November 30, 2023

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

Ninety-eight year-old William Pasiwen was only 18 when World War II broke out. At a young age, he responded to the call to defend his country by serving as a messenger for the U.S. soldiers.

At his advanced age, however, he could still recall the challenges he and his colleagues endured during those difficult times in the world history.

“We were captured four times. One of those was when we were delivering food at dawn for the Allied forces in the forest of our hunting ground between Abra and Mountain Province, but we managed to escape at night by swimming through the river,” he said.

Pasiwen’s story and that of the other WWII veterans is among the narratives showcased in an exhibit mounted by the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) at SM Baguio, which aims to bring the stories of how Filipino soldiers fought for the country during the Second World War closer to the public.

PVB brought the exhibit dubbed, “War of Our Fathers” at the SM Upper Ground Floor in a bid to make more people appreciate the roles played by Filipino soldiers in WWII. It will run until Oct. 17.

PVB Director Reynaldo Velasco said the exhibit showcases the historical significance of WWII and is one of their ways of educating the public of the critical role played by Filipino soldiers in helping the country attain its freedom from Japanese occupation.

SM Asst. Mall Manager Lani Delovino said with the exhibit being held at the mall, they hope more people, regardless of their age, will be able to appreciate the WWII veterans and honor their sacrifices that led to the freedom enjoyed by many to this day.

The travelling exhibit was first mounted at the Baguio Convention and Cultural Center and at the Philippine Military Academy. It has 52 panels of photographs and stories of WWII, including artifacts and war memorabilia.

The exhibit also has panels showcasing Baguio City’s role in WWII. Some historians consider the city as the site where the Second World War began and ended with the carpet bombing by the Japanese army of Camp John Hay, then a U.S. military base, and the signing of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita of the deed of surrender, also at CJH.

As a veteran who did not hesitate to defend his country’s freedom, Pasiwen has an advice for today’s youth: “Develop their love for the country. They should be loyal and faithful in preserving freedom and democracy and should always be ready to help the government maintain peace and order.”