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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Military Officers join the Panay Free Movement

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Col. Macario Peralta

When the general surrender of the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) was issued at the end of May 1942, many Filipino soldiers escaped to their homes rather than be Japanese prisoners of war. A few days later, an order was received from Maj. Rafael Almacen to round up these soldiers and convince them to join the Panay Free Forces being organized at the time on the mountains of Lambunao by Col. Macario Peralta, Jr., Lt. Col. Leopoldo Relunia, Maj. Jose Alvior, Lt. Col. Julian Chavez and other responsible officers of the disbanded USAFFE. If the soldiers refused to join the resistance forces, the firearms would be confiscated.

         First Lt. Marcelo Tolentino, who was designated town officer, organized the Alimodian Unit in June 1942. This was a sub-unit of the 1st Iloilo Sector, composed of the southern towns of Iloilo. Maj. Rafael Almacen was designated sector commander by Col. Peralta.

         The primary mission of the Alimodian Unit was to recover firearms and ammunitions and secure food supplies from the people of the mountains. The recovery was made possible with the cooperation of the municipal officials like Mayor Felix Altura and Chief of Police Vicente Sabijon. Ample supply of food stuffs was recovered and distributed to the different guerilla units operating in Alimodian and the nearby towns of Maasin, Cabatuan and San Miguel.

        Another mission of the unit was the maintenance of peace and order and curbing of banditry which was very prevalent in the face of the miserable conditions. Many residents and some evacuees went on a looting spree to get hold of whatever they could, be it food, clothing or money. Most of the victims were Chinese evacuees who chose to remain in the poblacion. To teach the would-be petty thieves a lesson, the Alimodian Unit soldiers set an example by shooting a few looters and burying them a few feet below the ground.

        When the Panay Free Forces was organized to form companies, battalions and regiments, the Alimodian Unit was made the nucleus of the famous “A” Company, 1st Batallion, 63rd Infantry Regiment. Only two platoons of the Alimodian Unit were accommodated in the “A” Company as the rest were allotted to San Miguel Unit under Capt. Paulino Salmon, who became municipal mayor of San Miguel after the war. The Alimodian Unit then was composed of approximately 200 men, mostly USAFFE men with some civilians volunteers . The remaining men were given new assignments.

         The Alimodian officers who joined the “A” Company were Lt. Marcelo del Rosario and Lt. Pablo Alegro. Lt. del Rosario’s heroic death in Mandurriao, Iloilo City on February 10, 1944 was documented in Col. G.L. Manikan’s book “Guerilla Warfare on Panay Island in the Philippines” along with those of Major Jose Alvior, Lt. Cornelio Salarda and Lt. Esperidion Amuan.

         About the same time as the organization of the “A” Company, a local puppet government was established in Alimodian, with Anacleto Amparo at the helm. The resistance forces got along well with puppet government because some of the officials of the puppet government were also connected with the resistance forces. There was little problem in the procurement of food supplies, mainly because of the clandestine cooperation of many unsung heroes like the teachers and government employees assigned in food production and distribution.

         The Alimodian Unit had its baptism of fire when a Japanese plane bombed its Command on San Modesto Street, now Algallar Street. During the air raid, Dr. Juan Sollosa, director of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society in Iloilo City, Pvt. Isaias Peniano and Paulino Almira, a civilian, were killed. The others who were injured were Sgt. Teodorico Angostura and Pvt. Felomino Queder.

         During the early days of the guerilla, Sitio Taban, now a barangay, was the center of the activities of the guerilleros, Japanese spies and civilians. After the Japanese had landed in Iloilo, the Alimodian Public Market was transferred to Sitio Taban. There was a cockpit and people from the neighboring towns, as well as Japanese agents, mingled with one another in this sitio every market day. It was also in Sitio Taban where a short wave radio receiver was available. It was owned by a certain Vic, whose family name cannot be recalled now. He was a Tagalog evacuee to the place, having been caught by the war in Iloilo City. He volunteered to join the army but not the Alimodian Unit. Later, he was commissioned officer, for he was a radio technician. He was, however, discovered to be a Japanese spy having radio contact with the enemy; therefore, he was liquidated by the army.

          The radio was kept in a small cottage where news was intercepted from the Voice of America in San Francisco, USA. Lt. Cornelio Salarda took note of the news by shorthand, mimeographed and distributed to the people because he was the propaganda officer. During that time no news was available except those distributed by the Japanese.

          The guerilleros gained strength and conducted ambushes against the Japanese anywhere whenever there was an opportunity. The Japanese retaliated and committed atrocities not only against the guerilleros but also the civilians. Those atrocities were demonstrated in Sitio Taban where no less than 50 civilians were beheaded and left to be eaten by the dogs. My next blog will be the account of the massacre, as recounted by Lt. Godofredo N. Grageda.

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