Prudencio Manuel was born on March 28, 1938, in the Philippines. In 1955, he joined the Philippine military while in his third year of high school. His education stopped there as he took an interest in what the military had to offer him. One day, he came across a bulletin board that had a notice on it looking for volunteers to go and serve in Korea. Knowing very little about the country, he volunteered and was soon on his way. Because the main war was over, he was glad to not experience any skirmishes. He found the weather to be the most difficult thing to manage. He found the country to be ravaged by war but the people to be humble and kind. Upon his return to Korea, he was completely amazed at the recovery, especially at all of the tall buildings. He was grateful to have done his part by serving in the military.
Prudencio Manuel describes an unexpected but welcomed exchange with a local resident while stationed in Korea. He shares a story of how he found himself the recipient of an act of kindness while taking a walk one evening. He remembers how this local resident invited him to stop for conversation and then gifted him with sugar.
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Ingenuity and Ice Cream
Prudencio Manuel recalls a time when his friend made the best out of a dismally cold day by making ice cream. He remembers feeling thankful to have not experienced much difficulty during his time in Korea but adds the cold weather presented the biggest obstacle. He describes how his friend took the ice that had formed on their tent and mixed it with milk and sugar to make a delicious treat.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
P: My name is Prudencio Manuel.
I: Um hm. And so P-R-U-D-E-N-C-I-O, that’s your first name.
P: That’s right.
I: And last name is
P: Yes sir.
I: And what is your birthday, sir?
P: March 28, 1938.
I: Uh huh. So
you are, how old are you now?
P: Eighty-one, yes.
I: You are the youngest Korean War veteran I have seen here in Philippines. And it’s great to, to, to see you. Where were you born?
P: I was born in Pangasinan Province of the Philippines.
I: Um hm. And tell me about your family background when you were growing up, your father and your mother, your brother and sisters.
P: My, my father is [INAUDIBLE] Manuel. My mother is [ABELLINA]
I: Um hm.
P: [MALTA]. We are seven children in the family.
I: Seven children.
P: Yes. And I am the third from the eldest.
I: And tell me about the school you went through, elementary, middle and high school.
P: In, in our town, I attended the elementary grades in [PHANTA] Pangasinan. I attended the elementary grades in our town and also, ,uh, three years in high school I n
I: So when did you graduate high school?
P: I finished 19, 19, I think it was 1950.
I: And then did you go to military right away?
P: Yes. I was still in third year high school when I thought of entering the military
P: That was in 1955 I think, 1955 or ’54. So I did not get finished my third year high school
I: Uh huh.
P: And I entered the military at, a recruit
P: recruit in the training group, recruit training group.
That’s my first, uh, place were I, I got my military training.
I: In 1955.
P: Yes, about ’55.
I: So you already knew that Korean War broke out, right?
P: I’m not, I’m not sure about that. I guess I heard that there is a war in Korea. But my [soldiers] is still in the Philippines.
I don’t know where Korea is. But when I saw on the bulletin board that they want some volunteers to go to Korea, I volunteered myself. I was already in, in the military.
I: Uh huh.
P: So, but before that, after my training as a recruit, I was assigned in the Philippines as a
soldier in the B Battalion Combat Team. And then after I guess a few months after my, my first assignment, that’s the, that’s the first time that I was, uh, I was, participated in, in the combat
when the Philippine [INAUDIBLE] we called them Hawks or the loser fighting the government. So in that, in that, uh, combat, uh, experience
P: uh, one of my companions, my, beside me was killed in that, uh, in that, uh, combat operation.
P: But I, but I just got the, go shot in back.
P: And my companion died with a hole in his head. So I was given a commendation, uh, commendation, promotion
of, just after three, three months in the military.
I: Um hm.
P: I was given a commendation for [INAUDIBLE] and that was right before [INAUDIBLE] And then I saw on our bulletin board that they are asking for volunteers to go there.
P: We just thinking or knowing what is, what is Korea or what in Korea? I volunteered.
I: You just joined it.
P: Yes. I did not, I didn’t know what is going on in Korea. I just heard that this one. So I volunteered, and they approved my, my test score so [INAUDIBLE] My first assignment is [INAUDIBLE] to go second visit.
P: We, we got out training for Korea and, but we could not [Korea]
I: What kind of training did you receive before you went to Korea?
P: Uh, I was assigned with the [INAUDIBLE] That was
I: What is it?
P: Uh, the, what do we do there is we, we use the 105 mm [INAUDIBLE].
We’re trained in fighting that kind of Howitzer until we went to Korea.
I: Um. So when did you arrive in Korea and where?
P: I think it is in, we arrived in Korea in April
P: Nineteen fifty-five. April 1955 I think.
I: You, when did you leave from Korea then?
P: That’s, that’s the time, April. That’s how, I can remember April 1955. After our training in [Korea], they ship us to Korea.
