Wednesday, March 28, 2007

FilipinOnline NEWS:

Family of deceased Purple Heart awardee needs help for burial expenses

This morning, I had the great honor of witnessing the meeting of two real-life heroes: Col. Edwin Ramsey, an American leader of Philippine guerrillas during World War II, and Bataan Death March survivor and veterans' rights leader Peping Baclig.

What dampened the spirit of this historic meeting was the sad story that Mang Peping recounted on his taped testimony for the upcoming Senate Veterans Affairs hearing.

Two days earlier, his fellow veteran, Felizardo Ticao, died after struggling with Alzheimer's disease. The Purple Heart awardee was 83 years old.

Ticao's body is at the Armstrong Mortuary in Los Angeles, and at this time, Mang Peping said, they don't even know when they could bury him.

"His wife, who only works part-time, doesn't have any funds for the burial so we are trying to find any way to help her," he said. "It's very difficult."

Ticao moved to the U.S. as a WW II veteran in 1995. Hearing nothing but good things about the country he thought that life here was easy.

"Land of milk and honey kasi kaya akala n'ya puro ginhawa dito," Baclig said. Instead, in short order, Ticao found himself homeless. Luckily, Ticao found help from the Filipino American Sevice Group, Inc's (Fasgi). They were able to help him eventually find his own apartment which he shared with his then new bride. The Ticaos were not blessed with children but they were happy together - until Alzheimer's claimed his body and mind. He stayed at a convalescent home until his death.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the first time - and most sadly, probably not the last - that I've seen Mang Peping agonizing over what to do with a fellow veteran's remains. A few months ago, while shooting a news story at Fasgi where he coordinates its veterans' center, I saw him having a somber meeting with other manongs.

When I asked why they were so sad, he pointed at a nondescript vase sitting on the edge of his desk. It contained the ashes of another fallen comrade.
They had to be the ones to claim the remains because the dead veteran had no family in the U.S. and no one else - not even the Philippine consulate, because the deceased was a U.S. citizen, Mang Peping said - could claim him.

And now, 85-year-old Mang Peping is once again taking care of another veteran's death.

To find out how to help Felizardo Ticao's family, please contact Mang Peping or Susan Dilkes, Fasgi's executive director and tireless champion of Filipino veterans. Their number is (213)487-9804. E-mail address

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