Besides being Kagay-anon residents during World War 2, the following names had another thing in common: they were Cagayan de Oro's civilian operatives serving the Guerrilla Army as spies. I call them The Silent Warriors.
Abonitalla, Casemero; Abrogar, Pastor; Abroquena, Justiniano; Acosta, Vicente; Abejuela, Daniel; Bacal, Alfredo; Baaclo, Arcadio; Baconguis, Aurelio; Baconguis, Segundo; Baconguis, Irene; Bacarrisas, Pomposa; Bas, Fernando; Bajas, Damian; Baconga, Bernardo; Base, Rufu; Blanela, Nemisio; Casiño, Bendilo; Casino, Danilo; Daba, Teofisto; Duallo, Isidro; Ebara, Cornelio; Gaabucayan, Pio; Gabas, Placido; Jadap, Zoilo; Jaboano, Luis; Jacutin, Aladino; Lago, Piedad; Lago, Rufino; Llanes, Claudio; Madronial, Leoncio; Macanip, Lorenzo; Macalo, Eulogio; Mendaya, Librado; Mercado, Aquilino; Nanalapsan, Eugenio; Nano, Eustaquio; Pacursa, Perfecto; Padar, Casiano; Papustian, Alejo; Pacheco, Servando; Raagas, Panteleon; Racenes, Mauro; Sing, Tiao; Sibuyan, Felorino; Salcedo, Patricio; Sanchez, Hermogenes; Tadeo, Climaco; Yacapin, Maximo
They lived within Japanese-held Cagayan de Oro and lived with the dreaded enemy, all for the love of country and freedom. They carried no weapons, armed only with courage and bravery. They fought their war in silence, operating in the shadows, where one mistake could be fatal and deadly.
If not for the declassified documents at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration ( NARA ) and the book of Father James Edward Haggerty, S.J. Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao, their names and invaluable contributions to the war effort would have died with them.
Except perhaps for a few, we will never know all their stories.
But we do know their contributions were highly commended and recognized by the headquarters of the United States Army in the Pacific. To quote Major General A.C. Willoughby, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, in his message to Col. Wendell W. Fertig, commander of the unified guerrilla forces in Mindanao:
“In the period through 1942 and during the early half of 1943, your command was particularly helpful in laying plans for the location of radio posts and development of an intelligence net. Since the latter half of 1944, your development of these original plans has been ably carried out. Air, ground and naval intelligence data have been efficiently correct and therefore of great value in the preparation and successful prosecution of Allied plans in the Philippine area.”
Little did we know, some of them did not live to tell the tale. Like the case of Vicente Mendoza, his entire family, except for his daughter who escaped, was massacred by the Japanese. He was one of the successful pioneers of Cagayan de Oro. He owned an arrastre service at Macabalan wharf and the only one who had a fleet of cargo trucks at that time.
He was trusted by the Japanese but in reality, he was working for the guerrilla units based at Bukidnon and Balingasag.
Another was Pomposa Bacarrisas, a girl who was close to the Japanese. She was passing valuable information to the guerrillas. However, she was caught and paid the terrible penalty of torture and death.
The youngest was perhaps Cox Banquerigo who was also relaying valuable information to the guerrilla. He was only 16 years old when he was betrayed by his friend and neighbor, Ben Rosales. He was imprisoned in Kempeitai headquarters at the Ateneo de Cagayan, tortured and beheaded.
The guerrilla later tracked down Ben at Agusan and he died with an ax stuck in his back as tried to escape.
But there were also near-death escapes and happy spy stories like the case of Jose Peping Cinco. He lived to tell the tale and even fathered 2 optometrists of Cagayan de Oro. He was one of the active spies of Fr. Edward Haggerty, the famous guerrilla padre who was a rector of Ateneo de Cagayan before the war. Fr. Haggerty in his book Guerrilla Padre of Mindanao, wrote about this amusing escape.
One evening Peping was caught, confined and scheduled to be executed the following day. But being small in build and stature, he managed to squeeze through the prison bars naked and swam the Cagayan river – to freedom towards the guerrilla line.
“My head was the toughest problem to get through, but I remembered Lionel Strongfort's instruction how to pull at the iron bars,” Peping said in describing his close shave. “I was also very worried as I walked home what I would say to my C.O. since I was wearing his spare khaki pants and had to leave them behind.”
Following his escape, Peping joined the guerrillas on April 21, 1944 as a corporal in the B Company, 1st Battalion of the 109th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division, and was discharged on September 28, 1945.
One of the best spies of Fr. Haggerty was named Glosim, his former student from Davao. He became a cook of the Japanese and knew how to speak Nihongo but pretended not to know. Every time he learned Japanese words like “Ohayo” (Good morning), the Japanese were delighted. He was able to relay to Fr. Haggerty not only valuable information but also Japanese canned goods and cigarettes as well. One time, Glosim even sent him a mimeographing machine hidden in a sack!
The most amazing recorded spy story of Kagay-anons was that of Maj. Ignacio Cruz who later became a congressman and governor of Misamis Oriental after the war. When the Americans surrendered, he joined them in the concentration camp in a show of loyalty to his American officer. The Japanese removed him from the concentration camp and used him to pacify the populace because of his influence and oratory skills in their propaganda efforts.
One time, Cruz spoke to the people in Visayan and his audience wept. He was so effective and convincing the Japanese congratulated him. When asked by Fr. Haggerty what he told them, he replied: “I told them the Americans will soon return and free them from their troubles and miseries. They'll get rid of these miserable Japs.”
While he remained a prisoner of the Japanese, he also directed guerrilla operations within wide area. One time he was almost caught by the Japanese when he was meeting with other guerrillas in his quarters. He heard the Japanese coming up the stairs. When the Japanese entered the room, they found him teaching the group how to sing the Japanese national anthem in Nihongo with written lyrics in the blackboard.
When Cruz knew his game was up, he calmly rode out of Cagayan de Oro in a two-wheeled cart with a forged pass and with another instructor from Ateneo de Cagayan, Lt. Jesus Yamut.
Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao, Fr. James Edward Haggerty, S.J.
Memoirs of the Guerrilla – The Barefoot Army, Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon (unpublished manuscript)
History of the Mindanao Guerrillas, American Guerrillas of Mindanao (AGOM)
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration ( NARA )