Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ilocano Son Returns



A TRIP TO DELIGHTFUL ILOCANDIA
By John L. Silva
Philippine Starweek Magazine
March 27, 2005

I’ve seen the rugged coastline and turquoise waters of Northern Luzon many times. But it was always from a plane 39,000 feet above on its way to or leaving Manila.

Joining up recently with a Museum Foundation of the Philippines tour of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, I had a chance to see this section of the country up close.

We had five days to see the sights starting from the heritage city of Vigan and winding our way, church stops, roadside shopping stops, food stops, through Ilocos Norte and further north to the coastline once viewed from the air. Driving up to the Cagayan border.

We were led by Maribel Ongpin, the museum foundation’s chairperson, an intrepid leader/guide, and an Ilocana from Baguio . She has been on this route many times, stretching back to forty years ago when there were no paved roads to speak of.

This trip was a re-discovery of my roots. My father was Ilocano, however, my mother’s Ilonggo heritage, particularly language, dominated our home to the extent that my father learned and spoke to us in Ilonggo. Every so often his roots surprised us children when, in the company of town mates, he would speak a language different in lilt and tonality. When my father spoke in Ilocano, he seemed a different person; there was a beaming smile, a confidence and a warmth so distinctly his own.


When we stepped off the bus in Laoag and boarded our Fort Ilocandia Hotel van, I heard women vendors milling about talking. The bus driver said something. Departing passengers chattered. It was all familiar. For the next few days I was immersed in a place hearing my father’s warm voice.

La Preciosa Restaurant in Laoag was our first Ilocano dining experience. On the second floor of this converted nineteen fifties house, we feasted on Pinakbet, Bagnet, and other vaunted dishes of the region. Pinakbet, for one is a stewed vegetable dish with a dominant piquant taste of bitter melon. Bagnet is deep fried roast pork slices rimmed with fat and skin, which melts in your mouth. In California, my father drove me on Sundays to fruit orchards in Salinas where his town mates lived in work barracks. They were all older men, who weren’t fortunate enough to marry and after years of picking, never got enough money to return to Ilocos in the big time fashion they had fantasized for years.

Dad would make me their son for that day and the men would cook cauldrons of food and the Pinakbet and the Bagnet were the stars. I was skittish at first because they had a pungent and oily taste compared to the staidness of Visayan cooking. But my “fathers” cajoled me and when I ate and ate voraciously, the old manongs would chuckle, proclaiming to my grinning father that his son was an Ilocano too.

It was my first time to Vigan and for those with an eye for heritage buildings, this city is pure eye candy. I had thought that the tourist photos of old Vigan centered around one or two streets. It turned it out that these grand old houses and buildings were on many streets and stretched many blocks. Driving down a street, it was a hard choice to look to the left or to the right, both sides displaying fine examples of Spanish colonial style stone houses. Their wide calesas, still used by the locals, pass by frequently and add a picturesque to a snapshot. The main tourist area, Crisologo St., lined in cobble stone has old houses stretching as far as the eye can see.

There are two excellent museums in Vigan. One is the Museo San Pablo, located right behind the church on the main plaza. It has, for its permanent exhibit, reproductions of original photographs of Vigan taken by a German photographer in the late 19th century. One interesting photo is a shot of the church with its belfry and beautiful old houses and buildings nearby. A local curator couldn’t hide his disdain by pointing to a building in the photograph, closest to the church. “That is where McDonald’s is now. They’ve built a copy of our church complete with a belfry.” Sure enough, when I stepped outside this lovely church and saw the imitation across hawking burgers instead of salvation, and ruining the aesthetics, I congratulated myself and my many friends who’ve been boycotting since McDonalds set up a faux colonial burger joint on Balayan, Batangas church grounds. The church just happens to be one of 26 deemed in the country as a heritage site.

Philippine churches haven’t been ruined solely by soulless businessmen. Unfortunately, the enemy is also within. On this trip, I saw some magnificent structures. I am no expert on church architecture but any lover of old buildings when confronted, for example, with the majesty of Paoay Church can intuit the genius of the Spanish priest/architect and the indigenous artistry that intervened and displays itself proudly throughout the building. The grand interiors of many of the Ilocos churches, with their high ceilings that cause one to look up and ponder divinity, make one reflect on how a structure instigates spiritual thoughts. Despite the countless revolts by the natives against the imposition of Catholicism, the grandeur of Philippine churches has played a significant role in why Filipinos have embraced a foreign religion.

