War Film premiered in BC top-billed in WWII filmfest

West Coast Heritage Month

 “Unsurrendered: 100 Voices”, screened for its world premiere in Vancouver last year and “Manila 1945: The Forgotten Atrocities”, winner, Best Documentary Award in Historical Category, 2007 Myrtle Beach International Film Festival South Carolina, USA  both by Ma. Miguel “Lucky” Guillermo, will top bill the West Coast’s “Philippine Heritage Month” this October. Also included is “Secret War” also by Guillermo, making up the third billing that will highlight the WWII Filmfest in Los Angeles and San Diego, which is part of the celebrations.

war memories

Before the filmfest, Seafood City, the major sponsor, will present the films in a road show at its newly opened mall at Concord in northern California. A benefit show will also be staged at the newly established Intramuros, a theatre-restaurant at downtown So. San Francisco. Beneficiaries of the dinner-concert proceeds are Ayala Foundation-USA and the Stingray Memorial in northern Philippines.

In Vancouver, both films shown at the 2008 World Peace Forum (WPF) rolled to an audi­ence of peace activists com­posed of intellectuals, historians, researchers, professionals, artists and students. In attendance were members of BC Alpha (Associa­tion of Learning and Preservation of World War II History in Asia) and Vancouver Save Article 9 Committee. For its world pre­miere at Marpole Place, “ Unsur­rendered…” played to members of the Philippine Veterans and Ex-Service Men Society of BC as well as members of MOACS (Marpole Oakridge Area Council Society), which included a retired professor of the University of Columbia and friends of Canadian war veterans.


Guillermo in his introduction of “Manila 1945 …”reflected how unprepared the Filipinos were, thus, “When people refer to “the war” in conversations now, it is often unclear as to what they are talking about. Not long ago, how­ever, it was The War, WWII, that is. And for those of us who lived in the Philippines before that war, during, and after, there was no other war.”


audience at the 2008 World Peace Conference, Vancouver

audience at the 2008 World Peace Conference, Vancouver

At the WPF, “Manila 1945…”drew out discussions that focused on “true paths to peace.” Elsie Dean, WPF organizer, said of the film “… we talk about the war but it is films like this that make us see war up close as it should …as we don’t know much about it”. The film presents with actual photographs and film footages from US archives the brutal acts committed by the Japanese in February 1945 on Manila, already declared an “open city”. Around 100,000 civilians as recorded, died, a figure that places Manila second only to Warsaw in extent of destruction.


Part of Guillermo’s introduc­tion revealed how he and Parsons “spent a lot of time researching on this subject. We do not subscribe to the old, politically-correct or revisionist version that the Japa­nese were innocent of the mas­sacre in Manila of February, 1945. The killing of Filipino civilians, men women and children, was a deliberately orchestrated series of events. The truth is, Japanese military were not trapped in Ma­nila dungeons, and well into Feb­ruary, they had escape routes.”


More than “ingredients” for peace, the films drew out emotional responses. At the screening of “ Unsurren­dered…”, Erie Maestro, member volunteer of Canada-Phil­ippines Solidarity for Human Rights and Migrante B.C., stated the legacy she would want to pass on to her chil­dren: “ how my father then a mere high school boy, joined the resistance. I t must be remembered that UD efforts focused on the European front, and after the Americans surrendered to the Japanese, no aid came from the US until MacArthur decided to return. It was the guerilla men and women, like my father, who continued the resistance against the Japanese during the war. It was the organized Filipino guerilla movement and the Filipino people who helped the guerillas liberate the Philippines; it was not Ma­cArthur. The Americans were the ones who surrendered, not us.”


Among the Filipino veterans at the Marpole Place world premiere, most relived guerilla days as teens: lanky boys joining up, young women crossing enemy lines to bring food, men hiding in bamboo groves. Riveting accounts rendered the audience speechless, especially in the truth­ful retelling of how in the midst of defeat, the guerillas started fighting each other, some turning in fellow Filipinos to the enemy.


But the film’s ending clinched emotions: how in that fierce fighting the guerillas waged alongside the Ameri­cans, and promised recognition on equal terms, the Filipi­nos to this day under the US Congress Recission Act have been denied of their claim. Miguel (Lucky) Guillermo, artistic director, is the son of a noted guerrilla leader in northern Philippines, Antonio Guillermo aka “Silver”. Peter Parsons, scriptwriter, is the son of Cmdr. Chick Parsons who organized the submarines that supplied the guerrillas with everything they needed. Other documentaries about WWII they have collaborat­ed on are: “Ships from Hell”; “Anchored in Freedom; Enshrined in Friendship”.

Who are the Filipinos?

The Filipinos are really too complex to box-in: their ancestry and heritage is so rich it belies the simplicity of their ways. They are essentially still the fiercely freedom-loving island people the Spaniards found, which brings up the charm the world loves. But today, they are also a rationally modern people, Western in mode and manner, adept where their Asian neighbors are still learning—language, for one.

                They were not really just islanders though; the Spaniards discovered a people who had organized settlements engaged in on-going trades with ancient peoples of the Far East, not only with the Chinese but also with Persians, Arabs, and much to their surprise, a trade they had dreamed of—spices, exotic pearls and porcelain among loads of goods they later shipped on galleons that plied a straight ocean route from Manila to Acapulco and back loaded with gold, silver and European imports, if any number of the galleons could make it, to the banks of the Pasig.

                But their coming did not only benefit the Spanish monarchy then ruled by Philip II after whom the islands, which the colonizers rigged up 7, 107 of them to comprise an archipelago, was named. The Spaniards linked the Philippines immediately to worlds on the other side of the hemisphere, Europe, and gifted the Filipinos with Christianity that to this day sets them apart in values and traditions from the rest of Asia.   

              The Philippines was already a nation when all of Asia still existed under sun rulers and brassy sultanates. A nation, indeed, but a servile people under colonizers who, it now appears, kept up their harshness because they could not put down the fierce spirit of the Filipinos. Nor could they understand them—how could the Spaniards with the Filipinos’ heritage mix of Oriental mysticism and Malayan wanderlust?  

                Despite an apparent ‘cowing down’ in spots, both the Spanish and the American colonizers, who took over after a mock battle, had to keep up their iron hand because rebellions and revolts hardly ever ceased; they erupted spasmodically in many parts of the archipelago. (In quite an increasing volume of local history being put together now in the Philippines, several unrecorded events are turning up for the first time; these include fights waged and won by Filipino guerillas during the WWII.) The Filipinos had not ceased to be an island people in this sense—lovers of free earth, water and sky, free to be who and what they want to be.

                 Indeed, multiple cultures make up their consciousness, and a complex of racial genes comprises their make-up. Nowhere does this sharply surface than in another country, where they are pitted against the very cultures that they also carry. They are no less who they are even if they have adapted to other cultures, albeit, out of necessity.

                  This explains their flexibility, a trait that has since been noted world-wide where Filipinos have migrated or gone for work: Whether it be in the Americas or in Europe, Asia and even the Middle East, a Filipino blends because he has in him part of where he goes yet is apart because of all that he is.


Alegria Albano-Imperial, “Celebrating the Filipino”, (2007) an unpublished article in full, published in part as commentary,