by Marla Miranda Mooney
I am the granddaughter of Alberto Bacani. Before he passed away in 2013, he entrusted me with his war diary and I have begun writing stories based on his entries. One incident, in particular, was deeply affecting — through it, I understood why service to others was so important to my grandfather.
As you know, many of our World War II Veterans fought external and internal enemies. They fought occupying enemy forces and forces within: malaria and dysentery contracted in their dire circumstances. As a Prisoner of War, my grandfather was no exception and fell to these same deadly illnesses while escaping his captors. His life was saved by Bernardino and Catalina Llena, from San Jose, Nueva Ecija. Despite the many risks involved (possible execution, exposure to communicable disease, highly constrained resources), the Llenas (rice farmers) restored my grandfather to good health. The Llenas’ act of mercy left an indelible mark on my grandfather and how he lived the rest of his life.
I told the story of my grandfather and the Llenas to my sister-in-law, Laurie Barton. Inspired by this, Laurie sculpted the clay model “Selfless Valor”. It is not yet cast in bronze, but we are working toward that goal. Our intent is to have the piece travel as an exhibit throughout the country/world and call us to look within our own potential to serve one another. We believe the courage and selflessness of our past generations — certainly our Veterans — calls us to that. In the same way my grandfather was inspired by the Llenas’ act of mercy, we believe that future generations will be inspired by this enduring depiction of bravery and the indomitable Filipino spirit.