36th of a series
The twisted Ropes of Survival
THE diaries of my father documented how all sides: Civilians, allied as well as enemy forces endeavored to survive the brutal war.
He wrote: “Soldiers die in battles and civilians perish as collateral victims of war. It is all about territories, power, economics, and independence.”
“On June 6, I personally went up to the observation post to view Maggok, Hungduan and part of Ahin. With my binocular glasses, I observed that the Japs were ‘sunning’ themselves at Olnoy and Balete while others were digging camote on the southern side. And dark smoke was puffing and rising above the forests at Baguingey above Olnoy and Hungduan. They seemed to be some short of communication signals.”
“While I was at our viewpoint, I saw artillery shell explosions coming from allied heavy guns but these were not hitting their intended targets. No Japanese big guns responded.”
On June 7, sitting at our viewing post, I counted 12 planes flying toward Bontoc while several other planes were circling above Kiangan area, Maggok and Hungduan. Less than an hour later, the sounds of bombs exploding are heard from far away Bontoc, possibly dropped by the allied planes.
“On July 8, I went again to the top of our mountain top post. I met Pepito, who went on night errand, reported that there are possibly a thousand Japanese soldiers in Dinayahan forest. He narrated numerous fire lights in the forest and along the trail leading to Hungduan, Hapao, and Ahin on the southern side.”
“Pepito said that in Maggok, only sickly civilian Japs are occupying the native houses; and that in the school compound lay hundreds of sickly and dying enemy soldiers. He added he saw hundreds of unburied dead soldiers. This was confirmed by one Butiling who went to locate a diseased relative in Maggok.”
“Later in the afternoon, I noted several Japs were following the creek from the southern point to our location. They were, however, stopped by the high precipice where a beautiful waterfall could be seen from our point of observation. Dina-on, a woman who went to cut some banana stocks for food later informed she saw the soldiers make the attempt, and hid in the bushes for hours.”
“On July 9, food, food for physical nourishment could be dug in the camote plantations farther below from our camp. A number of able-bodied men and I accompanied some women to dig camote. Without much ado, the older men positioned themselves in strategic places to watch out for any enemy. At 12:15 p.m. of my watch, we heard enemy rifle shots coming from behind us, but directed at the opposite side. We and the women kept on digging as there was no signal to scramble. We were able to dig several sacks of camote that would feed us for about a week.”
“On July 10, the carabao of Mr. Geronimo Binwag, pastured below Kidotchong was discovered by the Japs and was taken by them. They tied it by a pine tree at the edge of the village. That night, Augustin Dulnuan, one of my group leaders, and some men decided to recover the carabao secretly from the enemy.”
“Augustin’s team, armed with repaired carbine rifles watched the Japanese guards while the rest pulled the animal away. Augustin reported to me later that the Japs do not move farther away from their fire to keep them warm.”
“They had to return early in the morning to cover their footprints and those of the animal toward our side. We butchered it at the edge of the brook below so that if the Japs ever follow it, they will end their search right there and will not be able to find our camp, far above it.”
Japanese retreat continue
“On July 11, Councilor Comila Puguon came to report that some 200 Japs passed by below their observation post. He and his spearmen did not bother them and sought cover.”
“It was good they didn’t for the Japs were armed with machine guns enroute to Makakkalong. They passed by Balete where they got whatever rice and palay they saw.”
“On July 12, the retreat of the enemy continued to Makakkalong and down to Maggok barrio. We didn’t hear any artillery fires today coming from both sides. Allied planes, however, flew above the enemy camps and the retreating Japanese.”
Heavy artillery bombardment
“On July 13, the Japs made Goliwad, Madlang and Bangot as their center of operations from Maggok area. At 12:30 p.m. allied artillery fires began toward targets in the south and also directed at Maggok. However, the artillery fires were missing desired targets.”
“A lone small plane was flying slowly high above and must be guiding the allied artillery gunners their targets.”
“From our observation post on top of the mountain, I tried to attract the attention of the plane pilot by waving a white cloth. He must have noticed me and with Boy Scout signals I pointed out where the enemy forces were concentrated. The pilot acknowledged my message by tipping his wings as he flew over me.”
“On July 14, at 5 p.m. allied artillery fires resumed. Rain poured heavily in the afternoon towards evening.”
“On July 15, at around 1:15 p.m. the ridges above Malohong barrio became the targets of the heavy gunners. And their shots were hitting where the Japs are concentrated. If the artillery fires could only go further to Dinayahan, they might strike the Japs, whom we assumed must be by the thousands. The heavy guns continued their siege the whole night.”
“As the heavy guns were hitting their targets, I felt as if I was pulling their triggers after I signaled the plane pilot to direct the gunners to adjust their bearings.”
On July 16, explosions from artillery shelling the night before stopped before dawn. The plane observer flew over the targets and we saw (with our binocular glass) some Japs scrambling from the camote plantations. The same small plane flew by me and raised a thumps-up! I raised my binoculars in response.
“In the afternoon, shells were bursting in the forests where the enemy was concentrated. Most of them were moving farther toward Kidotchong area. Four shots were heard from that area probably a signal for the rest of their comrades.”
“On July 17, the battery of heavy gunners continued despite the rain. There were a few replies from the enemy artillery as if in a gun duel. However, it did not last long when the enemy guns stopped firing.”
“On July 18, the day was greeted with another barrage of allied artillery bombardment. No enemy fire replied. We were watching enemy soldiers entering the forests which we feared would threaten the safety of other civilian communities in evacuation. We prayed for their safety.”
Civilians trek to Kiangan Central
“Americans are already in Kiangan according to information.”
“Towards afternoon, Mrs. Tomasa Morado-Pagulayan came and informed that most of the civilians, escaping the artillery fires and from Japanese soldiers are now moving back to Kiangan central. Their route is via Lingay barrio, taking risks of enemy from the Maggok sector and Bokiawan barrio. Dr. Araujo and family took the risk and left.”
“The information that thousands of Americans were in Kiangan was the dawning of freedom once again. Their heavy guns were reportedly at Ibulao and Baguinge which means their range could now reach farther into enemy occupied territories in the jungles north-west of our camp.”
“Sadly, the route via Bokiawan was ascertained to be dangerous as several civilian were killed by Japanese soldiers according to reports reaching us. I decided not to move out yet, so long as the enemy did not yet discover our place.”
“On July 19, at about 8:30 a.m. artillery shells were whistling high above our mountain camp toward the ridge opposite ours. I noticed that they fell short of the enemy hospital. Baninge above Olnoy is a thick forest and many civilians evacuated there.”
“On the other side toward Hungduan, just about the top of the mountain is the enemy hospital. We knew this from one person who sought refuge into our camp. He said he was captured and helped carry sick Japanese soldiers into the building.”
“The artillery then directed their fire toward Dinayahan forest and I was overjoyed to see it hitting the forest where hundreds of Japanese sought cover.”
“I received reports that Augustin Dulnuan, one of my group leaders, and two companions were captured by the enemy somewhere in Dinayahan and Kidotchong. However, they were able to make good their escape.”
“Artillery shelling continued the whole night.”
To be continued. The series is published weekly every Saturday by SunStar Baguio, Philippines.
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.