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Monday, May 8, 2000

Press release photo
The one-hour documentary "An Untold Triumph"
will be based on archives, other research and interviews
with 30 Hawaii and mainland Filipino-American veterans.

Film to tell story
of Filipino-American
soldiers in WWII

By Gregg K. Kakesako


A $25,000 grant from the state Legislature this year will help tell the story of the more than 7,000 Filipino Americans who helped the Allies retake the Philippines in World War II -- for them a moment of emancipation.

Conceived as a two-hour documentary six years ago, the film has been scaled back to an hour, said Domingo Los Banos, local educator and film adviser, who hopes to have it completed by next year.

Besides the state grant, funded through the state Department of Defense, supporters also recently received $40,000 from the National Asian American Television Association.

So far, $195,013 has been raised to produce a 20-minute fund-raising sampler video, to interview 30 Hawaii and mainland Filipino-American veterans and to do background research and collect archival film footage of the U.S. Army's 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry regiments from sources in Japan, Australia and the Philippines.

The producers pored over more than a thousand declassified military records, memoirs and writings of Filipino soldiers who fought in the war.

Los Banos, retired Department of Education district superintendent, estimated that an additional $168,000 will be needed to script and do post-production work on "An Untold Triumph: America's Filipino Soldiers."

MacArthur's 'eyes and ears'

With the passage of a resolution by the California State Assembly recognizing the deeds of the Filipino-American soldiers, Los Banos said he hopes monetary support will come this year. "We're riding the waves in California," Los Banos added, noting that lawmakers in California adopted the two Filipino regiments as "California's own."

More than 300 Filipino Americans from Hawaii -- including Los Banos, former Chief Justice William Richardson, former state Reps. Emilio Alcon and Peter Aduja, ILWU labor leader Tony Rania and former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Menor -- served in the regiments in 1945.

"Most of those veterans are about 75 to 76 years old now," said Los Banos. "At last count, we estimate that there are maybe 200 of them still living here."

Some of the Filipino soldiers were sent secretly into the Philippines by submarine in 1942 to serve as Gen. Douglas MacArthur's "eyes and ears" as the Allies prepared to retake the Pacific nation from the Japanese.

The executive director of the film is Noel Izon, who has done 250 films and videos, including "Simple Courage," the story of Father Damien, on which he collaborated with former Star-Bulletin reporter Stephanie Castillo. Castillo, who won an Emmy for "Simple Courage," is a writer on "An Untold Triumph" with Linda Revilla, an adjunct professor with the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Hawaii.

The tale of the "Boogie Woogie Boys," as the Filipino soldiers were called in World War II, is about the 150,000 Filipino immigrants who came to America between 1907 and 1926, recruited to work on sugar and pineapple plantations in Hawaii or as laborers on the West Coast.

From nationals to aliens

In 1934, federal law changed the status of Filipinos in the United States from nationals to aliens and barred them from serving in the military. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1942 changing the alien draft status to allow Filipinos to enlist.

Domingo and his four brothers are featured in the film as young soldiers who are training at Camp Roberts in California in 1945, eager to serve the country in which they were born and to help rescue the land of their parents from Japanese occupiers.

When the film is completed, the producers have a commitment that it will be shown at one of the Smithsonian Institution's museums in Washington, D.C. The film also is being planned as a part of the Public Broadcasting System's "American Experience" series.

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