But now, many are totally ruined, defaced, deformed by their own parish priests and bishops who have taken upon themselves the ill-equipped role of being architectural stewards. Laoag Cathedral, once majestic, now stands roofless and without funds to complete a disastrous plan to replace its wooden beams with a steel roof. Sarrat Church has a fa├žade done up beyond recognition from its original design. One weeps over Dingras Church and its crumbling exterior. A crafty native artisan hundred of years back was able to sneak in Indic designs here and there and one can almost hear him laughing at his cunning. Today, like me, he must be seething, as the church progresses to ruins, the balustrades reeking of urine. If there is to be a tourist plan for the region, the churches, like Thailand’s temples, could be star attractions. At the rate it’s going, skip the churches. No intelligent tourist will pain themselves to visit structures mutilated by priests who’ve destroyed their temples to god.

The faithful keepers of Ilocos history have been the museums, most notably preserved by the Burgos Museum in Vigan, administered by the National Museum and housed in the home of a national hero and priest. Along with two other reform minded priests, Father Burgos was strangulated by Spanish authorities in 1872 after the Cavite Mutiny of 1872.

Despite limited funds, the Burgos Museum has maintained the interior of a 19th century house including a well preserved kitchen. The museum’s highlight is the series of paintings recording the Basi Revolt. The uprising, capture and eventual hanging of the insurgents is one of the earliest visual record of native reaction to colonialism and the bravery of the Ilocanos.

The Ilocos Norte Museum in Laoag is the finest example of a private regional museum in the country. Housed in the former Tabacalera warehouse in the city center, this lifestyle museum displays artifacts - clothing, utensils, farm implements and varying woven baskets - all well described and laid out. In this cavernous brick building, they fitted a two-storey house so you can wander through various rooms and get a feel of provincial life. The temporary exhibitions gallery had an interesting exhibit on the Ulnas, the increasingly rare work sled drawn by carabaos. It is an impressive museum and must not be missed by travelers and museum aficionados. The very best of pasalubongs and souvenirs are found in their museum gift shop.

I harbored trepidations over visiting the Marcos Mausoleum in Batac, where the body of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is displayed. I was an anti-Marcos activist, living abroad and on an enemies list that prevented me from returning. It’s been many years now and, the country has progressed little after his ouster.

We were ushered into a dark room with a domed ceiling hovering over Marcos’ body, lit up and laid out under glass. A recorded Gregorian chant was playing and an eternal flame billowed at his foot.

The body, his face, his hands invited curiosity and questions. Is this real or is it wax? The face looked different and unrecognizeable. The hair style seemed the only faithful fragment. I had come to meditate on a man that altered a nation. Instead, I encountered a grotesque pitiful sight shorn of any remaining decency. The sycophants of Lenin and Mao thinking they could hold on to power by transforming their dead idols into taxidermist creations have been proven wrong. Likewise with the former president. History and deeds will judge him, his waxed figure notwithstanding.

Our party drove north to Pagudpud and along the way stopped at the Bojeador Lighthouse, a well worn but still very handsome structure on a steep hill. Climbing sixty steps of a spiral staircase, one is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the coastline, the pounding surf and a deep blue ocean beyond. My mind kept comparing the scene to other vistas. A California coast. Torremolinos in Southern Spain. Oriente Province in Cuba.

A voice in me admonished my silly attempt to frame what I was seeing with sights elsewhere in the world. Here, in front of me, in our country, was a stunning view to behold. And it is simply that.

This late revelation for many like me that our country is so beautiful arose because there was nothing up north that marred and hid its charm. Imagine the delight of driving for countless kilometers on well paved roads (thanks to President Marcos) and the cleanest of surroundings and, most importantly, without the garbage of cell phone advertising banners strewn about and liquor signs pounded on age-old trees. As we motored along the winding coast, there were long silent moments, each traveler reveling in the forgotten splendor of their homeland.

In Pagudpud, we stayed at Pannzian Resort, a delightful cluster of cottages on elevated grounds fronting a beautiful bay. The owners, three brothers and a sister manager, have an abiding love for nature and it is evident in the tended garden, the recycled driftwood furniture and the pervasive use of thatch and bamboo throughout. They served the most delectable meals. The daily activities recommended included visits to waterfalls and mountain trekking. A small group in the party opted for a motorcycle drive to Adams, a remote mountain town forty minutes away.

