Home » Articles » I saw the Death March, April 14, 1956

I saw the Death March, April 14, 1956

I saw the death march

by Romeo J. Arceo

 

“The Japanese were not burying the Filipino dead: That much was certain”

 

April 14, 1956–THEY started coming—through Bacolor, Pampanga, our town—on the morning of April 13, 1942. From half-opened windows in our old, small house, we looked at them—dead men on their feet, moving on in broken ranks.

It was hard to distinguish one face from another. Everyone was pale and thin and sickly—and only the really familiar faces which one can hardly forget because of ties of love and friendship were to be recognized, but only after a hard, second look.

There was Cpl. Demetrio Santos, half-carrying his sick brother, Lt. Librado Santos, in his arms…yet after the hell that was O’Donnell, it was Librado who came back. The younger one, Demetrio, did not make it.

There was Pvt. Bonifacio Mangio, our neighbor, looking more dead than alive…yet he lived through O’Donnell, malaria, and dysentery to become a successful businessman today.

One soldier made a dash for freedom across the street from where we were. One shot from a Japanese guard stopped him short…under the stairs of the house of my compadre, Marciano Manese. Later, in the evening, some neighbors headed by Rufino Torres took his body and buried him in the Catholic cemetery in town.

Merciless killings

And near our own backyard, another soldier tried to escape. But a Japanese guard overtook him and shot him dead on the spot. Not contented, he beat him mercilessly with a big stick until his head was a broken mess. I don’t know who buried him, but he was buried there, where he fell, in a small hole unmarked by any white cross to the present day.

The Japanese were not burying the Filipino dead. That much was certain.

The next morning, when the second batch of “death marchers” arrived, a soldier with a bandaged head broke from his ranks and walked toward our house. He was saying; “Maawa po kayo. Bigyan ninyo akong kanin.” (“Please, have pity. Give me rice.”)

Even as he talked, a Japanese guard came from behind and hit him with the butt of his rifle on the head—once, twice, thrice. To this day, I can still see the look of agony in his face as he turned to rejoin his ranks, to fall on the shoulders of a comrade.

The Jap motioned to us to get away from the windows. We obeyed and peeped instead through slits in the sawali wall. By this time, the Japanese were driving all civilians away—for many had been so bold as to help prisoners escape and give them food.

By noon, rifle fire increased. More men were making dashes from their ranks. Many of the “death marchers” escaped in our town. There was only one guard for every 100 prisoners, although sometimes, there were Japanese guards riding around in trucks.

For the Americans, there were no guards at all. Apparently, the Japanese knew that should they attempt to escape, it would be very easy to pick them up. They could easily be traced because of the color of their skin.

I knew one American, Lt. Charles Naylor of Salt Lake City, Utah, then only 22 years old, who was saved from the “death march.” He used to come to our evacuation place in Barrio Potrero (Bacolor) and talk of his America. Later, he joined the guerrillas.

I don’t know if he lived through the Japanese occupation. But if he did, maybe he’d like to know that the man who took care of him, “Iso” Singian of Maliwalu (Bacolor), did not make it. The Japs came and killed him—for saving his life, I think.

There were two other Americans who were saved. But in mid-1943, there were caught by the Japs in Barrio Talba (Bacolor), some five kilometers from the poblacion. Two more Americans who escaped showed up in town some time in 1943 and asked for shelter in the residence of the parish priest Msgr. Andres Bituin. The town policemen heard of their presence and surrounded the house. The two Yanks shot it out and made good their escape. In the shooting, Judge Arturo Joven was killed by a stray bullet.

The Bacolorians

There were several sons of Bacolor who escaped from the “death march.” Like M/Sgt. Juanito T. Bognot. He made his dash for freedom in Guagua five kilometers before Bacolor. On reaching Sta. Rita, he changed to civilian wear and started walking to Bacolor…to help his comrades escape. We convinced him to go to the barrios and hide…there were already many of his townmates who were braving danger to help our boys, whether natives of Bacolor or not.

