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Asian superheroes
make the grade at
A marriage
Alfredo Lim, left, strikes a
library function
for the ages
commanding figure as Staff
Sgt. Lim, shortly before vol-
unteering for underground
duty in the Philippines dur-
ing World War II.
BY LEONARD NOVARRO Below, Lim and his wife
WITH JEFF QUON Socorro, in the garden of
daughter Lillian Lim’s homeSpecial to ASIA
in Bonita.
he tears come easy when he recounts the past –
except for the time when he infiltrated Japanese-occu-
Photo by Rosalynn Carmen
pied Philippines and met his future wife in the under-
ground. Then, the emotion turns to joy – a joy that has outlived
64 years of marriage and given the world a judge, a banker, a
teacher, a businessman, eight grandchildren and one great-
“Secret Identity” hit bookshelves in spring of 2009.
Alfredo Estouche Lim’s life has been one of duality –
The term “superheroes” often brings to mind abandoned by a father, reunited with him; born in the
Batman, or Superman, the familiar indestructible caped, Philippines, educated in China; refused enlistment in the Navy,
crime-fighters. On Saturday, May 30 from 2:30 – 4:30 drafted into the Army; risking his life for his adopted country,
pm, superheroes are seen through the eyes of Asian the United States; denied the freedom to live where he chose
Americans as the Civic Center Library in Torrance hosts because of his ethnicity.
an exciting presentation of “Secret Identities: The Asian Born in the Philippines, Lim was a young boy when his
American Superhero Anthology.” Put together by Jeff father left him and his mother for the business world of Luzon.
Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow, Keiko Agena, and It was not an easy life for mother and child. “Wages were low
Jerry Ma, “Secret Identities” is a creation by 66 top and I was very young,” Lim recalled. “That’s the kind of child-
Asian American writers, artists, and comic profession- hood I had.”
als, who worked together to create 26 original stories When he was 13, his mother died of tuberculosis, forcing
centered around Asian American superheroes-stories set him to leave the provinces for the city in search of his father
in a shadow history of our country. Join the editors for with the few connections he had – a birth certificate, his
the presenta- father’s photo and his parents’ marriage certificate. When he
tion of this finally located his father at the restaurant where he worked, he
fresh take. walked up to him. “I’m your son,” he told him. His father
around the
Books will be immediately recognized the resemblance and took him in.
available for
Eighty-six years later, recounting that meeting, he cannot tell
purchase and this story without tears.
signing. The producers will be at the library to present United they were, but still unable to communicate. His
and sign copies of their anthology. For more details, go father, who was Chinese, did not know Tagalong, the language
to of the Philippines, so he sent him to school in China to learn
Mandarin. There he worked on a family farm for three years
Japanese internment camps circa World War II scar until he decided he wanted to pursue a better life in the United
“He was always nice and always got along with my par-
our history. They affected the lives of thousands of States. As a resident of the Philippines, then a territory of the
ents,” recalled his wife. “But he never talked to me.”
Japanese Americans, but the effect on the lives of the United States, Lim was able to emigrate easily. Unfortunately,
One day, they noticed movement among the Japanese. They
Japanese children has rarely been discussed. A powerful life here was not.
were marching out of town. From atop the hills, they could see
documentary, to be shown at the Civic Center Library Racism was endemic in the society of the time, even in
the American fleet off shore. Word of the invasion came over
in Torrance, provides a glimpse into this painful world California, which had one of the larger minority populations of
the radio, and it was time for Lim to ask Socorro’s father if he
experienced by the children. Aptly titled, “The Children the time.
could date her. The two were were later married, and after the
of the Camps,” it shares the experiences, cultural and Ending up in Berkeley, he attended high school but couldn’t
war, he took a civilian job with the Navy, staying in the
familial issues, and the long internalized grief and find anything better than domestic work. But he did find a fam-
Philippines until 1948, when they sought a better life in the
shame felt by six Japanese Americans who were only ily to work for who treated him with respect. “They were very
U.S. They both recount how difficult it was – no real jobs, just
children when they were sent to internment camps dur- nice people,” he says emotionally of his employers, an English
domestic ones; no housing, except in poorer neighborhoods,
ing World War II. The screening of this documentary family, the Hansens. But Lim was still frustrated over not being
relegated for minorities.
will be followed by a discussion led by producer/ proj- able to find better.
