US Congressional Gold Medal given 78 years later
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Today, I would have liked to be in Manila because the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office would hold today another awarding ceremony of the US Congressional Gold Medal for World War II veterans at 1 p.m. at the Dimalupig Hall A of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Commissioned Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on their continued mission to perpetuate the memory and propagate the heroic deeds of our veterans.

Today’s US Congressional Gold medal award was written in a letter to PMGen Rufino G. Ibay Jr. (Ret), president of the AFP Museum in Camp Aguinaldo who is married to my first cousin, Ronnie, the daughter of Cebuano guerrilla hero Col. Manuel F. Segura who wrote the famous books “Tabunan” and “Koga Papers” so we could never forget the exploits of the Cebuano guerrillas under the late US Col. James Cushing of the Cebu Area Command (CAC). He got his US Congressional Gold medal only last Nov. 26, at the Tejeros Hall, AFPCOC, which Gen. Ibay and his wife Ronnie received posthumously.

However, today’s US Congressional Gold Medal will be bestowed upon a member of the Philippine Scouts, Capt. Valeriano Segura, the father of Col. Manuel Segura, the brother of my mother Ascension… who named me Valeriano to relive the memory of her gallant father. Of course people know me by my nickname, Bobit. But by the time I was born, I never met my grandfather as he died in the Battle of Bataan before the fall on Feb. 2, 1942.

It is still in my bucket list to visit Mt. Samat in Bataan. Incidentally when he died, they hurriedly buried him, but when the Japanese overrun defensive positions, they end up opening the graves of the dead and hanged the corpses. So they dug up my grandfather’s grave until they were overrun and they lost where they last buried him.

Allow me to share you a little history of my grandfather whom we call Lolo Valen. He was supposed to be the first Filipino to top the exams in West Point Academy. However, he had a problem, as he was an inch short of regulation height. But in the 1910s you have to sail to the US and take a train to New York. So the Americans sent him to the US despite this problem, putting him on the chinning bar everyday. But when he got to West Point Academy, he was still an inch short of regulation height.

So the honor was given to Vicente P. Lim who placed next to my grandfather. Gen. Lim became a hero of World War II… while my grandfather was sent to Purdue University where he took civil engineering and returned back to Cebu and was given the honor to be a top engineer of the Philippine government like DPWH today. He constructed the Normal University (which became Kempetai HQ, the Japanese Secret Police) and many roads in the entire Cebu province, including the famous acacia tree covered road leading to the town of Carcar.

My grandfather’s chance to study in the US made him bring the Boy Scouts to the Philippines, and yes, he was one of the charter members of the 86-year-old Rotary Club of Cebu. In fact the oldest photograph of our Rotary Club has the photo or my two grandfathers, Lolo Valen Segura and my other grandfather Don Jose Avila who became known for running the Teatro Oriente that we still run today, although it was refurbished as it was burned during the bombing of Cebu City by US B-24 Liberators.

I would have loved to take part in this momentous ceremony where my grandfather Capt. Valeriano J. Segura would be honored by the US Embassy with a US Congressional Gold Medal even 78-years after his death in the mountains of Bataan leaving behind eight children for my grandmother Encarnacion R. Segura to support by herself. But thanks to the US Congress for finally recognizing the efforts of Capt. Valeriano J. Segura posthumously.

Also today, I’m supposed to be in Manila as I’ve been invited to join the Rotary Club of Manila (RCM) as my good friend, Bobby Joseph who is the RCM’s Chair of Tourism Awards Committee would be presenting 16 individuals its choice for Tourism Awardees at the New World Hotel, Makati.

The Tourism Awardees are, Ariel Abraham (Ariel’s Point) Bernd Schneider of Fairmont Makati, Hanky Lee of Henry Hotel, Salah Al Balushi of Oman Aviation, Radjie Caram, Jr. of Island Living, Krizette Chu of Manila Bulletin, Felipe L. Gozon of GMA-7, Rep. Marisol Aragones, Edgar Saavedra of Megawide Construction, Francisco Mauricio of Avis Rent-a-car, Justice Manuel Lazaro of Tiger Resort Leisure, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Leo Yamson of Ceres Transport.

The Rotary of Manila indeed gives honor to the people who have helped the growth and success in the Tourism Industry. Thanks to the Rotary Club of Manila.

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