More than a week ago, my husband told me that we should hang the “taegukgi” (Korean flag) outside the veranda. I asked why, and he said it’s for 현충일 (hyeon-chung-il) that is celebrated on June 6. 현충일 (hyeon-chung-il) or Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died for the country.
As we drove around the city on June 6, I was awed by the numerous flags hanging outside buildings and on the street lamps as well. I thought that if this is a day to honor the people who gave up their lives so South Korea will be free, then this is also a day to honor the Filipino soldiers who joined the Koreans and other nationalities who fought the Korean War.
A lot of movies have been made tackling the Vietnam War but not the Korean one. I guess it would not be called “the forgotten war” without a reason. I don’t also remember studying about the Korean war in school, but them I wasn’t a diligent student. I’ve known that there was a war in Korea decades ago and that Filipino soldiers also fought it, but my interest in that war only started when I came here.
On a visit to the Seoul War Memorial two years ago, I learned that more than 7,000 Filipino soldiers were sent to Korea in the 1950s. Of that number, 488 were either dead, wounded, missing or became prisoners. The Philippines was poor during that time (oops, still is) and yet we answered the call of another Asian neighbor to help them in their time of need. When I traveled to Washington, DC last year, I stopped by the Korean War Veterans Memorial. I remember the message written on the floor: “OUR NATION HONORS HER SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO ANSWERED THE CALL TO DEFEND A COUNTRY THEY NEVER KNEW AND A PEOPLE THEY NEVER MET”. I think the same message applies to the Filipino soldiers as well.
In the Philippines, we celebrate “Bataan Day” on April 9th. It is also our “Memorial Day”. Back home, it was just another holiday for me that I’m happy to have so I could take a break from work. Now, “Memorial Day” is a day for me to thank those Filipino soldiers, who are one of the reasons I always walk with my head held up high in this country.
To read more about the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea, please visit this site: PEFTOK.
video clip taken at the Seoul War Memorial