Obituary: Ramon Regalado, Bataan Death March survivor

A man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolised the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during the Second World War has died. He was 100.

Ramon Regalado (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Ramon Regalado (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Ramon Regalado died on 16 December in El Cerrito, California, said Cecilia I Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which has fought to honour Regalado and others. She did not have a cause of death.

“He really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country,” she said.

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Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines. He was a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under US Army Forces when troops were forced to surrender to the Japanese in 1942 after a gruelling three-month battle.

The prisoners were forced to march some 65 miles (105 kilometer) to a camp. Many died during the Bataan Death March, killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to manage the trek. The majority of the troops were Filipino.

Regalado survived and slipped away with two others – all of them sick with malaria. They encountered a farmer who cared for them, but only Regalado lived.

Afterwards, he joined a guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a civilian for the US military. In his later years he gave countless interviews to promote the wartime heroics of Filipinos, who were promised benefits and US citizenship but saw those promises disappear after the war ended.

More than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served with United States troops in the Second World War, including more than 57,000 who died.

The veterans have won back some concessions, including lump-sum payments as part of a 2009 economic stimulus package.

At a recent ceremony in Washington DC, remaining Filipino veterans were awarded the coveted Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Gaerlan said Regalado did not make the trip due to poor health, but he received his medal in December in an intensive care unit in Richmond, California.

He is survived by his wife Marcelina, five children and many grandchildren.