MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines said Wednesday its oldest World War II veteran, who escaped from Japanese troops before the infamous Bataan Death March and became a guerrilla fighter, has died at age 111.
Alfonso Fabros died Aug. 9 in northern Nueva Ecija province, said Jet Rivera, spokeswoman for the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office.
Fabros’ daughter, Ella Gandalera, said her father, a farmer after the war, died of pneumonia.
Fabros was a private in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East in December 1942 when Japan invaded the Philippines, which was then a U.S. colony. He fought on the front lines during a three-month Japanese siege and blockade of Bataan province west of Manila, but escaped before the U.S.-led forces surrendered in April 1942.
Gandalera said her father told stories of how he and his comrades would "squeeze their shirts to drink their sweat because of a lack of water and eat whatever leaves they could find" during the siege.
The Japanese forced about 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers who surrendered to hike about 100 kilometers (63 miles) to a POW camp in the brutal Bataan Death March. Thousands died along the way and thousands more in the concentration camp in northern Tarlac province’s Capas township.
Fabros joined guerrillas in Central Luzon, attacking Japanese troops until the end of the war in 1945. He was a rice farmer until the early 1970s.
Gandalera said she met three of her father’s fellow veterans, including one who was 95, during ceremonies at Capas National Shrine in April when her father was given a plaque from the veterans’ affairs office recognizing "his wartime service and honorable performance of duties."
Fabros’ funeral was without fanfare and with no military honors. Except for a flag draped over his coffin, there was no indication he was a veteran, much less the country’s oldest, Gandalera said.
Rivera said veterans’ administrator Ernesto Carolina offered full military honors for the funeral but that it was too late because Fabros had already been buried.