13 things about my Lolo, Col. Maximiano Saqui Janairo, for Veterans Day


This is my Lolo, Maximiano Saqui Janairo, in a studio photo taken in Manila around 1930, when he was about 24 or 25 years old. On his lapel, you can see the castle emblem of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Note the shoulder patch — the gold carabao on a red field — the symbol of the Philippine Scouts.

Here’s a photo of my Lolo, Maximiano Saqui Janairo.

  • 1930 graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point
  • Commission in the Philippine Scouts
  • Chief engineer with the Philippine Army in 1941
  • Captured by the Japanese in April 1942
  • Survived the Bataan Death March
  • Prisoner of War in Camp O’Donnell
  • Escaped while being transferred to a hospital for malaria and dysentery
  • Joined the guerrilla units fighting the Japanese occupation
  • Served in Korea during the Korean War
  • Served with NATO in Paris
  • Retired as a colonel, stationed at the engineer school at Fort Belvoir
  • Awarded Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States from 8 December 1941 to 9 April 1942”
  • Buried at Arlington National Cemetery



Fact-checking family stories

I’m not in the habit of fact-checking family stories, despite the countless times (as a journalism student and journalist) I’ve heard: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”

So it was more of a fluke than a deliberate act when I came across a document linked to what I’ve come to think of as the precipitating moment of my family’s coming to America.

A google search led me to the digitized book “Official Register of Officers and Cadets: United States Military Academy,” which included not only my grandfather (a cadet from 1926 to 1930), but also the conditions upon which he became a cadet.

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The love letters of Ms. Leyte ’27 and a young lieutenant


The news out of Leyte reminds me of my grandparents. Here’s something I wrote about them nearly eight years ago.

Letters relate another time, other lives

Times Union, December 11, 2005

Janairo —

Here is a prayer book given to me four years ago today by a good friend of the family. Use it, and I know it will do you a lot of good. Will you make it your New Year’s resolution to attend Mass regularly every Sunday? Thank you ever so much.


Tuesday, December 30, 1930.

This note and others like it are stuffed inside a greenish-gold box that says “La Jade” and “Paris” over an image of birds in flight. It doesn’t say that it contains the love letters of Lt. Maximiano Saqui Janairo and Amelia Zialcita Romualdez, as they were known in 1930.

I knew them decades later as Lolo and Lola , the Filipino nicknames for grandfather and grandmother, when they lived far from their homeland in Alexandria, Va. Being of Irish-American-Philippine descent, I had always been curious about my Asian heritage, even though (or perhaps because) my Lolo and Lola had seemed so distant, so regal, so “old world.” Continue reading →