BALITANG BETERANO: PAETENIAN WAR VETS-WW 2
Under the Japanese in Paete: My Escape to Freedom
Written by War Vet Quirico Cadang in collaboration with Lee Quesada
[From the book ‘Paete’: Let our children and grandchildren remember that April 6, 1945 was a day of Martyrdom in Paete and at the same time a day of mourning and prayer for those ‘who fell during the night’ in the name of liberty.]
[Photo at left – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (3rd from right) & President Manuel Luis Quezon (4th from right) of the Philippine Commonwealth - circa 1935-1946]
When the Philippine Commonwealth Army was created in 1935, the Philippines already felt the threat of war with Japan. On July 26, 1941, the USAFFE was created and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, thereafter ordered the Philippine Commonwealth Army to the service of the US Armed Forces. With this army along with the Philippine Scouts and the many groups of guerrillas all over the Philippine islands were 200,000 Filipinos who served under the United States military command fighting the Japanese in World War II.
Fall of Bataan & Corregidor
(Photo at left – The Bataan Death March) In April 1942, the Japanese bombarded with their heavy artillery Bataan Peninsula where the American forces were already weakened by shortage of military supplies, food and water. In the hopelessness of the American position, President Roosevelt ordered to continue the battle or arrange a term of surrender. In Corregidor, General McArthur elected to continue the battle against the Japanese offensive. In May that year, Corregidor fell, too. General McArthur left for Australia with the promise, “I Shall Return”. The American commander, Lt. General Wainwright said: “We are surrendering in sorrow but not in shame”. Thousands of prisoners of war were marched to the Japanese concentration camp at Capaz in Tarlac. History recorded this as the “Death March”.
My home town - Paete, Laguna
(Photo at right– the Paete Catholic Church built during the early Spanish period (1646). All the religious images found here were carved and/or painted by the residents of Paete long ago)
At that time, even under the Japanese occupation, Paete was an enviable town of peace and plenty compared to other places. Practically everybody had its own homes, farmland, woodcarving and carpentry workshops. They were calm under the Japanese occupation because they knew when things came to worst they could easily and hastily move up to their own farms up the hills of the Sierra Madre mountain, where they can build light material houses with bamboo for their shelter.
“I Shall Return!”
After the surrender of American forces in the Philippines to the Japanese in May 1942, independent guerrilla groups of both civilian & military personnel began to form throughout the Philippine Islands. I was one of the 15 young men from Paete who fell under the control of the Japanese forces in my town. Under the invading Japanese occupation, we all knew that pretty soon the American forces, under Gen. Douglas MacArthur would come to the rescue; we just never knew when exactly. It finally happened on October 1944, when General MacArthur ((photo at left) and his soldiers landed in Leyte. The war against the Japanese and the Battle of Manila began.
The town of Paete was already deserted. Practically everyone sought refuge in different parts of the mountains. One night in March 1945, the people of Paete from their mountain hiding places saw the whole town of Paete on fire. The Japanese burning the town! Paete was reduced to ashes.
Filipino World War II Veterans
I was one of 15 young men (escapees) from Paete whose young life, lived in hardship and quiet fear was enriched by war when my town was embattled by the atrocities of a calculating power-hungry Japanese empire.
My name is Quirico Cadang, fondly called ‘Amang’ Rico by the present younger generation of Paetenians all over the world at our Internet ‘cybertown’ at www.paete.org. I am writing my story with the guidance and collaboration of Paetenian Internet journalist, Lee Quesada.
I am 84 years old now, retired with my wife, formerly Myrna Afuang, here in California. I did not have a college education. My son taught me how to use the computer when I retired at age 75. He said it would help us save on our telephone bills.
At age 21, I was a Sergeant (162640 Inf) in the most elite 1st Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In November 1945, I was transferred as Presidential Guard in Malacañang Palace and served there until my honorable discharge. On July 2005, the Board of Supervisors in the City of San Francisco issued to me a Certificate of Honor “in recognition of courage and service and continued perseverance in the long battle for full equity for Filipino World War 2 veterans”.
