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  • A GERMAN EXPAT IN THE PHILIPPINES:  WITH BEETHOVEN UNDER PALMS (XIII)

    A GERMAN EXPAT IN THE PHILIPPINES: WITH BEETHOVEN UNDER PALMS (XIII)

    Chapter XIII: Philippines, we are coming! "Do you actually know that we will be flying in two weeks?" My question to Rossana caused an unbelievable frenzy. A little later I was also very nervous. But where were our tickets? An express letter with our tickets reached us two days before our departure. A big stone fell from our hearts. Berlin - Frankfurt, Frankfurt - Singapore, Singapore - Manila with Singapore Airlines, and finally Manila - Davao with Philippine Airlines. Finally, after four weeks, we were on our way to Rossana's home. And it was our fourth wedding anniversary. That had "fatal consequences".  A stewardess had noticed that we were toasting each other over a glass of champagne. "Sir, Ma-am, is it okay for you if you transfer to the First-Class-Section?", she asked. "We would like to prepare you a particularly pleasant flight from Singapore to Manila on your very special occasion!" We felt on cloud 9 again. Six wonderful weeks with Rossana's family followed. The negative news from previous letters quickly dissipated. The first time the thought occurred to me what it would be like to be able to live forever in the Philippines. I started to love typical Filipino dishes. Yes, even balut! During that vacation, I met journalist, columnist, and book author Antonio "Tony" Figueroa. An amazing writer. I didn't know then that Tony and I would both be columnists in Mindanao Times starting in 2003. At the farewell party, many tears flowed again. We had to promise our family to come back after two years at the latest. That happened in 1989 together with four of our best German friends. Back in Berlin, I got to know another Filipino tradition: car blessing. Father Hermogenes "Gene" E. Bacareza blessed our new car, our Sunny.  During that time, Father Gene told me about his plan to publish two magazines for Filipinos - one in English (Ang Mabuhay) and one in German (Deutsch-Philippinischer Informationsspiegel Berlin). I was very excited and loved to work with him. His book about German-Filipino Relations greatly guided me in my work. Rossana loved the nature of Berlin and its surroundings more and more, even if our excursions by bike often reached their limits. The Berlin Wall, which enclosed the entire city of West Berlin, stopped us several times.  Often the exact boundary course between West Berlin and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was not identified for us. We were with our bikes on a dark forest path in the north of West Berlin, the so-called Eiskeller (Ice Cave). Suddenly uniformed and armed border guards were standing in front of us. (To be continued)

    May 2, 2021

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  • Bangladesh cites Oro artist's sculpture

    Bangladesh cites Oro artist's sculpture

    CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Embassy of Bangladesh in Manila has honored the artwork of a Kagay-anon artist by purchasing it then donating it as a permanent showpiece to the Museo ni Jose Rizal, Calamba in Calamba City, Province of Laguna. According to Nicolas P. Aca Jr., a visual and performance artist from Cagayan de Oro City, his artwork was originally for the exhibit From Manila to Dhaka in 2018 held at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Gallery in Intramuros, Manila but was later bought by the Embassy of Bangladesh.  The Artist and the Inspiration The art piece, a sunken relief in wood, is a juxtaposition of the images of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as the “Father of the Nation of Bangladesh”, and the Philippines National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal.  It was inspired by Aca’s experience in Bangladesh, where he came to know Bangabandhu, also known as Mujib. “He was known as their 'hero for all seasons. He had almost the same missions with our very own Dr. Jose Rizal, and both of them faced a very tragic death. This inspired me to put them together in one artwork,” Aca said. Bangabandhu fought for nationalism, secularism, democracy, socialism, known as Mujibism. “Bangabandhu and Rizal shared the same tragic fate for their countries. On August 15, 1975, Bangabandhu, and his family were killed by a group of army officers who invaded the presidential residence. Rizal, on the other hand, was sentenced to death by firing squad and executed on December 30, 1896 for exposing the dark aspects of the Spanish regime,” said Aca.  Both deaths inspired revolutions that unified their nations and led to their country’s independence. “My visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2018 was a very memorable one. We were warmly welcomed by their people, together with other artists from all around the world. There were 3 of us from the Philippines, I together with Tres Roman and Esme Abalde,” Aca said. The three artists represented the country for the 18th Asian Art Biennale.  There were workshops and tours to Bangladesh’s historical sites. There were also performances from international artists. “We also have learned a lot from their culture,” Aca recalls. According to Aca, heroes are those who are willing to sacrifice their own life for the greater good. They have a certain purpose and believe in what is right.  “A hero for me does not do things only for himself, but for other generations to benefit what he does as well,” Aca said. The art piece, along with books, photos, and other materials, is part of the two-month-long exhibit on Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) at the Museo ni Jose Rizal, Calamba as part of the birth centenary celebration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  Nicolas Aca was sworn in as the new chairperson of the Cagayan de Oro City's Historical and Cultural Commission on April 13, 2021.  (SAYU/PIA10)

    May 2, 2021

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  • The Battle of Colgan Woods: The fiercest battle of World War II in Bukidnon

