by Mike Baños
The highest official in the Philippines Veterans Affairs Office called for more Filipinos to recall and honor the heroes of its historic past, especially the Mindanao Guerrillas during the Second World War.
Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, DAVAO administrator, issued the call during the launching of the Mindanao Guerrillas Exhibit held Monday, 13 March 2023, at the Elsa P. Memorial Library, Liceo de Cagayan University in Cagayan de Oro City.
“I would like to express how honored and grateful I am to join you all here today in remembering the valor and heroism of our Mindanao Guerrillas whose sacrifices contributed in the country’s independence,” Mapagu said. “I would like to thank the organizers of this event led by Mr Mike Baños for giving me the opportunity to immerse in the rich guerrilla history in Mindanao.”
Earlier in the morning of the same day, Mapagu witnessed the turnover of a scale model of the PT-41 motor torpedo boat which ferried USAFFE Gen. Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor to Cagayan on the 81st anniversary of the seminal event, which was donated by the sons and daughters of Mindanao Guerrillas.
“The remarkable event signifies our respect and gratitude to the General and our allies during the Second World War and reminds us of the efforts of the Filipino Guerrillas which laid the groundwork for the liberation of the island, and eventually the rest of the Philippines,” Mapagu stressed.
The PVAO official, himself a retired major general of the armed forces, related how the liberation of Mindanao would not have been possible without the Mindanao Guerrillas who all held their ground and never surrendered, despite being imprisoned, maltreated, or forced to escape and hide in the mountains. Despite the lack in resources and the hunger and dangers they faced, many of the guerrillas continued to fight, conducting ambushes, mapping out and destroying enemy installations, and gathering intelligence information, he added.
In a nod to the ongoing celebration of Women’s Month, he also shared how women also worked in the resistance movement, performing supporting roles like providing food, sewing clothes, gathering medicine, and treating sick and wounded guerrillas.
However, he cited the case of Isabel Fabro who was a double agent for the guerrilla 108th Division and the notorious Japanese Kempis (Military Police).
“Fabro’s loyalty however remained with the Philippines. She took part in arranging for the escape of an important guerrilla leader captured by the Japanese and she herself was captured, interrogated, and sentenced to be executed,” Mapagu said.
Although the Japanese offered her a reprieve from her execution by leading them to the guerrillas’ hideout, she escaped and reported back to the 108th division, settling near Gilligan where she continued working for the guerrillas by disguising herself from the Japanese and their agents.
The PVAO chief executive further related how the guerrillas actively participated in numerous actions during the Liberation Campaign such as the Raid on Talisayan, Misamis Oriental where Maj Rosauro P Dongallo, Sr. led the 110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division, supported by US Navy task group 70.4, destroyed the Japanese garrison with 145 enemy soldiers killed, 6 captured, at a cost of 6 guerrillas killed in action.
Many of the intense and significant battles and military operations which were held in different provinces in Mindanao were carried out by mostly young Filipino Guerrillas, among them: the Talakag operations in Bukidnon from June to 29, 1944; the first guerrilla operation at Malabang, Lanao del Sur on March 24, 1945; the successful operation in defending the Dipolog airstrip in Zamboanga del Norte from March to April 1945; the Battle of Mangima Canyon in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; the Battle of Ising in carmen, Davao del Norte in May 1945, and the liberation of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental also in may 1945.
Mapagu emphasized how the stories of our Mindanao Guerrillas and their lasting legacies deserve to be on the spotlight and be remembered for eternity but lamented how mainstream information on Philippine history during World War II mainly feature stories of the war in Luzon which leads to an impression that the war did not reach the Visayas and Mindanao. Hence, he cited how the Mindanao Guerrillas Exhibit is such a meaningful and significant event.
The PVAO supports the efforts of our Filipino historians in writing the historiography of the world war II in the Philippines from a Filipino perspective. He cited PVAO’s publication in 2022 of “Guerrilla Days in the Philippine South” by Col. Cesar Pobre and Dr. Ricardo T. Jose and “The Battle of Ising” by Ms Marie Vallejo among its efforts in this regard.
Today, we especially pay tribute to sixteen Mindanao veterans who served the nation and dedicated their youth for the cause of freedom and independence:Col Leonardo V. Hernando; Col Fidencio M. Laplap ; Lt.Col Angeles L. Limena; Commander Albert Parker Ross; Major Rosauroi P. Dongallo, Sr.; Major Blas Ch. Velez (MD); Capt. Andres D. Bacal; Capt. Ramon R. Buhay; Capt. Luciano S. Firmacion; 1st Lt. Jose D. Docdocil; 2nd Lt. Rodolfo A. Moreno; 2nd Lt. Baltazar A. Cabrera; Msgt. Mauricio E. Malabed; Cpl. Jesus B . Ilogon; Cpl. Jose G. Gorra; and Pvt. Emiliano Macanas.
As we continue to learn and discover more about their heroic deeds during the second world war, may we also reflect on the importance of our modern-day heroes who continue to reflect the indomitable spirit displayed by our forefathers during the war. As we remember their sacrifices, may we also emulate their undying commitment and dedication in serving our people.
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) adheres to its mission to ensure the welfare and well-being of the veterans and perpetuate the memory of their heroic deeds.
PVAO’s core functions include the administration of veteran’s pension and benefits, memorialization of veterans’ heroic deeds, and promotion of policies and management of services for veterans’ affairs and welfare.