Bacolor’s example of the famous “Sullivans” of America, the Samia brothers, did not all make it. Two of them, Federico and a physician whose name I don’t quite remember, died in Bataan. Both were lieutenants. Their younger brothers, “Edong” and “Dedy”, returned home. “Dedy” is dead now, a victim of a disease he first contracted in Bataan.

It might be mentioned that their two other brothers, Eleazar and the youngest in the family whose name I don’t remember, were killed by the Japanese during the occupation period for guerrilla activities. Thus, the Samia family lost five young boys in the cause of freedom and democracy.

Bacolor’s casualties

But our town also had its casualties.

There was a young boy, Abelardo David, who answered his country’s call to arms before Christmas 1941. He didn’t have to go and fight—as the war was already very much on and the USAFFE forces were in retreat. But like the good soldier that he was, he reported for duty. Everybody waited for him to come back.

But he was long in coming. He died fighting in Bataan.

There were other young boys like him who died. Like Segundo Angeles, Ricardo Torno, Federico Samia and his medic brother, Leopoldo Malig, another Malig, “Goito” Joven, Miguel Santos, a certain Gopez from barrio San Antonio, and a brother of Bishop Alejandro Olalia.

Demetrio Santos and Paulino Manese died in Camp O’Donnell.

In honor of these young boys who gave their lives for our country’s cause, Councilor Emerito L. de Jesus today plans to enlist the aid of his fellow councilors and other town officials headed by Mayor Adriano Puno into sponsoring a move for the construction of a monument—that the memory of these boys who upheld the glory of Bacolor may live forever.

Other escapees

In passing, it may be mentioned that many others were saved from the “death march” in Bacolor.

Porfiria Gutierrez of Potrero (Bacolor), in whose house we evacuated, opened wide her house to a young man, whom we knew only as Juanito, a native of La Paz, Tarlac. He spoke neither Tagalog nor English. He died of malaria and dysentery four days after he came, and we buried him in the Potrero cemetery.

It is likely his folks do not know yet of his sad fate. But should they come to read this article, I would gladly give them the story. In La Paz, Tarlac, there may only be one missing Juanito.

There was Domingo Talento of Camarines Norte whom Ruperto Mercado saved. He finally married a Bacolor girl. There was also Sgt. Celestino Samalca of Bohol who was saved by the Navarros. He married their daughter. And the incumbent chief of police of Bamban, Tarlac, was saved in Bacolor, too.

There were many others.

Lonely

Today, little white crosses dot those spots where our soldiers fell and died…all along the death march route. But there are still places unmarked by white crosses—where some soldiers are buried unknown. They may be lonely, lying there all alone, forgotten and unknown.

Advertisements

11 Comments

  1. […] I saw the Death March recounts the feelings and behavior of Filipinos who saw Filipino and American prisoners brutalized by the enemy. […]

  2. My father,Antonio A. Malig from Bacolor he is now deceased,also was in Bataan and in the Death March. Leopoldo Malig was his younger brother. Antonio escaped during the march somewhere in Pampanga- so he is not the “other Malig ” you mentioned in your article who died. I am glad to have found this article on the web . we the living must not forget all those young men who died defending their country.

    Isobel

    • Josephine N. Toledo says:

      Isobel Malig, my dear friend in high school at Bethel Girls,how are you? I read that your Dad was at the death march.My Dad was there too.He never forgot what the Japs did to our fellow filipinos.If you read this please email me at jottoledo@yahoo.com.I hope we see each other sometime.I live in Buffalo,NY.I have been here for 29 yrs.Keep in touch.

  3. Mario L. Santos says:

    Thank you for “seeing” for us, the Death March. We did not see till now, the pain and sufferings they have gone through. It is for their love of the Philippines. We are proud of them.

    It makes us reflect, can they be proud of us too.

    From the son of Lt. Librado Santos, and the nephew of Cpl. Demetrio Santos.