“We only live once” I thought to myself as I clambered on a motorcycle and held on to my driver as we began the drive inland. I stuck myself with earphones, turned on classical music, and hummed a Mozart Andante as we entered a deep virgin forest.

There is a daring spirit accompanied with feeling vulnerable when riding a motorcycle. We drove through mud and rocks and streams and rivers with our vehicle sliding about every so often. My young driver though was relentless and cool which made me stop worrying. Instead, I pulled out my camera and daringly snapped pictures as we zoomed up the mountain.

It must have been the trees, thirty stories high. Or the several waterfalls we passed. Or the children of Adams that danced and posed for me. Or the mothers by the river pounding their clothes clean. Or the sheltering sky. Whichever it was, Betty’s voice came to mind above the din of the motorcycle’s roar. She’s my New York friend, an elderly soul mate who was upset when I decided to return to my country. It was at a party and a friend had asked why was I returning. Betty overheard the question and she remarked, laced in sarcasm and affection, “Oh, this John. He’s going to the Philippines to be a Filipino.”

The boundless beauty of Ilocos, a place that bore defiant heroes with a language my dear father proudly spoke. So much more to learn and enjoy about this part of our country. Betty was right on the nose.

For more information about the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and future tours, call 404-2685.

Friday, March 04, 2005

WORLD WAR II THE JAPANESE VERSON

John Silva’s version sent to Asian Wall Street Journal

(With all the commemorations on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Philippines, this article reminds us that in Japan, there are still attempts to change history. This piece appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal in August 2003)

World War II, The Japanese Version, at
The Yasukuni Shrine Museum
By John L. Silva

August 15th marks the 58th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific. Over a half century should have brought closure and healing to that painful period. But I was disturbed by a recent visit to the newly refurbished Yasukuni Shrine Museum in Tokyo. The museum reinterprets the war as having been forced on Japan, glosses over the atrocities committed and panders to a lingering Japanese xenophobia.

The museum is on the grounds of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, across from the Imperial Palace. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has visited the shrine twice to honor the 2.4 million soldiers who died most of them during World War II. Some of the dead include Class A War criminals like General Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister who was hanged by the U.S. Army of Occupation in 1948 for war crimes. Koizumi’s official visit - considered illegal by the Japanese Supreme Court in 1991 citing the separation of religion and politics - is opposed by a majority of the Japanese people and the governments of South Korea and China who consider the gesture an insult to their countries.
Shintoism believes that soldiers who died for their country are to be elevated, through ceremony, and revered as gods. Honor for these gods permeates throughout the 20 large marble galleries in the mid-19th century building, renovated last year with an added multimillion dollar modern wing. The exhibit begins chronologically from the medieval period, threads through the internecine battles between Shoguns and ineffectual Emperors, through the Meiji and westernization period, the Russo and Sino-Japanese wars and the Greater East Asian War, an old militarist propaganda term for World War II. Aside from the portraits and photographs of Shoguns, generals, naval commanders and Kamikazi pilots, the artifacts are mostly uniforms, medals, arms and helmets. Full-scale bronze statues, a Zero fighter plane, a tank, a locomotive, and a one-man submarine are in the larger rooms.

Late 19th and early 20th century Asia is described as “Western Powers Encroach(ing) on Asia” with a regional map showing the various European and American flags over their respective colonies. This perspective allows the first of historical interpretations that modern Meiji-era Japan was the guiding light for Asian colonies to break from Western Imperialism. The 1904 Russo-Japanese War is heralded as having inspired other Asians to fight for their independence citing China as an example, having overthrown the Qing Dynasty. Disturbingly, it states baldly that their victory allowed them to “annex Korea resolving concerns about national security.”

The occupation of Manchuria was not to install a puppet president but to transform a backward warlord ridden state to that with modern cities and a vast infrastructure. The Nanking massacre of 1937? There is no citation to be found. But at the museum bookstore, copies of “The Alleged Nanking Massacre, Japan’s Rebuttal to China’s Forged Claims” was prominently on sale.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the text reads, needed a war to get the United States out of a lingering depression. Roosevelt conceived “Plan Victory,” an embargo of goods and oil to Japan causing “…resource-poor Japan into war.” Faced with a shortage, Japan reluctantly eyed the Philippines and points south rich in iron, copper, copra and sugar. There was no other option.

