Oldest Surviving Filipino Veteran of World War II

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Oldest Surviving Filipino Veteran of World War II
« on: April 08, 2012, 06:14:12 PM »
By Ben Cal

At 111 years old, Alfonso C. Fabros, the oldest surviving Filipino veteran of World War II and probably the whole world, recalls with pride his war exploits in fighting the Japanese Imperial Army, particularly his great escape following the fall of Bataan 70 years ago.

Fabros’ wartime experience could have been relegated to the dustbin of history were it not for meticulous effort of retired Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), in keeping the records of WWII veterans intact through the years.

Tracing the whereabouts of the aging Fabros, who lives in Calaanan, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, was facilitated by Ms. Jet Rivera, PVAO public information officer.

Partly deaf and practically blind, Fabros’ testimony was relayed to this writer through a phone conservation with his 54-year-old daughter, Ella Fabros Gandalera, and Analee Gandalera, Ella’s sister-in-law, over the weekend.

The two women said they have heard the aging Fabros relating about his combat experience during the Second World War in the jungles of Central and Northern Luzon.

Fabros was 41 years old when the Pacific War broke out on December 8, 1941. He was recruited as a soldier in the 1st Regular Division, Philippine Army, under the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and was deployed in Bataan where Filipino and American troops defended the strategic peninsula until it was captured by the highly superior Japanese Imperial Army on April 9, 1942.

The battle in Bataan was a defining moment of the Filipino and American soldiers who, despite the overwhelming odds, fought the Japanese forces in fierce combat for four months that delayed the Japanese’s timetable of the war in the Philippines.

The Japanese thought they could conquer the Philippines in a month or two but they miscalculated the fighting spirit of the Bataan defenders who stood their ground until they ran out of ammunition, food, water and medicine that forced them to surrender.

But before Bataan fell, Fabros and some of the Filipino and American soldiers were able to escape, thus sparing themselves of being part of the infamous “Death March” of captured Fil-Am troops who were forced to march 100 kilometers from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac.

Fabros joined the guerrilla forces in Luzon where he continued his fight against the Japanese invaders.

During the three years of his being a guerrilla member, Fabros was lucky of not being wounded.

Ella said her father told his siblings that the guerrillas had to survive eating root crops, fruits and vegetables which were abundant in the jungles.

The guerrillas had to use the hit-and-run tactics when mounting an attack on the Japanese.

During the phone interview, Ella credited her father’s surviving the war and long life to his being a religious man.

“My father does not forget to pray everyday. In fact, he keeps the Holy Bible inside his room since he could not read anymore because he is blind due to old age,” she said.

Asked about what her father eats, Ella said: “My father loves to eat all kinds of foods without prohibition even at his present age of 111 years,” Ella said.

“He loves to drink beer and chews nganga, a rolled tobacco leaves during his pastime,” she added.

“Aside from being blind and could hardly hear, my father’s blood pressure is normal. He complains of some pains in his legs. He can walk with some help from his sons,” she said.

Ella said her father’s monthly pension is P5,000 a month and is looking forward to the promise by PVAO that the amount will be doubled in due time. The last time Fabros received his pension was on April 2, 2012.

“My father is the one getting his monthly pension from Land Bank in Cabanatuan City,” she said.

Carlito Gandalera, Ella’s husband, is the one always accompanying the older Fabros in getting his pension.

“Ten years ago, when my father was still 101 years old, he would always watch television and tuned in the radio, but now no more,” she said.

“Nowadays,” Ella said, “my father would ask his children about the weather, if there is a typhoon coming.”

Ella said her father was born on February 13, 1901 in Balaoan, La Union.

Her mother died in 2000 at the age of 80. The Fabros have 12 children but only four are alive -- Florentino, 73; Florencio, 66; Gerry, 64; and Ella, 54.

“My father and mother have over 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren and counting with one to be born in a few months from now,” she said.

Despite his age, Fabros plans to attend the 70th celebration of the Bataan Death March, telling his children he can still make it to commemorate the historic event to be held in Capas, Tarlac on Tuesday, April 10.

As an aging veteran, Fabros' regimen in life is eat, sleep, drink, smoke, walk around the house a little as his daily routine exercise. But most of all, he prays everyday to thank the Good Lord for His abundant blessings and enjoy life to the fullest until he breaths his last.

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Romans 10:9-10
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