By Mortz C. Ortigoza
Everytime an event for the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) was to be held my father retired Air Force Lieutenant Marcelo Cruz Ortigoza, Sr, 89, waxed sentiment and persuaded me to attend.
But I could not acquiesce as I was preoccupied with my work and Manila was an emasculating trip from Dagupan City.
PEFTOK played a major part of his life.
When he was 26 years old, the Philippine government, as part of a treaty with the United Nations, sent him as member of the 1,500 Filipino soldiers of the 2nd Battalion Combat Team (BCT) (as packaged of the 7,500 strong five BCTs the Manila government sent to the beleaguered South Korean nation) to fight, maim, kill, and flush-out the chink eyed North Korean and Chinese communists that invaded the democratic South that started in June 25, 1950.
Two weeks ago my frail but still ramrod father told me it would cost him and my niece Abigael P15,000 for a round trip jet ride in Philippine Air Line from Davao City to Pasay City vice versa just to attend the warriors affairs’ 18th Korean War Veterans of the Philippine Memorial Day and 43rd PVAI Annual Convention that will ensue on September 7 to 10, 2017 at Fort Bonifacio, Makati City where they would be graced by South Korean Ambassador Kim, Jae Shin, Retired Colonel Paterno V. Viloria, President PEFTOK Veterans Association, Honorable Lee, Jong Sub, President, Philippines Department of the Korean Veterans Association, Lt. General Glorioso V. Miranda, Commanding General, Philippine Army, former President Fidel V. Ramos, the star of the 20th BCT (what with his exploit as a young lieutenant capturing Hill Eerie), to name a few.
SAND BAGS. My father and fellow combatants at their sand bags protected base in South Korea. He was at the right side under the name “Marcelo” and emphasized by a yellow colored fluorescent ink
“I’ll be sending P10,000 for you in Dagupan City. Bring your two grown up sons so they can see the Korean veterans and enjoy the military honors and party there at Fort Bonifacio. My body is already weak and could hardly cope up with the rough and tumble trips,” he told me in a telephone call from M’lang, Cotabato (town of Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol and Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial).
The rustic town of M’lang is three hours van ride to Davao City while it is more than an hour plane ride from the City to PAL’s Terminal 2 in Pasay.
But my younger brother Gabriel, a former military professor at the Philippine Military Academy now based in California, insisted to my father to attend because he did not see the PEFTOK event for “ages’ already and this would be his last attendance where he could rub elbows and evoke nostalgia with his comrades- in- arms when they were young, strong, and gung ho 63 years ago.
This afternoon, I’ll be meeting my father and niece, who sacrificed her three days of college classes, at the airport terminal for their four days hotel stay somewhere in Taguig City as they prepare for the PEFTOK’s fete and rituals.
Yesterday, as part of this article, I asked my father how his oversea’s assignement started.
He told me through Face Book’s video chat that in April 12, 1954 he and the more than one thousand soldiers embarked in the American navy ship’s USS Montreal at Pier 7 in Manila.
“The port was near Manila Hotel and for three days we cruise the ocean and reached Port Sashebo in Japan,” he narrated in the Ilonggo vernacular at the same time using NATO Phonetic Alphabets like Sierra for “S” Alpha for “A” and so on to complete Sashebo and other places in Japan and Korea as the internet connection made the verbal communication mumbled and sometimes inaudible.
How I missed the Morse Code and the Homing Pigeon vis-à-vis with the poor service of internet providers in the country
In Japan, the 1,500 brown skinned “diminutive” troops, where many of them battle scarred veterans of World War II, were joined by American forces on another ship ride to Pusan, South Korea.
“When we arrived there we rode in a train at Chuncheon clad with our thick winter military clothing issued by the American supply officers in Japan up to the Yanggo in the DMZ or Demilitarized Military Zone”.
He cited his tour of duty ended in October 1954 or seven months when they left Pier 7.
When I told him that late generations of “blue helmet” soldiers and policemen assigned under the auspices of the UN in countries like Haiti, Cambodia, Congo, Liberia, Golan Heights in Israel, Sudan, Timor Leste, India and Pakistan have been crowing about the million of pesos they received as salary from the New York based office, my father said that during his time as a Private First Class in the Korean War he received only P50 a month in Manila while the UN gave him P150 a month or a take home pay of P200.
“Was it miniscule compared to the million of pesos the present peace keepers have been emphatically telling me whenever I dropped by at their camps to interview their commanders?” I posed.
He answered in the negative. The P200 was already hefty where he bought a prime lot near the Jaro Plaza in Iloilo City on that time and where his widowed mother Maring and his four siblings built a house.
“So that collaborated the bravados of old timers in Pangasinan that in the 1950s a twenty five- centavo was so strong that it could buy three serbeza from San Miguel Beer and another twenty - five centavo could bring a pretty pampam or GRO (Guest Relation Officer) and her lola for a night of tryst to a soldier’s barrack. Were they true father?” I asked off-the-cuff.
“Shut up, you better prepare your things now as you’re going to fetch us at the airport tomorrow,” my father sternly rebuffed me with my perennial antics.
(You can read my selected columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too at email@example.com)