July 21, 2024

My father, Augusto Canuto Dicsen, a convert and civilian, died during World War II.
My mother shared memories of his death in bits and pieces before she died. Memories of my father came alive when I looked at family photographs taken in the late 1930’s: their wedding picture; my picture at six months with my older brother, William; and a picture of my father with a group of workers of Benguet Lumber Company where he was the supervisor. I love his picture sitting, reflecting, and thinking on a bench in Burnham Park. In his pictures, sometimes he wore a moustache and at times, clean shaven.
Is my father a veteran? Not if defined by Title 38 of the U.S. Code as a “person who served in the active military naval, air, or space service and who was discharged and released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.”
Accounts from my mother and cousins, some of them are still alive and witnesses state that in 1944, during the Japanese occupation, my father and a close friend, the then Governor Bado Dangwa of Mountain Province were taken prisoners for “political” reasons. An attempt was made to help my father and the governor escape but my father refused for fear of what will happen to his family who were taken hostage. Unknown to him, we had managed to escape with the help of relatives and friends; amidst the thunderous bombings and gunshots. Almost five years old at that time, I vaguely remember someone carrying me on his back and running in rice paddies.
A week after our escape, we found out that my father was “tortured to death, his lifeless body mangled and unrecognizable except for his gold tooth.” He is now interred in a family gravesite at our old house in Datakan, Kapangan.
He is my hero and a true veteran because he lost his life for love of family, community, and country.
It was only in 2015 that his name was included in the Memorial for U.S. Armed Forces World War II Veterans Post, in Kapangan, Benguet, Philippines.