WWII Filipino guerillas during the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March last year.

BATAAN Legacy Historical Society (BLHS), Memorare Manila 1945, the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program of the University of San Francisco (USF) and Kasamahan at USF would like to invite everyone to the 4th Conference on World War II in the Philippines, with this year’s theme of “Resistance, Retaliation, Reconciliation & Recission.”  The event will be held on Saturday, September 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the McLaren Conference Center at USF at 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco.

Harry Fenton, an American soldier turned disc jockey, became one of the leading figures of the Cebu Guerrilla resistance. (Photo courtesy of 2010 Betty Skievaski Trust. All Rights Reserved.)

According to Cecilia Gaerlan, Founder and Executive Director of BLHS, there are “so many facets of WWII in the Philippines that remains to be discovered, especially from the perspective of the Filipinos,” that there is a need to continue to educate and inform the public through exhibits, talks and conferences.

“Majority of the U.S. Army Forces in the Philippines (USAFFE) were comprised of Filipinos who also formed 7/8 of the main line of resistance.  Civilians make up the majority of the toll in any war,” she stated in an e-mail interview with Asian Journal.  “Approximately 1 million civilians perished during WWII in the Philippines, many of whom were massacred.  While the world knows about the massacre of the Jews in Europe, the world is still unaware of the many war crimes perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII in the Pacific.”

“Resistance, Retaliation, Reconciliation & Recission”  

This year’s panel discussion touches on every topic of the conference’s theme, as explained by Gaerlan:

Resistance. Various forms of resistance will be discussed in the panel, “Military and Civilian Resistance.”

Desiree Ann Cua-Benipayo will speak about Jose Abad Santos, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Commonwealth during the outbreak of WWII who was executed for refusing to collaborate with the Imperial Japanese Army.  She wrote a book and produced a documentary, “Honor – The Legacy of Jose Abad Santos”.  Her husband, Mario Benipayo, is a great nephew of Abad Santos.

Anna Pearman will speak about her mother’s first husband, Harry Fenton, an American soldier turned disc jockey who became one of the leading figures of the Cebu Guerrilla resistance.

Lourdes Reyes-Besa aided American and Filipino POWs during WWII. She subsequently received two Medals of Freedom from the United States.

Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino will speak about her mother, Lourdes Reyes-Besa who aided American and Filipino POWs.  She subsequently received two Medals of Freedom from the U.S.

Chris Larsen, Jr. will speak about his father, Chris Larsen, who was one of the civilian POWs at Santo Tomas University who led the underground resistance against the Japanese captors.

Bernard Karganilla, WWII historian from the University of the Philippines, will discuss the draft of his book on Philippine and American guerrillas.

Retaliation. This will be discussed under the panel “War Crimes & Reconciliation”.

James M. Scott will speak about his latest book, “Rampage – MacArthur, Yamashita & the Battle of Manila.”  Approximately 100,000 civilians died during the battle of Manila which took place between February and March 1945.  Many of the civilians were massacred by the Imperial Japanese Army.

Reconciliation. This will be discussed under the panel “War Crimes & Reconciliation.”

Elpidio Pineda Quirino, grandnephew of former Philippine President Elpidio Quirino, will discuss the massacre of the latter’s family by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Battle of Manila.  In 1953, he issued an amnesty to war criminals to begin the process of reconciliation.

Rescission. A junior high school student, Gabriella Vecellio, from Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin will present her project on the Rescission Act for National History Day.  The Rescission Acts were passed in February and May 1946 which deemed the service of the Filipino soldiers of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) during WWII as not active, thereby denying them their veterans’ benefits.  These legislations have never been rescinded.

BLHS has also worked successfully with the California Department of Education to include WWII in the Philippines in the U.S. history curriculum framework for Grade 11 in California.  They have organized teachers’ workshops in 2017 to create lesson plans for the framework and are now available to schools for free including primary documents and sources.  The conference will feature teachers who have implemented these lesson plans in their classrooms.

Desiree Ann Cua-Benipayo will speak about Jose Abad Santos, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Commonwealth during the outbreak of WWII who was executed for refusing to collaborate with the Imperial Japanese Army.

“During the conference, teachers who have implemented the WWII in the Philippines curriculum that we developed last year during our teachers’ workshops will discuss the process and results including presentation of sample student works,” said Gaerlan.  “Teachers from the Bay Area, Tracie Noriega of the New Haven School District, Amy Punkar of the Jefferson High School District and Honey Gubuan of the East Side Union High School District will make presentations as well as Shelby Thompson, a high school teacher from Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, Louisiana who used one of our sample lesson plans and adapted it for her class.”

The conference will be chaired by Golden Gate Law professor (and former Dean of law school) Rachel Van Cleave.  Experts and survivors from the Philippines and the United States will participate in the conference.

Gaerlan again stressed the importance of remembering WWII and the sacrifices made by Filipino and American soldiers by letting the younger generation (the future generation) know what really happened.

Lourdes Reyes-Besa aided American and Filipino POWs during WWII. She subsequently received two Medals of Freedom from the United States.

“The lessons of war must be learned in its unvarnished form so that students can make an informed judgment about the horrors of any war.  Students are given primary documents and resources to learn about the sacrifices of their ancestors during WWII in the Philippines and relate them to current events,” she said and added, “By engaging them, they can learn to appreciate the steep value of the freedom that they are enjoying today and hopefully, they can become responsible leaders of tomorrow who can work on making war a thing of the past.”

Admission is FREE for Students with a valid ID, adults is $20 (includes boxed lunch).  Registration is strongly recommended through http://bataanlegacy.org/future-events.html.

Bataan Legacy Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) organization.  For more information go to www.bataanlegacy.org.

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