WW II Veteran Alfredo T. Diaz (1916-2012): The Fall of the Last Man Standing

Revered World War II veteran Alfredo T. Diaz, who was highly regarded as a living hero from among the survivors of that war, peacefully breathed his last and finally succumbed to colon cancer last Nov. 3 at about 3:00 am at his residence in Jersey City.

Born in Gandara, Samar on Nov. 27, 1916, (he just recently turned 96) the Visayan had always been athletic and was an active member of the ROTC (Reserved Officers’ Training Corps) of the University of the Philippines where he and the former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos were together, the latter being the student body head. Together, the two stalwarts of gallantry pledged allegiance to the USA during the outbreak of the Japanese Occupation. Innately obsessed to be in combat to defend his country and free his countrymen from the bondage of colonizers, young Fred fought side by side with the rest of more than seventy thousand strong.

 

Married to the former Imelda Gonzales of Bacolor, Pampanga (RIP, January 1, 2007), the couple was blessed with six children.

The Fall of Bataan in April 9, 1942, the most intense phase of the Japanese Imperial invasion in the Philippines that resulted in the largest US surrender, did not dampen his fighting spirit. He relentlessly battled against his oppressors in every possible way he could, armed not only with ammunition but a rosary and a prayer book.

After standing alive unscathed from the raging war, Mr. Diaz’s transitioning dilemma to adjust to a new life came a bit less harsh since there was his supportive family and waiting friends who readily welcomed him back from deployment.

Being a survivor of WWII offered limited options for Mr. Diaz to be able to completely adjust to his civilian lifestyle. But the reunion with his loved ones after decades of separation helped him adjust sans PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), an anxiety disorder after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event common among the so-called “remnants” of war.

Although the tremendous amount of respect and greatly honored for his heroic deeds ably sustained his strength and will, it couldn’t be denied that there still dwelt some kind of inner conflicts deep inside him. He remembered lingering horrendous images of the warfront and numerous comrades he witnessed killed in action. Yet he tried to cope with his new environment and enjoy the benefits he earned from his participation in the war, and most importantly, he looked forward to his future.

Towards the final phase of his life, Mr. Diaz kept himself involved with every movement advocating for benefits pf WW II veterans and in different socio-civic community projects. He joined PAVO (Philippine American Veterans Organization) and fought for the WW II Veterans’ Equity. A lifetime member of the Knights of Rizal (KOR), Sir Fred Diaz was also instrumental and key player in the establishment of the Pan American Concerned Citizens Action League, Inc. (PACCAL). His close association with PACCAL openly provided the organization first-hand insight and vivid accounts of the plights and ordeals he experienced during the war.

This writer was fortunate to have one-on-one interactions with Mr. Diaz during occasional encounters, most recently at the PACCAL office during the annual Memorial Day Commemoration event last May.
Mr. Diaz of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE), despite old age, failing health, and hearing problems on both ears, consistently attended every solemn Memorial Day commemoration ceremony at the PACCAL Neighborhood Center with the significant attendance of his comrade, Capt. Jose G. Red (78) of the 11th Airborne Division of the US Army.

“I was assigned to fire 2.5 millimeter canons and several deafening firearms. My hearing was immensely affected since,” he explained to justify his hearing problem.”But my mind is as sharp as a new wet-stoned razor,” he would even brag.
But his mental alertness and stature still showed his military mental agility especially during times when he would vividly recall the horrendous ordeals he went through in the battlefield. The gaping wounds and haunting memories brought about by the morbid fangs of war were neither healed by the passing of time nor totally cast to oblivion. His disheartening struggle during the armed conflict made him even more pious and prayerful.

Mr. Diaz might have been lucky and victorious to have survived the war but his innate gallantry that gave him his most deserved award of valor, unfortunately, was no match to the natural blow of old age and left him with no option to defy his surpassing life span.
Yes, he had successfully cheated death during the world war but helplessly failed to escape his final hours due to the mortal disease that inevitably made him succumb to death. He finally closed his tired eyes and surrendered his weary soul,
leaving behind not just vivid accounts of heroic deeds but also an immeasurable legacy that will forever be emulated and cherished.

Mr. Alredo T. Diaz was survived by his four children: Rene Diaz (62) with children: Keren, Arvin, Dino, and Paolo; Marives Briola (60) with son Adrian; Reina De Leon (54) with daughters Winnie and Agatha; and Erna Toledo (50) with daughter Erica.
His remains were laid in state at the Alvarez-Marshello Funeral Homes along 235 Ege Avenue in Jersey City, with viewing scheduled on Dec. 6 that was followed by a celebration of a memorial mass and the internment at the Holy Name Cemetery along West Side Avenue.
As we mourn his loss and pray for the eternal repose of his soul, we proudly salute his dashing courage, patriotism, and a life that he has lived to the fullest!

