Daily Archives: April 9, 2017



April 9, 2017


By Raymund Magno Garlitos, Manila Bulletin


Los Angeles–A WWII veteran shares his story of heroism to inspire the young

At 92, Liberato Gagalac Sandoy has worn different hats in life—that of a father, a lover (he had three girlfriends after his wife passed away), an OFW, a water well ‘engineer’, and barangay arbitrator. But he is most proud of the hat he wears every day—a royal blue military beret signifying that he is a veteran of World War II.

Lolo Atong still remembers vividly the day in 1942 when he was enlisted to become a guerrilla soldier in his hometown of Balayan, Batangas. Today, aside from being known as the only WWII veteran in his present home in Lagundi in Morong, Rizal, Lolo Atong is considered a “history expert” as he can still accurately describe the details of war despite the passage of time.

“Ako ang nagsilbing runner ng mga gerilya (I served as runner for the guerrillas),” he starts. Being a ‘runner’ meant he was feeding information from the side of the enemy like a spy, traversing mountains and towns in order to report where Japanese troops were posted and their activities. Part of the job meant he must not be recognized by the Japanese as a hostile figure.

“Dahil maliit ako, ang akala nila ay bata ako (Because I had a small built, they thought of me as a kid),” Lolo Atong says. “Hindi nila ako hinuhuli. Ang hindi nila alam, may baril akong nakatago (They don’t arrest me. What they don’t know is that I carry a gun with me),” he points to his leg where the 45-caliber pistol was tied.

Japanese troops viewed him not as an enemy but as someone safe to be around with.

“Pinamamaneho pa nila sa akin iyong sasakyan nila. Komo nga natutuwa sila, minsan hinahampas nila ako ng latigo nang pabiro (They even made me drive their military vehicle. As they enjoy being with me, they even hit me with a whip, but in jest),” he recalls.

He would then return to the guerrilla camp to report the Japanese army’s whereabouts. When the American forces arrived, they were immediately given uniforms and issued guns. Then they were assigned to become sentries to important bridges.

“Mula Lipa, naglalakad lang kami hanggang San Jose (Batangas), sa paanan ng Mount Maculot kung saan maraming sundalong Hapon (From Lipa, we would walk to reach San Jose, at the foot of Mount Maculot where there were many Japanese soldiers),” he narrates. “Tinatanong nila kami kung may nakita kaming mga gerilya. Ang sabi namin, ‘Wala dito, wala,’ (They would ask us if we have seen guerrillas around. We just said, ‘No one, there’s no guerrilla around’).”

Chilling Experience

Not long enough, the ugly side of war reached Lolo Atong. He recalls the chilling experience of killing a Japanese soldier one rainy night in August at a hill in Batangas called Kalansayan.

“Naging guwardiya na ako ng tulay. Natutulog iyong kasama kong guwardiya sa kabilang dulo ng tulay. May narining akong ingay. Iyon pala ay kalaban. Binanatan ko na. Nang mag-umaga nakita namin ang bangkay niya. Ang ginawa ko, kinuha ko iyong baril. Tapos may hukay sa tabi ng tulay. Ihinulog ko na lang doon at saka ko tinabunan. Doon ko na inilibing iyong Hapon (I was a bridge sentinel. My counterpart on the other side of the bridge was sleeping. I heard a noise. I found it was the enemy. So I fired my gun. We saw the body when morning came. What I did was get his gun. There was a hole near the bridge. I threw his corpse there and covered it. It was there where I buried the Japanese [soldier]).”


Though luck was on Lolo Atong’s side, there were some moments when his life was in peril.Franco Arcebal, #JFAV15

“Nahuli kami sa kung tawagin ay sona. Iniipon lahat ng tao sa bayan. Pinauuwi lahat ng tao sa bayan ng Nasugbu at binigyan ng passes. Matapos ang isang linggo, iyong ibang binigyan ng passes di na nakabalik sa susunod na sona; ang alam namin nangamatay na. (We were caught during zoning. They gathered us around at the town. They made people go to the town of Nasugbu and were given passes. After a week, some of those who were given passes did not return; we knew they were already dead),” he says.

“Nadiskubre kami sa Nasugbu. Nang di kami sumaludo sa kanila, sumigaw sila na kami ay gerilya. Ayun, pinagbubugbog ako at sinaksak ng bayoneta (We were discovered in Nasugbu. When we did not salute them, they shouted that we were guerrillas. They beat me up and stabbed me with a bayonet knife).”

He thought his life will end right there. Luckily, his life was spared. But with no doctor around, he had to endure the pain of his wound for days. Today, he still bears the scar of that fateful day on his left thigh, a reminder how fragile life is.


After the war, he was then recruited by the returning American forces to become a Philippine Scout and was sent to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac. For months he was there to guard around 15,000 Japanese surrenderees. He was also assigned to teach fellow troops how to drive a military jeep.

