Sunday was Veterans Day, and what better way to honor veterans than the traditional way I know how — to march with Filipino American WWII Veterans and their supporters in a march for equity and justice in Hollywood.
A long-standing issue in the Filipino American community for 66 years, the cause, for the uninitiated, is centered on the unfair denial of veterans’ benefits promised to Filipino soldiers and guerrillas for fighting alongside American and allied forces against Japan in the Philippines during World War II.
The Rescission Act of 1946 all but nullified the efforts of the 200,000 Filipinos who fought with and assisted US forces. Small victories have been made since then in terms of piecemeal benefits, but the full benefits promised to the veterans still have not yet been realized; it’s the Filipino equivalent of the “40 Acres and A Mule” that was similarly promised to freed slaves in 19th-century America.
It’s a cause that’s definitely not new to me; I previously worked with, and served, Filipino American World War II veterans circa the mid-1990s, and helped promote the issue back then. The Veterans’ Day March, organized by Justice for Filipino American Veterans, is an annual tradition. I last joined the March in 2008, with the march weaving through the hilly topography of Historic Filipinotown, the message largely preaching to the choir or falling on deaf ears on little-traversed Temple Street.
This time, it was different. Hollywood Boulevard, arguably the world’s most famous street, was the setting this time. A farmer’s market, throngs of tourists, a news network studio and even costumed superheroes were to be found along the route. This time, the message world fall on many ears who have not heard of the issue before.
“I thought this was protesting the condoms in porno films from the election,” said one passer-by, referring to the recent Measure B passed by voters this past week and the rally’s starting point unintentionally located outside an adult entertainment venue.
But the chants and visual impact of hundreds of marchers, mostly Filipino American college students from across Southern California, resonated on the streets of Tinseltown. For a couple hours, Filipino American WWII Veterans Equity was the feature presentation here.