A notable remembrance
An unusual way of marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Japanese occupation was the launching of “The War in Cebu” an illustrated chronicle of World War II in Cebu published by the University of San Carlos Press on December 8 (the date of the bombing of Pearl Harbor). The book contains fourteen chapters about the war, starting with the Japanese invasion and the brutal occupation that followed until the eventful American liberation, the formal Japanese surrender at Barangay Caduawan in Tabogon and the aftermath of the war. Contributors to this book are Dr.
Resil Mojares, Dave Taylor, Dave Colamaria, Valeriano Avila and Jose Eleazar “Jobers” Bersales, editor of the book. A supplement of the book shows a then-and-now imagery of structures that witnessed and survived to this day.
The coffee table book was made possible with many photographs never before seen from the various archives of the U.S. Army and Navy which were later deposited at the U.S. National Archives.
The book also obtained permission from the Province of Cebu to reproduce Dr. Resil Mojares’ and Valeriano Avila’s chapters on World War II that are part of the 55 volumes comprising the definitive histories of the different towns and cities of Cebu and that of the province to which they belonged. Taylor, a US -based veteran and historian of the Vietnam War complements these with his detailed account of the American liberation of Cebu. An important phase of this period was the siege and retaking of Lahug Airfield (presently the IT Park) retold by Colamaria, a grandson of one of the soldiers who participated in that historic event. The book also pays homage to a handful of earlier published works, the most notable being the late Col. Manuel Segura’s seminal work, “Tabunan: Untold Exploits of the Cebu Guerrillas in World War II” which provide eyewitness details and accounts of the war in Cebu
Where discussions about the Second World War often center on Manila, the book elucidates through captivating stories as well as dramatic images of the war in another major metropolis. This is one of the contributions of the book to the study of Philippine History. For the students in Cebu, the dramatic images will encourage more discussions and analysis. For teachers of History and Social Studies, this book is very helpful with additional readings of other books on Cebu like Michael Cullinane’s “The Battle for Sudlon” and the 55 volumes of the histories of the towns, components, and the Province of Cebu which have been distributed to the different public schools in the province and hopefully to the libraries of schools in the city.
Browsing through the chapters, the section that caught my interest was the section on “Women in War” contributed by Jobers Bersales which features two remarkable women, Rosario Yap Estrada of Barili (mother of my high school classmate Emilia) and Monica Sandalo of Moalboal. Rosario or “Na Saling” to the people of Barili had already enlisted in the Army Medical Corps as a 27-year old pharmacist even before the Japanese landed in Cebu. She was assigned at the base hospital in barrio Gunting, Barili as Cebu prepared for the invasion.
Monica was already a 21-year old teacher when the Japanese finally arrived in Moalboal. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Service, supplying food and other sundries to the Southern Cebu Forces, the guerrilla outfit based in Dumanjug (and later in Ronda before the formal establishment of the island-wide guerrilla force, the Cebu Area Command). When the Japanese eventually occupied Barili, the hospital at Gunting was evacuated to the guerrilla headquarters in Malalay, Ronda.
An interesting incident occurred when once in Barili, Na Saling was summoned to the local Japanese garrison and interrogated on the whereabouts of medicines prior to the Japanese invasion. Na Saling stood her ground and denied any knowledge of where they were. The Japanese warned her of dire consequences if the latter found medicines in their ancestral house, one of the late Spanish period trading houses in Barili that still exist today. Fortunately, her brother-in-law had already brought the medicines out of the house and Na Saling was released.
She joined the Cebu Area Comman hospital unit in the mountains of Sudlon, near the border with Toledo City and within walking distance from the CAC headquarters at Tabunan. It was here that she and fellow medical corps members like Dr. Ramon Arcenas, took care of the guerrilla fighters wounded during the many battles against the Japanese military all over Cebu.
Monica has survived the war and continues to live in her postward residence at the town center of Moalboal. Except for the church, convent, and elementary school, no prewar houses can be found in town because Moalboal was burned to the ground by the Japanese in retaliation for the successful ambush of Japanese troops at the historic Battle of Tomonoy.
Like Monica, Na Saling also survived the war. At the tender age of 101 she passed away quietly at the family’s ancestral house last year. I was fortunate to have met Na Saling in my elementary and high school days when she accompanied her children, one of them was my classmate, during special events at St. Catherine’s School, Carcar. She impressed me as a strong woman. Two years before she passed away, I met her again at her ancestral house when our high school class visited our classmate in reparation for our forthcoming golden jubilee in 2013. She was still strongwilled even on a wheelchair. I never knew that she was actively involved in WW II until I read “The War in Cebu.”
The book also narrates the heroic exploits of many unknown individuals like the bemedaled veteran Sgt. Uldarico “Ikong” Cabahug of Mandaue who at 91 is one of the country’s living war veterans. He graced the launching and obliged everyone with his autograph and picture taking.
We join Jobers’ hope that “the bravery and heroism of those brave men and women who persevered during the dark and brutal years will continue to be celebrated and never forgotten and that the people of Cebu will preserve those memories and all the physical remnants of that war that are still extant yet unrecognized in many instances all over their towns and cities.”
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