I: Ah. So then
P: At first, we landed
in Japan before going to Korea.
I: So you, you arrive in Korea 1955, not, not 1954?
P: I think it is ’55.
I: Fifty-five. You arrive in Korea.
I: And then where did you go?
P: Uh, we landed in Pusan.
I: How was Pusan at the time?
P: I think it
I: Just tell me honestly.
P : Yes.
I: How was Pusan at the time?
Pusan [INAUDIBLE] it is dark. It’s dark. So I just see those small houses on the way. But not too big buildings.
P: And then we were, I went, uh, we were transferred to Yongju.
P: Yongju. Yongju.
P: We’re in, then
we were attached to an American battalion [INAUDIBLE]
P: She’s [INAUDIBLE] [I couldn’t understand any of his sentences here] And in that assignment,
uh, we have our [INAUDIBLE] we trained for months every day. Uh, I can remember we always go to the [INAUDIBLE] for drinks, finding our, that place. Finding who it says [INAUDIBLE]
I: Um. Were there any dangerous kind of skirmish,
a little battle between enemies and, no, not at all?
P: When I arrive, I, I heard that they did already stop.
P: No more fighting. So we are pretty happy
P: that we, we are
I: You don’t have to fight.
P: Yes. We are not in any danger. That, that’s, uh, knowing that we can be back in the Philippines
I: Um, safe.
P: for some, some time.
P: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE]
I: Um, what was the most difficult thing during your stay in Korea?
P: I think there was not, I cannot remember the, the difficult thing.
I: How about weather?
P: Ah, yes. That’s one. But I don’t mind the weather, if it’s cold. But if it still, uh, uh, okay for me.
P: Ah, weather. It is cold at night. And then I remember, uh, the morning in our tent, come out the tent, there is ice. And, and, uh, one of my friends make any [INAUDIBLE] that they can get the ice and then put, uh, milk and
sugar, very good. And the thing that happens is that got hoarse voice. I cannot talk because of that, uh, drinking, um, the ice in the tent.
I: Um. Were there any Korean
boys or Korean people working in your unit?
P: I saw them, I saw them one or two times. That, Korean is helping us, uh. He’s helping in our, uh, signal, signal station, uh, uh,
getting the rolling, the wire.
I: Wire, yes.
P: Getting wire for our, you say, in our, uh, what do you call the Fire Direction Center to the Howitzer. Get her plane to go through in the Signal Station in getting the wire or rolling the wire
when we are finished already.
I: Um. So your specialty was, uh, radio?
P: No. My specialty’s in firing the Howitzers.
I: Firing what?
P: The cannon.
P: Yes. 105 mm Howitzer.
I: I see. So did you train a lot to shoot?
P: Yes. We were trained to use Howitzers,
firing the Howitzers.
I: I see. Did you have a chance to look, go around Korea like Seoul City when you were there?
P: Not really sure. But around the, we, around our place. Sometimes we walk through the village and, uh, uh, take, uh, this, uh,
very poor place.
I: Very poor?
I: Tell me about it. How Korean people were at the time.
P: Uh, one time we, one of my friends [INAUDIBLE], walk along the road and then we saw a road going down, and we saw some houses there. And then one of the houses
this is a big, very, a very good experience for us. One of the, one, oh, one man is near the house sitting just outside the house, uh, and he goes like this.
I: Oh, waving.
P: And he, it’s my leg sore, we went to him, uh
then he bowed [INAUDIBLE] we don’t understand. But wait, he said wait, hand like that. So we just stand there a little bit and, uh, near the house. And when he come back, he had a big jar.
I: Big jar?
P: Big jar of sugar
P: and he pointed to me and that, he pointed to me,
and he, uh, big jar, a big [INAUDIBLE] So he stand with the soldier and I’m a soldier. So we are friends.
I: Ah. That’s very interesting.
I: Um. So what did you think about the Korean people at the time?
P: Well, they are very polite. They are pretty polite.
They always smile when they see us. And, uh, that, that place, that house. When we went back to our place, that man gave me, to me, a, something inside a, rolled paper
and he said something but we don’t understand. So we just get the, that, uh, rolled paper and then bow and then we go, go home. And then, uh, I don’t know what is that. But it looks like a carrot, you know, carrot. I don’t know what it is.
So I give it to our, uh, cook, and he said, and he, and he said it’s [INAUDIBLE] food.
I: So he gave that food to you.
P: Yes. He gave
P: But I don’t know. But when that cook, uh, put it back in, it tastes Ginseng
I: Um. Ginseng.
P: Ginseng, yes.
I: Ah. So he gave very good things to you, very expensive ones.
P: [I didn’t tell]. So it’s, so that’s what he did, just like a, carrot, I’m not
I: It’s a root.
P: Yes. I don’t know what it is.
