I was almost 19 years old when I went to Manila as a first year college student in June 1941. I enrolled at the Philippines Normal School, now Philippine Normal University with a two-year General Course in teaching. I also enrolled in the ROTC department. Days, weeks an months passed by without any peace disturbance whatsoever in the city as Manila was generally free from criminal elements and drug menace during those times.
December 8, 1941
One December cold morning, the tranquillity of the whole city of Manila and the Philippine archipelago was disturbed by the DZRH radio announcer that 1he PACIFIC WAR was on. That was December 8, 1941. This was my most unforgettable moment in my whole life.
At seven o'clock that morning, I went to school as usual. While in school, we were ordered to go home to our respective provinces. Except for the ROTC cadets. The ROTC Commandant gave an stern order to stay put at the military drill grounds. Before lunch time, we were issued our respective long arms from the ROTC arm rack minus bullets. It was the Springfield type of rifle, the World War One vintage. Among the ROTC cadets trom MangaIdan from the same school was GAUDENCIO AQUINO now a Ph. D. in Education. Our CO, a certain ROMEI ATIENZA briefed us about our mission. He told us that as soon as got the requisition of arms and ammunition we would be sent to Atimonan, Tayabas on January 1, 1942 to defend the shores of that province ftom the Japanese invaders.
The news headlines on that day December 8 were scary. It said PACIFIC WAR IS ON in 2 inches tall letters. Hawaii U.S. military installations and U.S. Base bombed. All naval ships sank crippling U.S. military capabilities for retaliation.
On December 27, 1941 our CO again called us for a briefing and tearfully told us that no arms were in sight for distribution. So that very day he disbanded our Unit and sent us back horne to our respective provinces.
I went immediately to the Tutuban railroad station and bought a ticket for Mangaldan. That was 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Almost at the same time, 3 waves of Japanese bombers bombarded the military installations in Camp Murphy and Nichols Airbase. I was so scared that I ran and ran away from the railroad station thinking that it would be the next target. After thirty minutes more or less the bombing stopped and everything went normal for a time being. Although the people milling around for tickets were still panicky. Luckily, I saw a classmate of mine at the PNR. His name is CONRADO MACARAEO from Malasiqui. He is now a retired school teacher. He was my constant companion on the train which started 6:00 P.M.
The train was only up to paniqui where we spent the night. The next day we rode again on a rail bus up to Rosales. From there we walked without eating our breakfast up to Malasiqui, passing through hilly terrain and dusty Carabao roads. While we were crossing the Carmen bridge, we witnessed the bombing of the bridge, but the Japanese pilots were poor shots, as there was no dent of the bridge whatsoever. We arrived in the house of my classmate at 2:00 P.M. His mother immediately served us our late lunch.
At 3:00 P.M. my classmate took me to Mangaldan in his calesa as there were no more transportation at that time. As soon as I reached the town proper, I hiked up again to Maasin and reached the place at 5:00 P.M. To my dismay our barrio was deserted. My family had evacuated to barrio Guesang. The only soul left in the barrio was my grandfather. He told me that the family was in Guesang. So I left at once for Guesang. On my way, luckily I met my mother riding in a calesa. As soon as she saw me, she cried with joy. We immediately proceeded to Guesang. was there where we stayed for 5 months. After everything was normalized ith the fall of Bataan on April 9 followed by the capitulation of Corrigidor, our family returned to barrio Maasin where again We started a nonnallife. My father being a town policeman and my mother a fish vendor made it easier for us children by working hard to make both ends meet. We helped in planting vegtables and corn in our backyard.
One month after the fall of Bataan, a relative of mine. and an uncle of mayor Gubatan came home from the famous "Death March". His name is ROSENDO GUBATAN now a retired school teacher. He escaped from the death march with other USAFFE soldiers by running inside a sugarcane plantation during the night march. Among the barrio boys in their twenties were no lucky were: PEDRO MAGALONG, LOPE MOULIC, and ALEJHANDRO OLANGA. These four Maasin boys were among the unsung of Mangaidan.
On October 1944, during the landing of Gen. MacArthur in Leyte, we observed strangers passing by our barrio at night time. It was customary for us stay late at night to play the guitar and sing songs. One moonlight night mgers approached our group and handed a mimeographed message. It warned us and the barrio as a whole to stay from bridges, provincial roads and government installations and buildings because these spots might be a of bombings by the U.S. pilots. It also informed us that we would soon be liberated in Luzon.