    The Battle of Colgan Woods: The fiercest battle of World War II in Bukidnon

    On 17 April 1945, the returning forces of the United States successfully landed in Parang, Cotabato for the final phase of the Battle for Mindanao dubbed Operation VICTOR V. The second-largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao has a long and irregular coastline. Inland, the topography is rugged and mountainous. Most of the terrain is covered by rain forests and contains innumerable crocodile-infested rivers, except for those areas that are lake, swamp, or equally trying grassland. Exacerbating the problem of movement on Mindanao was the existence of only a few roads worthy of the name. Two were operationally significant. Cutting across the southern portion of the island, from just south of Parang on Illana Bay in the west to Digos on the Davao Gulf in the east and then north to Davao, was the generously named Highway No. 1. At Kabacan, about midway between Illana Bay and Davao Gulf, the main north-south road, the Sayre Highway (also known as Highway No. 3), ran north through the mountains to Cagayan and Macajalar Bay on the northern coast. The Japanese had long expected MacArthur to begin his reconquest of the Philippines with an invasion of eastern Mindanao. Believing that the American attack would come in the Davao Gulf area, they had built their defenses accordingly. VICTOR V Operations On 11 March General MacArthur formally ordered the Eighth Army to clear the rest of Mindanao in Operation VICTOR V. MacArthur expected that the campaign could take four months. But Eight Army Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger’s staff produced an operation plan to deal with the Japanese dispositions as efficiently as possible. Instead of a frontal assault into the teeth of the Japanese defenses, the plan called for securing a beachhead at Illana Bay in the undefended west, then drive eastward more than one hundred miles 23 through jungle and mountains to strike the Japanese from the rear. Eichelberger assigned ground operations to Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert’s X Corps whose principal combat units were the 24th Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff, and the 31st Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin. The plan called for Task Group 78.2, now under Rear Adm. Albert G. Noble, to carry the 24th Division and the X Corps headquarters to the assault beaches near Malabang on 17 April to secure an advance airfield. Then, five days later the 31st Division would be transported twenty miles farther south to Parang, located near Highway 1, the route to Davao. Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith's Thirteenth Air Force, reinforced by elements of the Fifth Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Command, and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing under Maj. Gen. Ralph J. Mitchell was designated "air assault force" for the Mindanao Operation. Its mission prescribed a continuing air offensive over the Southern and Central Philippines to neutralize Japanese air, ground, and naval forces, and to prevent Japanese reinforcements and supplies from reaching the objective area. Displacement of the four scout bombing squadrons equipped with the SBD Dauntless patrol dive bomber from Luzon to Moret Field in Zamboanga (formerly San Roque Airfield) began on 24 March. VMSB's 236 (Black Panthers) and 142 (Wild Hares/Wild Horses) arrived at Moret on the 24th; followed by VMSB-341(Torpid Turtles) on the 25th and VMSB-243 (Flying Goldbricks) on the 26th. As Task Group 78.2 moved toward Illana Bay, Colonel Fertig sent welcome word that his guerrillas owned Malabang and its airstrip but could not evict the Japanese. Beginning on 3 April, Colonel Jerome’s Marine aviators from Dipolog landed at the airstrip, received targeting information from the guerrillas, and then bombed the Japanese positions. This broke the stalemate, and by 14 April the surviving Japanese had fled through the guerrilla lines. With complete control of Malabang, Generals Sibert and Woodruff and Admiral Noble quickly changed their plans to take advantage of the new developments. Although one battalion from the 21st Infantry would still land at Malabang, the bulk of the 24th Division was to come ashore at Parang, much closer to Highway No. 1, and thus speed up the entire operation. The landing at Parang on 17 April went unopposed, and the division quickly headed inland along Highway 1. Correctly perceiving that the Japanese would destroy the bridges along the highway, the planners decided to use the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 3d Engineer Special Brigade, to exploit the Mindanao River (Rio Grande de Mindanao). This waterway ran roughly parallel to Highway 1 and was navigable for thirty-five miles, some ten miles west of the crucial town of Kabacan and the north-south Sayre Highway. On 21 April Lt. Col. Robert Amory led a small fleet of gunboats upriver and seized Kabacan and the junction of Highway 1 and the Sayre Highway the next day. The Mindanao River soon became the main line of supply as troops and supplies were offloaded far upriver. General Martin’s 31st Division began landing on 22 April, the same day that Marine Air Group 24 arrived at Malabang to provide air support for Mindanao ground operations. With both divisions ashore and ahead of schedule, Sibert ordered them to undertake separate thrusts. General Woodruff’s 24th Division was to continue its advance along Highway 1 to Digos, then seize Davao City. General Martin’s 31st Division would follow to Kabacan and then attack north up the Sayre Highway toward Macajalar Bay. The Japanese apparently blundered in allowing the Americans to seize the key road junction of Kabacan so easily; the 30th and 100th Japanese Divisions were hopelessly separated with the American advance while allowing X Corps to build up momentum and ultimately lead to their destruction. With General Woodruff's 24th Division moving so rapidly, the Americans were almost on top of the Japanese around Davao before General Morozumi realized that the western landing was, in fact, not a diversion. Upon reaching Digos on 27 April, the Americans quickly overwhelmed the defending Japanese, who were prepared only to repel an assault from the sea, not from their rear. The 24th Division immediately turned north and headed toward Davao City. Highway 1 to Kibawe Meanwhile, the 31st Division had forged ahead to the town of Kibawe on Highway 1, some 40 miles (64 km) away, since 27 April, with the 124th Infantry Regiment of Colonel Edward M. Starr at the point. The 124th Infantry Regiment consisted of three battalions. Each battalion consisted of four companies, and each company had about 200 men at full strength. “We arrived at Cotabato, Mindanao, on 23 April and debarked under peaceful conditions as the 24th Division had landed here a couple of weeks before and headed due East to Davao on the East coast,” wrote Maj. Thomas Deas, regimental surgeon of the 124th Medical Detachment in his post-war memoirs. “We were given the assignment to move by land and by boat to Fort Pikit and Kabacan. “ Getting to Kabacan involved a 50-mile trip in landing craft up the crocodile-infested Mindanao and Pulangi Rivers to Fort Pikit.  The so-called highway, General Eichelberger later recalled, was soon “discovered to be something of a fraud.” A thirty-mile stretch had never been completed and dissolved into deep mud whenever it rained—and it rained virtually every day. Japanese Disposition on Sayre Highway In central Mindanao, where there were fewer troops to cover a far greater area, operational preparations of the 30th Division had been virtually stalemated because of other urgent requirements. Due to an acute shortage of foodstuffs in the upper highlands along Highway 3 since August 1944, troops were used to forage for provisions, but Morozumi hastily stopped these foraging operations and proceeded with regrouping his available troops thus three widely dispersed elements were moving to the northern part of Central Mindanao by mid-April when an American landing in Cagayan became imminent. The 3d Battalion, 41st Infantry, had recently arrived in the Ampayon area en route to Balingasag from Surigao. The main strength of the 11th Battalion, 74th Infantry, was ordered to suspend the foraging of supplies in the Dulawan area and was near Kabacan en route north to join the main strength of the regiment. Farther south, the 11th Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment, was in Dulawan on its way north from Sarangani Bay.  When the Sayre Highway operation began, Morozumi had about 8,200 men to defend it. He had two field artillery companies, one howitzer company with 12 pieces altogether moved by manpower with 100 rounds per weapon concentrated at Malaybalay. The infantrymen all had rifles with 240 rounds each supported by four light armored cars, which were used to tow artillery and patrol the roads but were never used in combat. Kabacan to Kibawe Departing Kabacan about 1800 on 27 April, Col. Starr’s 124th Infantry led the division’s advance up the primitive road. At approximately 2200 about nine miles north of the Pulangi crossing during the first evening of the advance, the division vanguard—Lt. Col. Robert M. Fowler’s 2d Battalion with Battery B, 149th Field Artillery —ran into the 1st Battalion of the 74th Infantry Regiment, IJA 30th Panther Division with a strength of 350 under Major Kasuyoshi Hayashi that was moving north from Kabacan on its return to Malaybalay. Fowler committed his force unit by unit into the fighting. Battery C, 149th Field Artillery, hurriedly unlimbered its 105-mm. howitzers and within twenty minutes delivered accurate support fire, as observers at the front adjusted range by the sounds of the exploding shells. Before the skirmish was over at dawn on 28 April, the 124th Infantry had lost about 10 men killed and 25 wounded and had killed at least 50 Japanese. The Japanese battalion broke and disappeared from the Sayre Highway. After 28 April the 124th Infantry drove on northward against very scattered opposition, delayed mainly by the poor condition of the highway. Guerrilla demolitions, given the finishing touch by engineers of the Southern Sector Unit, had accounted for most of the bridges along the road north of Kabacan, and there were some seventy bridges, in varying states of ruin, from Kabacan north twenty-five miles to the Mulita River.  “With the retreating Japs blowing up about 75 bridges, it made our advancing troops face many problems while crossing streams and ravines,” recalls M/Sgt. Aubrey (Paul) Tillery of the Service Co. who wrote a World War II History of the 124th Infantry after the war. “Getting trucks through with supplies was extremely difficult, At points, we moved jeeps as well as supplies across these places on cables rigged for such purposes. At other times, the “Biscuit Bombers” (C-47 Skytrains) were used.” Deep gorges and landslides induced by heavy rains added to the 31st Division's supply problems. At one point, the 124th Infantry and the 108th Engineer Battalion had to rig cables to get jeeps, quarter-ton trailers, three-quarter-ton weapons carriers, and 105-mm. howitzers across a pair of gorges. It was not until 3 May, when engineer bulldozers completed fills, that the 124th could bring up heavier equipment. Obviously, the 31st Division would have to depend in large measure upon air supply to maintain its advance northward. The 124th  reached Kibawe on 3 May after a 45-mile, five-day push up the Sayre Highway and set up roadblocks north of that barrio, and probed about a mile southeast along the trail that supposedly led to Talomo on Davao Gulf. The advance from Kabacan to Kibawe had cost the 124th Infantry approximately 15 men killed and 50 wounded, while the Southern Sector Unit had lost over 175 men killed. The Talomo Trail Recon in Force Until the first week of May, the 31st Division had been able to employ only one RCT along Sayre Highway. When the 41st Division's 162d Infantry reached eastern Mindanao from Zamboanga, it took over responsibility for the protection of the X Corps rear areas from Parang to Fort Pikit and permitted the 31st Division to bring its 155th RCT forward. The 167th RCT, 31st Division, aided by guerrilla units, protected the supply lines from Fort Pikit to Kibawe. Since two RCTs were now available along Sayre Highway, General Sibert directed the 31st Division to continue northward to clear the highway and to establish contact with the 108th RCT, 40th Division. General Eichelberger, the Eighth Army's commander, had decided to put the 108th ashore at Macajalar Bay both to speed the conquest of Mindanao and to open a new supply route to the 31st Division, the supply problems of which increased with every step its troops took northward. The 31st Division's second job was to strike southeast along the Kibawe-Talomo trail. General Sibert's preoccupation with this maneuver reflects the state of mapping and of weather information the Army had concerning Mindanao. Kibawe was the northern terminus of a supposed Japanese supply trail that twisted and turned south until it reached the ocean shore town of Talomo, a few miles west of Davao City. Sibert soon learned from Colonel Fertig that much of the Kibawe-Talomo trail was a figment of the imagination. After making an aerial reconnaissance over the ground southeast from Kibawe, Eichelberger decided to forego a major effort southeast along the trail from Kibawe and directed Sibert to limit operations on the trail to a battalion-sized reconnaissance-in-force. Since the 24th Division had the situation in Davao, Sibert directed the 31st Division to push one battalion southeast from Kibawe as far as the Pulangi River and with the rest of its available strength to resume the drive up Sayre Highway. A battalion of the 167th Infantry began moving down the Talomo trail on 11 May. Eighteen days were required to reach the Pulangi River, some thirteen miles down the trail, and the sheer physical requirements of occupying the trail soon entailed committing the entire regiment to the operation. Yet even with the assistance of Filipino guerrillas, it took the 167th Infantry until 30 June to move five miles beyond the Pulangi River and seize the Japanese trail-force headquarters at Pinamola Mountains in Kibawe. By that time the enemy was already retreating farther south, and the 167th let them go.  Skirmishing along the trail cost the American regiment 80 men killed and 180 wounded while counting almost 400 Japanese dead. Appalled by the speed of the 31st Division's advance as far as Kibawe, Morozumi directed his units to start assembling at Malaybalay immediately in preparation for retreat eastward to the Agusan Valley. He ordered a battalion of infantry southward to delay the 31st Division in the vicinity of Maramag, fifteen miles north of Kibawe, until 10 May at least, by which date he hoped his main forces would have passed through Malaybalay. The Japanese battalion was hardly in position when the 124th Infantry, which had started north from Kibawe on 6 May, reached Maramag. Into the woods The 124th Infantry had resumed its progress up the Sayre Highway on 6 May and moved into its toughest fight of the Mindanao campaign, if not of the Pacific war itself. The blown bridges, rain, and generally impassable terrain left the artillery battalions farther and farther behind the hard-pushing infantry so there was an initial lack of artillery support. Morozumi had decided to consolidate his 30th Division around Malaybalay before undertaking a final withdrawal eastward into the Agusan Valley. To buy time for this movement, Morozumi ordered Ouchi to engage the enemy while in the dense forest. The 2nd Battalion, 74th Regiment, under the command of Major Hotta, was ordered to Omanay as reinforcement. With no heavy artillery in place, the regiment advanced with the support of a company of 4.2-inch mortars. After only a few hundred yards the regiment encountered the enemy in strength and began the hardest, bloodiest, most costly action during its entire service. The Japanese troops had entrenched themselves in well-prepared and completely camouflaged spider-type pillboxes with connecting tunnels. These lined both sides of Sayre Highway, which was little more than a dirt road. The advancing American soldiers could pass within a few feet of the pillboxes and not see them. The Japanese occupants would let the troops pass and then rise up and shoot the unsuspecting soldiers from behind. An entire morning’s fighting by the 1st Battalion gained 300 yards. “The Japs were effectively dug in and determined to halt our advance at this point,” recalls M/Sgt. Paul Tillery. “Being well prepared for combat and with such strong positions they were able to inflict heavy losses upon our attacking troops. Our foot soldiers attacked these positions time and again, sustaining heavy casualties to no avail.” Since artillery was not available and the supporting mortars were not sufficiently effective against Jap positions, Starr got support from a squadron of Marine SBD dive bombers. For the ensuing six days, they bombed the enemy positions each morning with demolition and firebombs. Each day the hard fighting men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions furiously and relentlessly attacked the positions, but each day [only] a few short yards were gained a ta terrific cost. Describing the concentrated strikes in the Colgan Woods, one of the pilots, First Lieutenant Thurston P. Gilchrist, said: “This was the most heavily bombed area of any in the whole Philippine campaign. The Japs were dug in underneath trees and in foxholes so well that we had to blow up the whole area before the Army could advance. Our Marine observers, who were with the ground liaison party in this area, said the damage was terrible and almost indescribable. Flight after flight of planes bombed and strafed this small area for days. When we began it was a heavily wooded area and when we finished there wasn't anything left but a few denuded trees. It was from these Marine observers that we pilots found out for about the first time how much damage we were doing to the Japanese troops.” On 8 May, VMSB-241(Sons of Satan) and VMSB-133 (Flying Eggbeaters) flew what one squadron report termed "the closest support mission yet flown." The Japanese lines were only 200 yards from the infantrymen of the 31st Division, and the enemy was unyielding. Marked with smoke, the tiny target area was plastered with nearly five tons of bombs, and the Japanese position simply disintegrated. However, the 124ths infantrymen on the ground did not share the Marines’ optimism on the efficacy of their bombing sorties. “It would be days before the sorely missed artillery could get up in order to land their support. In the meantime, Marine dive bombers were called in and made raids for a few days but were not effective against these strong enemy positions,” M/Sgt. Tillery opined. “Our artillery finally arrived and began shelling and in just a few hours on 12  May 1945, our troops were able to move through this area. The remaining Japs retreated from this heavy artillery barrage.” On the same day, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to bypass the bogged down 1st Battalion and secure the Maramag airstrip No. 1 less than two miles to the north. They were caught in the flank by a banzai attack which inflicted heavy casualties. Cries for medics could be heard and the corpsmen of the 124th Medical Detachment dashed into the woods to evacuate the wounded. They, too, were shot down. “The 1st Battalion was stopped and so was the 2nd Battalion on the other side of the road. Many were wounded. The Japs would let us advance so far and then come out of their holes and shoot from behind,” Deas said.  “Their holes were not over two feet wide and were five to seven feet deep with connecting tunnels. It was a devious situation.” “They had prepared these positions well in advance with the intention of wreaking severe damage to any American troops coming up this road. Thus, they were well prepared when our 124th Infantry foot soldiers arrived. Their pillboxes were connected with tunnels, some of which ran under tree roots. The positions were well covered and camouflaged rendering them most difficult to recognize. Troops would pass nearby and not even be aware of these fortifications. Considering these well-built defenses, it’s no wonder it took the artillery to drive them out,” Sgt Tillery noted. Chicago Streetfighter Fr. Thomas Aquinas Colgan, the 124th’s chaplain walked up to the battalion command post, calmly surveyed the situation and said to the command post personnel, "Those are my boys in there. They need me. I should be with them." Staff Sgt. Charles Morgan, who often assisted the priest in his duties, said Father Colgan disregarded a warning from a senior officer that he should not attempt to go into the woods because of snipers. "He just went down the road and walked right into the woods," Morgan recalled. "He must have known that he had little hope of coming out alive." Father Colgan entered the woods amid the fighting. Spotting a wounded man, he began to make his way ducking automatic fire. Suddenly he was hit in the shoulder, but he still continued to crawl through the underbrush until he reached the wounded medic Robert Lee Evans lying in a shell hole. A moment later, a quick burst of machine-gun fire killed Chaplain Colgan instantly. The cruel war Banzai charges struck the 124th, fighting without supporting artillery, first on 7 May and then on the night of 14 May. The latter ended in a rout, as American automatic weapons stopped the attackers, killing 73 Japanese, marking the end of the battle. The 149th Field Artillery managed to get within range on May 12 and after an intense barrage, the 2nd Battalion plus L Company finally pushed through the shrapnel-shredded woods. The Americans named the side of the woods where Chaplain Colgan was killed as Colgan Woods, while the woods on the opposite side of the Sayre Highway they named  Berlin Woods. The woods were finally taken after six days of mortar fire, dive-bombing by Marine SBD dive bombers dropping high explosive and firebombs, and daily infantry assaults. In the fighting for Colgan Woods and Maramag, an area the size of a city block had cost the 124th Infantry Regiment 69 men killed and 177 wounded from 6 to 12 May. In a post-war interrogation, General Morozumi admitted about half of the battalion defending the Colgan woods were killed in action, with the remnants retreating into the mountains to conduct guerrilla warfare. An IJA battalion typically has a complement of 1,100 men in  4 companies of 180 men each, along with other units commanded by a lieutenant colonel. American estimates placed the number of Japanese casualties from this action at 130. The casualties could now be retrieved, and Father Colgan was found, his arms still embracing the man he had tried to save. He was identified by the marks on his uniform. Filipino Guerrillas Before landings, guerrillas harassed Japanese units, provided valuable intelligence about enemy dispositions and the relative suitability of landing beaches. And after each landing, the Filipinos fought alongside the Americans and pursued the Japanese through the island's interior. But in the case of the Battle for Colgan Woods, American officers apparently did not give much weight to intel reports from the two battalions guerrillas in Bukidnon who had joined up with them in the course of their advance, perhaps resulting in more casualties than they should have. “I told Colonel [Edward M.] Starr that a big force of Japanese had dug in around the lake, and advised him to strafe and bomb the area” before proceeding, said Franklin Labaon, in a personal interview conducted by author Ronald K. Edgerton on 29 April 1977 in Kibawe and published in the latter’s book “People of the Middle Ground, A Century of Conflict and Accommodation in Central Mindanao 1880s-1980s.” 1Lt Lieutenant Labaon was the commander of the guerrillas 2nd Battalion,117th Regiment, 109th Division under Lt. Col. James Grinstead. The 117th Regiment under Maj. Waldo McVickers had a personnel complement of 41 officers and 534 enlisted men with headquarters near Mailag. Even though his troops had outdistanced their artillery support, Starr went ahead and sent one company to reconnoiter. They immediately came under heavy enemy fire. In his article The Battle of Pinamaloy published in the April-June 2013 issue of The Army Troopers Newsmagazine, Brig. Gen. Restituto A. Aguilar (ret)., former head of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and currently executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), said the Americans ignored repeated warnings from the guerrillas about the well-entrenched Japanese and would have even suffered more casualties had not the Filipino guerrillas helped them destroy the well-sited Japanese fortifications. “Many of them were barefooted that was why perhaps the Americans thought they were not knowledgeable in the art of fighting,” Gen. Aguilar noted. “They did not have decent uniforms, some were in tattered clothes or old khaki uniforms.” Gen. Aguilar relates how he got first-hand accounts from two former guerrillas who witnessed the brutality of the fighting in the Colgan Woods when he was assigned to Cotabato in 2004. One rued the complete lack of accounts about the battle, while another related how he cried upon seeing the gory scenes of dead Japanese. The terrible scenes of carnage were apparently the reason why many who witnessed the Battle of Colgan Woods were reluctant to talk about it, if at all. (With Marion Hess and Maj. Thomas Deas, MD)

    May 2, 2021

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  • Security in uncertain times: Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas program gives opportunities for returning OFWs amid pandemic

    Security in uncertain times: Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas program gives opportunities for returning OFWs amid pandemic

    Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI), the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the country, has committed to helping overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) via its Balik Pinas program—an initiative that provides repatriated OFWs due to COVID-19 with opportunities to start their own businesses.   Since the program’s expansion in 2020 as a direct response to the pandemic-wrought job crisis, CCBPI has received over 400 inquiries and has thus far assisted over 40 OFWs in becoming business owners who are now part of the Coca-Cola family as distributors or wholesalers.    “By providing livelihood opportunities, especially to those who suddenly found themselves without stable incomes and unable to provide for their families, Coca-Cola is staying true to its pledge to help revive the Philippine economy via job generation and to support Filipinos confronting adversities,” says Gareth McGeown, CEO and President of CCBPI.   CCBPI assists former OFWs in choosing a suitable business model for their area, helps in managing their cash flow and inventory, and sees to it that they are given proper guidance and training until they are prepared and fully equipped to operate on their own—all in all, a sustainable and profitable business founded on practical support from a global beverage brand.   The Company’s goal to assist Filipinos, and consequently revitalize the economy at such a critical time, has been steadily expanding in reach to transform more lives. Further illustrating the program’s success by bringing Coca-Cola to more communities, we follow these Balik Pinas Program pioneers wo have just rewritten the trajectories of their life stories with their inspiring journeys—Melody Carillo, Jo Mari Biara, and Glenn Dela Cerna.      Selfless motherhood rising above a reversal of fortunes   Returning OFW Melody Carillo with her daughter, proudly shows off Sam Yau Consumer Goods Wholesaling—the business she established in Brgy. Kalaisan, Kidapawan through the help of Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas Program.   With her nine-month-old baby in tow, Melody Carillo returned to the Philippines from Hong Kong, following a series of devastations ranging from personal heartache to professional disappointment. She and her then-newborn were abandoned by the child’s father—and then the pandemic collided against the renewal of her contract as a domestic helper and nanny when her employers had to cut costs after losing their own jobs.   Melody’s story was marked by a reversal of fortunes, but she overcame her challenges with her perseverance and her strong will. Upon her unplanned homecoming in September 2020, Melody bravely confronted the need to support her small family. Her original plan to start her own business—the reason she left for Hong Kong in the first place—found footing in her hometown of Brgy. Kalaisan, Kidapawan.   Melody learned of Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas program through Sales Associate Ariel Pocot, and the two discussed how the program could help her achieve her dream of becoming a business owner. At the tail-end of February 2021, Sum Yau Consumer Goods Wholesaling—named after Melody’s daughter—was successfully launched. In just under a month of operations, Sum Yau has bought and sold around 4,200 cases of Coca-Cola beverages.   Melody shares that she is “so happy and blessed” for having been given an opportunity to pursue a livelihood, no matter the personal obstacles she had to face. She credits the Coca-Cola South Davao Sales Team for guiding her through every step of the process, from the initial orientation to her first order and delivery, from establishing a servicing schedule to training her how to sell.     Avenues for altruistic service   Balik Pinas pioneer Jo Mari Baira with Coca-Cola Representatives led by Region Sales Manager Wendell Dayrit, in front of his store in the Municipality of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat. Joms was one of the recipients of OWWA’s Balik Bayani Award 2020.   Jo Mari Baira had been working in Saudi Arabia for nearly seven years as a payroll officer. He considers himself a passionate individual, with a big heart that was increasingly insisting on a life of service for his country—which is why Joms took the chance to return home to reunite with his family in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat and serve his local community.   A different opportunity for service, however, presented itself to Jo Mari upon his return to the Philippines through a friend who convinced him to team up with his sister to start a small business venture. According to Joms, thanks to Coca-Cola’s never-ending support, the business they started since returning home from Saudi has been fruitful since its first day of operations.   “Hindi nila [Coca-Cola] kami iniiwan, everyday open ang komunikasyon, consistent sila sa mga emails at check-ups o sa kamustahan. At natutuwa kami ngayon dahil hindi lamang nagbebenta sila sa amin pero nag-aasist sila palagi,” shares Joms. [Coca-Cola has never left us behind, communication lines were open every day, and they were consistent with their emails and with checking up on us. We’re happy that the relationship is not just based on selling; they are always present to assist us.]   Joms takes pride in the growth of their small business via the Balik Pinas program—an avenue to provide for his family and an opportunity to serve his community. He shares that he plans to expand his small business as a distributor and dealer, involve and engage the rest of the community, and serve as an inspiration to fellow OFWs.     Family at the heart of the business   Now a businessman thanks to the Balik Pinas Program, Glenn Dela Cerna gives a big thumbs up to celebrate the success of his store in Brgy Quezon, Surigao City. Glenn returned home to the Philippines after working for 15-years in Abu Dhabi. He was recognized by DOLE-OWWA during its Balik Bayani Awards 2020.   Another Balik Pinas program pioneer, Glenn Dela Cerna, spent almost 15 years as a construction worker and electrical foreman in Abu Dhabi—to provide for the needs and the welfare of his family back home in Surigao City. The pandemic, however, had him returning home and worrying about the cost of his children’s education given the loss of his long-standing livelihood.   A small business, one he can attend to in the immediate orbit of his family, was the route he took—and Glenn emerged as a businessman and wholesaler with the help of Balik Pinas. Glenn describes how helpful Coke has been, supporting him throughout the challenges of launching a business—which, in his case, involves servicing a more remote area.   “Nag start na kami at within 24 hours may na-deliver na sa amin na mga produkto. Mga 30 to 40 cases na agad, at nagbigay din sila ng cooler, stand, at lalagyan para sa products,” shares Glenn. [Within 24 hours of starting, we received the delivery of around 30 to 40 cases of Coke products. They also sent over a cooler, stands, and containers for products.]   Glenn and his family take pride in their business, particularly in building it from the ground up. Driven by his immense love for family and his determination to reach a more comfortable future, he shares that he would like to stay in the Philippines and further grow his business.      Coca-Cola standing in solidarity with Filipinos   The common thread winding their way through the stories of Balik Pinas pioneers is the drive to secure a better tomorrow for their family. This reflects Coca-Cola’s main goal for the program—to provide opportunities to Filipinos, especially those who have been severely affected by these challenging times, and help restart the local economy by providing individuals the possibility of starting their own livelihood.   According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), over 400,000 OFWs have been repatriated since January 2021. With the help of DOLE and local government units, Coca-Cola aims to reach more OFWs who are interested in starting their own business through Balik Pinas.    For referrals and more details, contact the Coca-Cola contact center at (02)-8813-COKE (2653). Spread the word to be one with the Company in helping our kababayan.

    May 1, 2021

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Security in uncertain times: Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas program gives opportunities for returning OFWs amid pandemic

May 1, 2021

Feature

By: , Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI), the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the country, has committed to helping overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) via its Balik Pinas program—an initiative that provides repatriated OFWs due to COVID-19 with opportunities to start their own businesses.   Since the program’s expansion in 2020 as a direct response to the pandemic-wrought job crisis, CCBPI has received over 400 inquiries and has thus far assisted over 40 OFWs in becoming business owners who are now part of the Coca-Cola family as distributors or wholesalers.    “By providing livelihood opportunities, especially to those who suddenly found themselves without stable incomes and unable to provide for their families, Coca-Cola is staying true to its pledge to help revive the Philippine economy via job generation and to support Filipinos confronting adversities,” says Gareth McGeown, CEO and President of CCBPI.   CCBPI assists former OFWs in choosing a suitable business model for their area, helps in managing their cash flow and inventory, and sees to it that they are given proper guidance and training until they are prepared and fully equipped to operate on their own—all in all, a sustainable and profitable business founded on practical support from a global beverage brand.   The Company’s goal to assist Filipinos, and consequently revitalize the economy at such a critical time, has been steadily expanding in reach to transform more lives. Further illustrating the program’s success by bringing Coca-Cola to more communities, we follow these Balik Pinas Program pioneers wo have just rewritten the trajectories of their life stories with their inspiring journeys—Melody Carillo, Jo Mari Biara, and Glenn Dela Cerna.      Selfless motherhood rising above a reversal of fortunes   Returning OFW Melody Carillo with her daughter, proudly shows off Sam Yau Consumer Goods Wholesaling—the business she established in Brgy. Kalaisan, Kidapawan through the help of Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas Program.   With her nine-month-old baby in tow, Melody Carillo returned to the Philippines from Hong Kong, following a series of devastations ranging from personal heartache to professional disappointment. She and her then-newborn were abandoned by the child’s father—and then the pandemic collided against the renewal of her contract as a domestic helper and nanny when her employers had to cut costs after losing their own jobs.   Melody’s story was marked by a reversal of fortunes, but she overcame her challenges with her perseverance and her strong will. Upon her unplanned homecoming in September 2020, Melody bravely confronted the need to support her small family. Her original plan to start her own business—the reason she left for Hong Kong in the first place—found footing in her hometown of Brgy. Kalaisan, Kidapawan.   Melody learned of Coca-Cola’s Balik Pinas program through Sales Associate Ariel Pocot, and the two discussed how the program could help her achieve her dream of becoming a business owner. At the tail-end of February 2021, Sum Yau Consumer Goods Wholesaling—named after Melody’s daughter—was successfully launched. In just under a month of operations, Sum Yau has bought and sold around 4,200 cases of Coca-Cola beverages.   Melody shares that she is “so happy and blessed” for having been given an opportunity to pursue a livelihood, no matter the personal obstacles she had to face. She credits the Coca-Cola South Davao Sales Team for guiding her through every step of the process, from the initial orientation to her first order and delivery, from establishing a servicing schedule to training her how to sell.     Avenues for altruistic service   Balik Pinas pioneer Jo Mari Baira with Coca-Cola Representatives led by Region Sales Manager Wendell Dayrit, in front of his store in the Municipality of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat. Joms was one of the recipients of OWWA’s Balik Bayani Award 2020.   Jo Mari Baira had been working in Saudi Arabia for nearly seven years as a payroll officer. He considers himself a passionate individual, with a big heart that was increasingly insisting on a life of service for his country—which is why Joms took the chance to return home to reunite with his family in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat and serve his local community.   A different opportunity for service, however, presented itself to Jo Mari upon his return to the Philippines through a friend who convinced him to team up with his sister to start a small business venture. According to Joms, thanks to Coca-Cola’s never-ending support, the business they started since returning home from Saudi has been fruitful since its first day of operations.   “Hindi nila [Coca-Cola] kami iniiwan, everyday open ang komunikasyon, consistent sila sa mga emails at check-ups o sa kamustahan. At natutuwa kami ngayon dahil hindi lamang nagbebenta sila sa amin pero nag-aasist sila palagi,” shares Joms. [Coca-Cola has never left us behind, communication lines were open every day, and they were consistent with their emails and with checking up on us. We’re happy that the relationship is not just based on selling; they are always present to assist us.]   Joms takes pride in the growth of their small business via the Balik Pinas program—an avenue to provide for his family and an opportunity to serve his community. He shares that he plans to expand his small business as a distributor and dealer, involve and engage the rest of the community, and serve as an inspiration to fellow OFWs.     Family at the heart of the business   Now a businessman thanks to the Balik Pinas Program, Glenn Dela Cerna gives a big thumbs up to celebrate the success of his store in Brgy Quezon, Surigao City. Glenn returned home to the Philippines after working for 15-years in Abu Dhabi. He was recognized by DOLE-OWWA during its Balik Bayani Awards 2020.   Another Balik Pinas program pioneer, Glenn Dela Cerna, spent almost 15 years as a construction worker and electrical foreman in Abu Dhabi—to provide for the needs and the welfare of his family back home in Surigao City. The pandemic, however, had him returning home and worrying about the cost of his children’s education given the loss of his long-standing livelihood.   A small business, one he can attend to in the immediate orbit of his family, was the route he took—and Glenn emerged as a businessman and wholesaler with the help of Balik Pinas. Glenn describes how helpful Coke has been, supporting him throughout the challenges of launching a business—which, in his case, involves servicing a more remote area.   “Nag start na kami at within 24 hours may na-deliver na sa amin na mga produkto. Mga 30 to 40 cases na agad, at nagbigay din sila ng cooler, stand, at lalagyan para sa products,” shares Glenn. [Within 24 hours of starting, we received the delivery of around 30 to 40 cases of Coke products. They also sent over a cooler, stands, and containers for products.]   Glenn and his family take pride in their business, particularly in building it from the ground up. Driven by his immense love for family and his determination to reach a more comfortable future, he shares that he would like to stay in the Philippines and further grow his business.      Coca-Cola standing in solidarity with Filipinos   The common thread winding their way through the stories of Balik Pinas pioneers is the drive to secure a better tomorrow for their family. This reflects Coca-Cola’s main goal for the program—to provide opportunities to Filipinos, especially those who have been severely affected by these challenging times, and help restart the local economy by providing individuals the possibility of starting their own livelihood.   According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), over 400,000 OFWs have been repatriated since January 2021. With the help of DOLE and local government units, Coca-Cola aims to reach more OFWs who are interested in starting their own business through Balik Pinas.    For referrals and more details, contact the Coca-Cola contact center at (02)-8813-COKE (2653). Spread the word to be one with the Company in helping our kababayan.

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The Mystery on 17th Street by Annie Gorra | Kagay-anon’s novel now part of digital libraries in US, Canada

April 18, 2021

Feature

By: , The Mystery on 17th Street, a local book set in Cagayan de Oro and written by a Kagay-anon is now part of the digital catalogue of the public library of the City of New Westminster in British Columbia. The book written by Annie Gorra, a Kagay-anon who resides in British Columbia, Canada, is set on 17th Street Nazareth and tells the story of families living on the street as seen through the eyes of a young boy named Agustin. He recalls with nostalgia the life he lived there with his mother and father, his two friends and his neighbours, one of whom was an old irascible woman they suspected was a witch.  They climbed trees, swam in rivers and learned life lessons including justice when Agustin’s father stood up to the military to save the life of a young mother. In presenting the book for consideration to the New Westminster Public Library, Gorra said that the book will most likely be strange to most Canadians, but reading about strange things is part of growing up and learning.  It opens a window to learn about a culture and how people (children and adults) live their lives in other places of the world.  “I hope it will find space in the New West Public Library Catalogue,” Gorra said. After being reviewed, it was added to the library’s digital catalogue. Alicia Dobbs of the New Westminster Public Library said in a statement: “We are happy to include books from local authors that are relatively new, that fill a gap in our collection, and/or may be of interest to our community. After reading a bit of it I do think that the slower pace, poetic style, and themes of nostalgia and social commentary will make it most appealing to adult readers who enjoy memoir and autobiographical fiction, though perhaps some more sophisticated young readers who are looking for something out of the ordinary will find it interesting!” The Mystery on 17th Street is also part of the digital catalogue of the Kalamazoo Public Library in Michigan, USA. The book is published by Anvil Publishing Inc in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. It was a finalist in the Gintong Aklat Awards in 2018.

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The Live Or Die (LOD) Unit of the Mindanao Guerrillas

April 8, 2021

Feature

By: Raul B. Ilogon, In time for the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan, I would like to honor a group of patriots whose small but dangerous organization was credited to have contributed materially to the eventual defeat of  the enemy during World War II. The herioc story of these young men and women must be told. "That the organization was so effective in causing damage to the enemy is evidenced by the fact that, about 20 percent of the total membership were executed by the Japanese, " Col. Wendell Fertig,  Commanding Officer, 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines ( USFIP ). Col. Fertig was not talking about the 36,000 strong guerrilla combatants in Mindanao under his command but rather to a  small propaganda, intelligence and sabotage unit with a recognized strength of 74 members in Manila under his command.  Members of this group regularly took clandestine trips to Mindanao to the headquarters of the 10th Military District highly valuable intelligence materials like information on the location of American POW concentration camps, strength of Japanese garrisons, number of planes in Japanese airfields, troops movement as well as movements of Japanese ships, gun placement and the like. On their return trip to Manila, contraband cargoes of their two-masted inter-island bancas included demolition materials like hand grenades, blasting caps, plastic and incendiary time bombs, radio transmitters for distribution to select guerrilla groups in Luzon, medicines, money and propaganda materials like chocolates candy and cigarettes with I Shall Return markings, and magazines such as Readers Digest, Life, Victory, Look and Library. Aside from propaganda and information gathering, their operation also includes sabotage, liquidation of spies and collaborators. At one time an order was received to eliminate Japanese puppet Pres. Laurel, Gen. Francisco and General Kuruda of the Japanese Imperial Army. Due to the high risks inherent in the type of operations undertaken by the unit, 19 of their 93 members were executed by the Japanese. Several others were captured and tortured but miraculously released including 5 young women. Only 3 out 9 original members of the core group survived.  LOD Founders pay the price Among those executed by the Japanese was the founding leader Capt. Jose O. Flores, who was only 25 years old at the time of his execution. His 21 year old brother and two cousins were also executed. Fortunately, his two other brothers who were also members of his organization survived the war. Capt. Jose O. Flores, a 24 year old former officer of the Philippine Scouts from the municipality of Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental, was the organizer of Live or Die, popularly known in the underground movement as LOD. Their group specialized in information gathering, propaganda, sabotage and assassination.  "The members have unanimously approved of calling the organization LOD because it was something suicidal, something so sensitive that a destructive explosion was fearlessly being hinted anytime. In a more simple way, it was literally "Live or Die," reads the Report on LOD History submitted to Fertig by Capt.Julian L. Alvarez . Capt. Flores was a Bataan Death March survivor. When he was released from Capas concentration camp he wasted no time in organizing a Sabotage and Espionage underground group. On Dec 1, 1942, inspired by the promise of Gen MacArthur to return and provoked by the cruelty of the Japanese regime, Capt. Flores started organizing the Live or Die ( LOD ) while still recuperating from an illness he got in concentration camp. The core group was composed of close friends and relatives of Capt. Jose Flores . He was the Commanding Officer and also the head of Intelligence Detachment. His brother, 1st Lt Teodorico was the executive officer. The Sabotage Detachment was commanded by his cousin, Capt. Pedro Enerio with 1Lt Antonio Rivera as executive officer. Capt. Maximo Blas, a reserve officer before the war whose wife was a town mate of Capt. Flores, was the Commanding Officer of Propaganda Detachment. The EO was 1Lt Pulturico Tabanao. All these leaders were later executed by the Japanese. In Sept. 10, 1943, 1Lts Ricardo and Guillermo Flores, brothers of Capt. Flores were released from Capas concentration camp. 1Lt Ricardo Flores took over command of Intelligence Detachment from his older brother Jose. 2lt Guillermo Flores  and their cousin 2lt. Roberto Velasquez who were assigned to the Courier Detachment. All were similarly executed  by the Japanese. The LOD was composed of  unsurrendered soldiers who escaped from Bataan and those who were released from Japanese concentration camp at Capas, Tarlac. There were also women recruits, young but brave ànd courageous. The work of LOD Sabotage Detachment delivered the most devastating blows on the enemy in the history of the guerrilla.  The targeted facilities for demolitions were oil, ammunition dump and other military facilities.  For a starter, the tunnel in San Juan, Manila, that was used as an ammunition dump was completely destroyed  but the ammunition failed to detonate. Not long after,  their success rate was increasing from 75 to 100% in terms of damage to the enemy installations and war logistical resources, such as  the oil depot at the Manila Port Area that burned and took the whole day and night to put out with 75% of the facility destroyed. They also sabotaged a Japanese oil tanker whose blast so damaged a nearby destroyer that both sank as a result. The sabotage unit's  biggest sabotage  was the complete destruction of the former  Navy Yard in Cavite which so alarmed Caviteños who thought they were being bombed by the liberating US forces. It was considered by the U.S. and the Guerrilla Forces as the biggest Sabotage in Guerrilla History.  Their intelligence reports were accurate, reliable and of great value and were forward to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Australia by Col. Fertig. Through their Propaganda Detachment, they were successful in countering Japanese propaganda. Leaflets containing messages from President Manuel L. Quezon were also distributed along with the aforementioned "I Shall Return" marked collaterals and American magazines and other reading materials. Col. Bernard Anderson, CO of Anderson Guerrilla in Northern Luzon who often coordinated with LOD had nothing high praises to this group of young men and women.  "It was my opinion that the LOD unit  that operated in Luzon  was a unit of 15 to 20 very high caliber individuals." Col Anderson testified in an signed affidavit issued after the war.    To be continued. Source: World War 2 Declassified Documents, National Archives and Records Administration ( NARA )

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Heroes de Bataan: Death March Survivors fight again in Mindanao

April 7, 2021

Feature

By: MIKE BAÑOS, Photos of Camp Casisang in Malaybalay,Bukidnon by {Pvt. Robert B. Heer, 30th Bomb. Sqdn, 19th Bomb. Gp. (H) when he was a POW.   United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) soldiers from Northern Mindanao who fought in Bataan and survived the Death March  managed to find their way back to Cagayan de Misamis and joined the guerrillas to continue the fight against the Imperial Japanese Army garrison troops. We feature some of their stories to commemorate our Araw ng Kagitingan and celebrate the memory of their valor and sacrifice for their beloved Philippines so that we may have the freedom we enjoy today.   The Tiano Brothers Perhaps the most remarkable Kagay-anon patriots were the Tiano siblings, for whom the Tiano Brothers street in Cagayan de Oro is named after. No less than six of the siblings, five males and one female, were involved in the war versus the Japanese occupiers in World War II. The eldest Ronaldo, was a 1st Lt. with the 7th School Squadron of the nascent Philippine Army Air Force (PAAC) Class 41-B, based at Maniquis Airfield in Cabanatuan under Lt. Benito Ebuen. They were equipped with the Stearman 76D-1 and 3 other aircraft. They also had an instructional airframe of an obsolete Martin B-10 Bomber (not in flying condition) also in Maniquis Air Field. He survived the Bataan Death March, but was released by the Japanese from the POW Camp in Capas, Tarlac and instructed to report to the Japanese headquarters in Cagayan. He came home wearing his full PAAC uniform. Instead, he joined the 120th Infantry Regiment under Maj. Angeles Limena as one of his staff. After the war he joined the newly organized Philippine Air Force (PAF) but left after 18 months to join Philippine Airlines (PAL). He died in a plane crash on Jan. 24, 1950. The second eldest sibling Nestor  was killed in action at the young age of 24 while repelling a Japanese attack at Aglaloma Point, Bataan on Jan. 23, 1942. Apollo became a 2nd Lt. and platoon leader of “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based in Initao, Misamis Oriental. He died fighting with the 19th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) defending Hill 191 (also called Arsenal Hill) and Hill Eerie, comprising Combat Outpost No. 8  at the Chorwon-Siboni corridor in the west central sector of  Korea on June 20,1952 while repelling a superior force of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. The Philippine Navy’s BRP Apollo Tiano (now decommissioned) was named in his honor. Uriel became a sergeant of “A” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based at Pangayawan, Alubijid, Misamis Oriental, and ended the war in the Signal Corps. The youngest brother Jaime was a private first class at only 15 years of age, and served as a medical aide of the 120th Regimental Hospital together with his sister 1st Lt. Fe B. Tiano (RN), who was the unit’s sole regimental nurse at the regimental hospital at Talacogon, Lugait, Misamis Oriental. As Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon relates in his unpublished manuscript, Memoirs of a Guerrilla: The Barefoot Army, “Lt. Fe Tiano and PFC Jaime Tiano were engrossed in their hospital work, tending to the sick of the regimental hospital. They were so busy that they forgot to apply for their vacation, and when they did, it would be disapproved.” “This is the story of the Tianos-brave and courageous, their battles are now part of history. While they went to war, their parents Emilia Bacarrisas and Leocadio Tiano and two sisters Ruth and Emily were left in Lapad (Alubijid, now part of Laguindingan), to stoke the home fires burning,” Ilogon noted.    The Fighting Moreno Brothers Very few of the current generation are aware fifteen members of the Moreno clan of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, fought together under one guerrilla unit based in this town. All survived the war and went on to establish their own families and had children who are now prominent figures in their own right. Most prominent among the fifteen were four male offspring of the seven sons and three daughters of Jose Gonzales Moreno and Josefina Almendrala who served with the 110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division (Guerrilla) of the 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) during World War II, along with a son-in-law married to the eldest of their three daughters. The third son Rodolfo joined the USAFFE and fought in Bataan, captured by the Japanese and survived the death march after which he was held captive and tortured in Capas, Tarlac. He was later released after taking an oath of allegiance to Imperial Japan and found his way back to  Balingasag where he joined his siblings Redentor, Emeterio Sr. and Manuel in the guerrillas. (see related story on page 4) Their brother in law Papias Tiro, who married their eldest sister Humildad, also fought in the same guerrilla unit. The three other brothers were Metelo, Taurino and Jose, Jr., and the two younger sisters Purisima and Nieves.   Rodolfo A. Moreno The third oldest sibling 3rd Lt. Rodolfo A. Moreno, probably had the most colorful wartime career among the four sons of Jose Moreno who joined the guerrillas. Born on  05 June 1920 in Balingasag, Rodolfo was a college student and cadet officer at the Ateneo de Cagayan when World War II broke out and enlisted in the Philippine Army and subsequently absorbed into the USAFFE under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. “He was a cadet officer of Ateneo de Cagayan when  he was enlisted,” said his son, Fr. Antonio F. Moreno, S.J.  “It led him to the fall of Bataan and then to Capas, Tarlac.  He hardly spoke about his ordeal and torture in Capas.  My grandparents were told he had died.  They had a requiem Mass for him owing to an account of his friend.  My father was so furious, but happy to be reunited with his siblings and parents.” Notes on the Philippine Army of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Digitized Collection) show that before the war Rodolfo served as a clerk at the General Headquarters.  On January 1, 1941, in the opening salvo of the war, he was inducted under the Provisional Battalion, 31st Infantry, Philippine Army as Platoon Sergeant. The 31st Inf., PA under Brigadier General Clifford Bluemel was tasked with protecting the coast of Zambales but was pulled out to Bataan on 7 January 1942 to form the protective line along with the Abucay-Morong position under the I Philippine Corps defending the left flank of the USAFFE forces in Bataan and its coastal areas facing the sea.  The 31st Infantry led a counterattack on January 20 to relieve the 51st Infantry, Philippine Army of the II Philippine Corps protecting the right flank of the Bagac-Pilar line. During the lull, Vet. Moreno was transferred to the 3rd Battalion of the unit, composed of the I, K, L, and M companies. After the Fall of Bataan, Moreno became a prisoner-of-war and was released before Christmas of 1942.  After surviving the Bataan Death March, and incarceration at Capas, Rodolfo was released after taking an oath of allegiance to Imperial Japan and managed to slip back to Mindanao where he joined the guerrillas, serving with the Headquarters of the 110th Regiment. Before his passing on 28 January  1978, Rodolfo was active in the Cursillo Movement during the 1970s. “Refined. Reserved. Resolute. Reformed,” is how Antonio describes his father who would have turned 101 this year. “ Not a saint, but he tried to be good to others. Forever grateful in our hearts. On your birth centenary, pray for us and for the healing of our world.”   Angeles L. Limena While our third patriot did not fight in Bataan and did not suffer the Death March, he and his men were similarly force marched from his command at Cagayan to Camp Casisang, in Malaybalay Bukidnon, previously a training ground for the Philippine Constabulary, where American and Filipino prisoners-of-war (POWs) were incarcerated.   Soldier-Priest Angeles Labrador Limena was born October 2, 1899 in Sorsogon, Sorsogon. He was christened Angeles by his parents Angeles since his  birth date fell on the Feast of the Catholic festival of the Guardian Angels. He went to study in Sorsogon to be a priest, but before he was ordained he left to join the armed forces in Manila where he was accepted into the Philippine Constabulary. Limena was assigned to the School for Reserve Commission in Camp Keithley, Lanao (now the Philippine Army Officer Candidate School at Camp O’Donnel, Capas, Tarlac) where the American camp commander noticed his all around abilities and sent him for formal military training to the Philippine Constabulary Academy at Camp Henry T. Allen, which eventually became the Philippine Military Academy in 1936. However, before he was assigned to Baguio, Limena met and married Mary Figuro Kelley while he was at Camp Keithley. Mary was the daughter of Marion Lee Kelley from Grand Rapids, Michigan, a US Army veteran who fought in Cuba during Spanish-American War, and came to the Philippines to help educate the Filipinos. When World War II broke out, Limena was assigned as the Provincial Commander of  Camp 1Lt Vicente Garcia Alagar, Cagayan de Misamis, Misamis Oriental. Major General William F. Sharp, commander of the USAFFE Mindanao Force, on orders of Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright from Corregidor, ordered all American and Filipino soldiers under his command to surrender to the Japanese on May 9, 1942. Limena surrendered Camp Alagar to the Kawamura Detachment on May 10, 1942, and he and all his men were forced to walk from Cagayan to Camp Casisang, in Malaybalay Bukidnon, previously a training ground for the Philippine Constabulary.   Another Death March? Although Google maps says it usually takes a one hour and 54 minute ride to negotiate its 93 kilometers, the old Sayre Highway which the marchers took was a much longer route, and definitely as long as, if not more brutal than the Bataan Death March. It has an all uphill stretch at Carmen Hill in Upper Puerto and a particularly difficult stretch through the Mangima Canyon where it dips down gorges and up cliffs as deep and high as 420 meters. Older folks from Malayabalay used to say it took them around 5-6 hours to travel to Cagayan by motor vehicle over the old route. “I became a Prisoner of War of the Japanese Imperial Army on May 10, 1942 on the island of Mindanao in the Philippine Archipelago. On that date all U.S. armed forces were ordered by our commanders to lay down their weapons and to surrender to the Japanese,” reads the personal account of Pvt. First Class Robert W. Phillips, an Aircraft and Engine Mechanic, Second Class, crew chief and flight engineer with the 28th Bombardment Squadron stationed at Del Monte Airfield. “Immediately after our surrender we were ordered to make our way to the Philippine Army cantonment called Camp Casisang, near Malaybalay, Bukidnon Province. I walked most of that distance before catching a ride in one of our trucks whose destination was the same as mine.” However, even before the Japanese evacuated all POWs from it on August and October 1942, Limena managed to escape, walking towards Misamis Oriental, avoiding Japanese soldiers, crossing rivers, forests and mountains. He reached Alubijid where he meet few of his trusted soldiers guarding his family.   Guerrillas Organized On September 22, 1942, Limena organized the Western Misamis Oriental Sector Guerrilla at Manticao, Misamis Oriental, around the core group of Ramon Legazpi, Sr. The covered the province from Lugait, Misamis Oriental to Ugyaban river, Cagayan. Unsurrendered soldiers from the USAFFE, Philippine Constabulary, Philippine Army and Philippine Scouts comprised the fighting core while fishermen, farmers, students from surrounding barrios also volunteered to serve as civilian volunteers. Among the ranking officers who reported to Major Limena upon the creation of his guerrilla were Major Juan Taduran, Capt. Laureto Talaroc, Capt. Carlos Subang, Capt. Porferio Pakingan, Capt. Ricardo Abellanosa, Capt. Magno, Capt. Vicente Austria, and Capt. Antonio Ognir. Major Juan Taduran, a Bicolano, inducted the new officers-Lt. Ramon Legaspi Sr., Lt. Salvador Legaspi, Lt. Paterno Padua, Lt. Elson Lagrosas, Lt. Paterno Lagrosas, Lt. Elegio Pacana, Lt. Jose Carlos, Lt. Alfonso Dadole, Lt. Ben Johnson Ratunil, Lt. Gang Wilkomm, Lt. George Wilkomm, Lt. Jose Gabe, Lt. Eutiquio Madriaga, Lt. Amado Ravidas, Lt. Monico Chaves, Lt. Herculano Babatido, Lt. Edipalo Lagrosas, Lt. Jesus Juario, Lt. Romeo Villaraza, and Lt. Elpedio Lagrosas. On November 28, 1942, Limena was designated Regimental Commander of the 109th Infantry Regiment. 109th Division by Col. Wendell W. Fertig. His assigned officers and their designated area of responsibility included Lt. (later Maj.) Fidencio Laplap’s 1st Battalion, covered Lumbia District to el Salvador, Cagayan; Capt. Carlos Subang’s 2nd Battalion, covered Alubijid to Initao, Misamis Oriental; and Capt. Vicente Austria’s 3rd Battalion, covered Naawan, Initao to Lugait, Misamis Oriental.  Perhaps it was only fitting that Limena returned to his Creator on April 9, 1976, appropriately enough the 34th Anniversary of the  Araw ng Kagitingan.     The zigzag road portion of the Sayre Highway in Mangima Canyon, Tankulan, dips and rises in gorges and cliffs as high as 420 meters. (NARA)

