THIS is a story of Filipinos forgotten by the government they once shed blood, sweat and tears for.
It is a story of not a few good men, now old and frail, who once fought with every inch of their body and every strength of their soul during the second world war. They fought alongside American troops against Japanese forces. The Philippines was then a United States colony.
After the war, decades ago, they dreamt of enjoying a better tomorrow in the land of milk and honey where the star-spangled banner waves gloriously. The US government promised them that.
But that tomorrow never came and their dreams vanished as soon as their weary bodies stepped on American soil.
This is the unfinished story of thousands of Filipino soldiers, America's second-class veterans.
Filipino photographer Rick Rocamora captures their ordeal in quiet yet piercing photos shown on Tuesday at the UP Vargas Museum.
The mostly black and white photos, presented in a slideshow, are contained in his photo-documentary book titled: "Filipino World War II Soldiers: America’s Second-class Veterans."
Rocamora's opus pays tribute to Filipino veterans, who to this day, fight for equal treatment from the US government.
The photo of Simeon Laure, for instance is stark and telling. Laure traveled to the US armed with nothing but dreams of a brighter future. But as soon as he stepped out of the plane, the dreams he held for years vanished with the cold breeze.
The US government did not keep its promise that Filipino war veterans and others who fought in the US Armed Forces would be given immigration privileges.
So Laure, like his fellow veterans, ended up collecting cans to survive life in America. On his second night there, he had to sleep in a homeless shelter.
"I have never been homeless in my life," Rocamora quotes Laure as saying.
In another homeless shelter, there is a small table for two. But a war veteran sits all alone, eating leftover food donated by a fellow Filipino.
There is a photo of another war survivor. You won't see his body because it is covered by a huge sign of sandwiches. He walks around San Francisco, California as a walking menu of gourmet sandwiches, the huge board hanging like an apron on his aging body. He gets paid for a measly $2 an hour.
The portraits of pain do not end here. Rocamora goes on to show how others stayed on despite the US government's broken promises to Filipino war veterans.
His photos are a quiet reminder of the dignity and honor that these men have bequeathed to this nation.
The photos are also grotesque portraits of the strength of the human spirit, that nothing can diminish it despite the pain and humilitation.
These war veterans remain unbowed and despite the dying of the light, continue to hope for the justice they deserve.
As of the government's last count, there are now only 18,000 surviving Filipino war veterans, some 6,000 of them living in the United States. The others are waiting for justice in the pulmonary wards of the Veterans Hospital in Quezon City.
The battles they fought gave the US the time to eventually turn the tide against Japan as these delayed the advance of Japanese troops in the Pacific.
But in 1946, soon after the war, the US government passed the Rescission Act to save on costs, effectively removing the entitlement of the Filipino veterans.