The missing medal for valor of the late Corporal Jose Baliton Nisperos, the first Asian and Filipino to receive the United States Congressional Medal of Honor, was formally returned to his heirs yesterday here.
“We’re very happy, very grateful, not only our family, not only his (Nisperos) heirs, but the whole country as well. We are very proud because he is an Ilocano. The search is over for the missing medal,” said Ma. Delilah Viduya Turzar, Nisperos’ great granddaughter.
Turzar said the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society advised her to donate the medal to a museum so that it will be preserved and secured.
“We will donate it to the city government of San Fernando because they will be putting up a World War II museum. It will be secured and the public can view it,” Turzar said during an interview together with Mayor Pablo Ortega at the People’s Hall here.
Ortega said that while the city government is preparing the museum, the medal will be temporarily kept secured inside a glass box at the city hall for public viewing.
“The city government will take care of it and will be kept on a museum to make it sure that it will not be stolen or lost again. It will be open for viewing,” Ortega said who was instrumental in the recovery of the medal.
Ortega said he was able to locate the medal with the help of three friends, Edward Delos Santos, and lawyers Jorge Delos Santos and Jose Escaňo, all members of the Bayanihan Collectors Club in Manila.
“When they (friends) read in the newspapers about the article of Nisperos and the appeal of his heirs for the return of the medal, they immediately informed me that they knew where the medal is,” Ortega said.
Ortega said that the collector who kept the medal voluntarily returned it without any compensation.
The medal was lost when one of Nisperos’ relative took it when he died in 1922. The relative allegedly promised to help his widow, Potenciana, to claim benefits from the U.S. government.
The relative allegedly sold it until it was auctioned last year in Manila with $1,100.
Last April 2, 2012, after 100 years since he fought with Moro rebels in Lapurap, Basilan province in September 24, 1911, Nisperos, was reburied at the Lingsat public cemetery here with full military honors.
The military honors were done by the US Veterans Multi-organizational Honor Guard while the 21 gun salute was given by Filipino policemen.
Nisperos was recruited to the 34th Company United States Army Philippine Scouts Division while the Philippines was a territorial property and colony of the United States and was engaged (alongside the American colonizers) in a battle to suppress the Moro Resistance (1899-1913) in the Southern Philippines.
On September 24, 1911, Nisperos together with his mother unit, the 34th Company, was ambushed in Basilan by a large group of rebels armed with bolos and spears. Nisperos’ unit gained a handful of casualties during the ambush but because of Nisperos’ action at the time of the siege where he fought the raging rebel forces until they retreated back to the hills using only one hand – his left hand was badly wounded and he received several spear wounds on his body.
Because of his action, the 34th Company Philippine Scout was spared from total annihilation.
For his gallant action, bravery, and valor in the battlefield, Nisperos was awarded on November 25, 1912, the US Congressional Medal of Honor.
He was medically discharged from the service due to the severity of his wounds and given a pension of $55.00 per month. He died in 1922 after a long illness at the age of 34.
Nisperos was born in Barangay Tanqui here on December 30, 1887.