P: So I give it to, uh, cook. Then later on he said that’s the one you gave me. I said he gave
me additional food he said.
I: That’s Ginseng.
P: Ginseng, yeah.
I: Um, what did you think about the future of Korea when you were there? Did you think that Korea would become like this today?
I: Why not?
P: I watch them succeeding. I saw the [INAUDIBLE] around, and I said it is written in different pens [INAUDIBLE]
So I don’t
I: You mean better?
I: Better than Philippine?
I: These round things like that, uh, what I saw. It’s, I think I have in mind that it is still, the first weather is still better in, what I said. But when we come back the 2017,
I was, I was amazed by what I saw. Tall buildings, too many, uh, condominiums or the tall buildings that the, that were [INAUDIBLE], Those are condominiums or apartments all, [INAUDIBLE] where we saw that kind of buildings, tall buildings with so many windows.
And that guide said, uh, in Korea there is no property. It’s what the guide is telling us, the guide in our bus. [INAUDIBLE] in Korea.
P: But in the Philippines, so,
so many shanties. But in Korea I did not see anything like little shanties, such, uh, house, [INAUDIBLE] along the way. But in Korea, nothing like that.
I: Yes. Um, so Korea is now 11th largest economy in the world because all this U.N. Forces including Philippine soldiers came to fight for us against the Communists.
So that’s why we were able to do it. So that’s why it is very important for us to get back to you and say thank you about the opportunity. Uh, here, I want to invite your wife because she’s been to Korea with you, right?
I: So let me invite her. So now you have your wife with you. So please introduce yourself. What is your name?
S: [INAUDIBLE] Manuel. I was born, uh, February 16, 1952.
And can you take off your glasses because, yes. And you married to him when? Nineteen
S: Nineteen seventy-three.
I: Three. And did he tell you anything about his Korean service?
I: Not really?
I: Okay. Why you didn’t tell her?
P: I think it is that, uh, [INAUDIBLE]
tell her about my experiences in life. But when we got married, I did not tell her about Korea.
I: Um. So you went to Korea 2017, right?
I: And then you went together.
I: Did you know anything about Korea before you went to Korea?
You didn’t know anything about Korean War? You didn’t know anything about KPOP or anything Korean dramas?
S: I just heard that a war in Korea when I was studying. Uh, at the time, there was nobody in town [INAUDIBLE] in the Philippines.
I: So when you went to Korea with him and when you see the Korea now, what did you think about it?
S: It’s a progressive country. Uh, and it’s very clean. They are, they started d up the, the roads are clean. There’s no [INAUDIBLE] grass uh, road. It’s very clean. And the people there are there for life.
So when he was in Korea, did you know how Korea was at the time, 1955?
S: I was born in 1952.
I: Korea was one of the poorest countries, and he just told us that Korea, he thought that Korea would not become like this today. That was really miserable Korea. Now it’s 11th largest
economy in the world and very democratic society. What do you think about his legacy as a Korean War veteran?
S: Well, uh, maybe the experience in Korea make him, uh, more stronger. But then he didn’t, uh, even tell story about Korea.
It was a lot better when, uh, we go to Korea. That was the time that he made story about Korea.
I: So when you were growing up in, in the school, they didn’t really teach much about Korean War, right? No. That’s why we are doing this, to preserve his memory and then making this into a curricular resources
so that teachers can use when they talk about it, so they can talk about Korea he saw in 1954, ’55. And then they can talk about Korea he saw 2017 with his wife, right?
I: Yeah. Next year will be 70th anniversary of the breakout of the Korean War, and never been replaced by the peace treaty. This is a ridiculous phenomenon.
But what would you say to the Korean people for the 70th anniversary, sir?
P: I think the Korean people are [This statement was inaudible] That’s why, and then those
are very healthy when we went there. Very healthy and really, uh, happy, smiling right now.
I: Are you proud to be a Korean War veteran 2nd BCT?
P: Yes. Now I, I know that I come from a place, Korea.
that before I don’t even know where is Korea, and, and the people I don’t know. But I [INAUDIBLE] that’s for what they call adventure. And I found out that now I think they are one of the best people in the world. [INAUDIBLE] they are, uh, very helpful
and very healthy, uh, [INAUDIBLE]
I: That Korean War has not finished yet, and still China and the United States are confronting against each other. It’s like a dragon fighting against American Eagle, you know. So Korean War has never finished, and it’s very important in the current international affairs.
And that’s why we need to learn more about the Korean War, and I really, really hope that I can work with the Philippine government so that we can produce resources for the teachers so that they can use it, and I’m sure this will be one of the resources that we going to use. Thank you so much again for serving for the Korean people, and that’s why we were able to rebuild our nation, and we want to get back to you,
and we want to work together. Thank you so much.
P: You’re welcome.
[End of Recorded Material]