SAN FRANCISCO – "The Guerillas of Powell Street" is a story of bravery and survival. It's a story about Filipino World War II veterans who moved to the United States in their old age, not only to help their families back home, but to urge the US government to grant them full veteran benefits promised to them seven decades ago.
The story is immortalized in a thought-provoking, emotionally-charged play which was successfully staged in Manila.
Now "The Guerillas of Powell Street" has officially premiered in the US.
The play is based on Benjamin Pimentel’s novel Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street, a winner of the 2007 National Book Award for fiction in Manila.
The play was staged by Filipino-American theater Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco.
"I feel very, very happy that this story has come home," Pimentel said.
"Because Powell Street is just a few blocks from here. It’s just around the corner, even my old office at the San Francisco Chronicle, that’s when I started seeing these men and writing about them as a reporter, and that is nearby. It’s just a great thing that Bindlestiff has done to bring these issues and to bring these characters back here where their stories and struggles took place."
Through its run at Bindlestiff Studio, Pimentel has constantly been asked to bring the play to other venues to help spread the story of the veterans who still struggle to fight for equity in the twilight of their lives.
To this day, the Filipino veterans have yet to receive full veteran's benefits, including their lifetime monthly pensions.
The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act remains stalled in Congress and advocates say lawmakers need to pass the bill now while the manongs are still alive.
For them, one way to continue rallying for the veterans is by continuing to spread their stories of struggle and hope.
"I know Bindlestiff Studio and other Filipino American groups would love to take this story to other cities, other venues," Pimentel said. "There are a lot of Filipino veterans in Chicago for instance and New York, Los Angeles, and even Washington DC. So if there is a kind of support, mainly financial support that could be gained to get that process started, that would be great. I would endorse that whole heartedly."
Michael Dorado, who plays a veteran in the play and whose lolo was a veteran, said the rest of America needs to know about the injustices these veterans have had to endure.
“Everyone that I talked to, even just outside of this small community here, they don’t know this story and we have to tell this story because this is part of American history,” Dorado said.
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