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The Normin Economy in 2020: Despite contraction, outlook for Region X economy shows silver linings

May 2, 2021

Billboard

By: , The economy of Northern Mindanao contracted by approximately 5.2 percent in the pandemic year of 2020, losing P44.9 billion with its Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) declining to P 822.6 billion from P 867.4 billion in the previous year. The Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) is one of the measures being released by the Philippine Statistics Authority every year. The GRDP measures economic performance from the perspective of the producers of goods and services. It covers the value of goods and services produced in the region during the reference period. Despite this however, there remains many glimpses of a silver lining as the region moves forward into its second pandemic year. Region X was third among the 17 regions in terms of the slowest contraction of their regional economies, trailing only SOCCKSKARGEN (-4.3 percent) and BARMM (-1.9 percent). The region was also one of the ten regional economies which posted a decline slower than the national contraction rate of -9.6 percent. By industry, the region recorded the slowest decrease in Education and Other Services. Moreover, the region registered the third-fastest decrease in Transportation and Storage, and fifth fastest decrease in Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, and Accommodation and Food Services.  On the other hand, the region registered the second-fastest growth in Manufacturing among the 17 regions, third-fastest growth in Electricity, steam, water, waste management among the 17 regions a,  fourth-fastest growth in Financial and insurance activities. Manufacturing, Electricity, Financial and Insurance; Information and Communication; and Steam, Water and Waste Management still managed to grow by 11.0 percent, 8.0 percent, 4.7 percent, and 4.4 percent, respectively, despite the pandemic.  Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing was the only major sector which grew by 1.5 percent. Even with a 6.3 percent decline, the region still had the second-highest real per capita GRDP among the 17 regions. The GRDP value accounted for each person in the region is described by per capita GRDP, which decreased to P163,952 in 2020.  With the recorded decline in Northern Mindanao’s GRDP, all major expenditure items recorded declines in 2020 except Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE), which increased by 13.0 percent, which was the fastest increase in government spending since 2019 among regions. Structure of the Regional Economy The economy of the region is predominantly Services-based. Services accounted for 53.1 percent of the total regional economy, followed by Industry accounting for 25.2 percent, and Agriculture, forestry, and fishing (AFF) with 21.7 percent share. AFF and Industry increased their shares to the regional economy in 2020 while Services had a decreased share. Household Final Consumption Expenditure shared the bulk of the total regional expenditure Looking at the shares of expenditures, household final consumption expenditure had the biggest share to the total expenditure at 54.7 percent, with government final consumption expenditure contributing the least share of 12.9 percent.  Region X ranked second among the 17 regions in terms of share of spending in Gross Fixed Capital Formation in Breeding Stocks and Orchard Development at 10.3 percent amounting to P40.1 billion. Moreover, the region ranked second in terms of share of spending in Valuables reaching P 0.16 billion, which constituted 22.5 percent of the total national spending in Valuables.  Net Exports to the Rest of the Philippines as the top positive contributor to GRDE growth The main drivers of economic growth on the expenditure side are the Net exports to the rest of the Philippines and Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE).  Gross Capital Formation as the top negative contributor to GRDE decline On the other hand, expenditures that contributed most to the contraction of the region’s economy were: Gross Capital Formation with a contribution of  -4.5 percentage points and household spending with -4.1 percentage points. Real per capita HFCE  Real per capita HFCE, which is the amount of household spending per person,  decreased by 8.5 percent in 2020. The real per capita HFCE in the region was recorded at P 89,612 in 2020, lower by 24.5 percent from the national level real per capita HFCE of P118,723.  The Gross Regional Domestic Expenditure (GRDE) measures the economic performance of a region from the perspective of the expenditures of residents of the region. This represents the final value of goods and services produced in the region during the reference period. It is defined as the expenditure of residents of the region in the domestic territory plus their expenditures in other regions, including the rest of the world.  Most affected The main drivers of the region’s economic contraction were: Construction (-21.7 percent); Wholesale and Retail Trade, Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles (-5.7 percent), and Transportation and Storage (39.5 percent).  Services had the fastest decline of -9.0 percent among the major industries. Among the industries under Services, Accommodation and Food Service had the biggest decline (-49.6 percent), followed by Transportation and Storage (-39.5 percent), and Real Estate and Ownership of Dwelling (-14.4 percent).  The Industry declined by 1.9 percent with Construction recording the fastest decline (-21.7 percent).  Among the industries, the three biggest industries in 2020 were the following: Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles with a decreased share of 26.8 percent, followed by Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (+21.7 percent share), and Manufacturing (+13.0 percent share).  In terms of the percentage share to the Philippine economy, Northern Mindanao had the seventh biggest share of the Philippine economy at 4.7 percent. Moreover, Region X contributed -0.2 percentage points to the Philippine economic decline of 9.6 percent in 2020, making it the ninth biggest contributor to the GDP decline. (JANITH C. AVES, CE, DM, Chief Statistical Specialist, Officer-in-Charge, PSA-10)

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International Pilots Day: Enabling dreams to take flight

May 2, 2021

Billboard

By: Michelle Rose F. Lim, The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.”  As the world celebrates World Pilots’ Day, get to know three dedicated aviation professionals and proud pilots of Cebu Pacific, which has made the education of aspiring Juans one of its pillars to enable their dreams to take flight. Beyond safely and comfortably flying passengers to their destinations, these aviation professionals also take satisfaction in knowing that they’ve played valuable roles in our nation’s ongoing fight against COVID-19, as well as during disasters—be it through cargo flights that carry much-needed aid and relief goods, or through sweeper flights to bring people home to their loved ones. While the past year may have been difficult for every Juan, it is also during these turbulent times that passion in everything our pilots do, coupled with the best of the Filipino spirit, was made manifest. A childhood dream takes off Many young dreamers hope to become pilots and take to the skies someday. Captain Bensie Tan, the youthful fleet manager of the A320/A321 aircraft of Cebu Pacific, was one of those dreamers. “My mom tells me that, noong bata pa ako, [when I still was a kid] I’d always say, ‘I want to be a pilot,’” shares the 35-year-old father of two, whose wife is also a Cebu Pacific pilot.  Despite coming from a traditional Chinese-Filipino family of businessmen and professionals, Tan was made aware early on that sending him to flight school was something they couldn’t afford, even with his Aeronautical Engineering degree from PATTS College of Aeronautics. Luckily, he got word of Cebu Pacific’s pilot program which includes sponsorship of half of the needed fees to get licensed. With the odds evidently being in his favor, he got accepted to the program in 2007. “There were a lot of bumps and obstacles along the way,” Tan recounts. “What was supposed to be a 1-year course took us over two years to finish.” But his perseverance paid off, and he formally joined the Cebu Pacific team in 2009. Tan also steadily rose through the ranks at the airline known for enabling everyJuan to fly: from limited first officer to regular first officer; to Captain, and thence as instructor and examiner; and now as part of the management team. “Our leaders have steered towards the direction that will not only get us through these arduous times, but more importantly come out better prepared, equipped, and well-rounded than ever before—with the strength to face any challenge going forward,” he added. An early passion for flying As a young elementary school student, First Officer Neil Mark Enriquez would save his daily allowance so he could buy plastic model airplanes, which he would line up in his room after assembling them. This childhood hobby exposed him early on to different types of aircraft, allowing him at a young age to easily identify them. “I already knew what a 747 or an A-10 was. Or even an F-14,” beams the Cagayan de Oro native. It was when he first saw and rode an Airbus during a flight to Manila from CDO that Enriquez knew he wanted to be a pilot—only that it took him a while to get there, graduating first with a degree in Library and Information Science. But thanks to Cebu Pacific, he was able to go through intensive aviation training in Australia to make his childhood passion a career. Following his first solo flight, Enriquez is now a First Officer assigned to Cebgo’s ATR fleet. He remains grateful to the airline for opening many doors he would otherwise never have been able to pursue. “I'm glad to be part of a company that exemplifies its values by investing in their people, by fostering diversity, and equipping them for eventual leadership in the service of the flying public.” The sky’s the limit For First Officer Tiffany Piccio, being a commercial pilot was a dream for as long as she could remember. “I was just amazed at how such huge metal ships could carry so many people at such high altitudes,” she recalls. When she later saw a man and a woman in the cockpit, she realized that women could be pilots too! Owing to the opportunities given by Cebu Pacific through a study now-pay later program, Piccio is well on her way towards reaching the peak of her career plans in the aviation industry, as part of the country’s growing number of female pilots. “I’ve met a lot of lovely women who are either studying or having a successful career as an air traffic controller, air force jet pilot, and even an aircraft mechanic!” she shares. “Thanks to Cebu Pacific for not only making everyJuan fly but also for making my dreams come true and giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This simply proves that no matter who you are, no matter your background, if you put your mind to it, you definitely can!” As the carrier celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, it continues to salute its pilots, crew, and other frontliners who play vital roles in enabling everyJuan to fly safely for #MoreSmilesAhead.

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Coca-Cola signs MOU with Batanes local government; will empty Eco Center of used PET bottles for recycling

April 29, 2021

Billboard

By: , Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI)—the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the country—and the Municipality of Basco, Batanes held a fitting commemoration of Earth Day on April 22 by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the collection and recycling of PET bottles.    Batanes is considered a prime tourism destination and is part of the tentative list for inscription in the UNESCO-World Heritage List—which the Philippine government has been pursuing through the establishment of art and conservation projects within the island province.    Due to various factors, such as the need for a more robust waste management system, the Batanes capital Basco faces a critical issue over its waste disposal processes.   As part of its World Without Waste vision, Coca-Cola reached out to the Basco local government with a proposal to clear Basco’s Eco Center of about 20,000 kilograms or 20 tons of post-consumer recyclable PET bottles, which have accumulated throughout the years. Further to this, the MOU also establishes a post-consumer PET flow from Batanes to Gen. Trias, Cavite—where Coca-Cola and Indorama Venture’s bottle-to-bottle recycling facility PETValue will rise.    “This project is very important to us because for the longest time, it has been a challenge especially for our MENRO on how we can take out from Basco the piled up PET bottles [in our area]. The Municipal government’s budgetary and operational limitation hamper us from doing a big scale transport of our PET bottles, and there are only a few junkshops that operate in Basco who can help us ship out these materials.” said Mayor Demetrius C. Narag of Basco, during a virtual signing ceremony.   Mayor Narag, in his address to CCBPI representatives, said, “On behalf of the whole community of Basco, we are sending you our heartfelt thanks for initiating this project. This morning signifies our commitment to our partnership.”  PETValue and value in every PET bottle    “We are grateful to the Basco local government for welcoming us as a partner in the collective pursuit of a World Without Waste. There is inherent value in every post-consumer PET bottle as a 100% recyclable material, and these, therefore, should not be stockpiled in dumpsites,” said Atty. Juan Lorenzo Tañada, Director for Corporate & Regulatory Affairs, Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc.    “What we will collect from Basco will be used as initial feedstock for PETValue’s processes,” adds Tañada, “and we will be storing them responsibly while we wait for the facility to be operational.”    In 2019, Coca-Cola embarked on building the country’s first bottle-to-bottle, food-grade recycling facility called PETValue Philippines. In partnership with Indorama Ventures, a global leader in green technologies, this PHP1B facility is set to have the capacity to process approximately 30,000 metric tons/ year or almost 3 billion pieces of plastic bottles.   In 2020, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investments (BOI) granted PETValue a pioneer technology status, which means that PETValue’s green technologies and processes are the first of their kind in the country.    Coca-Cola aims to establish a circular economy for its packaging by collecting clear bottles made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—even those produced by other manufacturers—and create a value chain that will make it for these recyclable materials to be collected and recycled. PETValue will also generate more jobs for Filipinos, overall contributing to economic recovery alongside ecological welfare.  The construction of the PETValue facility in General Trias, Cavite is underway and is projected to be completed by Q4 of 2021. Coca-Cola has been working with local government units and NGO partners to help build the recycling facility’s feedstock or stored post-consumer PET bottles to ensure enough input will be fed into the facility. A commitment to packaging innovation and energy and water sustainability In 2019, Coca-Cola changed the iconic Sprite green packaging to clear PET to increase recyclability. Clear PET plastic bottles have the highest recyclability compared to colored ones. The Company has also been delivering solid results in its energy efficiency and water replenishment targets. Water savings initiatives in operations and community projects such as the Coca-Cola Foundation PH’s AGOS program, have enabled the Company to achieve an estimated 112% water replenishment.  In March of 2021, Coca-Cola completed the installation of 14,000 solar panels in three of its plants, in a move toward more expansive renewable energy sourcing. To date, 65% of the CCBPI’s total energy consumption across the Philippines is sourced from clean and renewable sources.   “Our partnership with Basco has effectively opened up the vast potential of PET collection for recycling here in the Philippines,” says Tañada. “This is only the beginning, and we at CCBPI will continue working with our partners for sustainability.”   