One large exhibition wall has a gigantic blow-up photo of the burning American fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 following the Japanese surprise attack overlaid with hanging models of torpedo planes, bombers and the photos of the fighter pilots who lost their lives. There is an air of triumph in this visual display, in stark contrast to the foot dragging, victimized Japan just a display case away.

The occupation of Manila soon after was “unopposed,” the surrender of Bataan cited, but the three harrowing years of Japanese occupation is selectively forgotten. The disastrous defeat in the decisive naval battle at Leyte Gulf in October 1944 was laid on an “overly optimistic” Imperial General Headquarters and “successive waves of army reenforcements unable to turn the tide of the battle.” As a tribute, a naval officer’s dark blue uniform is displayed, its owner was on the Battleship Musashi, one of the Navy’s largest ships which sank in the battle at Leyte.

The final exhibit is a paean to the positive contribution of Japanese aggression. In a bizarre twist of historical rendering, a map covering Asia, South Asia and Africa links their respective anti-colonial struggles to Japanese domination. “Once the desire for independence had been kindled under Japanese occupation, it did not die, even though Japan was ultimately defeated. After the war ended, Asian nations fought for their independence and won it.”

Far from it. All the Asian nations under Japanese occupation, including the Philippines, had very active guerrilla movements that fought, either in tandem or separately, both the Japanese Army and the colonial forces to gain their independence.

As a final mockery to Philippine history, there are photographs of ex-Katipunero Artemio Ricarte, Sakdalista Benigno Ramos, President Emilio Aguinaldo and President Jose P. Laurel. Each brief decription of their anti-colonial work ended with this identical sentence: “During the war, he cooperated with the Japanese Military.” President Laurel is described inaccurately or by design as the first President of the Philippine commonwealth, robbing President Manuel L. Quezon of that distinction.

Military museums throughout the world glorify and justify their country’s martial past. Their accounts usually lack in objectivity and the depredation, the civilian misery are of scant interest. The Yasukuni Shrine Museum is disquieting because there exists an overlay of Shintoism deifying all military personnel who died for Japan. Including war criminals, butchers, rapists, and the soldiers who flung babies in the air, piercing them with bayonets upon their fall. As gods, they are beyond reproach and the rendering of justice. Now routinely worshipped by Prime Ministers, Japan’s war crimes to the peoples of Asia are erased and even justified. With growing talk from Japan’s right wing faction to revise its constitutional mandate of renouncing war and, instead, rearming - this time with nuclear weapons – the Yasukuni Shrine’s deletion of past criminal culpabilities makes the proposed transition easier.

Prime Minister Koizumi is expected to visit the Yasukuni Shrine again this year and, as in past visits, China and South Korea have strongly condemned these actions. China this year has added checkbook diplomacy by stalling on an expected multi-billion dollar Japanese bullet train project citing the Prime Minister’s offensive shrine visits. The Philippines, sadly muted in its reaction to the whole affair, should follow China and Korea in strenuously objecting to the visits as well as to the Yasukuni Museum’s interpretation of events and its historical deletions. The ancestral spirits of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who died in World War II in defense of their homeland or as innocent victims to Japanese ravages, need no deification. Just a decent and truthful remembrance.

On my way out of the museum, there was an alcove with a guest book inviting people to sign and record their feelings. I asked my fellow museologist, Mr. Kimizuka Yoshihiko of Tokyo Gakugei University to translate the last entry that day, August 3rd. He was aghast and rendered speechless for a few seconds. It read “Kill all Koreans and Asians.” Despite the Shinto ceremony to transform the ancestors as divine, the Yasukuni Shrine cannot seem to extinguish the implacable hate remaining in some of these gods.

John L. Silva is the Senior Consultant to the National Museum of the Philippines

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Statue of Kamikaze Fighter, entrance of the Yasukuni Shrine Museum, Tokyo



Originally uploaded by John Silva.

Photo by John L. Silva

John Silva, Kyoto Aug. 2003

John Silva, Kyoto Aug. 2003
John Silva, Kyoto Aug. 2003,
originally uploaded by John Silva.