Here’s a well-deserved 21 gun salute and well-earned full military honor befitting a hero like Sir. Fred T. Diaz!

day, Nov. 4 outside the hospital building along 173rd Street and Grand Concourse in New York City.

Based on a police report, the victim was killed when an industrialized air-conditioning unit that was being hoisted by a crane onto the roof of a hospital building broke loose and fell on him, pinning him to death.

After being retrieved from underneath the heavy appliance unit that took the Fire Department almost an hour, Mananghaya was still brought to the

Bronx Lebanon Hospital but to no avail.

As of press time, a thorough investigation is in the process while the two companies responsible for the delivery of the unit haven’t been reached for comment. Funeral schedules are to be announced on a later day after autopsy.

My close encounter with Tristan started way back in 2006 when he was at the height of his singing career when he chose me to write the and direct his supposedly first ever concert. The early preparatory stage was inspiring and promising. But for some reason, he decided to postpone it until everything planned diminished and vanished into thin air.

Tristan was born to a couple who were both involved in the medical field, (his father is a pediatric doctor and his mom, a registered nurse) he was already “pre-molded” to follow in his parents’ footsteps. But when Tristan was enrolled at the Manila Central University (MCU), he found it too exhausting to commute daily between his home in Baliuag, Bulacan to school in Monumento, Caloocan City. Being responsible and obedient, Tristan was a rare breed of a teenager who religiously followed a routine every day. His monotonous grind included hectic school schedules, rigid home disciplines and strict parental rules which he blindly obeyed.

He decided to transfer to the University of the East (UERM along Aurora Blvd.) and adhered to the same disciplinary measures and strict routine to the extent that he felt all suck-up with no more time being left for himself. He couldn’t even afford to join his friends to a weekend break in a disco, or an out-of-town get away or even to a movie since he was expected to be home within a couple of hours after his last subject.
Adventurous that he was, Tristan one afternoon, found his way to finally decide on something for himself. He opted to be an entrepreneur on the side. Being lured by the great demand of “taho” (bean curd) during one afternoon, (when he, himself, became “addicted” to it every after school hours or during snack breaks), he convinced an equally adventurous “taho” vendor that he befriended as the operating cook. In a short period, the business saw a number of ‘taho’ stands strategically stalled in his hometown Baliuag Town Market and in some locations where people converged and milled around. Suffice it to say that his clever move paid off and his workers grew in number. Although it caused more responsibilities to attend to, Tristan‘s ROI (return on investment) was more than enough to make him feel compensated for all his efforts. The success of his business demanded most of his time that put a slump on his studies and naturally, his grades suffered. Caught amidst the crossroad of his studies and business, he decided to drop medicine and shifted course instead – Physical Therapy.

The expected constant sermon he received from his parents, (particularly from his father) made Tristan finally shut down his thriving business and concentrate on the second chance given to him. Bitter though it may be, there was nothing he could do but bury his head into his books and reward his dad with a PT diploma, which he did after a couple of hard-hitting years. This gave him the opportunity to follow his mom who was Texas-based then and tried to discover what fate awaits him in the mid-west.

The first year in this “land of milk and honey” was not that impressive or fruitful for Tristan. While waiting for his “call” from the military, (he applied as medical personnel) Tristan worked as busboy, waited tables until being promoted as a sous chef in a Japanese restaurant in downtown Texas City. It was during these boring, idle and nothing-much-to-do days when he suddenly turned his attention to music. His rekindled “romance” with music grew more intense and serious. Everyday a new song was learned and mastered until such time when his life was almost literally “breathing” music.
Then, they re-located in Jersey City. The change of location gave Tristan more chances to be exposed and finally proved his capacity as a singer. His constant exposures in various church affairs, parties, contests and other social events gave him the much-needed self-confidence to prove his worth.
Style is the man, they say and, definitely, Tristan’s got his own: suave, plaintive, enticingly soulful, and peculiarly very Tristan. His voice reverberates with angst and pain when he renders timeless ballads and longing is evidently echoed in his every phrase. What is quite impressive with Tristan is his ability to interpret his ardent love for music. Maybe, his long time period of waiting for his big break motivated him to fully master his craft but sadly, the realization of his dream went kaput when he untimely met his end.

Tristan was also a former male pageant titlist who should be turning 39 on February 24, 2013. He was survived by his wife, Malou Manansala Mananghaya and two daughters: Angelina Nina (5) and Anica Jill (2 ½) and two sons from previous relationships: Francis Miguel and Patrick.

Incidentally, Tristan Michael Mananghaya, was the nephew of PACCAL Founder and President Emeritus Linda Mananghaya Mayo and first cousin of Events Organizer and PACCAL 1st Vice-Pres. Joey Mayo.

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