(22nd of a series)
No sufficient evidence found
Almost half of the people in the town of Kiangan knew of the arrest and re-arrest of my father, the Deputy Governor of Ifugao, by ph soldiers upon orders of Battalion Commander Capt. Bunol. A perusal of the sets of diaries he wrote hinted how and who were responsible for spreading malicious stories behind his arrests. Learned and responsible residents however, believed my father’s deeds were righteous in the great balance.
“In the late evening of Dec. 2, a letter from the Battalion Commander arrived. It stated that his command found no sufficient evidence against me. However, since there are no words from the Regimental HQ of (Col. Blackburn), I had yet to remain in Camp.
“Still under detention, meanwhile, I noted that more soldiers are now reporting for duty and many of them were happy to see me, telling me that they would prefer to be under my command. They thought I reported for active duty too.
“Other news circulating in camp revealed that:
* People in poblaciones of the sub-province are secretly moving out in evacuation to the barrios. Lt. Guinid was directed by Lt. Puguon to go and calm down the people of Kiangan as the acting Dep. Gov. was reported to be perplexed, not knowing what to do, and had to resort to drinking in order that the Japs may not bother him.
* The Regimental HQ at Obao, Mayaoyao on Dec. 1 and 2 was burned to the ground by enemy troops from Isabela. It was estimated that some 200 Japanese soldiers surprised the few ph soldiers under the command of Lt Recily.
* Another report showed that on the same dates the outpost at Kawayan, near the boundary of Nueva Vizcaya, was captured and burned by the enemy. No ph soldier was killed but some 10 civilians were gunned down by the Japanese soldiers.
* The enemy seemed to have simultaneous movements ahead against the guerillas in Northern Luzon.
“At midnight of Dec. 5, a runner from BN HQ brought a letter for Lt. Puguon which stated that Capt. Bunol temporarily granted my release in order that he could meet me for a conference at the edge of Kiangan.
“Back in town on Dec.7, the advance observers of Capt. Bunol arrived with his brother-in-law Victor Codamon informing me to meet the former. The next day, I had a conference with Capt. Bunol in the presence of Mrs. Tomasa M. Pagulayan in the house of Mr. Alberto Guimpatan.
Shoot order issued vs. Dep. Governor, others
“Capt. Bunol showed the order of Col. Blackburn to have me and many others to be shot to death.
“I again explained myself further that:
* “I do not know of a certain Pitloy Benito who was mentioned as my spy, and that it was not necessary for me to employ spies on our ph soldiers since I was feeding them vital information on the movements of the enemy; and
* “I showed him the letters of Col.Volkman dated Dec. 8, 1942, the first week of their arrival, proving to him that I was one of their first contact, and knew of the presence of the American officers, added to the three American ladies we all agreed to hide.
“The Capt. showed me, my letter of April 26, wherein I stated among other matters to ‘...spy on Bunol’. I opened my diary to the particular date and allowed him to personally read the events of the day. I pointed out to him that:
* The first sentence exactly tells that the garrison commander called for us and informed us of their movements and then dictated the letter;
* The letter in his possession was not written by my own volition or desire to harm them through the work of spies;
* When I relayed the letter, it was my hope and wish that it may come to their knowledge, so as to make them aware that their presence and movements were known by the enemy;
* I really took the risk on it but with the hope that explanations of the circumstances on how it was written and sent will clear everything to our hiding soldiers, since they fully know that I am helping them a lot;
“I told the Capt. that I was already investigated and wrote in black and white my words for them to read and analyze if there be any false statements I made to give him grounds to shoot me. I added that I am not afraid to die, but to give me a fair trial.
“Capt. Bunol was convinced of our loyalty and cooperation with them. He requested that portions of my diary be copied, duly certified, and witnessed for his records. All other personal misunderstanding between us was ironed out, and I was told not to worry any more but live in peace. I expressed my gratitude and left the room.
“He called next for Mr. Raymundo Baguilat, another pro-Japanese suspect, and the mayor & acting Dep. Gov. Dulinayan to thresh out their misunderstanding, personal and official in nature.
“In my humble observation, the Captain paid more attention to all these small matters, going from barrio to barrio, feasting and singing his “Lakolak”; a hedonist who does whatever he can do to feel good, while the enemy was busy burning their camps at Obao and Kawayan.
Battle preparation and civilians panicky
It was the first week of December and the air of Christmas remained distantly pale and faint, observed my father, what with the disturbing news from Mayoyao and Kawayan. The anxious fear was compounded as the occupying enemy pushed their propaganda of co-prosperity sphere by asking sincere cooperation from local residents, he noted.
“On Dec. 10, the garrison commander called for an emergency meeting with a Japanese officer who last night arrived from Bontoc. Due to time constraints to inform local citizens the meeting started late at 12:40 p.m.
“The Bontoc officer was suspicious and was not pleased with the reaction of the crowd. His team left Kiangan late afternoon despite the rain.
“During the meeting acting Dep. Gov. Dulinayan implored confidence in him from the audience as he ordered that no one should move out (evacuate) without his approval. Mr. Alex Lanag, who served as toast-master, reinforced the order of Mr. Dulinayan. He added that the time is critical and everyone must show calmness and let the local civilian authorities take care of their safety.
