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My Uncle's World War 2 Experience In The Philippines - Part 4

Liberation of the Philippines

Guerilla Activities

The Filipino-American soldiers who did not surrender were mostly found in the hinterlands of Bukidnon like Talakag, Alanib, and Kibawe. The scattered soldiers later on formed the guerilla units in the barrios. Their organizer was either a captain or a soldier of a higher rank. They recruited even civilians to join them. They were called civilian volunteers. Most of the volunteers were simple farmers who had patriotic values for their native land. They did not know how to handle guns except their farming tools.

The guerilla movement caught fire and more men joined them. They were inspired for there were American Officers leading in the fight for freedom. Some Jesuit priests were in the movement, too. I remember Fr. James Haggerty, S.J. of the Ateneo de Cagayan, popularly known as “Guerilla Padre.” These active movements which they led later unified with other groups and organized the Mindanao Guerilla Movement.

I was one of those recruited under Captain Mantilla. His military jurisdiction was the southwestern part of Bukidnon. I was assigned as courier and observer. They took me in as a member because of the belief that I had an access to the enemy's camp. Being a brother of the Mayor of Malaybalay also helped in my easy entry to the movement. My age was another plus factor. The young ones may pass the enemy's gates with less suspicion. Those were my thoughts.

Sporadic Jap-Guerilla encounters were heard and ambushes in isolated places occurred. Most often, the Japs would suffer more casualties than the ambushers. But when the ambushers were caught they would be publicly executed as a message of warning to other guerillas.

Life was easy for the guerillas because they were familiar with the place. They had adapted “plant to live” in the mountain farms. Root crops such as camote, gabi, cassava, lotya and different vegetables abound in their farms. There was also the seasonal planting of corn and rice in the mountain and plains. The soil in their area was fertile and the climate was so favorable that any plant could thrive in spite of improper cultivation. Barter system was used as the common exchange of products. Usually, traders would bring salt, fresh fish and salted fishes, clothes and other edibles from the coast and barter them with the farm products of the mountain folks. It was a good but dangerous business because the trade could lead to the hideout of the guerillas.

“I SHALL RETURN" Inspiration

In the middle part of 1944, the Guerilla Units now had established contact with the outside world. They learned through the Radio Australia News that the USAFFE Forces were coming soon to liberate the Philippines. General Douglas McArthur was coming. He had promised the Filipino people on his departure to Australia for purposes of consolidating the Allied Forces that he will return. We began to receive USAFFE handy supplies such as cigarettes, matches, flashlights and other K-ration as bread, cheese, butter, etc. which were dropped by airplanes at designated dropping areas.

These supplies were marked and bore the slogan “I Shall Return,” Douglas McArthur. Submarines were sighted and reported to have landed along the shores of Misamis Oriental, Davao and other parts of Mindanao delivering arms, ammunitions and food supplies. U.S. intelligence men with the latest communication equipment, gadgets, and other paraphernalia were also seen. The news of the secret delivery of these American Aids inspired the guerilla and made them more brave and bold in spite of the poor arms that they possessed. They were now more daring in their ambuscades or open attacks of the Japanese outposts and even the garrisons.

The other guerilla units decided to focus their attack in Malaybalay. lt was the center force in the province.

Colonel Salipada K. Pendatun's famed “Bolo Battalion” became famous and their operation included Malaybalay. They were believed to be more effective in hand to hand combat with their ever-sharp kris or sword and nights attacks. The news of their presence and active participation was hotly felt by the enemy. This unit was organized in Cotabato.

Ramon Onahon, a native Bukidnon guerilla leader of Tankulan (now Manolo Fortich) inspired his guerilla unit with his victorious war exploits. It was said that he possessed an amulet (anting-anting). His appearance, it was said, riding his white stallion became an inspiring tale of valor and courage among the natives.

The Southwestern guerilla units tried to attack the Japanese garrisons at nighttime but the superior arms of the Japanese repulsed them. In their night attack, we could see the tracer bullets crisscrossing the skies, like fireworks on Christmas and New Year celebrations.

On the latter part of 1945, the Japanese Military company began to feel the pressure of the guerilla forces. The converging guerilla units near Malaybalay made them frantic. They had intercepted the radio message of the coming USAFFE Forces. They confiscated some of the food supplies. K-rations and other daily use packages such as matches and cigarettes all marked “I Shall Return” were discovered. Juez de Kutsilyo barrio patrols were soon installed. Fear of being killed without mercy gripped the hearts of everyone. The suspected spies were caught and immediately meted penalty in the Sentro of Malaybalay. Through grave corporal punishments and torture, some suspects were forced to reveal their companions and their hideouts. Different forms of torture device were used to extract the necessary information. Again, public executions were imposed to frighten the guerillas. This act of the Japs emboldened more the “reincarnated” liberators.

