Aquino to lead heroes’ day rites
President Benigno Aquino III will lead the Araw ng Kagitingan rites atop Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan, on April 9 highlighting the celebration of Philippine Veterans Week from April 5 to 11.
In various activities scheduled next week, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) will fete 45 war veterans, both living and dead—the largest number of awardees in recent years.
“We want to honor as many veterans as possible, because most of our veterans are already old and bedridden,” said Restituto Aguilar, chief of the PVAO veterans memorial and historical division.
The World War II veterans will be feted in a parade in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, on April 5; a tribute on Corregidor Island, Cavite, on April 7; a ceremony at Capas, Tarlac, on April 10; and a concluding sunset ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on April 11.
In a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo on Friday, the PVAO said current and former government officials have been invited to grace various events, among them Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Undersecretary for Veterans and Retiree Affairs Jesus Millan and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Arnel Paciano Casanova.
Other guests include military general Jose Magno, a veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
Of the 45 veterans to be awarded, 25 are already dead while the rest are still alive, mostly in their 80s and 90s.
Aguilar noted that last year, only 30 old soldiers and guerillas of World War II were recognized.
“We are honoring more of our heroes this year. All of them have made very significant contributions during the war that helped liberate our country,” the official said.
Among the awardees, the highest-ranked is the late Commodore Heracleo Alano, a former flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy. He was a third lieutenant assigned to the Philippine Navy’s Offshore Patrol before the war broke out and was awarded a silver star during the war for his heroism.
He also joined the guerillas in Bohol, counting among his subordinates ex-Pres. Carlos Garcia who later appointed him Navy chief.
Alano died in 1983 at the age of 68 and has a Navy coastal patrol boat and the Naval Base in Cavite named after him.
Among the living veteran awardees, Col. Guillermo Garcia of the Philippine Air Force is the highest-ranked and will be turning 98 this year. He was part of the Air Corps which spied on the activities of the Japanese during the war.
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