We did not give this any importance, but one early morning, January 5, 1945, we heard a faint staccato of cannon fire in the direction of Lingayen adjacent to barrio Bonuan. This continued the next couple of days until we the first time, planes bearing the U.S. insignia. Everybody in the barrio were overjoyed. The next day we saw two American G.I.'s. They were happy us smilling shouting "Victory Joe". They offered us cigarettes, and chewing gums. They became even friendlier when they were able to communicate with us in their own language As they could not trace their route back to their home base we helped them by boat back to their unit.
In Bonuan, we the Company CO, a tank commander. He was an American Filipino Col, and how to speak fluent Tagalog. We had nice moments chatting with him while the rest of the landing party were busy making camp. When we returned to the barrio, we were surprised to see many G.I.'s in our yard resting in the cemented auditorium. Also there was Miss Raquel dela Cruz entertaining them with her songs. Raquel had a nice voice indeed. She recently passed away as Raquel Tamondong, the wife of Atty. Julio Tamondong another unsung hero of Mangaldan. After eating their supper, they immediately moved on to the town proper.
On the 9th of Jan. 1945, a certain U.S. Army Captain whose name I have already forgotten came to our barrio looking for someone who could be employed as an interpreter for General KRUEGER, CO of the 6th Cavalry Mechanized Division in charge of liberating the whole Island of Luzon. He was a four-star general. After some interviews, he chose me and took me to barrio Salay where the general was. I saw him in a big foxhole dug for him covered with a big table with maps, cigarettes, chocolates, gums and everything you need. The next day the Capt. gave me a dungaree uniform. The smallest one but still big enough for me and an M2 rifle (carbine). He taught me how to manipulate and operate it. After a couple of days the Headquarters moved to Santa Barbara.
On my way, I learned that my uncle Esteban Ferrer, Aurelia Calicdan and another one which I cannot recall were killed due to a direct hit on their hideout during the 3-day bombardment before the landing of the liberation forces. In Sta Barbara, we made camp for three days, after which we proceeded to Catablan bordering Urdaneta. We stayed there for another three days. The next camp was in Villasis near the Carmen bridge. Along our route we never encountered any Japanese resistance but newsletters distributed in HQ and camp said that there was fierce encounter in Baguio City and along the vicinity of Besang Pass. It is of historical knowledge that the
Japanese Imperial Forces under the command of Gen. Yamasita were not bent on surrendering so he put up his defense perimeter Basang Pass, a mountainous area. Filipino Guerillas could not dislodge the Japs in their lair so Gen. Krueger was dispatched to the Yamasita Line. At this time I asked permission from the General to take me home on the pretex of being homesick.
I arrived in Maasin by the end of Jan. I 945. I was surprised see that an airfield [at Mangaldan] was already constructed in the barrios of Maasin, Anolid, Ilabago, and Guilig. It was an impromptu airbase with steel matting as the 'an reinforcement. It houses Mustang P-51 fighter planes, Double-bodied P-38 fighter planes, B-29 bombers and Navy bombers. Pilots and maintenance crews littered the surrounding fields with their tents and quarters. I applied as room orderly in the pilot's section. During their flying missions, I took care of their Iaundry to be distributed to the laundry women and to keep the camp in order. I recieved a salary of P4.00 a day. One day on Feb. 10, 1945 an indisposed bomb from a bomber plane on its way home from an operation was accidentally disloged from the bomb bay and dropped on a fishpond where a man tending fishpond was fatally hit by a sharpnel. This man was Eugenio Gubatan, the father of Our Mayor Atty. Benigno Gubatan.
Another unforgettable accident was the death of LITO T ADEO, son of the late Atty. Tomas Tadeo. He was killed by a P-51 fighter plane which crashed at the main Rizal St. hitting directly the jeep where he and three friends of his were riding.
In the latter part of June, 1 again applied at the REAL ESTATE DIVISION AFWESPAC APO 70 located in San Fabian. The nature and purpose of this was to compensate the Occupied lands by the liberation forces like the airbase, U.S. Army depots, Hospitals and others. After liberating all the Islands in Philippines, the U. S. offensive was concentrated on mainland Japan. Thecities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were simultaneously bombed with atomic bombs causing so many casualties and destroying those cities. This promoted the surrender of Japan. That ended the war in the Pacific.