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A Grandson’s Tribute

December 7 has always been a special day of prayer for our family. On this day we would light two candles and say a little prayer (1) in memory of my father whose birthday falls on this day, and (2) to mark the anniversary of the Japanese attack on the naval base in Pearl Harbor.

Because my father would have turned 101 years old, I asked my son Jacob to write about what he remembers of his grandfather.

Here is what he gave me:

Colonel Lolo by Jacob Dionisio Aureus

December 7th, 1941 “A day that will live in infamy.”

December 7th, 1918 the day my grandfather, Colonel Mariano S. Aureus was born.

Every December 7th I would often take some time out to remember the wonderful times I had with Grandfather. You see, I’ve always been in awe of the war stories I hear about him. I’m also amazed by the stories I heard of him as a World War II veteran in the Philippines and when he moved to Jersey City in the United States as a political activist for veterans’ rights. Perhaps to the majority of people this would not come as a surprise; to me indeed it was. What I didn’t know was that he was a recipient of 2 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in the battlefield. I only knew him as Lolo.

Growing up, a lot of my early childhood included Lolo. Vague memories of Lolo included holding his hand when ascending or descending the stairs as a five-year-old, sharing rations, and marching around the house with Lolo in hot pursuit. When my parents would tell me “No!” I would often retreat to my secret weapon, Lolo, who would always return-fire with a gentle but firm “Yes.” This was the typical Lolo-Apo “alliance.”

As I grew older, I began to hear more and more stories about how influential Lolo was in his community. I found out that he served his fellow senior citizens in Jersey City as the chairman of Jersey City’s commission on senior affairs. His fellow senior citizens and veterans in the New York/New Jersey area loved and adored him. They looked to him as their fearless leader.

In 1990 The New York Times featured Lolo in an article, as he advocated for the immigration rights of Filipino war veterans. Though Lolo was a retired old soldier, he never stopped fighting his battles, especially when it meant standing up for his fellow guerillas during the war. To me he was my role model of the true advocate for justice.

And as I alluded to earlier, all this surprised me. Lolo and I never had conversations about the war. I would hear this from other people, but never from him. We never talked about what political offices he held or what issues were affecting retired war vets. Lolo wouldn’t bring that up around me. Instead Lolo would want to know about me, my ambitions, my plans when I grew up. He would ask me questions like how is school? What do you like to eat? What are your future plans? What do you like to do?

Lolo passed away when I was only 15, and looking back now, I probably should have asked more questions about his youth. If Lolo were still alive, I would have loved to ask him for advice regarding leadership and parenting, and perhaps dating. I would have asked him about what kinds of emotions were running through his mind as a 23-year-old man plunged into the trenches of one of the deadliest wars our world has ever seen: the Second World War. But come to think about it, I was able to pick up on the missing pieces only by observing the way he lived. He was always the old soldier.

And it was as a soldier that Lolo served his country the Philippines well. He served the Filipino war veterans of New York and New Jersey as an advocate for justice. He served my family by helping to raise me, by spending time with me every time I came to visit him. And, yes, he was always very humble.

Lolo’s legacy is one of humility and service. I am happy to see this clearly in my father who leads in the same manner. It would be an honor to be able to follow in their footsteps, hoping that one day I shall be worthy to hold the title of “Colonel Lolo.”

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