List of living World War II vets growing shorter per day

January 10, 2016 12:20am

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan---The number of World War II veterans in Pangasinan province is decreasing by the day, a veterans affairs official said here on Friday.

Romeo Madriaga, regional head of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) here, said from 759 veterans in 2014, there were only 498 listed by the end of 2015.

"A veteran dies almost every day," Madriaga said, adding that most of them had failed to attend Saturday's Pangasinan Veterans Day, an event that recognizes the heroism of WWII veterans in the province.

The activity coincides with the 71st anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf landings on Jan. 9, the day in 1945 when American Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Allied Forces landed on the shores of the Lingayen Gulf to liberate Luzon from the Japanese.

Florence Berba, officer in charge of the province's social welfare and development office, said many of the veterans were already bedridden.

"We visited 86 veterans last year. Some of them were in their diapers and were just seated. Three of them were dying. Many of them could no longer talk. One of them thought he was still fighting in the war and treated us as if we were his enemies," said Berba.

The house-to-house visit, ordered by Gov. Amado Espino Jr., sought to validate the veterans' situation after many of them failed to attend the Veterans Day celebration last year.

The veterans present last year were each given a medallion of valor, financial assistance and medicines.

Berba said that during her visit, she also gave each veteran the medallion and financial assistance. She was also with a team of doctors, who examined the veterans and gave medicines. While the veterans are taken care of by their children, a few have been virtually abandoned, Berba said. She said she saw one who was staying in a garage.

A few others are still strong and able to walk unassisted, she said. One was still making a living by driving a tricycle.

Based on PVAO records, the youngest Pangasinan WWII veteran is 85 years old while the oldest is 105.

Under the law, a WWII veteran receives every month an old age pension of P5,000 and a total administrative disability pension of P1,700.

In 2014, PVAO Administrator Ernesto Carolina said the House committee on veterans affairs approved the increase in old age pension for WWII veterans from P5,000 to P20,000.

"This has been approved in Congress. We hope President Aquino signs it before his term ends," said Madriaga. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon