TOMAS M. CLAUDIO
World War I Hero
Tomas Mateo Claudio, the first Filipino to die for the cause of world democracy, was born in Morong, Rizal Province on May 7, 1892. He was the first of the four children of Gregorio Claudio, a violinist who served as church registrar and secretary to the provincial governor (1896-1905), and Pelagia Mateo, a seamstress.
Even as a young boy, he already showed bravery and an inclination for military service and adventure that would later lead him to his life’s destiny, thousands of miles away from his homeland. Although he was quite stubborn, his cheerful disposition endeared him to his friends and classmates at the Morong Elementary School.
During a military exercise held in the school in 1907, Claudio, although only a private, was declared the most outstanding captain of company A, and was immediately given the rank of battalion commander. That same year, his father died.
Upon completing his elementary education in 1909, he entered the Pasig High School, but left not long after for Manila, where he enrolled at the Manila High School. A year later, he stopped studying altogether, to work as a guard at the Bureau of Prisons.
In 1911, after being dismissed from the bureau for sleeping on the job, he journeyed to Hawaii, then the usual destination of young adventurous Filipinos. For a while, he worked in Hawaii’s sugar plantations, not failing to send back home some money for the needs of his mother and his siblings’ schooling. Ever the adventure, he left Hawaii for the United States mainland. He was employed briefly in California before he moved on to Alaska, where he worked in the salmon canneries. After a while, he returned to the mainland, living initially in Reno, Nevada, but finally settling down in Sparks, in the same state. He then decided pursue studies in commerce at the Clark Healds Business College and, upon graduating in 1916, accepted a clerkship at the City Post Office of Sparks. Little did he know, however, that an event of such magnitude as the First World War, which began in 1915, would irrevocably change the course of his life.
In 1917, the United States joined the war to defend world democracy, and Claudio, fired by the spirit of brotherhood, decided to apply in the US Army. After being denied twice, he was finally enlisted on November 2 of the same year. A member of the 41st Division, he left for Europe on December 15. His final destination was France, where he served, initially, in the trenches of the Toul Sector and, later, with the reserve division near Paris. Subsequently, he was assigned to the Montdidier front.
On May 28, 1918, he took part in the struggle of Cantigny against the Germans, who were ultimately repulsed by the American forces. In the process, he was severely wounded. Cantigny was to be his final battle, for his condition deteriorated rapidly. On June 29, he passed away. For his heroism, he was honored by France, America, and the Philippines.
Transported to the Philippines, his remains were given the last rites and buried at the North Cemetery in 1921.
Gwekoh, Sol H. “Hero of World War II,” The Manila Times, May 2, 1966.
Manuel, E. Arsenio and Magdalena Avenir Manuel, Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume III. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1986.