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Historical marker honoring Filipinos in the U.S. Navy to be unveiled May 28

Virginia Beach is just days away from getting a new state historical marker with special significance.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, a celebration on Saturday, May 28 in Virginia Beach will honor the longtime contributions of U.S. service members from the Philippines.

In November, 13News Now told you about the history of Filipinos in the U.S. Navy. 

Credit: 13News Now

Sometimes, their efforts and sacrifice go unrecognized, but hopes are a Virginia historical marker commemorating them will change that.

While the grand unveiling is set for Saturday, members of the Philippine Cultural Center (PCC) and The Council of United Filipino Organizations of Tidewater, Inc. (CUFOT) have been working all week to prepare the venue.

"We consider it an honor not just for the Navy sailors, but also the military in general," said PCC First Vice Chairman Dr. Arlene Fontanares. 

Leaders like Fontanares believe the marker will honor all Filipino veterans, as well as the sacrifices of their family members. 

Credit: Contributed, Fontanares Family

Seeking better opportunities in America, her father served decades in the U.S. Coast Guard. Her mother, Fely Fontanares, described some of the challenges she faced.

"Oh, that discrimination when we were driving from California. They moved him to here, to Norfolk. I was pregnant with Arlene. They wouldn't even let me pee," said Fely Fontanares. 

She recounted her husband going out to sea, just days after each of their children was born.

"The Filipinos also sacrificed for this country," said Bellie Guerrero, who also has two children. She worked as an operating room nurse while raising the family. 

Credit: Contributed, Bellie Guerrero

Guerrero's husband, Roger, served decades in the U.S. Navy ultimately as a senior chief petty officer.

She shared her emotions leading up to the historical marker's unveiling on Saturday.

"I'm very excited," said Guerrero. “I think it’s awesome.”

For the Fontanares family, the unveiling will mark a bittersweet moment.

"That's all I wish that he is there," said Fely Fontanares, reminiscing about her late husband who enjoyed leading community and veterans organizations. "He loves to do this."

Chief Petty Officer Apolonio Fontanares passed away in 2019, but his loved ones said it's an honor to represent him and join other Filipino-American military families come Saturday.

Moreover, Dr. Fontanares added another layer of significance behind the unveiling this weekend. 

“We’re used to coming to this second home here at the PCC, so having this event even helped to open up after two years of being away really means a lot for our community. So we’re really excited about it," she said. 


  • Anyone is welcome
  • Saturday, May 28
  • 9:45 a.m. until noon 
  • Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia (4857 Baxter Road, Virginia Beach) 
  • Face masks required for the indoor portion of the event; optional outside

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