The Filipino men who served in World War II are now in the twilight of their lives: their average age is 85 and often they surpass this mark. This means that when the war broke out, a good number of them were merely teenagers—barely men—who were forced by circumstance to come of age and carry the brunt of a nation under attack. Among those who lived, most recall years when lives were put on hold. Days of being carefree students were traded in for field missions where often only two grades would determine their fate: dead or alive. If they lived, they were forced to accept uncertainty, living day-to-day on no assurance that their needs would be met, however hard they aspired to live.

 

The memoirs of Dr. Jose P. Javier

Captain Jose P. Javier, M.D., at 106 years old, is one of the oldest surviving veterans of the Second World War. Capt. Javier was a thirty-two-year-old doctor when the war broke out, and he became part of the medic corps of the Philippine Scouts. He was captured during the fall of Bataan, survived the Bataan Death March that followed, and became among the many prisoners-of-war of the Japanese. On August 1942, he was released and was reunited with his family—his brother, 3rd Lt. Fernando P. Javier, who passed away at 107 years old on June 29, 2015,[1] was likewise a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Two years later, Capt. Javier joined the guerrilla war movement in Ilocos Sur. He fought the Japanese until the liberation in 1945.

The centenarian survivor of the fall of Bataan and of the “death march” that followed shares his life in his memoir A Century’s Journey: Memoirs of Jose P. Javier, M.D. We are providing an excerpt from Capt. Javier’s memoir, with permission from the publisher, that recalls the surrender of the Philippine forces in Bataan:

Just before the surrender, the commanding general of our division, General Capinpin, was captured. Everything was disorganized. No more chain of command. Everybody looked after himself. Everybody walked to the rear away from the approaching Japanese. I met Leo Alviar of San Fernando, La Union, who was in tears. He was thinking of his wife whom he married shortly before the war. He told me that his superior wanted him to go back to his unit to take care of his men. Do not mind him, I said.

For a while we hiked without direction or destination. Japanese soldiers overtook us. Some of them seemed to be friendly. You may go home now, they said. We hiked northward in order to get out of Bataan. After one day of hiking, we were stopped and made to join many others. We were made to sit down on the ground while a Japanese soldier made a count touching each head with the end of a pole…From [Dinalupihan] we were made to march in columns, with a Japanese soldier at the head and another at the tail of the column. Day and night, without any stop, without food or water. People who lived along the highway stood by with cans of water to offer us. We helped ourselves when not seen by the guard who did not want us to get out of the column… When the [guard] was out of sight a few escaped by diving into the ditch along the highway… If caught trying to escape, one was sure to be bayoneted… All the prisoners were starved before they surrendered, exhausted from enemy pressure and bombardments, many of them sick and wounded. They were made to march without food and water and medical attention, under the hot sun all day long, marching day and night with only short and infrequent periods of rest… In San Fernando, Pampanga, we were led into a big enclosure fenced in by a barbed wire… There were thousands in the enclosure without preparation for our basic needs. A big pit was dug where everybody went to relieve himself. It was nauseating. We were given a meager ration of rice. The next day we were hauled in baggage cars of a train and brought to Capas. From the town we walked to Camp O’Donnel.

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Philippine government pensions for war veterans

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) ensures the welfare of former Filipino soldiers and oversees the services for and pensions of eligible war veterans. View the benefits and pensions issued by the PVAO; they are based on the provisions of Republic Act No. 7696, which amends Republic Act No. 6948.

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ENDNOTES

[1] “Oldest living Filipino war vet dies at 107,” CNN Philippines website, April 4, 2016, http://cnnphilippines.com/lifestyle/2015/06/30/Engineer-Fernando-Perez-Javier-war-veteran.html