Alfredo Diaz, 96

Poster child for the veterans equity campaign

By Nestor Palugod Enriquez

Funeral services were held on the frigid morning of December 6 for World War II veteran Alfredo Diaz, possibly the last of his breed of veterans who fought in Bataan in the 1940s.

Alfredo Diaz just celebrated his 96th birthday last November 28th in Jersey City. He was an athletic student before the war at the University of the Philippines when Ferdinand Marcos was the student body president. Alfredo would dearly remember the world’s fastest human coming to the Philippines in the middle of the 1930s. Ralph Metcalfe from Marquette University visited Manila and even held a clinic with Alfredo Diaz and the best Filipino sprinter by the name of Deleon at the Silliman University in Negros. He ran the track with Alfredo Diaz, whose best time in the 100-yard dash was around 11 seconds.

Ralph Metcalfe has already been clocked less than 10 seconds before his legendary run with Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics with the WWII nemesis in attendance, Adolf Hitler. Ralph placed second to Jesse Owens, but he won the gold medal in the 400-medley relay with his teammate Jesse. Their performance was a stunning rebuke to Hitler’s Aryan supremacy. The next Olympic year in 1940 was slated for Tokyo but was cancelled with the growing war tension as the Japanese Army was already moving inside Manchuria.

At the campus of Diliman, the ROTC cadets were watching the precursors of WWII while studying at the same time. The UP ROTC unit was called upon as the Imperial Japanese forces were about to land. Diaz, Marcos and the other ROTC cadets responded to FDR’s call. Diaz pledged: “I, Alfredo Diaz, do solemnly swear… that I will bear true faith and allegiance… to the United States of America… that I will serve them honestly and faithfully… against all their enemies whomsoever… and I will obey the orders… of the President of the United States… And the orders of the officers appointed over me… according to the rules and Articles of War.”

Almost a quarter million Filipinos stood gallantly in Bataan and in the entire archipelago, Diaz and Marcos were among the estimated 70 thousand prisoners trapped at the Mariveles peninsula for almost four months. Rather than obeying the surrender command, Diaz convinced some of his comrades to escape to Hagonoy, Bulacan. They hitched a ride on a wood charcoal truck toward Manila. Avoiding the enemy checkpoints, he eventually returned to his brother’s house in Kamuning, Quezon City.

The fall of Bataan did not end Diaz’s resistance. He went back to his home province in Samar sailing onboard small craft vessel. He helped in organizing and training the local guerrilla. His unit conducted operations against the Japanese and their sympathizers until they started spotting American planes into the sky. They ably assisted the landing of the American forces in Leyte in October 1944, by that time he already earned his Lieutenant rank in the battlefield.

He settled in Jersey City, and the fight for Filipino WWII Veterans’ Equity was his last battle when he joined the Philippine American Veterans Organization. He was a lifetime member of the Knights of Rizal. The artillery soldier never gave up hope, never surrendered just like in the Bataan Peninsula. He spent his time lobbying in Washington for hundred hours, always reciting his rosary for the passage of the veterans equity bill in Congress. He was the poster boy of the equity campaign. Congressional members and their staff came to know him well and he became familiar with the Philippines Embassy and the Philippine Consulate in New York from the last decades.

The humble Fred kept his life simple, which may explain the enduring longevity, and he was also a very religious man. He kept his body lean, quick and agile. At the age of 90, he could be seen jogging between the Westside and Mallory neighborhoods. He realized that the fight for the Filipino WWII equity would be a long marathon. He outlived Marcos, but the final battle took its toll even for the last of the Bataan survivors. The hero is now with our Lord.


  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    Rest in Peace and G-d bless you my Dear.

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