Twenty-seven World War II veterans in Panay were given the United States (US) Congressional Gold Medal Award during the 74th anniversary celebration of victory day of Panay, Romblon and Guimaras.

Considered as the “highest expression of national appreciation” to groups or persons who have provided service to the US, the giving of US Congressional Gold Medal Award at Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine, Barangay Quintin Salas in this city’s Jaro district was the first awarding in the Visayas.

“We would like them (war veterans) to feel in their remaining years that they are important, that we recognize and value their service to our country,” said Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), in an interview on Monday.

Carolina said some of the veterans even shed tears upon receiving the award “because they thought they were forgotten already”.

The veterans who received the award were Cirilo Frigillano, Moses Medina, Jesus Lozarito, Braulio Cabrera, Clemente Mission, Flaviano Constantino, Ricarido Jaculina Sr., Ricardo Hechanova, Ciriaco Villar, Claro Daulo, Castor Gonzales, Eladio Peñaranda, Domingo Daylusan, Antero Armentia, Policarpio Amon, Hospicio Camino, Narciso Casaquite, Loreto Lazo, Enrique Mamon, and Maria Sirilan.

Given the posthumous award were Felipe Alagos, Efrain Treñas, Jose Miraflores, Santiago Defensor, Adriano Pipardo, Macario Peralta, and Felomino Flamiano. The award were received by their family members.

Private Cirilo Frigillano, who rendered his wartime military service as part of the 6th Military district, got emotional as the crowd sang the patriotic song “Bayan Ko”.

“We experienced a lot of hardships during the war. We can barely eat,” he said in vernacular, adding that the song makes him reminisce his service done for the love of country.

Ninety-three-year-old Frigillano was assigned to continue the guerrilla offensives on the island of Panay after the surrender of the Philippines in 1942. He also assisted the US Eight Army in retaking the island as the war was drawing to a close.

Frigillano, along with the rest of the veterans, also expressed their gratitude to the government for raising war veteran’s monthly pension from PHP5,000 to PH20,000.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the law increasing the pension of war veterans who fought during World War II, Korean, and Vietnam wars on December 20, 2018, Carolina said. (PNA)