A New Year’s present-A A +A
As I See It
Saturday, December 29, 2012
MY FATHER, Nicolas, was in school up to Grade IV only but he was a wonderful storyteller. Before going to bed, he would tell me stories about his exploits. He was the best barangay athlete of Belison, Antique. He was an expert tractor driver responsible for plowing the best fertile land in Silay in preparation for the sugarcane plantation managed by German Unson.
He was in his early 20s when the Second World War broke out. Mister Unson stopped sugarcane planting in Hacienda Adela because Hawaiian-Philippine Company (sugar mill) stopped its milling operations.
Lolo Pedro maintained a three-hectare farm planted with rice, sweet potatoes and vegetables. He commissioned my Tatay to be the watchman. He was armed with a 22-calibre rifle. The other hacienda workers of Mr. Unson were also allowed to cultivate a portion of Hacienda Adela to produce food for their family while the war was on. Lolo Pedro was also giving a part of his harvest to Lolo Jovito’s guerilla group who was operating under Lt. Castillo.
In 1944, the American planes started to bomb some areas in Silay because the Japanese strongholds were there. Even the Silay Seaport was bombed because American pilots saw that Japanese cargoes were being unloaded from a boat. It was one sunny day of January 1945 (around 9:45 am) when Tatay saw a slow-flying Japanese plane over Hacienda Adela. All of a sudden, there was this American fighter plane appearing from the horizon. The American plane was spitting bullets from its machine gun. “The show on air was fantastic. It was a real dog fight. Many workers left their air raid shelters to watch the face-off in the sky,” narrated father.
After a 10-minute showdown, the Japanese plane took a dive, its tail aflame and smoking. The pilot was able to eject and floated in the air with his parachute. The parachute landed at the end of Lolo’s farm, near the stream. Tatay, who was hiding under the Dapdap tree, heard the Japanese crying. Probably, he was agonizing in pain. Tatay was afraid to go near him, but after an hour of crying, Tatay was touched. He took the risk by going to the spot where the Japanese pilot was. My father was surprised to see that the intestines of the Japanese were already outside his stomach.
When he saw father, he uttered words that father could not understand. Probably, he was asking for help. Father covered his intestines with banana leaves. He offered the man in pain a bottle of water to drink. After an hour, there was silence: The pilot was dead. The Japanese soldiers stationed at Gaston Elementary School waited for sunset to retrieve their comrade. They first cleared the area because the guerilla group of Lolo Jovito was in a position to ambush them. Lolo Jovito’s group moved out only when a bigger number of soldiers from Langublangub (Hda. Naga) reinforced.
The Japanese burned their fallen colleague at the end of Lolo’s farm. The friends of Lolo in their evacuation shelters were trembling. They were expecting that the Japanese soldiers would launch a ‘huwes de kutsilyo’ (killing all citizens in the area). It did not happen, but the whole night was filled with fear.
For Tatay, his good will extended to a dying Japanese soldier was his best New Year’s gift that he could not forget. Silay was a victim of World War II. Some of our relatives and friends suffered in the hands of the Japanese soldiers. Tatay helped an enemy but his act was for humanity. We are all victims of the cruelty of greed. We have to overcome the common greed; we have to conquer our own greed.
Tatay has this to say, “Helping someone in need is becoming a good Samaritan. Noy, always start your New Year by helping others. It feels good to be a donor. Donate yourself to others.” Happy New Year, Tatay, wherever you are!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 29, 2012.