Warriors for peace

Ben Cal, a veteran journalist who has served as one of the Development Acad emy of the Philippines chroniclers over the years, recently launched a book honoring the heroic deeds of Filipino soldiers who served in the Vietnam War in the '60s.

Entitled “Warriors for Peace: The Saga of the Filipino Soldiers in the Vietnam War,” the book is the latest by Cal after his successful “Victory at Bessang Pass” three years before. It chronicles the success of the Philippine Civic Action Group or PHILCAG contingents made up of Filipino soldiers who risked life and limb to perform civic action for the Vietnamese at the height of the Vietnam War.

Such contingents were made up of soldiers who later became luminaries, including Gen Fidel V. Ramos who subsequently became Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff and the 12 the President of the Philippines, as well as fellow former Chiefs of Staff Gen. Renato de Villa, Gen. Lisandro Abadia, the late Gen. Arturo Enrile, Gen. Clemente Mariano, and Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ermita, who stood for Ramos himself as guest of honor at the launch held at the AFP Museum at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

‘Most remarkable moment’

Ermita highlighted the effect his stint with the PHILCAG gave him when he said, “My twoyear stint in Vietnam with the mission to extend humanitarian aid was the most remarkable moment in my 35 years in the military. I thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity to serve the people who needed our service the most during those times of conflict.”

True enough, the Filipino soldiers role, which included building roads and bridges as well as providing services to both civilians and soldiers alike, did not escape the eyes of those who were involved in the nearly-20-year war. These included the Allied nations and the Vietnamese people themselves, among whom were the fearsome Viet Cong who were given equal treatment by PHILCAG doctors and nurses conducting medical missions.

The Filipino soldiers were so admired by the Vietnamese that they were called “Philuatan” everywhere they went, which means they were No. 1.


“When we arrived there Vietnamese started calling us Philuatan. It turns out that a Filipino contingent had been there ahead of us, composed of three doctors and three nurses who operated a very small hospital. We carried that label until now among (the) Vietnamese,” recalled Ermita, who was actually part of the first PHILCAG contingent.

Cal, who conceived the book over breakfast with Gen. Jose Magno and Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, the current Philippine Veterans Affairs Office administrator, has been involved in several projects with the DAP, including the first two versions of its Almanac. He also wrote for the upcoming Compendium to be produced by the Academy. A native of Obando, Bulacan, the 70-yearold Cal is also known as the historian of Ramos and started his journalistic career with the Bohol Chronicle in 1963.

Cal then became associate editor of Guidelines Magazine before transferring to the Philippines News Agency as a reporter, a senior reporter, news editor, and, finally, as managing editor from 2004 to 2011, when he retired as a full-time journalist. His career had seen him cover the 1986 EDSA Revolution that toppled the regime of then-President Ferdinand Marcos as well as seven of the nine coup attempts waged against his successor, Corazon Aquino. Cal often found himself in the middle of the fighting between government forces and rebels but came out of those battles unscathed. – Bert A. Ramirez

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