Interview with Mr. Philip M. Garcia

Lt. Alexander Nininger Los Angeles Chapter, 
Philippine Scouts Living History Company
Philippine Scouts Heritage Society

The Philippine Scouts were part of the regular U.S. Army who fought valiantly side by side with American soldiers in the defense of the Philippines. After the surrender in Bataan, they were forced to walk the Bataan Death March and were interned at Camp O'Donnell where over 27,500 American and Filipino POWs died. Many of those who survived the Death March and Camp O'Donnell later became guerrillas to carry on their fight against the Japanese.

Former POW of the Japanese and the author of
O’Donnell: Andersonville of the Pacific, Col. John E. Olson, USA (Ret.) described the Philippine Scouts as follows:

Little known outside the Philippines and largely forgotten by the U.S. Army of which they were a proud part, the Scouts were soldiers par excellence.

The Philippine Scouts Heritage Society’s mission is to preserve the history, heritage and legacy of the Philippine Scouts for present and future generations.  Mr. Garcia is the president of its Los Angeles chapter as well as the Philippine scouts Living History Company that  perform reenactments of the battles in which Scouts engaged.

Philip Garcia, Ramil Oteyza, Gil Mislang, Mark Lawrence, Donald Plata

13 minute presentation video

How did you become involved in activities of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society?

We started doing Philippine Scouts impressions in 2006 at different veterans and military historical reenactment events around southern California. We first participated as color guard unit in the Tacoma Washington 2007 Reunion, one of our members Gil Mislang proposed that we join the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. From then on we choose to reactivate the Lt. Alexander Nininger Los Angeles chapter and the rest was history.

* Lt. Alexander Nininger was one of the three Scouts who were awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.  More about PS Medal of Honor recipients. 

Are you related to a former Scout?

Unfortunately no. But I have an deceased uncle, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Molina, an Ordinance Officer who served in Bataan and served with the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, which was part of the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East) where the Scouts belonged too.

What is "Philippine Scouts Living History Company?"  

That was the name we chose for our Living History activities under the Lt. Alexander Nininger Los Angeles Chapter. What is unique about our chapter is that we portray and show impressions of the Philippine Scout soldier through uniforms, equipment they wore or carried and their military bearing and way of life.

Our chapter officers include, Gil Mislang - treasurer, Reunion event chairman (PS descendant) , Frank Lopez- secretary, Victor Verano- chapter historian, Sen. John Patterson, main adviser- President of the National Society and nephew of a Medal of Honor PS Lt. Alexander Nininger who our chapter represents.

We have 5 retired PS WWII veteran "advisers" who are Col. Edwin Ramsey, Dr. Isabelo Torio, Brig. Gen. Antonio Ortega, Ted Villasor Sr. and Rommy Entac.

And the re-enactor members we have are Rudy Cabigas whose father and uncle both served with the 26th Cavalry. PS., Ray Ortega whose uncle served as PS. We also have two members who portray our American "PS officers" Louis Cogut and Mark Lawrence. There is Luther Ritter who provides our Military vehicles and bigger equipment the Scouts used. We have about 25 members in our chapter. Joe Lopez's uncle served in the 200th Coast Artillery in Bataan. We even have a member Lawrence Alcazar on the other side of the Atlantic based in England.

What is the purpose of reenacting the battles that the Philippine Scouts engaged? What do you want to achieve?

The purpose is to honor the sacrifices of the PS veterans and continue to tell the history of their service to the US and the Philippines. It is also a venue where we can show and tell the public by presenting a small visual experience of what it was like to be a Scout soldier under MacArthur's USAFFE . And to also let the American and specially the younger generations of the Filipino public realize and make them really aware that there were brave Filipino soldiers who fought and suffered side by side with their American brothers in arms.

Their Filipino heritage was very proud military history which has been tragically forgotten and neglected. Sadly many of the new generations Filipino American youths have not been educated about their country's history from history classes and books. The Philippine Scouts had a proud legacy and the few remaining veterans hopefully have not been forgotten and should be honored while they are still among us. We use this as a great venue to raise awareness and help bring the issues of the lost benefits of Filipino veterans who answered the call to serve America in time of war.

