By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – “It’s a long time coming, 106 years,” said ret. Capt. Ronald Ravelo, a decorated naval officer, of their campaign to name a US ship in honor of a Filipino fireman’s heroism in a fire that gutted his warship in 1915.
Ravelo, along with other FilAm veterans in the West Coast, are seeking the support of Filipino communities nationwide to petition the US Navy secretary to name a US warship in honor of FilAm sailor Telesforo Trinidad.
Petty officer 2nd class Telesforo Trinidad was a fireman who saved the lives of his colleagues on board the USS San Diego (ACR-6) when it caught fire off the Gulf of California on January 21, 1915.
Naval records show that Trinidad, a native of Imus Cavite, received a Medal of Honor from Congress on April 15, 1915 as well as a $100 gratuity for his heroism.
One hundred six years later, FilAm veterans launched the USS Telesforo Trinidad Campaign (USSTTC) to seek the support of Filipino American communities all over the country to have a US Navy ship named in his honor. The office of the US Navy Secretary has discretion on naming warships based on merits.
Trinidad continues to be the first and only Asian American (and first and only Filipino) in the U.S. Navy to receive a Medal of Honor.
Asked if there was a timeline for the campaign, Ravelo said that there is none, but “the sooner the better” during a Kapihan forum sponsored by the FilAm Press Club of New York on May 24, 2021.
Ravelo hails from San Diego, CA, a 1987 graduate of the University of Southern California, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering through the NROTC program. Ravelo’s culmination of his navy career and leadership was being the command of USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) from August 2014 to May 2017.
Co-convenor ret. Col. Nonie Cabana said that the campaign needs strong grassroots support to make noise, so that the Secretary of Navy will decide to name a US warship in honor of Telesforo Trinidad.
San Antonio-based Cabana is a writer, academician, and military strategist. He has 34 years of service in the logistics field and founded the US Ship Telesforo Trinidad Campaign, a 501 © 3 nonprofit organization where he serves as its national co-chair and executive director.
At the Kapihan, Rene Trinidad, grandson of Telesforo Trinidad, recalled that his grandfather was a happy person who was more of an action man and less talk. He said that his Lolo Poro enlisted at Sangley Point at a young age. Rene is based in San Diego and was a professional broadcaster.
History researcher Cecilia Gaerlan, one of the campaign convenors, was able to trace Rene Trinidad and other relatives of the late Trinidad in Cavite that later developed into a campaign.
She founded the Bataan Legacy Historical Society and worked with the California education department to put WWII in the Philippines in the Grade 11 US History Curriculum which was approved in 2016. Her advocacy was inspired by her father, Luis Gaerlan Jrl, a soldier of the 41st Infantry Regiment and survivor of the Bataan Death March.
Consul General Elmer Cato said during the Kapihan that the Philippine Consulate General in New York fully supports the campaign.
In a press release, the USSTTC said that “during these precarious times of violence against many Asian Americans, the naming of a ship after Trinidad will recognize the long-standing contributions of Filipino-Americans to the security and freedom of our nation, the strong alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines since 1898 and the U.S. Navy’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.” #
(To learn how you can help get a ship named after Trinidad, please visit our website www.ussttc.org. Like us on Facebook/USSTTC. Contact Cecilia Gaerlan at firstname.lastname@example.org; (510) 520-8540). Featured photo – Cecilia Gaerlan on her presentation of the life of petty officer Telesforo Trinidad)