On Veterans Day, remembering the Pinoy as a great lover, dancer and fighter

Top: Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda. Below: Benigno Aquino and President Cory

By Nestor Palugod Enriquez

Alfredo Diaz was studying at the University of the Philippines before World War II broke out 71 years ago.

When Alfredo Diaz was learning the art of artillery, the UP student body president was Ferdinand Marcos, who was also the ROTC cadet commander. Diaz held up till the 1942 Fall of Bataan but strangely never saw Marcos in the battlefield.

The other surviving WWII veteran in Jersey City is Jose Red. He participated in the 1945 evacuation of 2,147 prisoners at the UP Los Banos that became one of the greatest rescue missions in military history.

Captain Red played another role after the war. He was assigned to be the escort of Imelda Romualdez. Ferdinand Marcos cut in and introduced himself to Imelda; the rest is history.

In 1953, beauty contests in the Philippines reached a new height. Crowned Miss Philippines was Cristina Galang, and Benigno Aquino Jr. was her escort. Imelda was chosen as the Muse of Manila. The 1952 Miss Universe Armi Kuusela, a Finnish beauty, sailed to Manila to crown Cristina Galang. Armi Kuusela, the first Miss Universe, made several personal appearances, including calling on the Philippine Congress. Smitten, Rep. Ferdinand Marcos from Ilocos Norte introduced himself as the only eligible bachelor in the House, and confessed that his knees gave way after the close-up meeting.

Shedding tears, Armi left the country on April 11 for Hong Kong and Japan with a heavy heart. She expressed her desire to stay in the Philippines because of the warm hospitality accorded to her. She later married Virgilio “Gil” Hilario, who studied banking, marketing and foreign trade in Columbia University and at the same time worked with the Philippine National Bank in New York.

From a newspaper account:

Friends in the know believe that one of the reasons why Armi was swept off her feet by Gil was because of his dancing skills. Gil was an expert in mambo, samba, rumba and other ballroom steps. Unlike Marcos, Gil’s legs did not shake. He pursued Armi on her trip to Tokyo where they arrived on April 26 on separate planes. Their romance blossomed in Tokyo until they mutually agreed to get married on her 19th birthday on Aug. 20. She gave up her crown to marry the Filipino young man.

The legend of Pacquiao was not born yet, but then the short courtship established the Pinoy as world lovers, dancers and fighters. The Romantic period began during my generation, when the boys grew up thinking they could conquer the most beautiful girl in the universe and young girls dreamt up that someday she will become that girl.

We know that Benigno Aquino did not marry the 1953 Miss Philippines. He himself did not become president, but instead married Corazon Cojuangco who later became one. Marcos became president before Cory Aquino and married the Muse of Manila, Imelda Romualdez.

As we celebrated Veterans Day last weekend, I and Captain Jose Red talked about what might have been had Ferdinand Marcos not cut in to dance with his date, Imelda, on the dance floor that night.

I was happy that Captain Red finally received the lump-sum payment of $15,000 after an extensive review of his veterans application. He was on the list of veterans in the military archives, while Ferdinand Marcos’ alleged war exploit s were never found in St. Louis, Missouri.

Fred Diaz and Jose Red outlived Marcos, and we celebrated Veterans Day in Jersey City at the PACCAL Center, reliving the war, peace, and love through the years on 11/11/11.

Nestor Palugod Enriquez is the president of the Filipino American Historical Society-New Jersey.


  1. A. Mabini wrote:

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  4. Bailey wrote:

    Thanks for publishing this article. There is not a lot we know about Jose Rizal and this information is very interesting, esp. to Rizal buffs like me. Cheers.

  5. Pascual wrote:

    Thanks for posting this educational article.

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