Digitized World War II Records Launched

by Natalie Pardo-Labang [04/25/2016]

25 April 2016, AFP Museum, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City—The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, in collaboration with the Filipino War Veterans Foundation Inc., officially launched to the general public the digitized surviving records of Filipino soldiers and guerillas during World War II that were retrieved from the Philippine Collection of the US National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, USA.

Officials present in the event were Usec. Ernesto G. Carolina, PVAO Administrator; Gen. Renato De Villa, FILVETS Chairman; Col. Paterno Villoria; Dr. Senen Asuan; Col. Cesar Pobre; Bgen. William Esplana of Veterans Federation of the Philippines; Capt. Marlon Dantes of Philippine Veterans League; Mr. Teddy Atienza of National Historical Commission of the Philippines; P/Dir. Rufino Ibay, President of AFP Museum; LtGen Raul Urgello and Gen Alexander Yano of FILVETS; MGen. Jose P. Magno, Chairman of PVAO Multi-sectoral Governance Council; and LtGen. Delfin Lorenzana.

“What PVAO, FILVETS, and Mr. Licuanan have ventured into is aimed at putting together the bits and pieces of the history of World War II in our country which are scattered in different institutions. However, the bulk of the documents about World War II in the Philippines are in the custody of the US National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, USA. With the digitization project, we just started to put the pieces back together. Later on, we shall build a Philippine Center for World War II Studies at the Dambana ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat, Bataan which will be the depository of the complete history of World War II in the Philippines. Step by step, slowly but surely, this dream is now becoming a reality,” said Usec. Carolina in his welcome message.

The digitization project was proposed by a former historical researcher, Marie Vallejo. Along with her team, they began the undertaking last 2015. Speaking about what led her to doing the project, Ms. Vallejo said: “Nine years ago, I embarked on a personal quest to find out what my father did during World War II…Continuing my search in the US, the US National Archives in Maryland yielded a gold mine of Philippine WWII records called the Philippine Collection composed of 1,665 boxes of primary source records of our World War II history.”

“This is just the beginning. A pioneering team has successfully done the first phase. There are more boxes of our history waiting to be digitized and brought back. Help us bring them home,” Vallejo added.

Orientation on how to search the digitized files in the Philippines Archives Collection portal was also conducted by PVAO Management Information Division. Said portal is intended to be made part of PVAO website and will be installed in libraries and museums nationwide. PVAO,   in coordination with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, also plans to make the file available at the Center for World War II Studies once it is established in Mt. Samat Shrine in Pilar, Bataan.

The digitized collection includes memoirs of freedom fighters, officers, soldiers, and civilians. The digitized files were indexed and categorized into military units, regions,prominent leaders, personalities, anecdotes, historical chronology, timelines,among others.

The project output was collectively presented as the “Bgen. Francisco H. Licuanan, Jr. Collection,” in honor of the memory of the late BGen. Francisco H. Licuanan, Jr., the father of the project sponsor, Mr. Francisco H. Licuanan III.

In his message, Mr. Licuanan III said: “Hopefully, the results of this project will serve as a base for historians and historical writers to fill in some blanks in our nation’s history.” He also talked about his recollections of his father: “Our father never talked that much about his exploits. It is only after Marie chanced upon these records that we found out that he was actually the head of his unit. Isay this not to glorify what my father did but to say that there are so many vignettes of Filipino history that individual Filipinos can access and find out what their parents or grandparents did,” he added.