Why is a Los Angeles real estate agent trying to name a warship

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BBefore he took root in the San Fernando Valley and became a real estate agent, Rene Trinidad grew up in the Philippines on the southern shores of Manila Bay. His grandfather Telesforo was at the head of an extensive large family.

“When he spoke, it sounded like God was speaking to me from heaven, because he was a man of few words,” Trinidad said.

His grandfather said so little that as a child, Rene had no idea that the gray-haired man received the Medal of Honor from the US Navy decades ago, when the Philippines was under US colonial rule.

To improve his financial situation, Telesforo Trinidad joined the fleet through a base in his province and sailed on the San Diego warship as a firefighter. In 1915, the ship’s boilers exploded in Mexican waters, killing nine people. Trinidad rescued two teammates from face burns.

More than a century after the disaster, Trinidad remains only sailor of Asian descent receive the highest recognition of the Navy for valor. (The army has honored dozens of members of the AAPI community.)

It was only at his grandfather’s funeral as a teenager that Rene realized how his ancestor’s legacy was tied to the US Army.

“It was then that I noticed: Wait, why is my grandfather’s coffin covered with an American flag?

Now that Rene is in his 60s, he has joined the campaign to name the warship after his grandfather. The effort began last year when Filipino US naval leaders began discussing their desire to recognize a Filipino-born soldier and focused on Telesforo Trinidad, a non-US citizen.

Bay area historian Cecilia Gaerlan is the leader of the campaign that attracted Rene Trinidad to the ship naming crusade. Both of their families are from the same province in the Philippines, Cavite.

Black and white photo of Rene Trinidad with his grandfather Telesforo Trinidad in the Philippines.

Rene Trinidad keeps his grandfather Telesforo Trinidad in the Philippines.

(Courtesy of Rene Trinidad)

“I think this will be a testament to the historic contribution of Filipino Americans,” Gaerlan said. “Not only in the US military, but in US history as well.”

Generations of Filipino-born conscripts have joined the US military since 1898, after the US won the Spanish-American War and took control of the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of those who joined received a stable salary, vouchers, and an easier way for their relatives to emigrate to the United States. the highest echelon of the United States armed forces

But Vicente Raphael, a University of Washington historian who studies the colonial past of the Philippines, said the benefits of military service are often negated by the military’s racist and prohibitive methods.

Rafael said that after World War II, Filipinos who served alongside US troops were promised the same health benefits and pensions. But in 1946, President Truman broke his promise. In 2009 alone, President Barack Obama sign an act inviting Filipino veterans $ 15,000 if they lived in the United States. The amount would be even less if they were still living in the Philippines – “pennies” for risking their lives, Rafael said.

Sepia toned photographs of six uniformed Filipino sailors, 1923.

Filipino sailors in the photo of 1923

(Philippine American National Heritage Society

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Filipino sailors in the photo of 1923)

Raphael said that putting the name of Trinidad on a destroyer is “an integral part of this desire, not only for the sake of recognition, but also for the sake of some kind of compensation, no matter how symbolic it may be.” It would be more productive for Raphael to focus on appropriately rewarding veterans and their survivors than to call them “military technology.”

Rene Trinidad said that naming a ship after his grandfather is not something he would have come up with, because culturally, “you have to be humble.” You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. “

But Rene said that his late father would have appreciated this confession of the family’s patriarch. Also, the family has preserved military traditions. Two of Teleforo’s sons joined the Navy, although he was reportedly unhappy when the younger did because he feared that his child, being a low-ranking cook, would make him more vulnerable to racism and abuse.

“Presumably he would not have blessed him with the US Navy, unlike my older uncle who was a dentist,” said Rene Trinidad.

These days, Renée is acting bravely as the family’s spokesperson for the campaign, giving interviews, and asking supporters in Southern California to write to their local politicians. The efforts have already received US support. Senator Mazi Hirono, Hawaii, Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Naval Power. Campaign leaders are hoping that President Biden’s candidate for the post of Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, will be confirmed and accepted.

Rene Trinidad said naming the ship after a Filipino would show that the United States is a “melting pot of the people” and also show support for Asian Americans who have witnessed an increase in racist attacks over the past year.

“I suppose,” he said, “it’s just one of those things where it’s just time to go.”

Do you have a question about the Asian American communities in Southern California?

Josie Huang talks about the intersection of Asian and American descent and the impact of these growing communities in Southern California.





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