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It was difficult having Japanese blood

/ 05:27 AM April 10, 2014

Yesterday, Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), the country remembered, as in previous years, the gallantry of the Filipino and American soldiers in Bataan that ended in humiliating defeat, leading to the infamous Death March.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 Filipinos and 650 Americans died during the Death March.

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The figures don’t include those killed in action in Bataan and those who died during incarceration at the internment camp in Capas, Tarlac, the final destination of the March.

Among those who survived the March and Capas incarceration was my father, Ramon S. Tulfo, then a second lieutenant.

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His brother Sabas escaped from Bataan when the order to surrender was given.

My grandfather, Felix, who was enjoying his retirement but insisted in re-enlisting to fight in the war, died of dysentery in Capas.

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My father seldom talked about his experiences in Bataan, the Death March and the Capas concentration camp.

It was in deference to my mom, who is half-Japanese.

My mother’s father, Fukumatsu Teshiba, was a Japanese businessman from Kyushu Island who died of malaria during the Occupation.

So, when we were growing up, the war was not talked about in the Tulfo household.

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Mom and Dad met in a huge concentration camp in Davao City where my old man was assigned to investigate war crimes after Liberation.

It was love at first sight for my dad; he employed my mom as his interpreter in investigating former Japanese military officers.

My mom was to have been deported to Japan, along with fellow half-breed and pure Japanese, had she and Dad not gotten married.

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Growing up in military camps in the 1950s was difficult for me because hatred for the Japanese was intense.

As a boy, I would mix with the children of other soldiers who either tried to avoid me or teased me for being “Hapon” (Japanese).

Most of the soldiers in my father’s command fought the Japanese either as army regulars or guerrillas.

I vividly remember overhearing one soldier tell another, “Kung dili lang anak kini ni CO, tuk-on nako ning bata (If this boy were not the son of our CO (commanding officer, referring to my father— RT), I would strangle him.”

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TAGS: Araw ng Kagitingan, Day of Valor, History, Japan, Japanese blood, Philippines, Ramon Tulfo, veterans
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