Friday, November 30, 2001

Stephanie Castillo spoke yesterday about her film "An Untold Triumph: America's Filipino Soldiers." A rough cut was shown in Waipahu for some people featured in the film.

New film tells tale of
U.S. Filipino soldiers

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Alfred "Opu" Alfonso was among Filipino soldiers who liberated more than 500 prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese at Cabanatuan Prison in the Philippines in January 1945.

"That was an indication of what Filipino soldiers can do," said Alfonso, originally from Puunene, Maui.

He joined 40 people attending a private showing at the Hawaii Plantation Village yesterday of a rough cut of "An Untold Triumph: America's Filipino Soldiers."

The documentary tells the story of 150,000 Filipinos who came to America between 1907 and 1926 to work in plantations in Hawaii or as laborers on the West Coast.

The film also presents more than 7,000 immigrants and sons of immigrants who served in the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments.

All were determined to drive the Japanese out of their homeland and show their support to the United States.

Last year, the state Legislature granted $25,000 through the state Department of Defense to help with the costs of the documentary.

"It will tell them the legacy of what the Filipinos did. We have our story. ... We want to put this in the schools," said Domingo Los Banos, a retired Department of Education district superintendent.

Los Banos said the documentary needed to be done now because many of those who served in the regiments are dying. He said they got a chance to be interviewed and will see the film.

Honolulu filmmaker Stephanie Castillo wiped away tears as she watched the footage she put together.

Castillo's father, Wallace, served in the 2nd Regiment as a counterintelligence officer and determined who supported the Japanese or the guerillas in the Philippines during World War II.

"I know he would salute me for it if he was here today," Castillo said. "It would make him very proud. And I would salute him back."

Her father died in 1980.

Stanley Laping, a veteran of the 1st Regiment, said he was happy the documentary was made so he can show it to his seven grandchildren.

Laping was 21 years old when he served in the 1st Regiment. He fought against the Japanese in a combat invasion at Samar, and he recalled how he walked in a river with water up to his stomach to target the Japanese along the riverside.

Laping, now 78, said, "I had a couple of friends killed by snipers."

Sometimes, Laping said, he would have flashbacks of his days during war.

"I cried during my (Samar) mission," he said.

"I'm glad I came back alive," said Laping, who is originally from Cebu, the Philippines, and now lives in Ewa Beach.

The one-hour documentary is set to be completed in March 2002 and to air on PBS.

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