Guerilla units on the attack
AN EERIE silence and quiet reigned in the town of Kiangan, subprovince of Ifugao, as the civilian populace evacuated preparatory for the whispered attack by guerilla units on the Japanese headquarters at the stone garrison building.
Unknown to the occupying enemy of an eminent assault, a squad of Japanese soldiers went around town in the morning of December 21 “... to find out why there was absolutely no noise from crowing roosters to animals and yelling children proclaiming to the world they first saw the light peeping from the east.”
“The Japs caught Mr. Bonifacio Bulayongan and several others who sneak back in the early morning to get more of their belongings, and were brought to the garrison for questioning why the people went away.
“Mr. Bulayongan reasoned out that everyone is afraid because they heard of the encounters between guerilla units and Japanese soldiers in Banawe and Piwong, Burnay.
“This prompted the garrison commander to send out a squad of soldiers around the edges of town shouting: ‘Civilians come back guerillas none.’ The squad came upon abandoned sacks of rice of Mr. Famorca, bundles of clothes, and P300 cash belonging to Mr. Fontanilla. Mr. Famorca, according to his narration later, just slid down into a bushy portion of the roadside when they saw the Japanese soldiers coming their way. The enemy gathered what they can carry.”
It is not surprising for my father, the Deputy Governor on leave, to receive current information on what was going on in the sub-province. The people still look up to him for hope of deliverance from the occupying forces, security and protection. This held true with the guerilla units who sought for advice and appropriate coordination for the security of civilians.
“In the early morning of December 21 from our evacuation points, we anxiously awaited the sounds of firing shots. None was heard at all.”
“Mr. Lanag came over (from sitio Nalodan) to my hiding place in sitio Longa. A runner from sitio Ambabag brought a note informing us that C Company under Lieutenant Balajo is ready to take care of the eastern and northern sides of town. He said and that men of B Company must be ready to occupy the southern and western sides. The note was signed ‘1-19A’ which, according to Mr. Lanag, is Lt. Balajo.”
“Lt. Balajo with a squad of his soldiers were well posted along the trail to Ambabag, saw the Japanese patrol passed by but could not engaged them because of the presence of evacuating civilians. Lt.Balajo later said he did not receive any reply from B Company which was suppose to begin the assault. He then retreated his men to Ba-ay about a kilometer down from town.”
“The Japs still had the freedom to move about town, getting what they needed from the abandoned houses. All was quiet from our soldiers, and we were wondering what happened.”
“On December 22, Mr. Lanag sent me information that the civilians arrested the day before are still detained at the stone garrison. We lost hope for them, except for Mr. Bulayongan who reportedly escaped.
“The water supply of the town was already cut from the source in sitio Linda according to one of my runners who arrived late in the afternoon.
“No attack yet and we were wondering why the delay.”
No Christmas carols but gun shots
The men under Lieutenant Balajo were restless and agitated in anticipation of engaging the enemy. On December 23, they finally came face to face with a squad of Japanese soldiers.
“At about 9 a.m. the men under Lieutenant Balajo ambushed, at the eastern side of town, ten Japanese who were coming from the Ibulao outpost. They were recalled by their officer, Lieutenant Zuniyama, probably to be safer in the stone garrison barracks. Result of the skirmish: nine Japs dead, one wounded; guerilla side—one wounded.”
“On December 24, I walked to my home barrio in Sitio Bolog, Nagacadan where my wife and four of my children are. The three older ones were still in barrio Tuplac. A very sad day to meet the birth of our Lord Jesus. I miss my three other children.
“Back in town the guerilla soldiers then surrounded and besieged the Japanese garrison, and held their ground.”
“At noon Captain Bunol with 35 cargadores from Hapao stopped by my cottage in the barrio. I saw only less than a squad of rifle men, mostly his body guards composed of his in-laws and relatives. They ate lunch in my house.”
“I reminded him of my desire to report for active duty. He told me to inform also Mr. Pablo Mariano, a public school teacher and a reserve army officer, who was also cut off during the outbreak of the war. Captain Bunol said both of us will report to his new BN HQ at Burnay at the end of the month. During our talk, I told him that I was idle and I wish to do any job he can give me, even as a mere clerk or as a private soldier.”
“He left to get nearer to town, establishing his temporary HQ at sitio Biday, behind a hill on the western side.”
“On Dec. 25, ex-Assemblyman Miguel Gumangan came by our house to inform that Captain Bunol with his officers will come to the Nagacadan School grounds to have his Christmas lunch. The people of Punduntogan prepared lunch per his order. I went with my wife to assist the people prepare their food.”
While feasting from place to place during the Christmas season, the Guerilla Battalion Commander Captain Bunol was unaware that the officers and men under him are engaging the enemy.
“When lunch was about over, a runner from Hapao arrived to inform that men of A Company assaulted the Banawe garrison with one dead. The remains of the casualty was recovered by Cpl. Jaimes near the garrison.”