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED AND THOSE STILL ALIVE

(Published in Philippine Starweek Magazine, February 13, 2005)

Book review: Ghost Soldiers by Hampton White

John L. Silva

The yearly commemoration of the end of Japanese occupation in the Philippines occurs in the month of February. The weather is temperate, there is a constant cool breeze and the light is still not as harsh. It is a pleasant time to visit the cemetery and memorial sites to lay flowers and offer a prayer to loved ones and fellow citizens who died this month sixty years ago. For the over 100,000 innocent civilians who perished in Manila in February, their deaths were tragic and unnecessary. If it wasn’t from the hands of a barbaric Japanese soldier it would be from the excessive mortar fire of American “liberation” forces.

The remembering this year has been more acute with the visit of Mr. Hampton Sides, author of the best-selling book, Ghost Soldiers. It is a about the rescue of 500 American prisoners in a Cabanatuan prison camp by a selected team of 121 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Sixth Ranger Batallion.

The book appearing in hardcover in 2002, has been a national bestseller in the United States and received several literary prizes for the author, a native of Memphis, Tennessee. Many distinguished American writers from the south like William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote excel at good storytelling. Hampton Sides has now joined the ranks by giving a gripping historical rendering of the most successful American rescue operations on Philippine soil.

Actually, Hampton Sides would amend that statement. In his talk at the United States Embassy honoring him, and in speeches to a variety of audiences, Mr. Sides would repeatedly emphasize the invaluable role played by the Filipino guerrillas in helping and supporting the rescue operations. He never fails to mention the names Captain Juan Pajota and Captain Eduardo Joson two veteran guerrilla fighters who, with their hundred men provided reconnaissance, tactical information, and their lives fighting the Japanese forces while the raid on the prison camp occurred.

This is refreshing insight for many Filipinos weaned on past biographies, history books and movies of World War II Philippines written by Americans who, by omission, left out a wide swath of Filipinos that played fairly significant roles in that period. A lot of the forgetfulness came with the thinking in those days. The historical movers were the Americans, the Filipinos and the Philippines merely the backdrop.

Hampton Sides is one of a growing number of enlightened American historical writers who’ve discarded long-standing notions about America’s incursion into the Philippines, replacing them with sober objectivity. In Ghost Soldiers he introduces the Philippines to readers as the colony won after “…a vicious campaign against the Philippine people which came to be known, inappropriately, as the Philippine Insurrection, as though the local citizenry were displaying an outrageous insubordination for seeking a voice in the future of their own archipelago.” Just twenty years ago, this kind of statement in the U.S. State Department would have been branded pure Communist piffle.

Not only does Sides acknowledge the role of the Filipino guerrillas, he gives them a flesh-and-blood rendering. Captain Pajota he describes as having a …”round, high-cheekboned face and a penetrating stare. His voice was grave, his English clipped and richly accented but quite fluent. A fellow American guerrilla leader who knew Pantoja said “He was a very unflamboyant guy with a natural bent for leadership. He was resourceful, organized, and extremely imaginative. He was from Nueva Ecija, and knew it like a book.” Just the phrase “Knew it like a book” speaks volumes of an important guerrilla attribute.

Hampton Sides spent only a month in this country five years ago to write this book. It’s simply amazing considering the minutest details he adds in describing the Philippine countryside. Much of the story is about the travel on trucks, on foot, and eventually on all creeping fours by the 6th Ranger led by Lt. Colonel Henry A. Mucci with 120 men to reach the prison camp site in Pangatian, four miles from Cabanatuan City.

Cogon grass, Sides writes was good for cover for the Rangers but “bore hundreds of silky hairs that made the Rangers” skin itch. There was “dried carabao dung” they had to crawl over on the “cracked earth” of rice fields. There were …”deeper thickets with miscellaneous noise – buggy noises, reptilian noises.” Oftentimes Sides would switch to poetry. If the trudging soldiers tired of the vegetation and wanted to look anywhere, “…the Rangers had to look up at the powdering of stars and the fat moon dancing in and out of stray cumulus clouds.”

The setting Sides describes is so intense that one can hear the pulsating sounds of cicadas while reading his book. His acknowledgement section numbering eight pages answers the vividness in his writing. In addition to having read a significant body of World War II material, he interviewed most of the Ranger soldiers and former American prisoners still alive. If they had passed away he interviewed their relatives and children. He was given access to private letters and diaries. Sides did very comprehensive research and the result is evident in every sentence packed with detail, nuance and emotion.