Lee Quesada wrote to me in one of her emails that “in Paete, most young men during my generation pretty well ‘schooled’ themselves by involving in the actual skills of carpentry, wood carving, farming and fishing”. Our small town of Paete by God’s grace lays perfectly between the rich lake of Laguna de Bay and the Sierra Madre mountains. What Lee said is true. Young men in Paete were naturally born to follow their forefathers’ legacy of native skills in farming and carpentry. We did not have time to think of higher education. I also did not have the resources and money to go to a college in the city. It seems these skills awaited every baby boy in Paete even before he was born.
From a book written by Col. Francisco (Kits) Quesada, with permission, I am honored to share and quote: “Historically, in war and peace, the unpretentious town of Paete produced countless unsung heroes and martyrs. Their gallant exploits have almost been left untold and unrecorded. Those who deserved mention are: Dr. Ariston “Iton” Baet and “Hene” Balquiedra who were tortured, beheaded by the Japanese because they refused to talk and they denied the Japanese enemy what they wanted to know. Mayor Luciano Ac-Ac suffered supreme punishment because he concealed the whereabouts of 15 escapees, the young men who were lured to be, what the Japanese promised, “Young Military Workers of Future Republic”. Later these coerced youth, and I was one of them, escaped and joined the underground guerrillas.”
I will never forget the late Col. Francisco Quesada. Ang gusto niyang tawag ko sa kanya ay ‘Kits’ and he always called me ‘Ric’. Marahil ay kung wala siya ay wala akong anak na doctor. He was the No.1 advocate of the Filipino WWII veterans Equity bill in the US Congress for a long time until it became an Act in 2007. He wrote many papers lambasting the US House & Senate for their indifference and discrimination towards the Filipino vets. He tirelessly lobbied for the Equity bill and worked closely with Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA) up to the time he and his wife retired in Las Vegas. When he died, I lost a very humble friend. Because of him my oldest son is now a successful doctor benefited by the Fil-Am Vets Equity benefits for Filipino soldiers which I received as a result of Col. Kits’ persistent and tireless efforts.
(Photo at left - Col. & Mrs. Francisco (nee Lourdes) Quesada) The last time we talked was when he and his wife invited my wife, Myrna and me to attend a Sunday mass at their parish in Las Vegas. After the mass, ay masaya kaming tumuloy sa New Orleans Hotel and Casino para mananghali. Muli akong nagpasalamat sa tulong niya sa aking anak na nagging doctor pero sabi niya, "Ric, ako ay masaya pag nabalitaan ko na tagumpay ang aking mga natulungan, pero hindi mo utang na loob sa akin yon" Tapos napansin ko na nagbago ang boses niya ng sabihin nya "Ric, life must go on, alam mo ba na pinatawad ko na yong mga dumukot at pumaslang sa mga intellectual na mga taga Paete?”
The suspected guerrilla leaders in Paete who were seriously beaten and tortured by drowning and starvation by the Japanese were: Rev. Fr. Francis Vernon Douglas, a Caucasian parish priest in Pillilla, Rizal and the following Paetenians: Generoso Balquiedra, Daniel Adea, Enrique Cadayona and Francisco Quesada.
My Walk to Freedom
My escape story takes us back when the elected mayor of Paete was Mayor Luciano B. Ac-Ac (term of office 1940-1944), a retired school teacher, ay nanawagan kung sino at voluntario na magpapatala sa isang projecto ng mga Hapon na diumano daw ay ‘training’ o pagtuturo ng ibat ibang hanap buhay patungo sa kaunlaran ng bayan.
Mayor Ac-Ac’s second son, Damaso was the first young man lured by the Japanese army propaganda promising training to be a technician with good pay and future promotions. It was because of Damaso that made me join the group. Those who were recruited with me were: 1. Damaso Ac-Ac, 2. Marcelino Afuang, 3. Teodoro Africano, 4. Jose Bayocot, 5. Emeterio Cadang, 6. Bonifacio Calabig, 7. Doming Cagahastian, 8. Leon (Loly) Kagahastian, 9. Marcelo Pagalanan, 10. Eliseo Pagalanan, 11. Pedro Ugalde, 12. Jose Solleza, 13. Eusebio Cagandahan, 14. Zoilo Fadul Jr. and myself, 15. Quirico Cadang.