“The report of Lieutenant Balanban stated that the assault squad failed to take over the garrison as the Japanese defenders were well dug-in in their foxholes. The squad is under Sergeant Guzman and was not with his men when the attack was made as he preferred to remain far behind, and finally disappeared. Captain Bunol told the public he will have Guzman shot before his return to Hapao. He wrote his reply to Lieutenant Balanban and dispatched the runner.”
“He then demonstrated to lieutenants Balajo and Guinid how they would also assault the Kiangan Japanese garrison. The two subordinates frankly informed their
commander that is was impossible to go inside the stone building without possible heavy losses on their part, but if the captain can secure hand grenades, it may be possible.”
“The Captain, hearing the objections of the two officers, ordered that in the safety of darkness their soldiers move 50 yards closer to the Japanese barracks to prevent the enemy from escaping out.”
“Lieutenant Puguon was reported holding his ground near barrio Nayun to meet possible reinforcement from Lamut and Nueva Vizcaya.”
“Reports also said that soldiers of the 14th Infantry under Colonel Manriquez attacked the Lamut Japanese outpost. In Banawe, Lieutenant Balanban and his men continued to force out the remaining Japs from their foxholes inside their barracks. Civilian policemen volunteered to help the guerilla soldiers guard the Japanese barracks.”
“Kiangan poblacion remained in silence and quiet except when guerilla soldiers try to take shots at Japanese soldiers peeping out their windows. It was learned that they came out at night to recover their dead comrades who were earlier ambushed by Lieutenant Balajo and his men.”
“Rain poured heavily for the next two days providing water for the Japanese garrison.”
“On December 28 the civilian police force of the barrio assembled for training. Their platoon leader, Domingo Paddu, requested me to teach and demonstrate how to seek cover from enemy attack; and suggest points in scouting the enemy as it would be their primary duty.
Reporting for active duty
“On December 30, I prepared my pack ready to start for the BN HQ at Burnay. Mr. Mariano wrote me that he was ready and will meet at the field HQ of C Company at Ambabag, near Ba-ay below Kiangan poblacion.”
“I passed by the foxholes of our guerilla soldiers at the western side of the Japanese barracks, and noticed that all was hushed with the enemy completely out of sight. I suggested to the men to make some sorts of dummy to attract the attention from the enemy position. They did so and the Japs began to fire at it from the windows. Our boys almost shot one, but their bullets were some inches below the window ledges and some above breaking the glasses.”
“I slept in the headquarters of Lieutenant Balajo who requested to help convince local residents as regards the subsistence of his men. It rained hard again in the evening, giving the enemy sufficient water supply.”
“On December 31, I left early for BN HQ after knowing that Mr. Mariano went ahead of me, instead of waiting for me as agreed.”
“Upon my arrival at Burnay, Lieutenant Chungalao, executive officer of Captain Bunol and Mr. Mariano also arrived from Boliwong, where the temporary BN HQ was established. Hundreds of men laborers were busy constructing the barracks of the soldiers. They were supervised by Messrs. Dugyon and Habawel, both school teachers. All the members of the civilian police force brought the needed construction materials for the barracks.
1944 ends sans betrayals
My father encapsulated the events of 1944 from the point of view as a civilian on-leave from his office as Deputy Governor of the subprovince of Ifugao, Mountain Province, as follows:
“The end of 1944, somewhat ended the occupation of Ifugao by the enemy. Although we may consider it ended on December 15 when our hiding army came out to attack on the Japanese garrison headquarters. The Japanese, during their almost three years of occupation in the sup-province of Ifugao, honestly speaking, had been quite fair to the people. That the few incidents of maltreatment that the natives suffered from them were not as very inhumane as our brother Filipinos in the lowlands had suffered from the enemy.”
“As a whole, there had never been any betrayal on members of our hiding soldiers and their respective families. That none of the Americans were ever betrayed or captured in this territory. It was mainly due to the full cooperation of every one. After all, if we think it over, it was not an easy matter to hide Americans a few kilometers from the enemy garrison HQ, without the moral and assurance of the people.”
“We may now say with pride that the birth place of the 11th Infantry, and the whole Guerilla Forces in Northern Luzon is right here in Kiangan, Ifugao. Credit goes to Colonels Volkman and Blackburn under whose command provided the moral and operational thrust against the Japanese.. It is regrettable that Colonels Nobel and Moises were captured by the enemy.”
“We are thankful and grateful as a whole to the two white officers, although, they blacklisted several of us (for execution), due to misunderstanding. We only regret that they left us without seeing our actual sufferings from sickness and hunger.
“We are now exultant for the war is in full swing, and the Japanese are getting the worst out of the war. We figure out that by this coming 1945, the war will surely end in six months’ time as the United States is really fighting Japan on war bases.
“We welcome 1945 with more courage and enthusiasm for the Americans already landed in Mindoro, Batangas and northern Luzon.”
“VICTORY!, How long have we waited? Now thou has come, and come quickly before we all perish in the hands of the occupying forces.
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.