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Gaisano Tubod Mall opens May 15

April 28, 2021

Billboard

By: , The first shopping mall in Lanao del Norte province is set to officially open on May 15, 2021. Gaisano Tubod is a  3-storey Mall, the first mall in Lanao del Norte outside Iligan City located along the National Highway near Poblacion, Tubod at the intersection of the Panguil Bay Bridge Project Access Road. Gaisano Marketing Manager Gabby Bacarro said Gaisano Tubod Mall is complete with Supermarket, Department Store, Health & Beauty Cosmetics, Appliance Center, Hardy’s Do-It-Yourself, Kitchenware & Furniture, Textiles, Steven’s Gourmet (Breads & Pastries), and a soon-to-open fast food section. “Mall hours will be from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily,” Bacarro said.   It also has spacious parking areas located at the front, left side, and rear of the mall. The project broke ground in March 2019 but construction was delayed by quarantine measures imposed by the national and provincial governments following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction of the project resumed on July 2020. Gaisano Tubod is the latest in a chain of shopping malls in Mindanao owned and operated by Unipace Corporation, which includes Gaisano City Mall in Cagayan de Oro (with branches in Puerto and Bulua), Gaisano Iligan, Gaisano Malaybalay, Gaisano Valencia and Gaisano Butuan.

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Data Science, AI to accelerate Aboitiz businesses’ growth

February 1, 2021

Technology

By: , The Aboitiz Group is fully embracing the use of digital technology, pushing for further innovation, a change in the way that it operates its various businesses through the use of data-driven solutions and Artificial Intelligence. For a hundred year-old company that has witnessed how technology has progressed from the beginning of the 20th century to what it is today, Aboitiz has no plans on stopping.  “Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DSAI) are transformative capabilities that will accelerate the Aboitiz Group’s productivity, drive business value, and open up new revenue streams,” Aboitiz Group president and CEO Sabin M. Aboitiz said. A strong advocate of innovation, Aboitiz believes that DSAI will become a permanent aspect of the business landscape of each of the conglomerate’s strategic business units (BU),  to develop and support its business models and decision-making capabilities. Aboitiz also recognizes the potential of the data science workforce as it reorganized its DSAI talents across the group. “This new structure helps create a better alignment of standards, processes, and policies, within the Group and, at the same time, moves us closer to our DSAI ambitions by nurturing our  Aboitiz talent through experience and exposure in our different businesses,” Aboitiz shared.  The company formed working groups on Data Governance, Data Science, and Innovation, which will serve as avenues for alignment, consultation, and discussions  to maximize and optimize the reuse of DSAI solutions, knowledge, and source sharing among SBUs. At its helm is global data science expert Dr. David R. Hardoon, UnionBank Senior Advisor for Data and AI and Aboitiz Group Data Committee Chairman. “DSAI is a core differentiator enabling organisations to flourish digitally. Our focus within the Group is to innovate and systematically operationalise DSAI benefits for all BUs in areas such as customer engagement, operations and in materialising ESG (Environmental, Social, and  Corporate Governance) goals, ” Dr. Hardoon said. DSAI across business units Banking and Financial  Services Aboitiz banking subsidiary Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) pioneered in leveraging DSAI in banking solutions as part of its digital transformation. The bank saw a surge in digital banking transactions over the years due to evolving consumer behavior. And with the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic, consumers were forced to embrace digital banking. In 2019, UnionBank encouraged aspiring data scientists to elevate the profession with the launch of its own Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Institute, which is aimed at producing and nurturing big data professionals to help usher innovations at the bank.  To date, more than 65 future data scientists are part of a learning program that covers data processing, programming visualization, analysis and mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. PETNET, a financial services unit under UnionBank, has one goal in mind: ensure that team members are data-driven and analytically capable in running the business. Hence, the company formed a Data Analytics team which will help in reading trends and drawing insights to make data-driven and informed decisions to provide better customer service. Power For the Aboitiz Group’s energy arm, Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower), DSAI will play an integral role in driving the company’s 10-year growth strategy. This is to address the energy trilemma of the availability, cost-efficiency, and sustainability of the country’s energy supply. DSAI will be a key component of AboitizPower’s 1AP Digital Strategy, called DigitaLeap, which aims  to implement several initiatives as part of its digital transformation. These include  remote plant operations, convergence of information and operational technologies, next-generation energy trading capabilities, and advanced metering infrastructure, among others. Food For its DSAI implementation, the Food Group built a tool called Analytics Central ー a one-stop portal that not only addresses ease of access to data-driven solutions, but also data security by using a double-layer solution.  Current applications available in the tool are Pilmico’s retail meat shop “The Good Meat,” the Food Group Covid-19 Health Pass, Feeds and Farm Division’s operational dashboards, and budget presentation for management meetings. Infrastructure Meantime, Aboitiz cement manufacturing unit Republic Cement & Building Materials, Inc. (Republic Cement), sees the value of DSAI in operations planning and optimization of production costs. The precision that data science offers will not only provide Republic Cement with data-driven insights but also allows it to remain steadfast in delivering consistent and high-quality products for the Philippine market. Republic Cement teamed up with UnionBank’s Data Solutions Team to create a tool that predicts cement quality based on historical chemical concentration combinations. It helps operators and quality managers optimize concentrations of raw materials and efficiently save time, resulting in better resource management and increased operational efficiency. Land Real estate unit AboitizLand is jumpstarting its journey into DSAI as it prioritizes providing better services to its customers. The launch of its contactless homebuying campaign at the onset of the pandemic marked its successful pivot into the digital sphere.  The company recently teamed up with UnionBank for an improved customer profiling system and a predictive model that will detect construction delays. Also in the pipeline is the update of its Sales and Vecino Portal for a smoother end-to-end home-buying process making it easier for buyers to reserve units, track payments made, monitor construction milestones and easily apply for a housing loan.

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Honoring our Heroes

April 19, 2021

Opinion

By: Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar (ret.), By Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar (ret.) Executive Director National Historical Commission of the Philippines   The Second World War produced thousands of heroes but very few of them were known.      Unlike in the Philippine Revolution and Fil-Am War where the concentration of large-scale fighting was in the 8 provinces around Manila, with some in various provinces, resistance to Japanese invasion and occupation was from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.      After the war, there were over 400,000 guerrillas who were recognized. Add to these the over 100,000 who died fighting for our country. This was a big percentage to our population which was 18 million at the outbreak of war.      Every veteran who fought for our county’s freedom are heroes that we must treasure. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices for fighting for the freedom we enjoy today. Their investment was their blood, sweat and tears.      We meet them in their advance age and even ignore their presence despite their great contribution they remained anonymous to all of us.      They might our parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents and relatives who remain humble about their war exploits, their contribution to our country’s freedom.      It is time for us to rediscover the unsung and unknown heroes in our family and we will be surprised to know that we have the blood of heroes in our veins. It is our duty in this generation to honor our heroes.      Restituto L. Aguilar currently serves as the Executive Director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). Prior to this, he was the Chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office for six (6) years.      Director Aguilar is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1978 (Makatarungan) and has retired with the rank of Brigadier General in the Armed Forces of the Philippines after 33 years of military service.      Aside from his command and staff postings during his military service, he has been sought as consultant in the research of the history of the various military camps and museums in the country.      He also contributed to the establishment of the Armed Forces of the Philippine Museum in Camp Aguinaldo.      Director Aguilar also published various articles about the history of different AFP units in various academic publications and was the Editor-In-Chief of The Cavalier, the official publication of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, Inc. (PMAAAI) from 2002-2012.      He also authored the Philippine Military Academy Register, a product of over seventeen (17) years of diligent research about the individual military histories of over 17,000 men and women who have entered the Philippine Military Academy.

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The Australian Open Test

February 2, 2021

Opinion

By: Charles Lim, Sports Tourism Highlights, The sporting world will focus on Melbourne from now until February 21, 2021 as it plays host to the Australian Open. Australia may have one of the strictest lockdown to combat the COVID19 virus, but still skeptics imply that for this sporting event to take place with live audiences over a 2-week period is reckless to say the least. As a sports tourism advocate, I can only admire the resolve of the organizers. In tandem with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), over one hundred top players are already in Melbourne with over a thousand support staff all under strict 14-day hotel quarantine. Players and trainers are only allowed  five hours a day for practices and workout. They are not allowed to leave the hotel premises. Flying into this Victorian city were all done through specially arranged chartered flights and with tight airport to hotel transfers. The  Victorian State government had announced that they will allow up to 30,000 spectators per day for the entire duration of the Australian Open from February 8 to 21. The number of allowed spectators is only 50% of the normal daily attendance compared to previous years. Still, in totaling up numbers, around 360,000 Aussies as well as Aussie residents would have watched the tournament live. Unlike the Philippines, there are no interstate restrictions imposed on their citizens travelling from one state or city to another within this land down under. In fact, Filipinos scoff that we are the only ASEAN country that restricts its citizens from interstate travel by imposing some health protocols bordering on the ridiculous initiated by and differing from one local government to another.   Apart from the brilliant tennis that will keep you entertained for the good fortnight, sports and tourism advocates will hold their breaths as we witness this sporting event, hoping that there will be no catastrophic incidents until the last point is scored, until new champions are crowned, until the lights are finally switched off at the Rod Laver Arena on February 21. -30- Charles Lim is the Chairman and Founder of the Philippine Sports Tourism Awards. His advocacy for Sports Tourism dates back  to 2004 with the inception of the Sports Tourism Forum - a popular seminar workshop for those in sports and the hospitality trade - which is currently ongoing. He can be reached through charles.selrahco@gmail.com.

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A GERMAN EXPAT IN THE PHILIPPINES: WITH BEETHOVEN UNDER PALMS (XIII)

May 2, 2021

History

By: Klaus Döring, Chapter XIII: Philippines, we are coming! "Do you actually know that we will be flying in two weeks?" My question to Rossana caused an unbelievable frenzy. A little later I was also very nervous. But where were our tickets? An express letter with our tickets reached us two days before our departure. A big stone fell from our hearts. Berlin - Frankfurt, Frankfurt - Singapore, Singapore - Manila with Singapore Airlines, and finally Manila - Davao with Philippine Airlines. Finally, after four weeks, we were on our way to Rossana's home. And it was our fourth wedding anniversary. That had "fatal consequences".  A stewardess had noticed that we were toasting each other over a glass of champagne. "Sir, Ma-am, is it okay for you if you transfer to the First-Class-Section?", she asked. "We would like to prepare you a particularly pleasant flight from Singapore to Manila on your very special occasion!" We felt on cloud 9 again. Six wonderful weeks with Rossana's family followed. The negative news from previous letters quickly dissipated. The first time the thought occurred to me what it would be like to be able to live forever in the Philippines. I started to love typical Filipino dishes. Yes, even balut! During that vacation, I met journalist, columnist, and book author Antonio "Tony" Figueroa. An amazing writer. I didn't know then that Tony and I would both be columnists in Mindanao Times starting in 2003. At the farewell party, many tears flowed again. We had to promise our family to come back after two years at the latest. That happened in 1989 together with four of our best German friends. Back in Berlin, I got to know another Filipino tradition: car blessing. Father Hermogenes "Gene" E. Bacareza blessed our new car, our Sunny.  During that time, Father Gene told me about his plan to publish two magazines for Filipinos - one in English (Ang Mabuhay) and one in German (Deutsch-Philippinischer Informationsspiegel Berlin). I was very excited and loved to work with him. His book about German-Filipino Relations greatly guided me in my work. Rossana loved the nature of Berlin and its surroundings more and more, even if our excursions by bike often reached their limits. The Berlin Wall, which enclosed the entire city of West Berlin, stopped us several times.  Often the exact boundary course between West Berlin and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was not identified for us. We were with our bikes on a dark forest path in the north of West Berlin, the so-called Eiskeller (Ice Cave). Suddenly uniformed and armed border guards were standing in front of us. (To be continued)

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The Battle of Colgan Woods: The fiercest battle of World War II in Bukidnon