His prison camp scenes are harrowing. The healthiest of the three thousand original prisoners had been sent to Japan and the very sick and injured remained in the camp with no medicine. Starvation and diseases exacerbated the men’s condition. It was really not a prison but an ill-equipped hospital for the dying. As the news spread that, after three long years, the American forces had landed, the Japanese guards exacted greater cruelty. When the first of the Rangers eventually reached their prison barracks, and ordered them to leave, the prisoners initially didn’t budge, incredulous that they would ever meet friendly faces again.

It was only a matter of time given the book’s immense popularity that a Hollywood movie would follow. It has, and recently with Hampton Sides still present, there was a special movie screening at Greenbelt Cinema in Makati of The Great Raid, a Miramax adaptation of Sides’ historical material with the addition of a requisite fictional love story, lots of ear-splitting exploding trucks and tanks, orchestral dirge, and for some comic relief, good old Yankee guffaws between two Ranger soldiers at the end of the movie.

There was considerable applause during the ending credits for local movie star Cesar Montano who plays Captain Juan Pajota. The applause was certainly to acknowledge his great acting but moreover, the applause was to the producers of the film who gave ample scenes and character development to the guerrilla fighters and the Manila underground movement as integral to the overall story, fiction or otherwise. We’ve come a long way from movies like Back to Bataan (1945) with Anthony Quinn as the guerrilla captain named - get this -Andres Bonifacio. Montano spoke better English in this movie; Quinn as Bonifacio spoke in grunts with an accent that was part Tex-Mex and part Italian Mafia.

The very evident role of the Filipino guerrillas in this Hollywood movie and in Ghost Soldiers brings up the pervasive unsettled question that the United States Government has not addressed: The compensation of Filipino guerrillas who fought with American troops on the promise that they would be entitled to all the benefits due them as veterans.

Shamefully, right after the war, the U.S.Government enacted the Rescission Act (public law 79-301 now U.S. code sec. 101, title 38) rescinding any benefits and compensation to Filipino war veterans.

When I asked Mr. Sides his thoughts on Filipino veteran compensation, he was unequivocal. He said that every Ranger veteran he interviewed for the book attested to the role the Filipino guerrillas played in the successful Cabanatuan rescue operation. “If the US Government can spend $250 billion dollars in Iraq,” Sides said, “I don’t see why it cannot settle our old accounts with the Filipino veterans. I am very sympathetic to this issue even though I know there are difficulties in proving guerrilla identification and the like. But when you have to draw the line, you have to side with the Filipino veterans and sadly, this may cease to be an issue with fewer veterans left.”

The Philippine Government is not exempt from criticism over the veterans issue. The Filipino guerrillas fought not just for the United States but they fought for their country. This country. The compensation they have received from this government is niggardly and a national shame. Because in the final analysis, we can pounce all we want on the United States for ingratitude. But these veterans are here in this country, destitute, getting older and unrecognized. After awhile, whining at the American Government is just a mask for the national failure to care for our own.

The book, the movie, Mr. Sides’ visit to the Philippines and the smattering of memorials throughout the country to remember our dead accentuates the no-win situation of wars. The victorious American forces were to our liking and welcomed as saviors but at a tremendous loss of loved ones and the wanton destruction of our cities. In the case of our veterans, the United States and the Philippine Government would like to delude themselves to thinking that valor and heroism should be enough psychic compensation for them. But they need to live decently in their senior years and health problems to look after. Our decimating veteran heroes today get nothing of both.

A poignant part of Hampton Sides’ book is seeing the photographs of the Ranger veterans fifty plus years later. They sport ruddy faces and the expected wrinkles but the streaks of courage still appear on their faces. They gambled their youth for a war still considered today, “the good fight,” and lived to tell Hampton Sides. There was one Cabanatuan prisoner Mr. Sides did not interview for he died during the war. His name was Lt. Henry Lee, a soldier and a poet. This poem, written while in Cabanatuan prison is a lament for his G.I. buddies who came to our country to fight and die here. It is a lament we need to softly remember too as we lay flowers on graveyards in this pleasant yet sad month of February.

Westward we came across the smiling waves,
West to the outpost of our country’s might
“Romantic land of brilliant tropic light”
Our land of broken memories and graves

Eastward we go and home, so few
Wrapped in their beds of clay our comrades sleep
The memories of this land are branded deep
And lost is the youth we knew.