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EDITORIAL: Complete the Project to Digitize Philippine World War II records

He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination. A country without a history, is a country without a soul.

These words of wisdom by Dr. Jose Rizal have inspired and motivated members of the Philippine Digitalization team, who have been laboring hard since June at the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) to preserve the World War II records of the Philippines. The project basically involves scanning thousands of documents about the men and women who fought as soldiers and guerrillas, their personal histories and diaries and many others.

Under the direction of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), this worthy endeavor started two years ago. Driving this effort was “a big knowledge gap in accounting for the role of Filipinos in the Pacific theater of the war,” said Minister Patrick A. Chuasoto, Chargé d’Affaires of the Philippine Embassy, at a community forum early this year. “Generations of Filipino students have gone through their history lessons without being enlightened about the true extent of the heroism of Filipino World War II veterans.”

The first team of digitizers started work from June to September 2015. Thanks to funding from the Filipino Veterans Foundation and a generous private donor, the project resumed from June to November this year with a larger team. However, there is a long way to go before all two million documents stored at NARA are digitized.

Given the crumbling condition of the Philippine Collection and the likelihood they would be disposed of, there is an urgency to continue this monumental task and complete it. We urge PVAO to find the necessary funds in order to save this collection. Filipino Americans are also encouraged to support PVAO’s initiative to ensure that these valuable records are preserved.

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