More memories of WWII

"Those were dangerous times, indeed."


Before I continue with my recollections about the Japanese Occupation, I would like to acknowledge a letter of thanks sent me by the richest Filipina, according to Forbes.

Here is Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chair of SM Investments Corporation.

“On behalf of our family, I would like to thank you for remembering our father Henry Sy, Sr. in your column in Manila Standard on January 22 and February 7.

It means a lot to us to know how he touched people’s lives. The stories and memories you shared with your readers are priceless—from the time you met him in his downtown store, how you bought your pair of Bostonian shoes, and much later when he shared his dream about SM North EDSA over a cup of coffee at Cafe Elysees in Makati.

Thank you again for this gesture of kindness, condolence and sympathy. The outpouring of your support has been a great comfort to us during this difficult time.”

* * *

As I said in yesterday’s column, my two older brothers joined the guerilla movement against the Japanese in Northern Luzon. They both got commissioned as lieutenants, under the command of Major Conrado Rigor.

My family had to move around Abra when we wanted to see my brothers so we would not be detected by the Japanese. Alas, I caught malaria. I thought I would die because of my fever and chills. I did recover, but soon found myself getting yellow.

There were also instances we had to hide in mountain caves of Abra to avoid detection by the Japanese. We came to live with some Igorots.

It was also the time I suggested to my brothers that I wanted to join the guerilla movement, too. I was already 16 at that time, and I wanted to do my share for the country. But my brothers said no.

During the war I saw the best and worst of Filipinos. The best—when I saw the Ilocanos and Igorots fighting the Japanese. The worst, when I saw with my own two eyes how the members of the movement were tortured and butchered by Filipino collaborators.

I also saw a town mayor killed by a faction of the movement for allegedly being appointed by the puppet government under President Laurel.

Indeed we lived in dangerous times.

Later, my father, mother and I settled in a town called Bucay, some 57 kilometers away from Bangued, the capital of Abra. The problem was that the town had a Japanese outpost in a brickhouse then owned by an American named Smith.

One afternoon as I was walking along the street, a Japanese patrol composed of two men shouted for me to stop. I wanted to run away, but I had second thoughts because I saw they had guns.

They tied my hands together with a rope and pulled me toward them. I was already saying my last prayers. I knew what could happen to me.

The two Japanese men got thirsty and walked into a house. They tied me to a post. I thought of doing something drastic—I untied my hands from the post and ran as fast as I could. I never looked back.

I told my father what had happened and he told me not to go outside. I hid under the house where we were staying, which had a poultry. I subsisted on eggs and chicken—not bad!

There was another incident in Abra that I couldn’t forget. There was once a guerilla leader named Emilio Escobar. He would go around Ilocandia raping and killing people. People called him “sagad.”

Sagad Escobar was so feared that Col. Volckmann had to ask for help from the American headquarters to arrest him.

Col. Formoso Reyes, aside from being a West Pointer, was also a law student, school principal, Legion of Merit awardee. His son Bobby would eventually be executive secretary to strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

I was almost 18 when I heard the good news that the Americans were landing on Lingayen Gulf.

But I was up on the hill with my family when I saw twin-bodied US airplanes bombing Bangued where the Japanese were headquartered. They called it carpet bombing.

When they learned that the Americans were coming, my brothers with their command left Abra. I joined the trek—and so did my mother. We all had leeches all over our body when we crossed creeks.

That was already during Liberation when the Americans assisted the 121st Infantry USAFIP-NL in engaging the enemy at Bessang Pass. That battle led to the surrender of General Yamashita.

The rest is history.

Topics: Emil Jurado , World War II , WWII , Japanese , Japan , guerilla movement
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