Cows ruin Camp John Hay cemeteries

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BAGUIO CITY: Every year, 67-year-old US Navy veteran Master Chief Petty Officer Hugo William Prill, goes back to his native Baguio from Hawaii, his second home, after retiring as a supervisor-diver in the Asia Pacific US Navy fleet.

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His yearly going back to Baguio however turned disheartening, he said, as the two World War II cemeteries at Camp  John Hay where his father and mother were buried in the 60’s have been continuously “desecrated.”

More than 200 wooden white crosses once lined Cemetery I on Loakan Road, but now only a single cross stands. “Their sacrifices for freedom were forgotten. No respect was shown to the graves!”

Instead of the wooden crosses, the hill-cemetery has been planted with saplings of coffee and others. “Why do they do this?”  asked Prill, a Bontoc Filipino who joined the US Navy in 1964 and retired in 1993.
His parents, William and Martha, lie in Cemetery II, farther up south Loakan Road. Cemetery II is better tended by World War II vets.  Its stone and grill entrance is painted paling white.  Most white crosses also no longer sit there, only a square foot each of cement where some 491 veterans’ names are engraved.

William Prill fought in many foreign wars—Spanish American, Philippine-American, Boxer Rebellion in China and World War I. He died in May 21, 1949 when son Hugo William was only three. Hugo’s mother—Martha died in 1993.

The cemeteries could have been made into a historical tourism site, Prill said. But seemingly, nobody cares anymore, he said, including local officials and even those managing the former US rest-and-recreation facility.

Those responsible even allow cows to graze in these cemeteries. “If only veterans buried there could talk,” Prill sighs in disgust.

But the former US Navy officer who went back to the graves of the veterans midday Tuesday at Camp John Hay is not losing any hope. ‘I might get their ears to revisit how we treat ‘heroes,’” he said.

Prill goes back to Hawaii this week, but he said he would still keep coming back to see the grave of his father and mother  and the countless “heroes” of the past wars to bring back to Filipinos eyes a glorious history of sacrifice in the name of freedom and liberty.

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