  4. Ima Pimp says:

    Mario L. Santos Says:
    September 18, 2007 at 11:39 pm
    Thank you for “seeing” for us, the Death March. We did not see till now, the pain and sufferings they have gone through. It is for their love of the Philippines. We are proud of them.

    It makes us reflect, can they be proud of us too.

    From the son of Lt. Librado Santos, and the nephew of Cpl. Demetrio Santos.

  5. John Trike says:

    I WAS AT THE DEATH MARCH…. PEOPLE WEE VERY VERY TREATED BADLY PEOPLE WHO CANNOT MANAGE TO WALK THEY KILL THEM WITH THERE KINIFES PEOPLE WERE CARRIYING DEAD PEOPLE.. DESPITE NO ONE EVER GIVE US FOOD PEOPLE DIED IN COLDNESS,SICKNEST,TIRDNESTAND HUNGER THE KEMPIETAI(GUARD) KILL PEOPLE WHO CANNOT WALK AND RESTING IT WAS FULL OF SADNES I KNEW I GUY WHO WAS POOR HIS WIFE WAS KILLED SO WAS HIS CHILDREN BEFOR HIS VERY EYES HE PASED AWAYS IN HUNGER AND COLDNES AFTER THE DEAT MARCH WE WERE PUT TO PRISON WE ESCAPE SADLY THERE WERE 20 OF US 5 WAS KILLED 3 WAS DIED IN SICKNESS 1 DIED FREEZING WE GO TO THE GUERILIAS OUR LEADER WAS LUIZ TARUK IN A GROUP CALED HUKBALAHAP MY AGE TODAY 100 BELIVE IT OR NOT…..

  6. Drain Light says:

    i was at the death march no food nor water was given we can barely stand our ground our comrads could take it any more so they rested…. then the kempitai(guard)came they kill the with thier knifes it take like 15/20 to get our destination we have to carry dead people even it stins and full of worms about 200/400 died we were taken because our leader surenderd he died anyway after the long long march wich takes about 100/174 miles our clothes dried we have no shoes nor slipers our foot hirts so badly wounded and dirty most died in hunger and sickness after we were taken from prison it suck in their anyway i dont like it a bit many atemp to escape but the guards shoot them we were ghathering to kill 1 guard it work! but after the japanese knew this he orderd some men to kill 10 filipino/americans we manage to escape lucily i was a survivor Istill remmenberd our fearless leader who is john trike then we went to the guerilias but some filipinos are trators named makapili they are wearing mask and he wll piont out who is a guearilia and guard kill them this is my story my age is 124 ask trike he is in america/philipines by now i am in philipines visiting some survivors………

  7. tordik torno says:

    My apong Jose Torno of Sta. Ines ,Bacolor, Pampanga,used to tell me the story of his brother who was killed by the japanese, maybe he refers to Ricardo Torno.
    According to hi, coffins were so scarce that they have to place two bodies in one.

  8. Roy C. Samia says:

    I am one among the third generation of Samia from Bacolor. I want to clarify some issues: 1) about the names given by the author-Romeo J. Arceo. 2) the fate of the youngest Samia brothers. The two Lieutenants who died in Bataan during death march(they were killed in Bataan, shot or bayoneted perhaps, or maybe beheaded with a samurai; because Filipino officers were not allowed to participate the walk of death; their names are:Teoderico Samia y Olalia(Dikong)- the writer mistook him as Federico, Dedy is the real Federico. Severino Samia y Olalia(Ino) the Physician who the writer could not remember the name. The youngest of the Samia brothers: Francisco Bienvenido Samia y Olalia was believed to be dead in 1956 when the Article was written; but he showed in the late 50’s, we believe he continued his service for the country in finding Japanese stragglers and Filipino Huks during the fifties; Bienvenido(Bening) died on August 19, 2013, he was a 2nd World War veteran.

    • Roy C. Samia says:

      The Samia brothers are the brothers of my paternal grandfather– Virgilio(Ingkong Pete) Samia husband of Kumander Benyflor(Hukbalahap), Apung Julia Samia nee Catacutan– a war veteran.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: