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Filipinos who fought Japanese with US forces in WWII honored

By J.P. LAWRENCE | San Antonio Express-News | Published: October 14, 2016

SAN ANTONIO (Tribune News Service) — In the rainy mountains of the Philippines, Dominador Soriano fought against Japanese troops as part of two armies.

Soriano, a San Antonio resident who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, served with both the Philippine army and the U.S. Army during World War II.

On Thursday, San Antonio honored him with a resolution recognizing the efforts of the estimated 250,000 World War II Filipino veterans who fought under the command of the U.S. armed forces.

The resolution supports legislation that would confer a Congressional Gold Medal to vets like Soriano.

The resolution is also intended to honor the city’s Filipino veterans across all eras, said Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who claims Filipino heritage through his grandfather.

“This would be a watershed moment in recognition for Filipino veterans who have served in many wars for the United States,” Nirenberg said. “For San Antonio, it is in support of ensuring veterans of all wars, regardless of descent, (get) the honor and recognition they deserve.”

San Antonio’s resolution, the first by an American city, comes after similar efforts to honor Filipino vets by the Texas Senate and Bexar County, according to the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project.

Soriano is San Antonio’s only surviving World War II Filipino veteran. He was drafted into the Philippine army in 1938 and inducted into the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East on Sept. 1, 1941.

Soriano, in his written recollections, said that even in the days before Pearl Harbor, the country tensed for a war against the Japanese.

“The country was ringing with soldiers, ready for war,” Soriano wrote.

The day after the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese troops invaded the Philippines and other islands.

As an officer, Soriano commanded Echo Company of the 83rd Infantry Regiment, troops who fought under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. From an outpost on the eastern shore of Cebu Island, he and his men would watch Japanese ships passing through the Tañon Strait.

Japanese troops quickly overwhelmed the islands, trapping 76,000 Filipinos and Americans on the Bataan Peninsula. “The Japanese turned into a force like that of Genghis Khan,” Soriano said.

His unit retreated into the mountains, where he was hit in the leg by Japanese machine gun as he hid behind a coconut tree.

In April 1942, Soriano heard over the radio that Bataan had fallen. His men knew the Japanese would come for them next. “I told my men to go home and not surrender,” Soriano said.

Soriano organized a guerrilla force. The years that followed were filled with intrigue and violence. One wrong step could lead to imprisonment by the Japanese occupation. His wife hid pictures of him under a bamboo tree to conceal his presence.

His luck ran out on a rainy day in July 1944. As he visited his family, he was surprised to find two Japanese soldiers. Two Filipino collaborators were with them. They arrested him, brought him to a sugar cane mill and beat him with a 2-inch-thick pipe.

He was quickly released but could hardly walk. “It was like being saved from the gallows,” he said.

He continued working for the resistance until Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945.

Over the following decades, Soriano became a lawyer in a newly independent nation, traveled all over the world, and in 2012 settled in San Antonio, where two of his children live.

In 2001, the Army awarded Soriano a Purple Heart for wounds suffered as a result of hostile actions.

Still, a decision made in the aftermath of the war irks him, Soriano said.

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the Rescission Act, which retroactively stripped Filipinos of service benefits during World War II.

“From the beginning, the Filipino veterans were deprived of what are due them,” Soriano said.

Helotes resident Nonie Cabana of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project said he promised Soriano on his 100th birthday that he would work for the remembrance of Filipino vets. He said he hopes San Antonio’s efforts will serve as a model for other cities in honoring these veterans.

“They have been waiting now for over 70 years, they’ve been waiting for this recognition,” said Cabana, a Filipino veteran and a descendant of World War II Filipino scouts.

At City Hall, after the resolution passed, Soriano in his wheelchair held up the resolution and read it out loud.

“It’s an appreciation of the veterans of WWII, that they are not forgotten,” Soriano said, “but remembered by all in the Philippines, and in the United States.”

jlawrence@express-news.net

©2016 the San Antonio Express-News
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