I heard what the Japanese did to a known Chinese businessman and eight others who were accused as spies and were caught by them. They were brought to an isolated place and made to dig a pit. After the pit was dug, they were told to form a line by the pit-side. Then, the Japanese soldiers fired upon all of them. Their bodies were then covered with soil and cogon grasses. Early in the evening, a farmer on his way home to his farmhouse in Upper Sumpong noticed something unusual that moonlit night. From a distance, he heard a very painful groaning of a man in painful agony. Then there was also an unusual movement of the cogon grasses. He felt so afraid that he stood frozen with fear. Regaining his senses from these unusual happenings, he went to investigate cautiously and fearfully. Under the moonlight, he saw a human being in painful agony. The mortally wounded person upon knowing of an incoming person called for help, really yelling for help as he painfully crawled among the thorny and itchy cogon grasses.

The farmer brought him to his not too distant farmhouse and applied first aid. The victim narrated his ordeal from the Japanese soldiers. Out of the nine persons sentenced to death by the Japanese, he alone survived.

Other tales of Japanese and Filipino deadly encounters were relayed to the Mayor who secretly related these to his relatives who were members of some guerilla units.

The Mayor told us that the present state of guerilla resistance made the Japanese Military Commander suspicious about the mayor. Thus, he was no longer consulted. The safe co-existence between the military and civilian was breaking-up.

The USAFFE - Start of Liberation

The long-awaited news came. Douglas Mac Arthur's Forces were now moving from Australia to the North Pacific Ocean islands passing the Indonesian Sea to the Philippines.

We noticed then, that more Japanese soldiers from the seacoasts were arriving in Malaybalay.

In this period of worsening life conditions, we heard the continual thundering sound of bombs from all directions. The clear blue skies of Malaybalay were dimmed by the warplanes. However, this time, we saw that the planes did not bear the symbol of the sun. As they hovered above us, we saw the stars and stripes emblazoned on wings of the planes as those circled the town.

The Allied and the United States Air Force came in squadron. The Reconnaissance Planes dropped leaflets of “l Shall Return.” The pursuit planes made some firing with machine guns and the bombers dropped their lethal bombs hitting the Jap fortresses and garrisons. One U.S. bomb fell 50 meters away from our air raid shelter. I noticed that the U.S. bomb was more powerful and destructive than that of the Japs. There was destruction within the thirty-meter radius. I recalled that a Jap bomb fell two and a half meters away from me in barrio Bugcaon, I was stunned because of the bomb impact but I was not hurt. The shrapnel went up.

The next day, the U.S. Air force planes arrived. Again, it dropped leaflets with the information that Philippine President Sergio Osmena, General Douglas MacArthur, his staff and army had landed at Dulag Beach, near Tacloban, Leyte on October 20, 1944. Radio Broadcasts also said that the U.S. Sixth Army was already in Mindanao and Sulu Seas.

Manuel L. Quezon, the Commonwealth President and his Staff were in exile in New York, U.S.A. He died there. Sergio Osmena, Sr. was the Vice President of the Philippine Commonwealth in Exile. He assumed the Philippine Presidency.

Some Japanese planes appeared while the American planes were still above us. A short dogfight ensued. A Zero fighter plane was on fire while the others made a hasty retreat. We were thrilled but could not shout for fear that we might be reported to the Japs and be accused as an enemy. We saw how the Japanese Force was challenged in their supremacy.

The bomb explosions and incessant rain of bullets from machine guns caused another re-evacuation of civilians. They ran away from military installations and bodegas. Although the civilians welcomed the liberators, they still fled for fear of being caught in cross fires.

Signs of the Japanese Retreat

More Japanese Imperial Forces arrived in Malaybalay. Big buildings were occupied. Wider spaces of plains were utilized as camp areas. The battalions came from the different provinces of Mindanao. They converged in Malaybalay for they could not withstand the power of liberators in the sea, air and land. They went to Bukidnon as it was the center of Mindanao. It was also a way to bid their time while consolidating their forces in preparation for a counter offensive.

I learned from a Japanese soldier friend (Tomodachi) that they will fight to the finish. However, he hinted that the USAFFE was a superior force. The convergence in Malaybalay was done to plan for better strategies while awaiting orders from the Imperial High Command.

Continue to Part 5

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