In spite of his service in the U.S. Army, and earning a
ect director Dr. Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. It will be screened on When the war broke out, he tried to enlist in the Navy but
Purple Heart along with other commendations, they could not
Saturday May 9, from 2 – 3 pm at the Civic Center was turned down. Instead, he was drafted into the Army, trained
shop in an Army Post Exchange, until she protested.
Library Community Meeting Room (3301 Torrance in explosives and demolition and when the opportunity arose,
While in the military, Lim had learned the skills of an elec-
Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503). chose to go with a small team to the Philippines to train gueril-
trician, but out of service he could not find an electrician’s job.
las fighting the Japanese who occupied the country at the time.
In fact, he was denied employment at several places.
The National Ethnic “I was bored. I wanted to go overseas to see some action,”
So, he turned to the military once again, taking a civilian job
Coalition of Organizations Lim said. At the same time, unable to find a suitable wife in the
with the U.S. Navy fixing airplanes and calibrating equipment.
(NECO) presented the 23rd United States, “my job was to find an available woman and to
Eventually, they moved from Berkeley to San Diego, where
Annual Ellis Island Medals find a wife,” he added.
they raised a family, including the first Filipina judge appointed
of Honor on Saturday, May Disguised as a civilian, he would often come down from the
to a Superior Court – Judge Lillian Lim, now retired.
9, at Ellis Island in New hills in Luzon where he was hiding out into town to spy on the
The family structure then was simple, say the Lims. He
York. The ceremony paid Japanese and their equipment and return with information on
worked three jobs; she raised the children and saw that they got
special tribute to American targets for the guerillas.
a good education.
citizens of diverse ethnic ori- “My job was to take notes and report the size, movement,
“He left everything to me,” she says.
gins whose influence and armaments and locations of Japanese troops. The other part of
“She’s the manager. I told her – ‘You don’t go to work.’”
achievements inspire and my work was to locate bridges and other possible routes for the
“I told him: ‘You give me the check,’” she quipped.
touch the lives of people evacuation of Japanese troops, since retreat was imminent,” he
Both point with pride to their children: “They’re all special,”
everywhere. NECO’s mission
Sally Wong-Avery
said Socorro Lim.
is simple: to honor the diverse past, to advocate for pos- Once he came dangerously close to being caught. Stopped
“Before they started school, I explained to them how nice it
itive change in the present, and to build strong leaders by Japanese soldiers looking for guerillas, he was searched. In
is to be successful. And in order to be successful, they had to
for the future. One of the winners of this year’s Ellis his pocket were two types of cigarettes, American, which he
get an education.
Island Medal of Honor is Sally Wong-Avery, a well- brought with him, and Filipino. Fortunately, the ones they
“And,” she said, “you have to be above the average, above
known community leader in San Diego and founder of found, further in his shirt pocket, were Filipino.
the white people, in order to get anything.”
the San Diego Chinese School. Wong-Avery has given a “My heart was beating. There were sentries all over the
On Sept. 8, 2007, in a special ceremony in the Veterans
myriad of services and contributions to the community, place. I was lucky,” he recalled.
Museum and Memorial Center in San Diego’s Balboa Park,
serving as an active board member of the non-profit While working with the underground, Lim stayed in the
Alfredo Estouche Lim was awarded the MacArthur Medal in
Chinese Community Organization, the Chinese home of a guerilla leader, Ricardo Toribio, who had a sister,
commemoration for his taking part in the liberation of the
Consolidated Benevolent Association of San Diego; sec- Socorro. In a sense, her family had saved his life, for it was
retary of House of China; and as the principal of the their local store that gave him the Filipino cigarettes he carried
That was not only above the average.
Chinese School of San Diego. with him.
That was beyond the call of duty.
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