A GUERRILLA’S TRICK THAT WORKED: REMEMBERING STRATEGIES THAT MATTER
By Peter Jaynul V. Uckung
We always remember World War II in the Philippine as a litany of battles and brutalities. From the Fall of Bataan in April 1942 to the destruction of Manila in February 1945 the Filipinos have experienced all the tragedies of war and in between, the inhumanity of man.
As time progressed to the eventual unity of our national history, those little moments of victory achieved by our intrepid guerrillas were left unread in the dusty corridors of our libraries, in so doing are forgotten and apathetically ignored.
Overshadowed by bigger events like the Fall of Bataan, Death March, the Leyte Landing, the Liberation of Manila, the surrender of Yamashita, are events considered local and small in scale compared to others previously mentioned.
But these small local events hide stories grander by far in its logical appeal to military strategy. And this story is one of them.
It was early in 1944, in Pagsanjan, Laguna that a group of guerrillas belonging to the Hunters ROTC Guerrillas found itself in dire need of food supply.
Eating only coconuts and bananas, the guerrillas found their food supply dwindling to alarming level. Besides, the regularity with which they eat coconuts and bananas were driving them almost gastronomically insane. And one banana-full day, their leader, Foy Bautista suffered diarrhea.
Unable to get food from other towns as these towns were under different guerrilla group control. And knowing that the Japanese garrison in Pagsanjan, which was located at the school atop a hill overlooking the town, had more than adequate supply of rice and other food, the guerrilla decided to try their luck in getting food from their enemy. But how?
The garrisoned Japanese had tremendous firepower and were well protected by their hilly sanctuary. Although, consisting of a large number of men, and having the capacity to overwhelm the Japanese forces, the guerrillas decided against attacking the garrison as they fear the reprisal of Japanese reinforcements to the townspeople. It would be expectedly more than just a slap in the butt. Think torture and death.
So the leader, Foy Bautista, ordered his men to surround the garrison and play like a division to mislead the Japanese soldiers into thinking that the guerrillas were in the thousands.
Bautista with a white flag then walked straight into the garrison’s gate, demanding to talk with the Japanese commanders.
The guerrillas fired their guns into the air as they saw their commander talking with the Japanese.
Bautista told the Japanese that a thousand guerrillas were surrounding the garrison and the moment he is killed, they will all be rushing in for the hill. If he would be permitted to talk with the Japanese commander, he would order a cessation of the firing.
To this, the Japanese acquiesced. Bautista then demanded that the Japanese supply the guerrillas with rice, in return the guerrilla would not attack the garrison. The Japanese told him to return that afternoon.
The interpreter, a Japanese named Ohtta, relayed his message to the Japanese commander, Captain Fujita, who agreed to supply the guerrillas with rice, in return for the promise of guerrilla non-belligerence.
Peace came gently to Pagsanjan with the food and peace agreement, the guerrillas and the Japanese took pains not to irritate each other. The guerrillas took advantage of the situation and set up their headquarters in the towns, almost near the Japanese garrison.
This peaceful air vanished when the Japanese commander was replaced.
And then on March 15, 1945, the town of Pagsanjan was destroyed, not by the Japanese, but by American bombers who thought that the Japanese forces were still in Pagsanjan. Actually, the Japanese had already left.
Ironically, it was supposed liberator who destroyed the town.
Few, if any, remembered the gutsy effort of the guerrillas to get food from the Japanese without inviting violent reprisal from the enemy. Now, that is a brimful lesson of the war.