Ramon Regalado, one of the Bay Area’s last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II and a face for the area’s World War II Filipino soldiers over the past several years, has died.
The 100-year-old Regalado, who had lived in Berkeley from 1962 until he moved to El Cerrito a few years ago, died Dec. 16, in El Cerrito.
A native of the island of Iloilo in Central Luzon, he and other Philippines natives were given the Congressional Gold Medal for fighting tenaciously alongside American troops fighting the Japanese in that island nation.
Born April 13, 1917, Regalado was, when World War II fighting came to the Philippines, a machine gun operator with the 57th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company L of the Philippine Scouts under the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. He was returning fire when the first Japanese fighter planes strafed the islands, his son Raldy Regalado said Wednesday.
When those Army troops surrendered on April 9, 1942, after fighting for 99 days on the peninsula of Bataan with no reinforcements or air support, approximately 63,000 Filipino and 12,000 American troops — already weakened by starvation and disease — were forced to march some 65 miles to a prison camp at Camp O’Donnell. Prisoners who faltered were beaten, bayoneted, shot and even beheaded by their Japanese captors. Regalado escaped the march.
Following the liberation of the Philippines, he rejoined the U.S. Army. In 1950, he came to the United States and worked as a civilian for the U.S. Navy, both at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Palo Alto and on transport ships during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The elder Regalado — an eclectic man, a voracious reader who followed politics closely — took part in the first Bataan Legacy Historical Society event held at Cal State East Bay in Hayward in April 2012, and became a prominent spokesman for Filipino WWII veterans.
Cecilia Gaerlan, executive director of the Berkeley-based Bataan Legacy Historical Society, said Regalado was a humble man, and an eloquent one. “He embodied the values of the greatest generation — duty to country, honor and love for freedom,” she said.
He lived long enough to be personally honored with a Congressional Gold Medal, a result of the signing by President Barack Obama of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015.
This gave about 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American veterans who served during World War II — most having died by that date — a collective Congressional Gold Medal, the United States’ highest civilian honor.
The medals provided a degree of recognition for veterans who after the war were victimized by two congressional “Rescission Acts” that canceled the benefits and citizenship previously offered many of the soldiers from the Philippines. Lawmakers apparently balked at paying benefits of between $1 billion and $3 billion.
He had first started speaking up in the 1990s about recompense for Filipino soldiers. “He never talked about that stuff when we were young,” Raldy Regalado said. “He didn’t want us to harbor resentment.”
Regalado received his personal medal just four weeks ago, while in an ICU bed at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Richmond.
“It’s a very, very important thing,” Ramon Regalado told a Bay Area TV station in September. “We sacrificed together for four months without food, no supplies.
“I’m very proud to defend democracy,” he added.
Gaerlan said there are now perhaps a half-dozen surviving Bataan/Corregidor soldiers in the Bay Area.
Regalado is survived by Marcelina, his wife of many years, as well as five children and numerous grandchildren.
©2017 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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