CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – There’s no Halloween story over the unpainted, unnamed tomb of Pvt. Jose Nisperos of the Philippine Scouts in a public cemetery in Barangay Lingsat, San Fernando, La Union.
Instead, his was a story of heroism slated to be retold belatedly by living American and Filipino war veterans in this former US Air Force base when, by All Saints’ Day next year, his remains are reburied at the Clark cemetery, this time with honors, including a gun salute, probably in the presence of an American senator.
Nisperos was the first Filipino to be awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award from the American people, for his heroism in fighting Muslim rebels in Basilan in 1911.
After the US Congress singled him out for “the highest type of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” two years later in 1913, Nisperos died seemingly forgotten in 1922 and was buried in the unpainted, unnamed tomb in his hometown in La Union.
His widow Potenciana and their three daughters had fought for Nisperos’ pension to redeem them from poverty, but they failed. They are now all deceased.
“It is not yet too late,” said Lt. Guy Hilbero of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society based here.
Hilbero, backed by the US Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2485 in Angeles City, is arranging for the transfer of Nisperos’ remains to the Clark cemetery and be given full military honors before reburial, in the presence of US civilian and military dignitaries.
The Clark cemetery was established between 1947 and 1950, with remains and headstones from at least four other US cemeteries in the Philippines moved there.
Covering 23.3 acres, the 12,000-plot cemetery also contains the remains of 800 members of the Philippine Scouts, which used to be under the US Army.
“Nisperos would finally be given his rightful graveyard and epitaph once his remains are moved to Clark during the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society’s 28th review day slated on April 8 next year,” Hilbero said.