War claims processing center packed; dozens line up early

The war claims processing center was packed during its opening day. (PNC file photo)
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The war claims processing center was packed Friday morning as dozens lined up before the ribbon-cutting to be among the first to finally file for the war reparations they were awarded for their suffering during the Japanese occupation nearly 76 years ago.

79-year-old Florence Quitugua and her family were first in line this morning at the war claims processing center.

“I’m between happy and sad because we’ve been waiting forever for these things to happen. And finally, give thanks to the Lord. Thank you,” Quitugua said as she wiped tears from her face.

By the time the doors were opened, more than two dozen were already waiting as they packed the processing center and submitted their claim forms.

Angelina Topasna, another war survivor, said: “Very good. It’s very good. I’m glad it’s over. I was 7 years old during the war and the first thing I remember is my Mom told us to get out because there’s a big bomb, like a bomb. So I went outside and I saw my Mom took us. And I saw the people running, so we had to run too.”

Jose Camacho, from Asan and another war survivor, said: “To me, I’m happy about it. Thank the good Lord. I was about 4 years old during the war. My brother had to carry me to Manenggon but I was born in 1942.”

Raymond Sablan Laguana, another survivor, said: “I was a baby and when they first came out, I asked Madeleine Bordallo whether I’m qualified. She said no. I said malnutrition. So they passed me around the cave to every woman that got so I could get the milk because I was crying and the Japanese were outside the cave.”

An estimated 700 war survivors whose claims have been adjudicated live in the states. About 700 others still live on Guam and it appeared that well over 100 of them came out to the processing center today.

Tony Babauta, the governor’s chief of staff, said: “It remains exciting. Things are getting a little bit hectic. We realize we’re going to run into some glitches. You know at the end of the day, we’re going to get together with the staff and go over what worked and what didn’t work and what needs to be improved.”

The governor’s office said that over 100 were processed today and the center will be open again tomorrow, Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 4 pm.