Battle of Patag in Silay City, 5-A A +A
As I See It
Thursday, July 17, 2014
“IF YOU think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.” That motivated the Americans to capture Patag and Lantawan. The division under Gen. Rap Brush established its headquarters in Silay.
In going up to Patag, the 503rd Regiment found it very hard to ascend the trail. There were ravines on both sides. (Now, it refers to the area from Hiyang-hiyang to Patag. The natives during that time called it “Napil-as”). The US soldiers called it Banana Ridge because it is shaped like a banana.
There were tank holes, tank traps (tugalbong), aerial bombs, and land mines. Snipers were all over the place. The Americans who were there described their situation in a bitter and biting tale, told with stunning point and nerve-wracking intensity.
The Japanese rained mortar and machine gun fire and that mass attack scene was meticulously choreographed. Fighting was more ferocious. The only way to win the war is to be just as nasty as the enemy. The Americans used their 75mm guns and their tanks blasted pill boxes, trenches and machine gun nests. Their dogged commitment paired by aerial and artillery support, and assistance of Filipino guerillas made them overcome the barriers.
Victory was at hand but the terrain was extremely difficult. The weather was bad and the slopes were slippery. The Americans offered a level of blood-and-guts realism while the Japanese showed their incredible stamina and shocking ferocity. Col. George M. Jones, the regiment commander who liberated Corregidor, was at the helm of the attack. He showed to his men that he is the unflappable professional soldier. He faced all the impossible odds with emotional understatement and resolution.
The Battle of Patag was a battle for survival and a test of fortitude and manliness. It all built up to an expertly planned crescendo before lapsing into a more pensive mood. On May 2, the two regiments were able to take two high grounds and the Americans called in air strikes and artillery barrages. The pounding of Patag lasted for three days. When the smoke cleared out and the odor of gun powder disappeared, one can only exclaim, “War is hell!”
The Battle of Patag was a cynical portrayal of war, of battle as irredeemably brutal, and of conflict as meaningless and absurd. Hundreds of bodies of Japanese have been fragmented by bombs. Shell-shocked enemies made heroic and gritty stands but ultimately were doomed to failure. They could not believe that their loyalty to their emperor went catastrophically wrong.
Numerous man-made tunnels were discovered and they were cleared of the Japs one by one. Those who survived suffered psychological devastation. They have not imagined what came to the edge of their mind. War is a nightmare full of abstract horrors. There was no more fighting but those who were there (Japs) experienced the plethora of traumatic events continuously unfolding before them.
On May 4 and 5, neutralization strikes continued in Patag. It was found out later that the Japanese had already left with their pants down. Their main line of defense (Patag) had been abandoned. If they did not flee, they could have been like rats with nowhere to retreat. They left behind their supplies and the dead bodies of their comrades in shallow graves. They moved forward to the thick forest of Terakuri Ridge of Marapara (just above the present Campuestohan).
By May 5, the Japs have been driven out of Patag and Lantawan. Patag has fallen! Fighting was won but the deep scar of war was there. Those who were there to enjoy victory could only say, “The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.” None of them missed the war. The soldiers could have thought that honor and death could be the same. In the Battle of Patag, they realized that sometimes they are not.
Japanese, Filipinos, and Americans ended up as indistinguishable collateral of war but just the same, those who were there were band of brothers. The Philippine-American-Japan Friendship Day held in Patag last July 4 could have manifested the healing of the wound. The scars could just be those among their souvenirs. That was the Battle of Patag.
I have done my part as a storyteller. Tell the story of Patag to your children. This is our heritage, our treasure. This is our Patag!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 17, 2014.