryland with many stories to tell.

“I am still serving people today,” said Cabacar. “The best I know how.”

If you visit him he will tell you how he served aboard mine sweeping destroyer U.S.S. Thompson in the Korean War or how he rose up in the ranks and retired as a Senior Chief. He also served as a chef for five Directors of the FBI. A legacy of service in the DMV that continues on.

“America gave me what I am today,” said Cabacar. “Look at everything you’ve seen and witnessed here. Because of America.”

Learn more about the history of Filipino WWII veterans by watching the FilVetRep documentary here.


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 or find us on Facebook or Twitter.