Guerilla activities intensified in Ifugao
THE Deputy Governor on-leave extolled the formal organization of existing guerilla units into regular contingents in the Philippine and U.S. military. He also lauded the appointment of deserving young officers who are knowledgeable of the mountainous and rough terrains of the sub-province. In his memoirs, my father noted:
“... I am glad that our own people are actually detailed to protect us and to defend our homes from the enemy which has now become desperate by destroying everything of value as they occupy our villages, forests and caves of our native land.”
“About the end of December 1944, the four companies of the First Battalion, 11th Infantry, under the command of Captain Alfredo Bunol was completed. It was detailed to operate in Ifugao sub-province.
“It is manned by Ifugao native recruits. The officers are all young men, some of whom actually fought and defended Bataan. They were recognized by Cols. Russell Volkman and Donald Blackburn and, for limited and lack of any better choice, promoted them appropriate military ranks.
“The First Battalion, despite lack of arms and ammunitions, actually began their operations and assaults against the enemy on December 15 at Banawe and December 20 at Kiangan. These two maneuvers were baptisms of fire for most of the new recruits who, for the first time in their lives, held rifles and fired them against fellow human beings, the enemy.
“The events herein for the first six months of 1945, speak for Captain Bunol and his men, for his superior and in the name of the United States Army in Northern Luzon, Philippines.
“On New Year’s Day, January 1, 1945, at the new Battalion HQ at Burnay, there was singing and dancing. At the same time, the Ladies Auxiliary Service was in the process of organization. Medical supplies from Hapao arrived.
“Lt. Alberto Puguon was relieved as commander of B Company and designated as S-4 at the regimental HQ. He was also ordered to the Benguet area to get newly arrived arms and ammunitions from Maj. Bado Dangwa.
Enemy marching into Ifugao
The first week of the year saw Japanese soldiers marching in droves into Ifugao from all fronts: north, east, south and west. Almost daily as enemy aero planes were flying low over the sup-province, my father noted.
“On January 3, at 2 o’clock a.m. a runner came from Banawe to inform that Lt. Balanban engaged the enemy at Awan- Iguid Camp, 10 kilometers towards Bontoc. The enemy was estimated at 150 to 200 soldiers with about 100 Bontoc natives as cargadores.
“The number of casualties on the Japanese sides could not be estimated due to thick fog and darkness. But a spearman on our side was shot by enemy bullets as he attempted to pick a backpack of a dead Japanese.
“Lt. Balanban followed up his report at 6:45 p.m. that he had to order a retreat due to the superiority in number of the advancing enemy. This gave way for the enemy succeeding their march to Banawe. He added that two Japanese platoons proceeded towards Kiangan but reportedly camped at barrio O-ong as perimeter outpost for their Banawe garrison.
“Lt. Balanban further reported that they captured some 80 cargadores who were returning back to Bontoc. I immediately wrote a letter to Lt. Balanban to refrain from harming or killing any of the cargadores explaining that it will cause tribal feuds between Bontocs and Ifugaos in the future.
“The prisoners, nonetheless, provided information that Maj Karita had six officers with some 450 soldiers, armed with six trench mortar throwers, four machine guns, four Garand and one Enfield rifles. The rest were armed with their own individual rifles.
“Lt. Balajo and his men were recalled from the Kiangan sector and ordered to proceed to Piwong to stand guard against the enemy marching from Banawe. Lt. Salvador took over the siege of the Kiangan stone garrison.
“Meanwhile, the Battalion Commander left Hapao and was on his way to Burnay. Upon his orders, preparations for his coming were under way. A number of pigs, chicken, two carabaos were butchered by civilians of Burnay for feasting and rations of men in foxholes around the regimental HQ.
“On January 4, rush reports revealed that another two battalions of Japanese arrived at Banawe. Those posted at O-ong joined the new arrivals from Bontoc. Lt. Balanban informed that the Banawe barracks was well fortified.
“Along the Nayun-Lamut road, four Japs on horseback, probably on reconnaissance, was halted by a volley of bullets by the men of Lt. Puguon. They escaped back to Lamut where an enemy battalion held camp.
Fiesta in the midst of war
“January 5. Captain Bunol has not yet arrived at Burnay while he reportedly left Hapao the day before yesterday.
“Information filtering the camp disclosed that he went to the border of Ifugao and Benguet where he indulged, for two continuous days and nights, in a bountiful feast on food and drinks coupled with dancing and singing among hundreds of spearmen and women. He arrived back in Hapao where the same kind of feasting went on to entertain the Lepanto headmen who came along.
“At about 5 o’clock p.m. a messenger from Mayaoyao arrived reporting that some 500 Japanese soldiers and 200 (Japanese) constabulary men held a meeting in Santiago, Isabela and were preparing to advance toward Obao. Over a hundred civilians were also recruited as cargadores to accompany the expedition of the enemy.
“About the same time, Lt. Guinid from the Kiangan sector reported that the enemy was repairing the bridge between Nayun and Lamut.
