It all started on a Friday evening about two years ago. My dear sister-in-law, Marla, and I were sitting at the island in my kitchen having a glass of wine discussing the goings on of the week. I noticed that she was more animated than usual and wondered what was going on. It wasn’t long before she pulled from her purse a very old and worn diary. I was instantly curious. She told me while going through her Grandfather’s WWII memoirs she found his war diary. The diary revealed this poignant story.
While serving with the USAFFE 2nd Lt. Albert Bacani was captured by the Japanese just weeks prior to the Bataan Death March. Bacani was beaten and tortured. The Japanese soldier who was in charge demanded that he give up everything in his pocket but when Bacani offer up the rosary that his mother had given him before going off to war, the soldier folded it back into his hand and told him to keep it. By some miracle, that his writing doesn’t disclose, he escapes from his captors and is rescued by a Filipino rice farmer and his wife. By the time he made it to their thatched hut, he was dying of malaria and dysentery. Despite the fact that he had contagious diseases and if caught by the Japanese for harboring a fugitive for which they would be executed on the spot, they made the courageous decision to bring this stranger into their home and nurse him back to health. Because of their unselfish decision to come to his aid, Bacani went on to live to the age of 102 years old and was the first Filipino World War II veteran to receive financial compensation he so richly deserved.
I was completely captivated by this amazing story and knew that I needed to capture the essence of this epic in sculpture form. I immediately went to work. I had done figurative work before, but this would be the first time that I would attempt three figures in the same vignette. My goal was to capture the split second that the rice farmer and his wife made that pivotal decision to save Bacani’s life. I worked on this piece on almost a daily basis for four months. Throughout this process, I researched Filipino culture and the role that the Filipino’s played in the war. Initially, I thought that what the rice farmer and his wife did was extremely unusual but, to my great surprise, discovered that for Filipinos to take in perfect strangers during the war was, in fact, not uncommon. What this rice farmer and his wife did, as did so many others, demonstrates the epitome of the Bayanihan Spirit. Stay tuned in another blog to find out step by step how this piece was brought to life.