Battle of Patag in Silay City, 4-A A +A
As I See It
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
SOME people make headlines while others make history. Most people have two motives for doing things: alternative and ulterior. In Silay, some collaborated with the Japanese for a motive. Manuel Intay, “numero uno” spy of the Japanese, was responsible for the death of his fellow Silaynons who are sympathetic with the guerilla movement or simply mistaken as guerillas. He was shot by Lolo Jovito Pacete in Matagoy.
No one knew if Intay died or escaped death. He was never seen in Silay after that incident. Lolo Jovito was also chasing the local policemen who connived with the Japanese. He made several encounters and wounded many of them. (After the war, the policemen went back to their station and this time they were the ones chasing my grandfather. Lolo Jovito left Silay and lived in Bacolod.) As early as January 1943, the Japanese authorities were alarmed of the escalating guerilla operations in Silay.
Lolo Jovito borrowed the only horse of my father. Father said no, but Lolo Jovito stole it anyway. That horse saw action in the countryside. (When the war was over, that horse was returned to father. Mother said that father was a naughty horse rider. I don’t know if father was naughty to the horse… or to mother. That horse broke the collar bone of father when it galloped over a big hole, father fell down. (Naughty hole.)
In September 1944, American planes started bombing Silay. Portions of the seaport of Silay (the longest in Asia at the turn of the century, 7.4 kilometers) in Mambulac was bombed when American planes saw Japanese cargo being unloaded. Lt. Gen. Takaishi Kono, the commander of the Japanese 77th Brigade composed of imperial army units in Occidental Negros and Panay, had chosen Patag at the foot of Marapara Mountain in Silay for its final defense position.
This is the reason given by Sir Mode Sa-onoy, “Approach to Patag from the west is through a narrow road that has precipitous gorges on both sides. On three other sides of Patag are impenetrable forests and towering mountain peaks. The defense line stretched from Patag to the south in Mt. Makawili in upper Talisay. While it is difficult for the attackers, the terrain also prevented the defenders to counterattack in strength.”
On March 29, 1945 the Allied Forces landed in Negros. While the Americans were busy preparing for the attack, the Japanese soldiers from the other parts of the province (and even from Panay) assembled in Silay together with their wives, children and other Japanese civilians. On March 30, they were all rushing to the east to join their comrades in Patag.
Before retreating, Lt. Junichiro Doi of the Japanese Imperial Air Force was ordered by his superior to bomb San Diego Church. Doi, an officer and a gentleman who is passionate about history, saw civilians (most are women and children) inside the church taking refuge. He did not carry out the order. Lives were saved and Silay’s most important architectural landmark survived.
The gods of war made Patag the arena for shoot-‘em-up, smash-‘em up, energy-packed, testosterone-fueled, non-stop action. The US 40th Division was tasked to clear Negros of the Japanese. The game plan: the 160th would attack from Bacolod to Granada and then towards Concepcion in Talisay, the 185th would start from Talisay then moved on to secure Silay, and the Division Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop would give a blow to the Japanese airport in Guimbala-on (the site of the airport now).
The prelude to the Battle of Patag featured the gruesome nature of war. The everyday heroism of the men involved is never lost. When it comes to hand-bitten warfare, The Battle of Patag is hard to beat. The constant stream of jeeps, tanks, heavy equipment, soldiers beating against-all-odds derring-do merely reflect the impact of war on individuals, families, and communities.
The bravado performance of the Americans during their attack of the Japanese airport at Guimbala-on (with the assistance of Silay-based guerillas) was a road show that featured theatrical antics. There was a colorful mix of heroism, intelligence, gravitas, and chutzpah. It was the fight of the big guns to kingdom come.
The Japanese first line of defense was penetrated after it had been subjected to heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. Only the first line of defense was taken but the Japanese were there in the high ground of Lantawan. Their rifles and machines guns were in well-prepared positions looking down ready to spit fire from hell.
The Filipinos, American and Japanese knew that life is precious. They can spend it any way they wish, but they only spend it once! Are they willing to spend it in the battlefield?
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 15, 2014.