When he was honorably discharged, he went to Morong in Rizal where he met his wife and started a family. Though he only finished grade three, he was sent to study how to construct deep wells by the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority. In the 1970s, he would be among the country’s first overseas workers bringing his skill to Saudi Arabia where he supervised construction of wells there.

When asked about his secret to his longevity and acuity, his children, now senior citizens like him, revealed that surprisingly, the man did not eat vegetables.

“He only ate chicken and pork,” they say. He also continues to read even without wearing eyeglasses. His children all grew up to be professionals—one of them was a teacher, the other a colonel in the army. They also revealed that Lolo Atong still works as a contractor for deep wells, and had a vulcanizing shop. He also served as head of a local chapter of veterans.

“He never stops telling his WW II stories,” Rose Ann Jugueta, a teacher in Antipolo City and one of his grandchildren shares. “Though we have grown tired of hearing them, he still wants to tell them even to strangers. We are thankful that finally, someone sought him out to hear his story, that it will be shared long after he’s gone.”

“Ikinukuwento ko ito dahil sa malaon ako’y mawawala na. Nais kong ibahagi ang naging kontribusyon ko sa pagtatanggol sa bayan, na sana ay di malimutan (I’m telling my story because soon I’ll be gone. I want to share what I have contributed in defending my country, which I hope will never be forgotten).”




April 8, 2017



Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman signed The Rescission Act of 1946, which exclusively disenfranchised Filipino veterans and their families access to their rightful benefits. This racist law has endured for 69 years, but we demand NO MORE! Justice and equity for our lolos and lolas now!

Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman signed The Rescission Act of 1946, which exclusively disenfranchised Filipino veterans and their families access to their rightful benefits. This racist law has endured for 69 years, but we demand NO MORE! Justice and equity for our lolos and lolas now!

Today, Araw ng Kagitingan, we formally remember the valorous Filipino and American soldiers who, having finally surrendered to the Japanese invaders 75 years ago, set off at gunpoint on the terrible march from Mariveles in Bataan to San Fernando in Pampanga, and thence to Capas in Tarlac by a brutal train ride.

The Filipino and US forces in the Far East had dug in for a determined last stand after being surrounded by the Japanese Imperial Army. On April 9, 1942, US Gen. Edward P. King surrendered to Japanese Gen. Kameichiro Nagano, ending the resistance in the Bataan peninsula. Reported the Voice of Freedom in its radio broadcast: “Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.”

The Philippines was the last country in Southeast Asia to yield to Japan. The surrender of 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American soldiers served its noble purpose: to delay the Japanese advance. It also led to the infamous Bataan Death March, during which thousands of Filipino and hundreds of American prisoners of war died.

There had been much criticism of what used to be called Bataan Day, to mark the “Fall of Bataan.” The stinging question was: Why commemorate the defeat, the surrender, when it is the uncommon valor of Filipino and American soldiers that should be remembered?

17523556_10206729870125576_4581999224885049990_nThe change to Araw ng Kagitingan was made in 1980. What has not changed is the nation’s appreciation for the fighting men of Bataan, whose number has dwindled to a precious few. Araw ng Kagitingan itself is now part of Philippine Veterans Week (April 5-11), an occasion to honor both veterans of World War II and all who served admirably in the military.

A perennial issue is the poignant conditions of the war vets. The government is mandated to provide them a monthly pension, death and disability pension, medical benefits, and burial assistance. Those financial benefits come up to a minuscule amount for the surviving vets and their families. And yet they have to deal with a mind-boggling bureaucracy and an unconscionable wait to collect what is due them, let alone whatever pitiful increases are offered, as though their faltering voices are too faint to be heard.

And the soldiers fight still. Last year, the guerrilla Maximiano Gama, 90 and almost blind, fought to reclaim the old age pension that just stopped coming in 2004. While the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) promised to review his case, his plight is not unusual for war vets who constantly have to prove their identities. Gama, for one, a member of the Hukbalahap’s Squadron 24, Battalion 2, used an alias as a guerrilla. “If you didn’t have an alias back then, you would be easily traced. The Japanese had many spies,” he said.

In August, President Duterte ordered the release of P4.7 billion in unpaid benefits to the war veterans. His predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, had approved the allocation but it was held up due to the election ban. The money is intended for retired soldiers 80 years and older, and the PVAO has promised prompt distribution.

There is no time to lose, as more and more war vets are lost every month. In the January celebration of the 72nd anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf landing in Pangasinan, only 76 of the 370 surviving vets in the province were able to attend. “Most of the veterans [here] are already bedridden. Those who come to my office are already in their wheelchairs,” said PVAO regional head Romeo Madriaga.

