Meeting Harry Fenton’s Kin: Dirk Barreveld letter

March 20, 2015

Here’s another letter from Dirk Barreveld, an update on his upcoming book on the Cebu World War II guerrillas. There are interesting infos here. I received this on March 16, 2015:

“Thanks for the nice piece last December about my Cushing-book. The book comes out on May 19, 2015 in the US and in Europe and on May 28 in Australia. You can find details about the book on the website

“Recently I came across some information I am sure you are interested in. You know if you write a book and it is finished it does not mean the story ends there. Often information keeps on dripping in long after you did cut off your investigation.

 “During Christmas I had a few discussions with Steve Trent Smith, the author of “The Rescue.” I am sure you know the book. I know Steve for long. He brought me into contact with Anna Pearman. Anna is the daughter of Betsy, the wife of the late Harry Fenton (Aaron Feinstein). The former co-commander of the Cebu Area Command. In other words she is the step-daughter of Harry Fenton.

 “Betsy married Harry in 1939. They had two sons Steve and David. At the time of Harry’s execution (1943) Betsy and her two sons were prisoners of the Japanese. The ended up in Santo Tomas internment camp. They survived the war and Betsy remarried in 1945 an American sailor by the name of Pearman. They moved to the US where Anna was born. Betsy passed away in 2010, she was in her nineties. David died last year, but Steve is still alive.

 “Harry’s grandparents arrived from Polish Russia in the late-1800’s. His father was a milliner in Schenectady. Harry graduated from Schenectady High in 1925. He was very active in music, singing, oration, and theatrics in high school and college. He was also a record-setting sprinter on the college track team. Harry attended three years of medical school in Ireland, before quitting in 1934. At some point he enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and was sent to the Philippines. He became a popular radio announcer in Manila. In 1939 he married Betty. In 1940 he moved to Cebu.

 Some of Frank Cushing’s family is living on Guam. A son of Charlie Cushing lives in Chicago. I think one of the most interesting of the brothers was the heroic, dashing Walter, about whom little has been written. I could not find any trace of him (so far).

“All this information is not in my book, I was not aware of it during writing.”

Dirk Barreveld on James Cushing, First Letter

March 20, 2015

Dirk Barreveld is a former professor at the University of San Carlos in Cebu and once wrote for Sun.Star Cebu where I am working. He wrote to me late last year to inform me about the book on the Cebu guerrilla’s struggle in World War II. I wrote about the Cebu guerrillas when I was with The Freeman in the ’90s. Here’s Dirk’s letter:

“My name is Dirk Jan Barreveld. I used to live and work in Cebu from 1987 until 2002. That was in the Sun.Star  time of Reina Bernaldez and (Wilfredo) Veloso. Most probably we met, but to be honest I do not remember. I was involved in the Mactan International Airport renovation and reconstruction project and at the same time Professor in Economic Science at the San Carlos University. I had my own column on the Sun.Star Cebu business page for many years.

“You wrote a number of articles about Col. James M. Cushing. Well, I just finished a book about Cushing and his World War II struggles with the Japanese and his capturing of Admiral Fukudome. The book will come out next March or April under the title: Cushing’s Coup: The True Story of How Lt. Col. James M. Cushing and His Filipino Guerrillas Captured a Japanese Admiral and Changed the Course of the Pacific War. It will be published by the American publishing house Casemate Publishers.

“For Cebu it will be a major chance to be put on the world map.”


Edsa 1 Not a Beginning

February 27, 2013

COMMEMORATING Edsa 1, or the first People Power uprising, always generates conflicting views instead of just being remembered as our best moment as a people. Two points there: repetitiveness and politics.
The date the uprising broke out surfaces once every year, and the number of times its narrative has been retold, including this year, a total of 26 times already. There have been attempts to present different angles and provide the narrative with additional details, but the repetitiveness in rituals invites the feeling of monotony in some people.
Also, the uprising was mainly a political act, thus it has been viewed using different politically colored lenses.
The general view of the uprising has shifted with the pendulum-like swing in the political standpoint of the majority. Progressive thought permeated in the few years after the uprising, thus the good vibes Edsa 1 generated. The shift to a moderate and even conservative stance (punctuated by the reacquisition of political influence by the Marcoses) has prompted a reinterpretation, even revision, of the Edsa 1 narrative.
Relative to this is the use of Edsa as a marker from where the country’s march to the present is being viewed and assessed. The tendency is to attribute the success or failings of the country post-Edsa to the realization or non-realization of the uprising’s supposed goals.
Perhaps, Edsa would be better viewed as the culmination of a struggle and not as a beginning of a process. A big chunk of those who joined the uprising did so because they wanted to topple the “hated” dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. They might have seen the outline of a democracy restored, but it was secondary to the main goal.
Edsa 1 was mainly about the toppling of a dictatorship. In this sense, it should be celebrated in a positive light, as a success.
This is what makes the remembrance relevant. As for how the democracy and the country was rebuilt after that, or what happened to this country almost three decades after Edsa, that can be considered a separate and continuing narrative whose end we still have to see.
Edsa 1 was the culmination of a process. The new process it ushered, that of making democracy work fully, is up to us and the coming generations to bring into a successful conclusion.