May 2, 2021

History

By: , On 17 April 1945, the returning forces of the United States successfully landed in Parang, Cotabato for the final phase of the Battle for Mindanao dubbed Operation VICTOR V. The second-largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao has a long and irregular coastline. Inland, the topography is rugged and mountainous. Most of the terrain is covered by rain forests and contains innumerable crocodile-infested rivers, except for those areas that are lake, swamp, or equally trying grassland. Exacerbating the problem of movement on Mindanao was the existence of only a few roads worthy of the name. Two were operationally significant. Cutting across the southern portion of the island, from just south of Parang on Illana Bay in the west to Digos on the Davao Gulf in the east and then north to Davao, was the generously named Highway No. 1. At Kabacan, about midway between Illana Bay and Davao Gulf, the main north-south road, the Sayre Highway (also known as Highway No. 3), ran north through the mountains to Cagayan and Macajalar Bay on the northern coast. The Japanese had long expected MacArthur to begin his reconquest of the Philippines with an invasion of eastern Mindanao. Believing that the American attack would come in the Davao Gulf area, they had built their defenses accordingly. VICTOR V Operations On 11 March General MacArthur formally ordered the Eighth Army to clear the rest of Mindanao in Operation VICTOR V. MacArthur expected that the campaign could take four months. But Eight Army Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger’s staff produced an operation plan to deal with the Japanese dispositions as efficiently as possible. Instead of a frontal assault into the teeth of the Japanese defenses, the plan called for securing a beachhead at Illana Bay in the undefended west, then drive eastward more than one hundred miles 23 through jungle and mountains to strike the Japanese from the rear. Eichelberger assigned ground operations to Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert’s X Corps whose principal combat units were the 24th Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff, and the 31st Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin. The plan called for Task Group 78.2, now under Rear Adm. Albert G. Noble, to carry the 24th Division and the X Corps headquarters to the assault beaches near Malabang on 17 April to secure an advance airfield. Then, five days later the 31st Division would be transported twenty miles farther south to Parang, located near Highway 1, the route to Davao. Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith's Thirteenth Air Force, reinforced by elements of the Fifth Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Command, and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing under Maj. Gen. Ralph J. Mitchell was designated "air assault force" for the Mindanao Operation. Its mission prescribed a continuing air offensive over the Southern and Central Philippines to neutralize Japanese air, ground, and naval forces, and to prevent Japanese reinforcements and supplies from reaching the objective area. Displacement of the four scout bombing squadrons equipped with the SBD Dauntless patrol dive bomber from Luzon to Moret Field in Zamboanga (formerly San Roque Airfield) began on 24 March. VMSB's 236 (Black Panthers) and 142 (Wild Hares/Wild Horses) arrived at Moret on the 24th; followed by VMSB-341(Torpid Turtles) on the 25th and VMSB-243 (Flying Goldbricks) on the 26th. As Task Group 78.2 moved toward Illana Bay, Colonel Fertig sent welcome word that his guerrillas owned Malabang and its airstrip but could not evict the Japanese. Beginning on 3 April, Colonel Jerome’s Marine aviators from Dipolog landed at the airstrip, received targeting information from the guerrillas, and then bombed the Japanese positions. This broke the stalemate, and by 14 April the surviving Japanese had fled through the guerrilla lines. With complete control of Malabang, Generals Sibert and Woodruff and Admiral Noble quickly changed their plans to take advantage of the new developments. Although one battalion from the 21st Infantry would still land at Malabang, the bulk of the 24th Division was to come ashore at Parang, much closer to Highway No. 1, and thus speed up the entire operation. The landing at Parang on 17 April went unopposed, and the division quickly headed inland along Highway 1. Correctly perceiving that the Japanese would destroy the bridges along the highway, the planners decided to use the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 3d Engineer Special Brigade, to exploit the Mindanao River (Rio Grande de Mindanao). This waterway ran roughly parallel to Highway 1 and was navigable for thirty-five miles, some ten miles west of the crucial town of Kabacan and the north-south Sayre Highway. On 21 April Lt. Col. Robert Amory led a small fleet of gunboats upriver and seized Kabacan and the junction of Highway 1 and the Sayre Highway the next day. The Mindanao River soon became the main line of supply as troops and supplies were offloaded far upriver. General Martin’s 31st Division began landing on 22 April, the same day that Marine Air Group 24 arrived at Malabang to provide air support for Mindanao ground operations. With both divisions ashore and ahead of schedule, Sibert ordered them to undertake separate thrusts. General Woodruff’s 24th Division was to continue its advance along Highway 1 to Digos, then seize Davao City. General Martin’s 31st Division would follow to Kabacan and then attack north up the Sayre Highway toward Macajalar Bay. The Japanese apparently blundered in allowing the Americans to seize the key road junction of Kabacan so easily; the 30th and 100th Japanese Divisions were hopelessly separated with the American advance while allowing X Corps to build up momentum and ultimately lead to their destruction. With General Woodruff's 24th Division moving so rapidly, the Americans were almost on top of the Japanese around Davao before General Morozumi realized that the western landing was, in fact, not a diversion. Upon reaching Digos on 27 April, the Americans quickly overwhelmed the defending Japanese, who were prepared only to repel an assault from the sea, not from their rear. The 24th Division immediately turned north and headed toward Davao City. Highway 1 to Kibawe Meanwhile, the 31st Division had forged ahead to the town of Kibawe on Highway 1, some 40 miles (64 km) away, since 27 April, with the 124th Infantry Regiment of Colonel Edward M. Starr at the point. The 124th Infantry Regiment consisted of three battalions. Each battalion consisted of four companies, and each company had about 200 men at full strength. “We arrived at Cotabato, Mindanao, on 23 April and debarked under peaceful conditions as the 24th Division had landed here a couple of weeks before and headed due East to Davao on the East coast,” wrote Maj. Thomas Deas, regimental surgeon of the 124th Medical Detachment in his post-war memoirs. “We were given the assignment to move by land and by boat to Fort Pikit and Kabacan. “ Getting to Kabacan involved a 50-mile trip in landing craft up the crocodile-infested Mindanao and Pulangi Rivers to Fort Pikit.  The so-called highway, General Eichelberger later recalled, was soon “discovered to be something of a fraud.” A thirty-mile stretch had never been completed and dissolved into deep mud whenever it rained—and it rained virtually every day. Japanese Disposition on Sayre Highway In central Mindanao, where there were fewer troops to cover a far greater area, operational preparations of the 30th Division had been virtually stalemated because of other urgent requirements. Due to an acute shortage of foodstuffs in the upper highlands along Highway 3 since August 1944, troops were used to forage for provisions, but Morozumi hastily stopped these foraging operations and proceeded with regrouping his available troops thus three widely dispersed elements were moving to the northern part of Central Mindanao by mid-April when an American landing in Cagayan became imminent. The 3d Battalion, 41st Infantry, had recently arrived in the Ampayon area en route to Balingasag from Surigao. The main strength of the 11th Battalion, 74th Infantry, was ordered to suspend the foraging of supplies in the Dulawan area and was near Kabacan en route north to join the main strength of the regiment. Farther south, the 11th Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment, was in Dulawan on its way north from Sarangani Bay.  When the Sayre Highway operation began, Morozumi had about 8,200 men to defend it. He had two field artillery companies, one howitzer company with 12 pieces altogether moved by manpower with 100 rounds per weapon concentrated at Malaybalay. The infantrymen all had rifles with 240 rounds each supported by four light armored cars, which were used to tow artillery and patrol the roads but were never used in combat. Kabacan to Kibawe Departing Kabacan about 1800 on 27 April, Col. Starr’s 124th Infantry led the division’s advance up the primitive road. At approximately 2200 about nine miles north of the Pulangi crossing during the first evening of the advance, the division vanguard—Lt. Col. Robert M. Fowler’s 2d Battalion with Battery B, 149th Field Artillery —ran into the 1st Battalion of the 74th Infantry Regiment, IJA 30th Panther Division with a strength of 350 under Major Kasuyoshi Hayashi that was moving north from Kabacan on its return to Malaybalay. Fowler committed his force unit by unit into the fighting. Battery C, 149th Field Artillery, hurriedly unlimbered its 105-mm. howitzers and within twenty minutes delivered accurate support fire, as observers at the front adjusted range by the sounds of the exploding shells. Before the skirmish was over at dawn on 28 April, the 124th Infantry had lost about 10 men killed and 25 wounded and had killed at least 50 Japanese. The Japanese battalion broke and disappeared from the Sayre Highway. After 28 April the 124th Infantry drove on northward against very scattered opposition, delayed mainly by the poor condition of the highway. Guerrilla demolitions, given the finishing touch by engineers of the Southern Sector Unit, had accounted for most of the bridges along the road north of Kabacan, and there were some seventy bridges, in varying states of ruin, from Kabacan north twenty-five miles to the Mulita River.  “With the retreating Japs blowing up about 75 bridges, it made our advancing troops face many problems while crossing streams and ravines,” recalls M/Sgt. Aubrey (Paul) Tillery of the Service Co. who wrote a World War II History of the 124th Infantry after the war. “Getting trucks through with supplies was extremely difficult, At points, we moved jeeps as well as supplies across these places on cables rigged for such purposes. At other times, the “Biscuit Bombers” (C-47 Skytrains) were used.” Deep gorges and landslides induced by heavy rains added to the 31st Division's supply problems. At one point, the 124th Infantry and the 108th Engineer Battalion had to rig cables to get jeeps, quarter-ton trailers, three-quarter-ton weapons carriers, and 105-mm. howitzers across a pair of gorges. It was not until 3 May, when engineer bulldozers completed fills, that the 124th could bring up heavier equipment. Obviously, the 31st Division would have to depend in large measure upon air supply to maintain its advance northward. The 124th  reached Kibawe on 3 May after a 45-mile, five-day push up the Sayre Highway and set up roadblocks north of that barrio, and probed about a mile southeast along the trail that supposedly led to Talomo on Davao Gulf. The advance from Kabacan to Kibawe had cost the 124th Infantry approximately 15 men killed and 50 wounded, while the Southern Sector Unit had lost over 175 men killed. The Talomo Trail Recon in Force Until the first week of May, the 31st Division had been able to employ only one RCT along Sayre Highway. When the 41st Division's 162d Infantry reached eastern Mindanao from Zamboanga, it took over responsibility for the protection of the X Corps rear areas from Parang to Fort Pikit and permitted the 31st Division to bring its 155th RCT forward. The 167th RCT, 31st Division, aided by guerrilla units, protected the supply lines from Fort Pikit to Kibawe. Since two RCTs were now available along Sayre Highway, General Sibert directed the 31st Division to continue northward to clear the highway and to establish contact with the 108th RCT, 40th Division. General Eichelberger, the Eighth Army's commander, had decided to put the 108th ashore at Macajalar Bay both to speed the conquest of Mindanao and to open a new supply route to the 31st Division, the supply problems of which increased with every step its troops took northward. The 31st Division's second job was to strike southeast along the Kibawe-Talomo trail. General Sibert's preoccupation with this maneuver reflects the state of mapping and of weather information the Army had concerning Mindanao. Kibawe was the northern terminus of a supposed Japanese supply trail that twisted and turned south until it reached the ocean shore town of Talomo, a few miles west of Davao City. Sibert soon learned from Colonel Fertig that much of the Kibawe-Talomo trail was a figment of the imagination. After making an aerial reconnaissance over the ground southeast from Kibawe, Eichelberger decided to forego a major effort southeast along the trail from Kibawe and directed Sibert to limit operations on the trail to a battalion-sized reconnaissance-in-force. Since the 24th Division had the situation in Davao, Sibert directed the 31st Division to push one battalion southeast from Kibawe as far as the Pulangi River and with the rest of its available strength to resume the drive up Sayre Highway. A battalion of the 167th Infantry began moving down the Talomo trail on 11 May. Eighteen days were required to reach the Pulangi River, some thirteen miles down the trail, and the sheer physical requirements of occupying the trail soon entailed committing the entire regiment to the operation. Yet even with the assistance of Filipino guerrillas, it took the 167th Infantry until 30 June to move five miles beyond the Pulangi River and seize the Japanese trail-force headquarters at Pinamola Mountains in Kibawe. By that time the enemy was already retreating farther south, and the 167th let them go.  Skirmishing along the trail cost the American regiment 80 men killed and 180 wounded while counting almost 400 Japanese dead. Appalled by the speed of the 31st Division's advance as far as Kibawe, Morozumi directed his units to start assembling at Malaybalay immediately in preparation for retreat eastward to the Agusan Valley. He ordered a battalion of infantry southward to delay the 31st Division in the vicinity of Maramag, fifteen miles north of Kibawe, until 10 May at least, by which date he hoped his main forces would have passed through Malaybalay. The Japanese battalion was hardly in position when the 124th Infantry, which had started north from Kibawe on 6 May, reached Maramag. Into the woods The 124th Infantry had resumed its progress up the Sayre Highway on 6 May and moved into its toughest fight of the Mindanao campaign, if not of the Pacific war itself. The blown bridges, rain, and generally impassable terrain left the artillery battalions farther and farther behind the hard-pushing infantry so there was an initial lack of artillery support. Morozumi had decided to consolidate his 30th Division around Malaybalay before undertaking a final withdrawal eastward into the Agusan Valley. To buy time for this movement, Morozumi ordered Ouchi to engage the enemy while in the dense forest. The 2nd Battalion, 74th Regiment, under the command of Major Hotta, was ordered to Omanay as reinforcement. With no heavy artillery in place, the regiment advanced with the support of a company of 4.2-inch mortars. After only a few hundred yards the regiment encountered the enemy in strength and began the hardest, bloodiest, most costly action during its entire service. The Japanese troops had entrenched themselves in well-prepared and completely camouflaged spider-type pillboxes with connecting tunnels. These lined both sides of Sayre Highway, which was little more than a dirt road. The advancing American soldiers could pass within a few feet of the pillboxes and not see them. The Japanese occupants would let the troops pass and then rise up and shoot the unsuspecting soldiers from behind. An entire morning’s fighting by the 1st Battalion gained 300 yards. “The Japs were effectively dug in and determined to halt our advance at this point,” recalls M/Sgt. Paul Tillery. “Being well prepared for combat and with such strong positions they were able to inflict heavy losses upon our attacking troops. Our foot soldiers attacked these positions time and again, sustaining heavy casualties to no avail.” Since artillery was not available and the supporting mortars were not sufficiently effective against Jap positions, Starr got support from a squadron of Marine SBD dive bombers. For the ensuing six days, they bombed the enemy positions each morning with demolition and firebombs. Each day the hard fighting men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions furiously and relentlessly attacked the positions, but each day [only] a few short yards were gained a ta terrific cost. Describing the concentrated strikes in the Colgan Woods, one of the pilots, First Lieutenant Thurston P. Gilchrist, said: “This was the most heavily bombed area of any in the whole Philippine campaign. The Japs were dug in underneath trees and in foxholes so well that we had to blow up the whole area before the Army could advance. Our Marine observers, who were with the ground liaison party in this area, said the damage was terrible and almost indescribable. Flight after flight of planes bombed and strafed this small area for days. When we began it was a heavily wooded area and when we finished there wasn't anything left but a few denuded trees. It was from these Marine observers that we pilots found out for about the first time how much damage we were doing to the Japanese troops.” On 8 May, VMSB-241(Sons of Satan) and VMSB-133 (Flying Eggbeaters) flew what one squadron report termed "the closest support mission yet flown." The Japanese lines were only 200 yards from the infantrymen of the 31st Division, and the enemy was unyielding. Marked with smoke, the tiny target area was plastered with nearly five tons of bombs, and the Japanese position simply disintegrated. However, the 124ths infantrymen on the ground did not share the Marines’ optimism on the efficacy of their bombing sorties. “It would be days before the sorely missed artillery could get up in order to land their support. In the meantime, Marine dive bombers were called in and made raids for a few days but were not effective against these strong enemy positions,” M/Sgt. Tillery opined. “Our artillery finally arrived and began shelling and in just a few hours on 12  May 1945, our troops were able to move through this area. The remaining Japs retreated from this heavy artillery barrage.” On the same day, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to bypass the bogged down 1st Battalion and secure the Maramag airstrip No. 1 less than two miles to the north. They were caught in the flank by a banzai attack which inflicted heavy casualties. Cries for medics could be heard and the corpsmen of the 124th Medical Detachment dashed into the woods to evacuate the wounded. They, too, were shot down. “The 1st Battalion was stopped and so was the 2nd Battalion on the other side of the road. Many were wounded. The Japs would let us advance so far and then come out of their holes and shoot from behind,” Deas said.  “Their holes were not over two feet wide and were five to seven feet deep with connecting tunnels. It was a devious situation.” “They had prepared these positions well in advance with the intention of wreaking severe damage to any American troops coming up this road. Thus, they were well prepared when our 124th Infantry foot soldiers arrived. Their pillboxes were connected with tunnels, some of which ran under tree roots. The positions were well covered and camouflaged rendering them most difficult to recognize. Troops would pass nearby and not even be aware of these fortifications. Considering these well-built defenses, it’s no wonder it took the artillery to drive them out,” Sgt Tillery noted. Chicago Streetfighter Fr. Thomas Aquinas Colgan, the 124th’s chaplain walked up to the battalion command post, calmly surveyed the situation and said to the command post personnel, "Those are my boys in there. They need me. I should be with them." Staff Sgt. Charles Morgan, who often assisted the priest in his duties, said Father Colgan disregarded a warning from a senior officer that he should not attempt to go into the woods because of snipers. "He just went down the road and walked right into the woods," Morgan recalled. "He must have known that he had little hope of coming out alive." Father Colgan entered the woods amid the fighting. Spotting a wounded man, he began to make his way ducking automatic fire. Suddenly he was hit in the shoulder, but he still continued to crawl through the underbrush until he reached the wounded medic Robert Lee Evans lying in a shell hole. A moment later, a quick burst of machine-gun fire killed Chaplain Colgan instantly. The cruel war Banzai charges struck the 124th, fighting without supporting artillery, first on 7 May and then on the night of 14 May. The latter ended in a rout, as American automatic weapons stopped the attackers, killing 73 Japanese, marking the end of the battle. The 149th Field Artillery managed to get within range on May 12 and after an intense barrage, the 2nd Battalion plus L Company finally pushed through the shrapnel-shredded woods. The Americans named the side of the woods where Chaplain Colgan was killed as Colgan Woods, while the woods on the opposite side of the Sayre Highway they named  Berlin Woods. The woods were finally taken after six days of mortar fire, dive-bombing by Marine SBD dive bombers dropping high explosive and firebombs, and daily infantry assaults. In the fighting for Colgan Woods and Maramag, an area the size of a city block had cost the 124th Infantry Regiment 69 men killed and 177 wounded from 6 to 12 May. In a post-war interrogation, General Morozumi admitted about half of the battalion defending the Colgan woods were killed in action, with the remnants retreating into the mountains to conduct guerrilla warfare. An IJA battalion typically has a complement of 1,100 men in  4 companies of 180 men each, along with other units commanded by a lieutenant colonel. American estimates placed the number of Japanese casualties from this action at 130. The casualties could now be retrieved, and Father Colgan was found, his arms still embracing the man he had tried to save. He was identified by the marks on his uniform. Filipino Guerrillas Before landings, guerrillas harassed Japanese units, provided valuable intelligence about enemy dispositions and the relative suitability of landing beaches. And after each landing, the Filipinos fought alongside the Americans and pursued the Japanese through the island's interior. But in the case of the Battle for Colgan Woods, American officers apparently did not give much weight to intel reports from the two battalions guerrillas in Bukidnon who had joined up with them in the course of their advance, perhaps resulting in more casualties than they should have. “I told Colonel [Edward M.] Starr that a big force of Japanese had dug in around the lake, and advised him to strafe and bomb the area” before proceeding, said Franklin Labaon, in a personal interview conducted by author Ronald K. Edgerton on 29 April 1977 in Kibawe and published in the latter’s book “People of the Middle Ground, A Century of Conflict and Accommodation in Central Mindanao 1880s-1980s.” 1Lt Lieutenant Labaon was the commander of the guerrillas 2nd Battalion,117th Regiment, 109th Division under Lt. Col. James Grinstead. The 117th Regiment under Maj. Waldo McVickers had a personnel complement of 41 officers and 534 enlisted men with headquarters near Mailag. Even though his troops had outdistanced their artillery support, Starr went ahead and sent one company to reconnoiter. They immediately came under heavy enemy fire. In his article The Battle of Pinamaloy published in the April-June 2013 issue of The Army Troopers Newsmagazine, Brig. Gen. Restituto A. Aguilar (ret)., former head of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and currently executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), said the Americans ignored repeated warnings from the guerrillas about the well-entrenched Japanese and would have even suffered more casualties had not the Filipino guerrillas helped them destroy the well-sited Japanese fortifications. “Many of them were barefooted that was why perhaps the Americans thought they were not knowledgeable in the art of fighting,” Gen. Aguilar noted. “They did not have decent uniforms, some were in tattered clothes or old khaki uniforms.” Gen. Aguilar relates how he got first-hand accounts from two former guerrillas who witnessed the brutality of the fighting in the Colgan Woods when he was assigned to Cotabato in 2004. One rued the complete lack of accounts about the battle, while another related how he cried upon seeing the gory scenes of dead Japanese. The terrible scenes of carnage were apparently the reason why many who witnessed the Battle of Colgan Woods were reluctant to talk about it, if at all. (With Marion Hess and Maj. Thomas Deas, MD)