It’s important to remember this day in a country that continually seeks heroes. Perhaps the young can think in terms of the war veterans as being as new to the world as they are when called to fight for flag and country—no more than boys with their lives ahead of them, thrust into war and the constant peril of death. It is important to think of these men when we think of the word “Kagitingan,” and honor them beyond one day or one week of the year. Real heroes, when remembered, never die or fade away.




April 9, 2017

WHY WE REMEMBER BATAAN17861640_10209312161907152_4051967218038363143_n

By: Benito Legarda Jr.

Los Angeles— So why should Filipinos remember the Fall of Bataan? Wasn’t this a day of ignominious defeat?

Not so. In fact, the story of Bataan’s resistance is a major epic of Filipino heroism.

The Japanese gave invasion commander Gen. Masaharu Homma 50 days to conquer the Philippines, probably thinking that their combat-hardened veterans who had fought in China could easily overwhelm the half-trained and ill-equipped recruits of the Philippine Army.

But it took 130 days, by the count of historian Uldarico Baclagon, for the Japanese to bring Bataan to its knees.

Everywhere else, in the first sweep of conquest, deadlines were easily met. Only in the Philippines was there a delay, and Gen. Homma was retired in disgrace for this failure.

Part of the failure was the denial of Manila Bay and its harbor as staging area for Japanese operations. While all the initial objectives were attained except in the Philippines, extended operations farther out relied on Manila for the staging operations.

The first Japanese setback came the day after Corregidor fell in the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 7, 1942. A Japanese invasion convoy to Port Moresby in eastern New Guinea, which was dominating communications between Australia and the United States, was turned back.

The tide was beginning to turn, and the stiff resistance offered by Bataan and Corregidor proved significant.

A little known consequence of that resistance was revealed by Professor Ricardo T. Jose of the University of the Philippines.

A US Navy code-breaking group was in Corregidor until March 1942, intercepting and decoding Japanese messages. If Bataan had fallen sooner, the code-breaking would have stopped and much valuable intelligence would have been lost.

Local victoriesdeath-march2

During the three-month battle, the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) scored local victories—the Battle of the Points when they repulsed Japanese efforts to land from the sea, and the Battle of the Pockets, when the invading Japanese, who had tried to penetrate the front line, were surrounded and wiped out.

The Bataan resistance enabled President Manuel L. Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña, along with the Philippine Cabinet, to leave the country and set up a government in exile in Washington.

It also enabled Gen. Douglas MacArthur to go to Australia, from where he led the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese two and a half years later.

The departure of the principal personalities from the Philippine government clearly signified that Bataan would not be reinforced, and that expectations of a mile-long convoy were illusory.

Meanwhile, the Japanese were broadcasting blandishments to the doomed garrison urging a surrender. But the “Battling Bastards of Bataan” fought to the end with stubborn courage.

NHCOne must emphasize that 85 percent of the Bataan force consisted of Filipinos, with only 15 percent being Americans.

The Filipino troops came from all over the country and from all social classes.

My uncle Col. Santiago Guevara of the Philippine Scouts, who was a Commandant of Cadets at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio, was ordered to the lowlands, along with the PMA cadets, after five days of war.

Also from the north was a contingent of Igorots who distinguished themselves in jungle fighting, as reported by Associated Press correspondent Clark Lee in “They Call It Pacific.”

The Igorots were part of the five divisions from Luzon.

Our family driver, Irineo Dagot, a road laborer in Palawan, was called to active service as well in November 1941 in Canlubang, with the 41st Division under Gen. Vicente Lim.

His mostly Cuyonon unit (from northern and central Palawan, very few of whom could speak Tagalog) joined Caviteños and Batanguenos in one of the Luzon divisions.

Two divisions from the Visayas, one of which included decorated war hero and aristocratic Visayan Venicio Jalandoni, reached Luzon after the war began.Some officers came from Mindanao.

The Bataan Death Marchnew-mexico

The infamous Death March after the surrender of Bataan on April 9 was considered one of the major Japanese atrocities.

The prisoners were made to walk from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac through San Fernando, Pampanga, a trek of some 100 kilometers under the summer heat, with little food and water.

Those too weak to keep pace with the others risked being bayoneted. Civilians, including pregnant women, who tried to help the prisoners, were killed. (See related story on Page A14).

Of the estimated 78,000 men at the start of the final Good Friday offensive on April 3, some 66,000 were Filipinos and 12,000 were Americans.

Of the latter, just under 10,,000 reached the prison camp; of the former, about 54,000.

Of this number, only 28,000 survived imprisonment, reduced by starvation, disease and cruelty. In other words, more men died in the prison camp than in combat or the Death March.

Indeed, given the war gains that led to the Allies’ eventual victory in the Pacific war, the delayed Fall of Bataan has become a symbol of Filipino heroism and endurance.