“The next day while Mr.Dulinayan accompanied a Japanese patrol to Ibulao, women and children started evacuating away from town because there was an order, whispered from family to family, that our guerilla units will attack the Japanese garrison. The set date was December 15.
“On Dec. 14, the Japanese ordered everyone in poblacion to help clean a kilometer of the road to sitio Dinapogan. I went to get back my bolo which was confiscated weeks earlier by the garrison guards. I opined that this ‘cleaning thing’ was a stunt to have a headcount of local residents present in town.
“Aero planes were flying high heading south, and just to strike a conversation, I inquired from Lt. Zuniyama whose planes would those be. He bragged that those were Imperial Japanese planes but I knew those were allied planes judging from the sounds of their engines. Japanese planes fly low and with different engine sounds, probably due the kind of fuel they use.
Guerilla battles commence
“On Dec. 15 I was informed that the telephone line between Kiangan and Banawe was cut. I knew then that the attack commenced already in the Banawe side by A Company under Lt. Balanban. The Japs in Kiangan were looking for the acting Dep. Gov. who could not be located, to send someone to check on the telephone lines.
“On Dec. 16, information secretly circulated confirmed that the Banawe garrison was attacked. The Japanese patrol tasked to check on the telephone line was ambushed and annihilated.
“In Kiangan, we, civilians in town were not yet advised by the commanding officer of B Company, in charge of this sector, as to when we should move out of town. C.O. Lt. Puguon posted his men at Bolog to prevent reinforcement coming from Lamut as they were ready to attack the Ibulao outpost. He sent word they could not yet begin the attack at Kiangan due to lack of arms and ammunition.
“He advised us to remain calm and to pretend ignorance of what is currently happening as heavy sounds of artillery was heard from morning and late afternoon.
“Leading elders in town formed an emergency committee to discuss evacuation movements because the Mayor seemed to have run away ahead of the people without saying a word. People were cursing him and awaiting his orders (previously the Mayor ordered that no one should leave town without his go signal).
“By majority vote, Mr. A. Lanag was chosen chairman. Members are Mr. Famorca, A. Crespillo, Mr. Mariano, Mr. Oyan, Dr. Araujo, district presidents present and I. The committee decided to send runners to look for the Mayor to come to town. It was suggested that, when found, he will be told to gallop his horse from below the church to the poblacion for show that he was attending other important matters elsewhere. This was better than for him to hide and leave the civilians in town at the mercy of the Japanese. The absence and action of the Mayor at a critical time is pure cowardice and selfishness.
“The Mayor and acting Dep. Governor was located and obeyed the decision of the committee for him to gallop his horse to the garrison, and later to meet up with the committee. He was allowed to go home.
“The emergency committee through Mr. Lanag decided that I should re-assume the office of Deputy Governor, but I politely turned it down due to my health issues.”
Evacuation set in motion
“The next day, Dec. 17, seemed quite as we were anxious to hear of the attack on the Japanese outpost at Ibulao. It never happened.
“The emergency committee then propped up cock-fighting matches at the market to cover any suspicion from the enemy of what is about to happen.
“I proposed to Lt. Puguon that the attack on the garrison be held on this day while we, the civilians, will take care of any Japanese who will come to watch the cock-fights. Lt. Puguon refused on the ground that they had only few rifles and ammunitions.
“My plan was to use clubs against the Japanese soldiers. I asked ex-Assemblyman Miguel Gumangan and a strong man Eladio Malingan to be by my side. My proposal was turned down by Lt. Puguon and the emergency committee. The Japanese soldiers might have sensed the air as they remained in their garrison.
“Today Dec. 19, the emergency committee decided that evacuation should commence the day after in the late afternoon under the protection of darkness; and that Lt. Puguon and his men can occupy the town and ambush any enemy soldier coming out of the garrison. Lt. Puguon sent word his team was not ready to engage the enemy.
“Dec. 20 saw people moving out of town with loads on their heads and back with women and children tagging along. The Japanese patrol led by their officer to sitio Patokan and down to Ambabag noticed the evacuation movements but never made any inquiry nor stopped anyone.
“At about darkness all the people in town have left. Mr.Lanag, Mr. Famorca and I were the only ones left in town as we agreed to leave together. At around 10:30 p.m. I left them as they were still packing some of their belongings.
“Mr. Lanag slept near sitio Linda while Mr. Famorca stayed at Ambabag. I slept at Longa, a kilometer away west of town.
“Three of my bigger children went to sleep with relatives in Tuplac while the four smaller ones went home to barrio Nagacadan with their mother. I realized that my family was scattered.”
To be continued
Note: The narrator is the youngest son of the late Luis I. Pawid of Kiangan, Ifugao and Angeline Laoyan of La Trinidad, Benguet. He is a journalist by profession, former town Mayor of La Trinidad, Benguet, and former Executive Director of the defunct Cordillera Executive Board, Cordillera Administrative Region. He now resides in New Jersey, USA.