“That night, Mr. Mariano and I became very anxious about our status. We have been waiting for about a week doing nothing except to supervise and help the civilians construct more living quarters for the soldiers.
“On January 6, Lt. Guinid was ordered by Lt. Chungalao, the executive officer, to proceed to Bolog near Nayun to watch and engage the enemy from Lamut and Nueva Vizcaya. Lt. Balajo was ordered to relieve Guinid at Ibulao, leaving his post at Piwong to one of his non-coms.
“It looked as if the young executive officer was doing the job of the Battalion Commander. It seemed so because Capt. Bunol was still at Hapao feasting while his soldiers are exposed to the elements of rain and hunger in foxholes awaiting the approach of the enemy. We later learned that his subordinates began to despise and lose confidence in him.
“January 7. Mr. Mariano went back to Halliap while Lt. Chungalao took a walk to the nearby barrios, leaving me alone in Camp. An aero plane was heard flying on the eastern side toward Mayaoyao, circled around then flew very low over our camp in the direction of Lamut area. It was about 6:30 in the afternoon.
Lt. Balajo was again re-directed to proceed to Kinakin toward Mayaoyao. Lt. Guinid remained at Bolog while Lt. Salvador with only 16 men with the help of our civilian police force kept watch on the Kiangan garrison. Lt. Balanban stayed in Banawe spying on the movements of the big enemy force gathered thereat.
“January 8, early this morning, an aero plane was again flying above about the same direction as yesterday and the other day.
“At about 5:00 o’clock, a runner came from Boliwong stating that an enemy plane had crushed landed and exploded on a mountain side in Hapid. Reports stated that 14 Japanese officers, including the pilot, were burned and their mangled cadavers scattered. This plane must have been the object of the one flying low during the last two days.
“Elements of the 14th Infantry from Nueva Vizcaya were the first to arrive at the crush site and were able to salvage available working equipment.
“On January 10, early morning the same plane days before continued to scout any sign of the crushed plane. Her search continued till late afternoon.
“The BN HQ Service Troup began their regular training per order of the HQ Executive Officer. Messrs Dugyon and Habawel were directed to leave for Hapao. In the evening, led by Lt. Chungalao, dancing and singing again occupied the soldiers, members of the Ladies group. “For the next two days, Japanese planes continued reconnoitering over the province, concentrating their search in Hapid. Councilor Tomas Alindayo and two other companions, all informants of HQ brought back insignias of the dead officers mostly in the ranks of first and second lieutenants. They also reported that the team leader of 14th Infantry who first arrived at the crushed site is identified simply as Pablo. Said team got a load of Japanese officer swords and money.
“On January 14, some 40 women arrived from the barrios of Hingyon and Anao to help prepare the feasting for the coming of Capt. Bunol, the Battalion Commander. The night was again one of dancing and singing at the instance of the executive officer Lt. Chungalao.
“No reported actions on this day January 15 except for 4 Japanese bombers flying cris-crossing the skies of Ifugao.
“On January 16, the sounds of heavy guns were heard from the eastside, most probably in Isabela or Nueva Vizcaya provinces. I counted 55 shots. Those big bombers could be seen flying above Nueva Vizcaya and further south.
“At about 2:35 in the afternoon, Ms. Lottie M. Spessard of the American Christian Missionary walked into camp. She is one of the ladies we had been hiding together with Miss Myrtle Mitzger and Mrs. Cloggy. Miss Spessard was enroute to the Regimental Hospital to report for duty, she being a full pledge nurse by profession. She was escorted by Mr. Eladio Malingan, the district president of Kiangan. We were all very glad and happy to see her.
“She and I had interesting and confidential conversations about how they hid whenever Japanese patrols were reported close to their place in the forest. She also mentioned and thankful for the useful information I relayed every time and then. She too was happy to see me and Mr. Mariano at the HQ camp.
“In the late afternoon, radio news revealed that some 100,000 American soldiers landed in San Fabian, Pangasinan under escorts of 200 ships and planes. There was loud and joyous welcome of the good news. Miss Spessard, in the evening, gave an inspirational talk giving everyone hopes for the eventual end of the war.
“After the short welcome party for the American lady, Mr. Mariano and I prepared and sent a letter to Capt. Bunol inquiring our status, for until this day, we never received formal calls to active duty, or papers accepting us for enlistment.
“On January 17, some soldiers came ahead, reporting that the Battalion Commander, Captain Bunol, will arrive in the afternoon.
“Lt. Chungalao received some letters from RHQ, and Mr. Mariano was accepted as lst Lt. to become Executive Officer, relieving Lt. Chungalao.
“I observed Lts. Chungalao and Mariano talking in confidential manner and I felt that there was something wrong about me. I was made to understand by Capt. Bunol, on December 25, 1944 that he will make me his executive officer, so as to have an older man with experience as his right hand man. In my humble opinion, I probably fitted for the assignment. I was kept in suspense.
“Lt. Puguon also arrived with some of the new arms he got from Benguet.
“The Captain did not arrive this day as scheduled. All was quiet from every sector.
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.