Battle of Patag in Silay City, 3-A A +A
As I See It
Saturday, July 12, 2014
LISTENING to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides. My storytelling about The Battle of Patag will only tell us that there are no winners in war – only survivors. And, only the survivors can tell or write the event in his favor. It goes with the saying, “Until the lion writes his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
It was on December 8, 1941 when the news of the attacks at Pearl Harbor broke out. Japanese planes then bombed airfields in Luzon. Silaynons were celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception. At first that was taken lightly. “Let the Japanese come to Silay. We want to give them a closer look.” Groups of Silaynons were gathered in houses of friends hosting the party. The elders were concerned on what would be the fate of their farms and the mills if war would reach Negros.
The young gentlemen were eager to join the army to fight the Japanese. Their girl friends were uncertain on what would happen to their relationship in case of invasion. Mixed feelings were there. The hacendados were worried about their investments and real properties. The jornaleros could not imagine if there would be work stoppage in the farm. What would happen to their carabaos? Will their daughters working in the mansions of the hacendados be allowed to go back to the farm?
Mayor Roque Hofileña of Silay gathered his staff and formulated an action plan. He was preparing to move the seat of government from the poblacion to the evacuation center in upland Silay. This was confirmed to me by Ma’am Virgie Hofileña, the former principal of Doña Montserrat Lopez Memorial High School.
On May 21, 1942, the Japanese Imperial Army landed in Negros. The Japanese occupation of Silay was “peaceful.” There was no significant resistance. The officers and enlisted men complied with the orders of Col. Hillsman to surrender but two sub-sector commanders, Majors Mata and Abcede, remained steadfast in the determination to carry on the resistance. Their remaining troops became nucleus of the Negros guerilla force.
President Manuel Quezon ordered (ahead of Japanese occupation) to destroy Hawaiian-Philippine Co. Sugar Mill and other installations that might benefit the Japanese forces. The dome of San Diego Church (now San Diego Pro-Cathedral) was painted black to reduce its visibility to bombers. All foreigners in Silay (not only Americans) were rounded up and housed (imprisoned) at Gov. Emilio Gaston Elementary School which was converted into a concentration camp. (The dungeon is still there that witnessed death and punishment. I don’t want to say that it is “haunted”.)
The Silay North Elementary School (my Alma Mater) became the barracks (and hospital also) of the Japs. Several suspected guerillas and guerilla collaborators (prominent Silaynons) were publicly executed in the school grounds. Many Silaynons risked their lives by sending food, medicine, and information to the freedom fighters in the mountain. My Lolo Jovito Pacete (in his younger years) joined the guerilla unit of Lt. Castillo. He was a guerilla hit man operating in Silay-Saravia area. He gave my father a guerilla pass so that my father could enter the guerilla zone anytime.
My father was also given a Japanese pass by Lt. Soda (his friend, a former Japanese cook of the Gamboa family). It gave father the opportunity to know where the Japanese food supply was coming from. He would inform Lolo Jovito. Lolo Jovito would tell Ignacio Labetoria (father’s friend) to pose as guerilla commander and confiscate all the shrimps, bangus, tilapia and meat coming in to Silay for the Japs. The confiscated items were sent to the guerillas in the mountain. Lifestyle in Silay (other parts of Negros as well) gradually changed. Sir Mode wrote, “The Japanese objective was the total re-education of the cultural, political, social and religious belief of the people.” Propaganda activities (according to Lolo Pedro Pacete) included cultural shows, public education, and introduction to the ways of the Japanese and other celebrations highlighting Japan as a friend to all Asian nations. Bowing towards the sun every afternoon was a part of ritual in schools, offices, and factories.
Some sugar barons of Silay made evacuation shelters in their haciendas. They brought prime commodities with them, including their household staff. Lolo Pedro brought his family near the Unson farm house in Hda. Adela. He supervised the Unson household but Lolo Pedro has a nipa hut and an underground air raid shelter near the stream. Life under the invaders was not easy. That was before the Battle of Patag. (To be continued)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 12, 2014.