Forty-five Negrense World War II veterans were conferred with the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) during an awarding ceremony conducted by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), together with the United States Embassy and the local government of Negros Oriental, at the Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental on 2 December 2022.

Department of National Defense Senior Undersecretary Jose C. Faustino, Jr., PVAO Administrator, Undersecretary Reynaldo B. Mapagu, U.S Department of Veterans Affairs Acting Director Kevin J. McAllister, and US Embassy Political Counselor Mr. Brett Blackshaw led the awarding of the U.S. CGM to four (4) living WWII veterans and 41 posthumous awardees.

The four (4) living WWII veterans are: Pvt Felix A. Sechico (96 years old); 2nd Lt Urbano F. Ramirez (96 years old); Pvt Felipe A. Macias (97 years old); PFC Rosendo N. Culanag (97 years old).

Meanwhile, 41 posthumous awardees are: Capt Crescencio L. Tan; LtCol Galicano L. Sibala; Maj Juan E. Dominado; Capt Demetrio L. Alviola; 1st Lt Roque T. Duran; 1st Lt Eudosio C. Bustamante; 1st Lt Jose A. Ravelio; 1st Lt Enrico G. Garcia; 2nd Lt Jose T. Cepe; 2nd Lt Francsico C. Bustamante; 2nd Lt Marcelino V. Madrid; TSgt Faustino L. Iran; SSgt Nemesio C. Alcantara; Sgt Inocentes M. Gerona; Sgt. Jeremias A. Yap; Sgt Lorenzo A. Cimafranca; Cpl Simeon D. Subito; Cpl Venancio D. Aldecoa Jr.; Cpl Gumersindo T. Macias; PFC Mauro A. Torres; PFC Juan B. Feril; PFC Andres C. Bustamante; PFC Felipe T. Tubog; PFC Mariano D. Jumawan; PFC Inocente T. Alanta-ol; PFC Librado A. Bais; PFC Fructuoso T. Amor; PFC Gerardo J. Reposo; PFC Filoteo R. Tubilag; PFC Ramon G. Custodio; PFC Salustiano S. Cornelio; Pvt Paulino B. Trumata; Pvt Osmundo O. Elviña; Pvt Andrews M. Calumpang; Pvt Pedro Y. Limbaga; Pvt Salvador S. Las Piñas; Pvt Hermogenes A. Aldeon; Pvt Antonio B. Tubalia; Pvt Felipe B. Binanua; Pvt Fausto C. Cabiara; Pvt Felix B. Remolio.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel R. Degamo, who was not able to attend the awarding ceremony, was represented by Former Negros Oriental State University President Dr. Henry A. Sujor. In his message, as read by Dr. Sujor, he reiterated the gratitude of the current generation and the generations to come for the selfless sacrifice of the veterans and also thanked the unsung heroes of the war. “Thank you to those unnamed heroes, those who died fighting during the war, those whose lives were sacrificed, and those who fought on their own, and have remained unknown, we shall be forever grateful for your bravery and valor. This celebration is for you,” Dr. Sujor read.

Meanwhile in his testimonial speech, Mr. Blackshaw thanked the veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice and encouraged everyone to relive the history and camaraderie shared by the Filipino and Americans. “I encourage all of us to reflect and take pride in the richness of our shared history. Our veterans made great sacrifice for our national pride and for our families,” he said.

Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino, Jr., who served as the Guest of Honor and Speaker, thanked the WWII veterans for the courage and gallantry they displayed in serving the country. He also highlighted the commitment of the Department of National Defense to the veterans and their families. “Hand in hand with the Veterans Memorial and Medical Center, PVAO shall ensure the accessibility of Hospitalization and Medical Care Benefits to the veterans and their dependents, including mental health and wellness, and empower the Filipino veterans community by uniting veterans organizations,” Senior Undersecretary Faustino Jr. said.

In his response message on behalf of the veteran awardees and their families, Judge Rafael Crescencio C. Tan Jr., son of WWII Veteran Crescencio Tan, highlighted the contribution of the veterans who offered their services without any consideration for their lives and selflessly fought for the nation’s independence. He also encouraged the next generation and their next kin to emulate the values showed by the veterans.

The awarding of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal is a breakthrough recognition given to the Filipino World War II veterans for their efforts and distinguished service during the Second World War. It is the highest civilian award given by the U.S. Congress to an individual or a group for contributions that helped shape American culture and history.

During the event, PVAO also conducted a help desk and provided wheelchairs to veterans. The U.S. Congressional Gold Medal held in Dumaguete City is also the first CGM Awarding in Negros Oriental.