Where did you get the uniforms and all the equipment for your reenactment? How extensive a research did you do to make sure that they were historically accurate?

A lot of our uniforms and equipment were collected and accumulated through a long period of searching and hunting around from Militaria shows, Militaria stores and now a lot of it on ebay! Some from trade ins or sharing by fellow collectors/members. And we try and get the originals as much as possible and if they are not available we use reproductions as a second option. A lot of our research comes from asking the veterans themselves of what they wore and used. And the vast information from Military books and now from the internet about US military history.

A lot of the reenactment events stress the importance of accuracy in portraying the uniforms and even in military bearing, as we are representing a unique unit of the US military in 1940. We also try and provide anyone interested in doing the PS, as we have advise and help acquire uniforms and gear to various groups in the Hong Kong, England and the Philippines.

How often do you perform reenactment?

We plan and prepare weeks ahead to always participate in two major reenactment events every year. The last major event was on Oct. 2008 at "Marching through History" at Prado Park, Chino Hills, California where we were awarded First place for best encampment display for the period of 1900's up to WWII.

 Winning the first place for the best encampment display
With Bataan
Death March survivor and PS Veteran Theodore M. Villasor, Sr.
photo courtesy from Rudy Cabigas through Gil Mislang)

And the other huge event was at "Old Fort MacArthur Days" at Fort MacArthur, San Pedro, Calif. We have a few members who represent our chapter in the east coast who also participate regularly in major reenactment events back there. And Last year was the very first time a member portrayed the PS in one of Europe's biggest Military reenactment gatherings in England. We also have another big group in Hong Kong and the Philippines also portraying the Scouts.

We always participate in Philippine American events, parades like the Independence Day celebrations and Filipino Veteran's events, as color guards. And now we regularly help provide the PS Color Guard unit for the Annual PSHS reunions. And for the first time this year the Lt. Alexander Nininger Los Angeles Chapter will be hosting the unique 25th Silver Anniversary reunion in Long Beach California. And we will have a presentation and discussion talk about the hobby of the reenacting world.

I saw Japanese soldiers in your reenactment. Who volunteer to be Japanese soldieries?

Yes there are "Japanese" reenactment groups all over the US and one is based in southern California like the 2nd Sendai group, who are much in demand for reenactment world war two pacific battles. They are a mix of Japanese Americans, Asians, Americans and one or two Filipino members from our group who are all very interested with Japanese Army's history during WWII. They are a relatively new novelty portraying the opposing "axis" forces of WWII reenactment events.

There are many Japanese nationals living in Southern California, do you want them to come out to see your reenactment?  What do you want them to experience or learn by watching your reenactment?

Yes, We would like Japanese nationals, and all Asian Americans from the new and younger generations in California and the rest of the US to realize and witness how their Asian heritage was a major part of this tragic event in the Pacific . Our reenactments gives the public a small glimpse of what happened in history and will also discover and learn that the biggest land and sea battles in the Pacific war happened in the Philippine Islands during World War II.

We have a great forum where chapter members post and share a huge amount of information about reenacting and Philippine Military history specifically about the Philippine Scouts. The creator and moderator is our chapter historian Victor Verano. The forum has grown to over 500 members all sharing the same interest about Philippine History and reenacting.

We are now advising and trying to help set up a Manila chapter of the Philippine Scouts. As we have a group of the new generation of Filipino reenactors with a collection of WWII Military Jeeps that they use for celebrating events in the Philippines who also want to help continue the legacy of the Scouts.

It is important now more than ever while there is the time that we make sure that the PS veteran's sacrifices are remembered and their legacy continue through the youth, who are the future of the Scout's Society. The veterans are getting fewer and slowly fading away and their stories should not be forgotten in this fast moving and changing world.


* PSHS member Donald Plata has a work in progress, documentary "Forgotten Soldiers" on the Scouts and our chapter's reenactment group participated.

                                                                                             (interviewed by Kinue Tokudome)