By Priam F. Nepomuceno
MANILA, March 29 – The Philippine Army formally inaugurated on Thursday a shrine recognizing the valiant deeds of Filipino soldiers who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Major Harold Cabunoc, PA spokesperson, said the memorial was erected at the compound of the Philippines-Korea Friendship Center on Bayani Road, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
According to Cabunoc, the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) War Memorial Hall holds the memories of Filipino soldiers who fought alongside of the South Korean troops in the blood-spattered foreign soil in early 1950s.
Records of the PEFTOK Veterans Association Inc. (PVAI) show that there were 7,420 Filipino soldiers who served in the frontlines during the war, as members of the so-called Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs).
Cabunoc said it was in June 1950 when hostilities broke out in the Korean peninsula due to ideological differences among the Korean people.
Then Philippine President Elpidio Quirino, heeding the calls from the United Nations, promptly sent a contingent of soldiers to help the South Koreans defend their territory.
Quirino reckoned that the Philippines should stand its ground against global communism and South Korea was the place to be at the time.
Revisiting his words to the Filipino soldiers who were about to be deployed in the war, Quirino said, Poor as we are, this country is making a great sacrifice in sending you there, but every peso invested in you is a sound perpetuation of our liberty and freedom.
First to set foot on the Korean mountain warfare was the 10th BCT under Gen. Dionisio Ojeda (1950-51). Following them were the 20th BCT under Col. Salvador Abcede (1951-52), 19th BCT under Brig. Gen. Ramon Agese (1952-53), 14th BCT under Col. Nicanor Jimenez (1953-54), and 2nd BCT under battalion commanders Gen. Antonio De Vera and Gen. Reynaldo Mendoza (1954-55).
Louie Gonzales, a grandson of President Quirino, said that his father and uncle were among the Korean War heroes. He said that they were among those who readily volunteered to serve in the war.
Then Air Force 1st Lt. Luis Chito Gonzales, the husband of President Quirino's daughter Victoria, was Louie's father.
Inspired by the action of his brother-in-law, 1st Lt. Tomas Quirino of the Philippine Army also volunteered to serve in the war.
President Quirino happily sent his son to the frontlines. Victoria even resettled to Tokyo just to be near her husband.
Both Gonzales and Quirino survived the war and retired as lieutenant colonels.
On May 25, 2009, the embassy of the Republic of Korea, the Department of National Defense, and the PEFTOK Veterans Association Inc. (PVAI) forged a Memorandum of Agreement to construct the PEFTOK-Korean War Memorial Hall.
It was a sign of gratitude of the Korean government to PEFTOK soldiers who have played a significant role in winning the peace in Korea.
The construction started in May 2010, an effort funded by the Republic of Korea.
Following the inauguration of the shrine was the ground-breaking ceremony of the Human Resource Development Center, also lying inside the Philippine-Korea Friendship Center along Bayani Road.
The edifice is a product of the tripartite agreement of DND, Korean International Cooperation Agency and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. (PNA)