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Anzac Day 2021: Remembering Australian Guerrillas in Mindanao during World War II

April 26, 2021

History

By: , Australia and New Zealand celebrate Anzac Day on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served”. Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was first intended to honor members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918). For this year’s commemoration of Anzac Day, we honor the memory of two outstanding soldiers of the Royal Australian Army who fought against the Japanese occupiers alongside Filipino and American guerrillas in Tawi-Tawi and Lanao during World War II. Australian military involvement in the liberation of the Philippines began in June 1943, when eight Australian servicemen who had escaped from Sandakan in Sabah joined the Filipino guerrillas fighting on Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines. Among them were then Robert Kerr “Jock” McLaren and then Lt. Rex Blow of the 2/10th Australian Field Regiment, 8th Australian Division of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) fighting the Japanese in British Malaya and became prisoners-of-war (POWs) with the fall of Singapore. McLaren and two others escaped but were betrayed, recaptured and again imprisoned in Singapore. They contrived to add themselves to a contingent of prisoners being sent to Borneo to a concentration camp. As part of ‘E’ Force, McLaren and Blow were among five hundred British and five hundred Australian prisoners transferred to Borneo in March 1943. The Australians were taken to a camp on Berhala Island, at the entrance to Sandakan harbor in British North Borneo. They wasted no time in escaping again and stealing a boat from a nearby leper colony, set off to the Tawi- Tawi islands where they were told other Australians were fighting as guerrillas. . Their escape from Berhala Island saved their lives as they then missed the early 1945 Sandakan Death Marches. They soon contacted Filipino guerrillas, who assisted McLaren and six others to link up with the 125th Infantry Regiment in Tawi-Tawi commanded by veteran Philippine Constabulary officer, Col. Alejandro Suarez  in June 1943. This group was recognized by Col. Wendell W. Fertig, the commanding officer of the 10th Military District, Mindanao guerrillas, and composed primarily of Muslim Tausugs, Samals, some Christians and even some sea gypsies. McLaren had been promoted sergeant in July and served with distinction in the Philippines, receiving a field commission (January 1944) and the rank of temporary captain (April 1945) with the 105th Infantry Regiment in Tawi-Tawi, and later with the 108th Division in Lanao. From early 1943 the Filipino guerrillas were supplied by submarine with weapons and equipment from Australia. One delivery brought an 8-meter (26-foot) whaleboat. McLaren took a fancy to the vessel and fitted it with a 20mm cannon in the bow, a .50-calibre gun in the rear and twin .30-inch guns amidships. He was tempted to add an 81mm mortar until Blow warned him that if he ever fired the mortar it would “blow her stern off”. McLaren named his boat the Bastard and sailed up and down the coast disrupting enemy supplies and destroying installations. He attacked Japanese small craft and coastal installations with dash and aggression, qualities he also displayed when commanding combat patrols on land.  The boat would sail into Japanese-controlled ports in daylight hours, direct its automatic fire at the piers and fire its mortar at Japanese boats. It is said that its crew would even challenge the Japanese by sending them invitations. This craft was also effective against Japanese aircraft.  On one mission he and his handpicked Moro crew sailed into the well-defended harbor at Parang, Sulu on the west coast of Mindanao, sinking three enemy vessels. That action won him the first of his Military Crosses. On 2 April 1945 McLaren and Blow headed elements of the guerrilla108th Division in an assault on the last Japanese stronghold in Lanao province. Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Hedges, the American division commander, recorded that the fighting ended with the capture of the garrison and the destruction of about 450 enemy troops.  As senior officers at both the guerrilla unit and army levels began to appreciate his initiative and dependability, he was often assigned to make small unit and solo forays into Japanese held areas for intelligence. Toward the end of the war, high-level U.S. and Australian commands relied on him to penetrate Japanese areas in the Philippines and former Dutch colonies ahead of planned invasions for the latest intelligence and to scout possible enemy routes of retreat which could then be interdicted. As a member of the American forces in the Philippines, McLaren was under U.S. command. However, on 20 April 1945, upon the request of the Australians who had a need for his talents, Lt. General Robert L. Eichelberger personally signed an order releasing McLaren back to Australian command. During the course of his service, McLaren was decorated with the Military Cross twice for his heroic actions, as well as being Mentioned in Despatches. To be mentioned in dispatches (or despatches, MiD) describes a member of the armed forces whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which their gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described. His M.C. citation read: ‘throughout the whole of his service with the Guerilla Forces, Captain McLaren displayed outstanding leadership in battle and had no regard for his personal safety. His cheerful imperturbability was an inspiration to all with whom he came into contact’. The Americans awarded him the Philippines Liberation ribbon. Except for a short leave in Australia toward the end of the war, he spent most of the war years serving as a coast watcher and guerrilla leader. Blow lived a long life, dying of natural causes at 83. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for “highly successful command and leadership during active operations” by the UK, and the Silver Star, third-highest military decoration for valor in combat by the US Army for his service with the guerrillas in the Philippines. Despite the time he spent incommunicado as a prisoner of war and a guerrilla fighter, his war was quite well documented. McLaren was an altogether more elusive figure. Brigadier John Rogers, Australia’s wartime director of military intelligence, described him as a “cloak and dagger” man. Having begun the war as a private in a field workshop, repairing and maintaining artillery, he ended it as a captain in special operations, but circumstances meant that most of his war was spent out of sight of the authorities. Between April 1942 and April 1944 his service record lists him as “missing”; then “reported prisoner of war”; and finally “escaped & on active service – no date given”. Captain Ray Steele, one of the group that escaped from Sandakan, remembered him as “completely fearless”. On Mindanao, McLaren’s reckless bravery soon made him a marked man. According to Richardson, the Japanese published a bulletin with his photograph and a 70,000-peso reward for his capture, dead or alive. However, the Japanese never caught him again and he died on 3 March 1956, when he was killed in an accident near his home, after he backed a vehicle against a dead tree, and timber fell on him. Both men’s wartime exploits are well recorded in books: And Tomorrow Freedom: Australian Guerrillas in the Philippines by Sheila Ross, and Bastard Behind the Lines by Tom Gilling. On this Anzac Day 2021, we remember and honor the memory of Capt. Robert Kerr “Jock” McLaren, and Major Rex Blow. Thank you for your service to the Philippines and its people. We shall never forget.                  

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A GERMAN EXPAT IN THE PHILIPPINES : With Beethoven Under Palms (XII)

April 26, 2021

History

By: Klaus Döring, Chapter XII: Special Visitors The time just flew by. Rossana's culture shock was gone. I wondered why she never talked about homesickness. The first year of her stay in German was over. We spent our first vacation in the Canary Islands - one of my favorite places before. Sun, sand beaches, the ocean, blue sky, and pleasant temperature.  The editors' conferences of my law magazines made it possible to travel more and more: by plane or by car. Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Bayreuth, and then Cologne. My publisher just let Rossana come with us. "At least that's how she gets to know Germany", he replied when he saw my incredulous looks. "I feel so insanely small", she was amazed when we visited and inspected the Cologne Cathedral. Back in Berlin, we visited one of the largest trade fairs in the city - the International Tourism Exchange. "There is sure to be a Filipino stand there too?" Rossana asked me. "I'm pretty sure, there is", I replied. It was the first time she'd speak to Filipino compatriots. Eva was one of the first. She invited us to join the Filipino Community in Berlin. The community became her second home in Berlin. Cultural events as well as Filipino customs like the Santacruzan or Flores de Mayo took place. Santacruzan is a religious-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns and even small villages throughout the Philippines during the month of May. Flores de Mayo (or “flowers of May” in Spanish) is a month-long festivity held in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Santacruzan (that's “holy cross” in Spanish), on the other hand, is a colorful procession that recalls Queen Helena's search for the holy cross.   The regular Filipino Sunday mass with Father Gene Bacareza and happy get-togethers: well, Rossana's homesickness didn't exist anymore. Letters from her family asked more and more often, when we would visit the Philippines again. And then came the big day of a private visit of Vice President Salvador Laurel and family. Salvador Roman Hidalgo Laurel (November 18, 1928 – January 27, 2004), also known as Doy Laurel, was a Filipino lawyer and politician who served as the vice-president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992 under President Corazon Aquino and briefly served as the last prime minister. Rossana had so many questions for entertainer son Cocoy. Then finally Rossana and I sat down and discussed how we could book our flight to the Philippines because the news from home wasn't all positive. (To be continued)

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