AFTER 35 illustrious years serving in the United States Army, Major General Antonio “Tony” Taguba has dedicated his life to two crucial missions: stressing the importance of family caregiving and assuring Filipino World War II Veterans receive the recognition they deserve.
The major general’s efforts go beyond the mere expression of these two very important issues that greatly affect the Filipino-American community.
Taguba — who is the second American citizen of Philippine birth to be promoted to the general rank in the U.S. — has lobbied lawmakers to provide more benefits to Filipino WWII Veterans, even rallying behind the Congressional Gold Medal award, which was signed by former President Barack Obama late last year.
Taguba currently serves as a community ambassador for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the nation’s leader in advocating for more benefits for retired senior citizens. At AARP, he lobbies for more resources in public health, particularly for family caregiving, which he calls a crucial “national public health issue” that “starts with the family.”
“Caregiving is a 24/7 job, 365 days a year,” Taguba told the Asian Journal.
Taguba learned how difficult family caregiving can be from his own experience of caring for his mother. She was dying of stomach cancer and Taguba and his six siblings had to organize a family caregiving system, and it was not easy.
“We were not prepared,” he recounted. “I called it ‘discovery learning.’ We were just going along, relying on primary doctors and not looking at other forms of care like looking into social workers or geriatricians. That would have made a difference.”
“I share my story because there’s always a better plan,” Taguba added, emphasizing the importance of preparation. “It’s never going to be perfect, but it can ease the pain, grief, and guilt because if you’ve done it once, you’re going to do it again. After a while, we thought if it could happen to my mom, it can happen to us.”
Family and the comfort of home play two important roles when it comes to making end-of-life decisions for Filipinos, and Taguba recognizes that.
Most families will eventually have to turn to family caregiving, and it will be a struggle, he said. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible; he advises all loved ones to research all the options available rather than relying on only a few sources.
As an ambassador for AARP, he goes around the country to tell the stories of people’s experiencing in caregiving. In collaboration with AARP, he created a documentary called Caregiving Dahil Mahal Kita (Because I Love You). Through this, he exemplifies an important point: there’s no one-size-fits-all option for caregiving. He’s committed to letting people know that all the resources are out there and that families can get started at AARP.
“There’s no one answer, but there’s a lot of answers,” Taguba affirmed. “AARP is the lead organization for those that want to get started on family caregiving because they’re the leader in identifying resources and getting families prepared. The elderly have a multiplicity of ailments and you can’t just rely on one source, and you can’t do it alone. You’ll get devastated and overworked on your own. But the first thing I tell people is to ask around the area. Ask a doctor, ask a nurse or find a social worker.”
He’s also lobbied in Congress to challenge lawmakers who want to reduce funding to Medicaid and other government-funded programs that provide resources to public health
As a veteran of the U.S. Army and the son of a Filipino WWII guerilla fighter who escaped the Bataan Death March, Taguba holds dearly to him the recognition of the efforts of Filipino WWII veterans, about 15,000 of whom are still alive today.
“They struggled for over 75 years. Nobody cared about them and history was not kind to them and the past five to six years we decided that we have to congregate something for them by rewarding them the Congressional Gold Medal,” Taguba said.
Filipino WWII veterans were one of the seven minority veterans who fought in the war with about 260,000 Filipinos lending their efforts to fight for the Allied Forces. However, they were “the last to have been disenfranchised, disassociated and denied recognition,” Taguba noted.
“We need to do something right; 75 years is a long time to be forgotten,” he said.
Taguba chairs the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FILVETREP), an organization with the mission to promote academic research to raise public awareness of the massive Filipino efforts during the Second World War.
The retired major general acknowledged the progress that has been made in terms of providing Filipino WWII with payment, benefits and public recognition. But he believes that more work needs to be done with educating the youth about these veterans and the enormous effort on their part.
“Kids and grandkids [of those soldiers], like myself, want to tell the world that their history is our story, their story is our history,” Taguba declared. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)