MANILA, Philippines (PNA) --- When the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, the Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat troops to help the beleaguered South Koreans fight the invading North Koreans and Chinese forces.
That act of the Philippines in response to a call by a friend in need 62 years ago would never be forgotten by South Korea.
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), currently headed by retired Lt. Gen. Ernesto G. Carolina, said that it was on Aug. 7, 1950, or 43 days after the war erupted when then President Elpidio R. Quirino announced the deployment of 7,420 Filipino combat troops to Korea known as the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK).
Quirino said the sending of Philippines combat troops to Korea was in fulfillment of the country's obligation as a co-signer of the United Nations Charter.
''Poor as we are, this country is making a great sacrifice in sending you there (Korea), but every peso invested in you is a sound investment for the perpetuation of our liberty and freedom,'' Quirino said.
Quirino and his Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Carlos P. Romulo, also saw the Philippines' commitment to defend its friend, the Republic of Korea, as part of a larger fight to save world democracy from communism.
PVAO said ''the great friendship between the Philippines and the Republic of Korea is extraordinary. It began in 1947 at a time when the Philippines and Korea were rebuilding their countries following the massive devastation inflicted by the Second World War.''
It may be recalled that in 1947, the Philippines played a key role in a United Nations' initiative that led to the creation of the Republic of Korea on Aug. 15, 1948.
The Philippines was the first Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea on March 3, 1949.
The Korean War began 15 months later and when it ended in an Armistice on July 27, 1953, Korea, a nation that had been united for most of its history, became a country divided.
The Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat troops to fight in defense of the Republic of Korea.
The Philippines volunteered to fight in Korea despite having to rebuild an economy shattered by the Second World War while simultaneously subduing its own dangerous communist insurgency.
Despite its own pressing need for soldiers, the Philippines recognized the urgency of assisting South Korea in its fight to survive as an independent state.
On Sept 15, 1950, the officers and men of the 10th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized) boarded a transport ship at Manila Bay for their voyage to the Korean War.
This battle-hardened battalion was typical of all five Battalion Combat Team (BCTs) comprising PEFTOK.
All the PEFTOK soldiers had seen years of fighting the communist Huks.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ernesto G. Carolina, PVAO administrator, said the five PEFTOK battalions that saw action during the Korean War from 1950 to 1955 were:
• 10th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized)
• 20th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized)
• 19th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized)
• 14th Battalion Combat Team
• 2nd Battalion Combat Team
The Filipino BCTs proved their combat capability during numerous battles with the enemy that ''not one PEFTOK battalion was defeated or made incapable of combat as a result of enemy action despite many hard fought battles.''
''PEFTOK consistently defeated its main enemy (the ''Chinese People's Volunteer Army'') in actions for hills, cities and towns along the 38th Parallel dividing Korea.
''In successfully defending South Korea, the Philippines cemented a friendship that endures to this day, and that is a source of great pride to both nations,'' PVAO said. A Memorial for Heroes
The PEFTOK Korean Memorial Hall was constructed in honor of the 7,420 officers and men of the five BCTs who fought during the Korean War and helped rebuild Korea.
Out of the 7,420-strong PEFTOK members, 112 were killed in action, 229 wounded, 16 missing and presumed dead and 41 held as prisoners of war (POWs).
PVAO said the memorial honors the staunch friendship between the Philippines and the Republic of Korea forged in their shared sacrifice during the war.
''It's the outstanding symbol of the decades' old partnership between the Philippines and South Korea,'' said Col. Paterno Viloria PhD, president of the PEFTOK Veterans Association, Inc. (PVAI), the only association of Filipino Korean War veterans.
PEFTOK produced a president in the person of retired Gen. Fidel V. Ramos who was elected as the 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines in 1992 and served his six-year term until June 30, 1998.
Ramos was a member of the famed 20th BCT sent to the Korean War.
The Memorial Hall is one of two buildings at the ''Philippines-Korea Friendship Center'' along Bayani Road in Taguig City. The other is the HRD Training Center. The Memorial Hall houses the Philippines' first-ever Museum specifically about the Korean War; a multi-purpose hall, an office for PVAI, a library, a roof deck and other facilities.
Inside the museum are panels describing the history of the Philippines' involvement in the Korean War and memorabilia from our soldiers who served in Korea.
On the ground outside the building and inside the museum are displayed weapons used by Filipino soldiers in the Korean War.
The Republic of Korea also has its own exhibit at the museum. On the other hand, the Philippines-Korea Friendship Center was a proposal by former South Korean Ambassador Choi Joong Kyung that a memorial hall be built to honor the soldiers of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea or PEFTOK.
Ambassador Choi noted that the friendship between the Philippines and his country strengthened by the Korean War had blossomed into a partnership both countries have nurtured over the decades.
That vision led to the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement in May 2009 by Ambassador Choi, former Secretary of Defense Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. and Brig. Gen. Victorino T. Azada, former President of the PEFTOK Veterans Association, Inc.
The Department of National Defense and its Philippine Veterans Affairs Office took charge of the Philippine part of the project. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was responsible for the South Korean contribution. Following necessary pre-construction activities, South Korean firms began work in 2011 at the 5,000-square meter project site donated by the Philippines along Bayani Road in Taguig City.
First to be built at this site was the two-storey PEFTOK Korean War Memorial Hall. As work on this building was proceeding, construction began at the adjacent four-storey HRD Training Center.
The HRD Training Center will train young Filipinos for gainful employment both here and abroad.
The PEFTOK Memorial Hall is inscribed with the names of all the 112 Filipino heroes who were killed in action during the war.