How to honor the guerrilla resistance

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales - CDN Digital | February 19,2020 - 06:30 AM

On Sunday,  I was in Mactan to borrow over 30 items of the war that were carefully collected by the artist and writer Ritchie Landis Quijano while he was still living at his parents’ house in Canduman. It was a good thing that Ritchie began collecting even displaying them in that house at a time when the war was a distant thing in the past already. His collection will form part of a special exhibit at USC Museum to mark the 75th anniversary of the End of World War II.

Barely a month from now, we shall mark that important milestone in Cebu’s history: the 75h anniversary of the Talisay Landing and the start of the battle to liberate Cebu from the Imperial Japanese Forces.

Last week, it was impressed upon city and municipal tourism officers under the Province of Cebu to mark this event with some kind of celebration to honor the guerrillas and volunteer Guards, both living and dead. 

I know there were a lot of abusive guerrillas during the Japanese Occupation, but Col. James Cushing, who headed the unified guerrilla outfit operating in Cebu — called the Cebu Area Command (CAC) — tried his darned best to instill discipline among his men. And many of the Cebu guerrillas, former USAFFE soldiers who refused to surrender to the Japanese, proved their bravery and patriotism time and again. 

How shall a celebration to remember their heroism be carried out? Well for one, the municipal and city tourism officers should now begin to trace guerrillas that used to march into town during the annual festivities marking the Talisay Landing. There used to be thousands of them and there used to be monuments listing their names on epitaphs or plinths at the town plaza. 

Even a barrio basketball court and playground once served as a venue for a World War II resistance marker. Take the case of Talamban, in Cebu City, where half a cement marker can still be discerned outside one corner of the covered basketball court there. This marker, now overwhelmed by the street, lists the Bontuyans, Codillas, Senos, Opigals, and other Talambanon youths who figured in one of the famous battles that happened there as the Japanese retreated north sometime in early April 1945. 

Carcar, Danao, Dumanjug, Talisay and Ronda still have their World War II memorial markers and of them, those at Ronda, Danao City and Dumanjug seem to be well-kept to this day. The one at Ronda, however, which like that of Dumanjug lists down names, has been sadly painted apple green. Moalboal, meanwhile, has marked a famous battle right beside the highway amidst a lush rice field. Naga City, alas, lost its huge anti-aircraft gun-turned-monument when the gymnasium, now a large department store, was built. 

Beyond cleaning these monuments (and restoring those lost through sheer neglect), local government units should begin listing down those they need to honor, at least with a simple reading of names and ranks (or positions as with the adolescent boys that comprised the Volunteer Guards) with their living relatives present, preferably on March 26th. 

There are already barangay micromuseums or mini-museums, as they are called also, set up during the second and third terms of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia in some of the towns that are extant to this day. These have a few exhibits of soldiers’ paraphernalia like helmets, bayonets, caps, uniforms, eating utensils and even medals and post-war photographs. Perhaps some of them can be borrowed for the occasion and brought to the municipal or city hall for a possible week-long exhibit. 

Those LGUs that do not have these had better asked the Barangay Health Workers, who are at the forefront in the different barangay residences, to begin asking around for the whereabouts of former guerrillas. They should begin to ask if the living descendants of these guerrillas have memorabilia and other mementoes of the war that can be displayed or exhibited at a space in the municipal/city hall.

At Museo Sugbo, the curators there are busy not just sprucing up the War Memorial Gallery but also marking sections of the buildings that once served not just as a provincial and city jail of Cebu but the first prison of American and British nationals when the Japanese invasion of Cebu began on April 10, 1942, before they were sent to other facilities in the city on their way to the University of Santo Tomas. The isolation cells or bartolinas at Museo Sugbo also once served as prison for guerrillas, among them future Cebu Mayor Mario Ortiz who met his future wife there, the young Japanese interpreter Julita Villacorta who also worked for the guerrilla resistance.

There is still time left to honor those who made sure we enjoy our freedoms today. Even as the world now faces the uncertainty of the CoVid-19 virus that some people suspect might be a bioweapon gone berserk, we still need to be reminded that war is never the answer. Because the most bitter conflict the Philippines ever experienced is now but a lost memory, it is time to remember and recall the bitter lessons from that war. What better thing to do than to honor our very own: young men and women who refused to be cowed by another foreign invader. 

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TAGS: 75th anniversary of the End of World War II, Cebu Area Command (CAC), Col. James Cushing, Julita Villacorta, Mario Ortiz, Museo Sugbo, Ritchie Landis Quijano, Talisay landing, World War II resistance marker

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