(I wrote this for Sun.Star Cebu (Editorial, Feb. 27, 2013)

Bayan Ko and Other Edsa Songs

August 6, 2009

It’s good to hear the songs that were an important element of the anti-Marcos struggle of the ‘80s. Sung by some of the Philippine’s finest singers during Cory Aqunio’s funeral yesterday, the songs conjured reminisces of the Filipino people’s heroism of old while being re-introduced to the present MTV and iPod generations.

Of these songs, “Bayan Ko” is the most recognizable, and rightly so considering its history. It has accompanied every patriotic struggle, from the American period down to the 1986 Edsa people power uprising. The song’s lyrics were written by the poet Jose Corazon de Jesus a.k.a. Huseng Batute and music was by Constancio de Guzman.

Lea Salonga’s rendition of the song yesterday was classy, befitting a global-level artist like her, but it tended to wean the song away from the masses. “Bayan Ko” is best sung in unison by a crowd, preferably with raised fist. By the way, I prefer the version where the line “Kulungin mo at umiiyak” is changed to “Kulungin mo at pumipiglas.”

“Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” and “Magkaisa” were composed after the fact, or after the February 1986 uprising. The intent of Jim Paredes of the APO Hiking Society in composing “Handog” was obvious, which was to “offer” to the world our “people power” as a method of fighting tyranny. It was recoded by 15 Filipino artists in April 1986.

“Magkaisa” is the more haunting among the three songs. The lyrics are a mish-mash of preachy lines but the music is its drawing power. Composed by former senator Tito Sotto, Ernie de la Peña and Homer Flores, the song prods one to raise a hand and sway to the chorus, “Magkaisa/ At magsama/ Kapit-kamay/ Sa bagong pag-asa…”

When my wife, who was in his early teens during Edsa, heard the version of “Magkaisa” by Sarah Geronimo, she asked me about the original singer. I can still conjure in my mind the image of the girl at the Edsa stage in 1986 but could not recall the name. I checked the Net and rediscovered Virna Lisa (true name: Virna Lisa Loberiza).

The website Positive News Media ( has an interesting article about the then 20-year-old Filipino-American who could have made it big as a recording artist in the Philippines had she not preferred to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker (she’s now US-based). With all due respect to Sarah, I would say Virna Lisa, with her superb voice, still owns “Magkaisa.”

(I wrote this for my August 6, 2009 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu)

No Resolution Yet in Tudela Conflict

July 17, 2009

The political impasse in Tudela town is over. All’s well that ends well? You wish Former mayor Demetrio Granada said he would leave the legislative building his group is occupying after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolved—at last—the issue on who is the Municipal Government’s chief executive. Smooth return to normalcy?

Mayor Rogelio Baquerfo just couldn’t resist making drama out of the un-dramatic on his full re-assumption of his post. Or perhaps he is just insecure. He wanted the police to escort him, like our town is a battle zone. While Granada is hardheaded at times, he and his group are not known to be violent, even when they fought the Duranos in 1985.

I doubt, though, if a return to normalcy is possible in the next few months going into next year’s elections. What will Baquerfo do, for example, to the employees who openly sided with Granada during the impasse? On the other hand, will the Municipal Council, which is not under Baquerfo’s control, block every Baquerfo initiative?

Tudela is one of the gentlest towns there is, so much so that I used it as setting of two of my published works of fiction. In Kanmanok hill where my father roamed as a child, I would look for a vantage point and sit down to admire the view of the wrinkled sea and the poblacion from afar. Politics, it seems, is ruining the town’s overall serenity.
(I wrote this for my July 17 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu)

Filipinos and Americans in World War II

February 22, 2009

This is a long one, but I am sharing with you this view from Peter Field, an American residing in Cebu and who said he is an American veteran (not from World War II). It’s good reading and enlightening, and it gives us a glimpse of the feelings of our ordinary brother Americans:

I am an American and, as such, is a guest in the Philippines. I have NO right to say anything about the politics here. I feel honored and privileged that I am permitted to live in the Philippines, as I love the Filipino people and am fascinated by the culture. To the people of the Philippines, a heartfelt thank you!

Being a regular reader of Sun.Star in Cebu I have seen columns written by a Mr. Wenceslao wherein he refers to World War II as the “Japanese-American War” and that Filipinos were fighting for the US. He seems to be a young man and perhaps did not read history books related to the war.

World War II was NOT a “Japanese-American War”! Courageous Filipinos served alongside Americans in the Philippines to fight the Japanese, not just to defend America but to free the Philippines from tyrannical occupation after the Japanese invaded the Philippines.

Mr. Wenceslao should look closely at the waters of “Red Beach” in Leyte and he would see that Filipino blood is mixed with American blood. Yes, Filipinos fought under the American flag in the Philippines during Eorld War II but right next to them were thousands of Americans who also shed their blood to help them free their country.

He never relates the atrocities committed against the Filipino people during that occupation. But, he should talk to the Filipinos that were alive at that time and read history books, or perhaps visit a few memorials in the Philippines that show the common sacrifices that Americans and proud Filipinos made.

A direct comparison would be the Americans fighting in France, with French resistance forces fighting under the American flag against Germany. When the war was over, a contingent of American forces remained to assist France in it’s rebuilding efforts–at great expense to the US.

The same situation existed in the Philippines. Under agreement with the Philippine Government, the US established fixed installations at Clark, Olongapo, and in Baguio. This was NOT done as an occupying force, but for mutual defense: to assist the Philippines in the face of a new threat. When the Philippine Government asked the US to leave, it did.

Yes, the Americans were at one time a colonial power. That was during our “formative years” and, like a growing child, the US has matured and is no longer interested in occupying foreign lands. Perhaps he should read the book “In Our Image,” which provides extensive information and a fair evaluation on historical facts of the American occupation of the Philippines.

The American people would be outraged if our government were to try to be a colonial power in modern times.

There is a special bond between the American people and the Filipino people. It goes beyond politics or finances. As an American living in the Philippines, I can honestly say that even I do not fully understand it, but I guarantee you it is there.

In my opinion, the compensation due to the Filipino soldiers that fought alongside the Americans to free the Philippines in World War II is long overdue and I am pleased that our new President has taken an active role in securing resolution to the issue.

I am a disabled vet and as such can fully empathize with the Filipino veterans in their ongoing struggle to receive their rightful compensation. As an American veteran, it took me 35 years to accomplish a similar goal. So the Filipino veterans were never alone in their quest.

The ties between the Filipino people remain close and strong regardless of the actions or positions of either government. Look closely, Mr. Wenceslao, at the color of our blood. As an American to a Filipino, I will gladly shed it to defend your right to speak your mind whether you may agree with me or not.


November 3, 2008

When my paisano Boboy told me months ago that Reca, wife of old friend Earl, was sick with cancer, I was momentarily speechless. I decided not to text Earl to ask for more information because I considered how awkward it would have been for him to do so. And I am not good at discussing matters like this.

It was only weeks after, when I got a chance to talk with Tition, that I gathered enough courage to text Earl. Reca’s illness had gotten worse and she needed our prayers. It’s just unfortunate that unlike Tition, Malel and Reca’s cousin Carol, I am not Manila-based. So I am not given the chance to visit her.

Any youth-student activist would be lying if they will say that part of the lure of the movement was being able to interact with the opposite sex. On our part (my close friends and I), we were not vocal about it but our actions, in those golden years of student activism in Cebu (1979-1984), betrayed what was on our minds (or okay, hearts).

We were from Southwestern University, which had our own pretty activists. But us boys were also attracted to those from St. Theresa’s College and University of San Carlos. One of them was Reca, who was not only beautiful and soft-spoken, but at that time were ideologically advanced than us. Thus, at least for me, Reca conjured both admiration and respect.

Of course, as activists’ understanding of the cause deepens, they go beyond sexual concerns and becomes obsessed with the struggle. I would meet Reca for the last time at a particular life-changing period for me, when I decided to work full-time for the movement. It was during that time when I stayed in a rented house somewhere in Inayawan, Cebu City.

I didn’t have a chance to work with Reca for long because our paths diverged. But we products of that wave of activism, when we held rallies and other protest actions under the shadow of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law, have developed a bond that time and tumultuous events could not break. Thus, I feel for Reca, although I am confident of her inner strength. And Earl’s too.