We were taken to Sta. Cruz, capital of Laguna where we saw more recruits from the entire province. All in all, there were around 200 young men there. We were taken to the ‘training camp’ which was at Fort McKinley in ‘Tagig’ (now Taguig City), Rizal. At first we were taught how to drive army trucks and to repair them. Then we were given rifles and taught how to fire and how to march. We found out we were going to be assigned as watchers at the Outposts. But before I was given an assignment, I had an accident and broke my collar bone which required my whole body to be in plaster cast. I was in the hospital not far from the barracks. After 4 months, I was returned to the barracks where I met Amang ‘Eling’ (Marcelino) Afuang who was also hospitalized for malaria. It was then, when he and I decided to escape from the Japanese ‘barracks training camp’.
The so-called ‘training camp’ where the Japanese took us was at Fort William McKinley near the Pasig River. Fort McKinley is now Fort Bonifacio. We sneaked out of the camp at around 8 o’clock in the evening. From behind the hospital we waited to hear the sounds of the ‘trambia’ (railroad train) until we were able to pinpoint where the train was coming from. We doggedly walked and traced the long railway route towards the direction of downtown Manila.
Amang ‘Eling’ and I persisted through the long and hot railway walk from Taguig to Manila until we found the house of Amang Joaquin Afuang and his wife, Inang Ilang at Calye Calero near the Manila Times building. I stayed there for a few months until one day I met Paete lawyer, Atty. Juan Calabig who promised to protect me and convinced me to go home to Paete. We went to Pasig City first where we boarded the ‘casco’ (boat) via Laguna de Bay.
Bago kami dumating sa ‘wawa’ (lakeshore) ng Paete ay sinalubong na kami ng mga bankerong taga-Paete at doon sa tapat ng’ Ilog-tuyo’ (dry river) lumunsad. Sa pagitan ng Pakil at Paete, sa ‘Humarap’, kina Amang Pablo (Sabadista) Baldemor ako dinala na naroon ang tatlo kong pinsan. Ilang araw at nalaman ko na may isang ‘takas’ (escapee) din na ‘Kano’ (American) na itinatago doon. His name was Cpl Goitev Neigam, asawa ng isang taga San Antonio. Noong malaman noong ‘Kano’ sa pamamagitan ng radio receiver na may dadating na submarino sa Infanta, Quezon ay nakiusap siya na ihatid namin siya doon. Nong kami ay paalis na ay noon ko nalaman na marami pa pala kaming kasama tulad nina, 'Inang' Ilang Baisas isang nurse, si 'Inang' Josefa Liwag, nurse din na taga Pakil, at isang nurse na taga Sa Antonio na si Elisabeth, at ibapa. Ito ang umpisa ng aking pagiging guerillia in the 1st Battalion at dahilan sa pagiging Fil-Am WWII veteran. Those months of January, February, March and April 1945 were the most trying and the saddest in the history of Paete.
It is now year 2009 and everyone in my ‘escapee group’ have passed on. When Leon (Loly) Kagahastian, the brother of the late Col. Leopoldo (Polding) Kagahastian, the husband of Cresencia Quesada, left this world on June 10, 2007, I was the only one left in this world. Today, it brings a warm feeling and big relief in my heart that I am able to share this memorable and trying experience of war to everyone especially to the young Paetenians. I hope and pray no such war will ever occur again that will destroy this good & free world of present & future young generations. When my time comes to pass on, I will feel that it will be a happy ‘reunion’ with my 14 comrades of World War 2, who died before I did. With God’s grace my wife, Myrna Afuang, also from Paete, Laguna and I were blessed with 6 beautiful smart children now old enough for life of their own. Oldest to youngest: 1. Julita C. Soriano, Nurse; 2. Rodolfo A. Cadang, Doctor; 3. Einstein A. Cadang, Engineer; 4. Carmelita A. Cadang, Business Admin; 5. Evangeline C. Umali, Business Admin; 6. Leonilo A. Cadang, Computer Technology.
Personal Fil-Am Veterans photos and memorabilia:
Golden Wedding Anniversary
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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