"ARAW ng Kagitingan" passed by quietly without much fun fare. It coincided with Maundy Thursday and the focus of more Filipinos is on the fight against Covid-19. "Araw ng Kagitingan" is all about remembering and honoring our heroes.
We do not just salute heroes who fell in the battlefields but we also acknowledge fellow Filipinos who also performed heroic acts in line of duty and those who volunteered themselves to save others. In times of Covid-19, we hail our frontliners who are risking their lives for Inang Bayan.
Every April 9, our family and some Silaynons, remember the heroic deeds of Lolo Jovito 'Vito' Pacete, the first cousin of Granpa Pedro Pacete. The young Vito (early 20s) went to Negros with Lolo Pedro to work as 'sacada' in Hacienda Adela, Silay owned by German Unson.
When World War II broke out, hacienda work stopped. After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, remnants of Filipino soldiers organized their own guerilla units to continue the fight against the Japanese Imperial Army. Vito was recruited by Lieutenant Castillo to join his unit operating in Silay and Saravia.
The recruits were given rush training. Vito showed that he was a fast learner... in shooting, hand to hand combat and espionage. He used to borrow the horse of my father (Tatay Nicolas) for his nocturnal raids on Japanese pocket groups. He was tagged as the "ace guerilla hitman".
My father was the mole of the guerillas operating in the lowland. He was a tractor driver and a horseman who supervised the fishponds, sugarcane plantation and rice farm of German Unson. Tatay Nicolas was the right hand man of Lolo Pedro who was tasked by Mr. Unson as hacienda foreman for the "sacadas" and "dumaans".
Tatay Nicolas enjoyed his Japanese pass that was given by Lieutenant Soda of the Japanese Imperial Army assigned in Silay. This Soda was just a Japanese gardener of the Gamboa family of Hacienda Luguay in Silay. When the Japs occupied Silay, he disappeared for few days and when he resurfaced he was already wearing a Japanese soldier uniform as lieutenant.
Soda befriended Tatay Nicolas (still single) before the war and he used to borrow his only bicycle to visit his friends working as cooks, gardeners, carpenters and mechanics of the "buena familias" in Silay. When the war broke out, these Japanese were all officers of the Japanese Imperial Army.
The guerilla pass of Tatay was issued by Lt. Castillo. Tatay would buy meat in Saravia for the Unson family. He would go back ahead to Silay and report to Vito that bicycle-riding "compradores" of the Japs would soon go back to Silay with their bicycles loaded with meat and bangus.
Vito and his men would stop the "compradores" near Bangga Tinihaban and at gun point would confiscate all their "compras." Vito would simply say to Filipino "compradores," "We are taking all of these for our guerillas in the mountain. Our commander is there. "He would point to the direction where Tatay was standing (one half kilometer away). "He is our commander."
Tatay Nicolas reported to Vito that many suspected guerillas in Silay were killed by the bayonets of Japanese soldiers at Taytay Luguay (Luguay Bridge). The Japanese "espiya" responsible was Manuel Intay. He was a "makapili," a "taklob-libon" man of the Japs.
Suspected guerillas would be forming their lines at the plaza or public market. Manuel Intay would just point anybody and those chosen would meet their death at the end of the bayonets at Luguay Bridge.
Vito was ordered by Lieutenant Castillo to kill Intay. "Hit him by the balls!" It was not easy for Vito to kill Intay. He was always surrounded by Japanese soldiers and the regular elements of the Philippine Constabulary who connived with the invaders.
The waiting did not last long. One Saturday afternoon, Manuel Intay was seen inside the "bulangan" in Sitio Matagoy in Silay. Vito requested his friend to tell Intay that his "compare" wanted to see him outside to hand money from the Japanese.
Intay was excited to go out because he was already losing money inside the cockpit. He was surprised to find out that there was no "compare" and money waiting outside. Vito challenged Intay to a duel. Intay was always ready... always loaded. In that duel, Vito proved that he is faster than Intay. Intay was hit below the belt. Vito was really aiming for the balls.
It was not a fatal hit. Intay was able to get back inside the cockpit to ask for help. Vito reported to Lieutenant Castillo later, "Sorry, I hit only one ball. Intay has still one ball." The Intay-Pacete duel in Matagoy was big news in Silay.
Intay did not die but he left Silay because of shame. He was already limping and ... later on disappeared. Many believed that he was killed by the family of his victims. Every "Araw ng Kagitingan", we remember the heroes... and our own family hero, Lolo Vito.