Bataan – A tale of two heroes

Published April 12, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Ignacio R. Bunye

Speaking Out

Ignacio R. Bunye
Ignacio R. Bunye

Sgt.  Jose Calugas, a native of Iloilo, was a member of the Philippine Scout. Although Calugas  had training in artillery,  on that fateful day of  January 16, 1942,  Calugas was assigned on KP or “kitchen patrol”.  He was the cook for the day.

When the fighting started, an adjoining battery position was silenced by enemy fire killing or wounding all the artillery men.  The cook set aside pots and pans and  ran 1,000 yards under heavy fire to the embattled gun position. There, Calugas  organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy. When the fighting stopped, Calugas, seemingly unmindful of what he had just done,  simply went back to kitchen duty.

Calugas became the first and only Filipino to receive the U.S. Medal of Honor for gallantry in Bataan.

Another soldier  in Bataan  performed even more  Rambo-like feats which earned him 33 (!) medals, including the Philippine Medal of Valor. But that’s only according to his biographer Hartzell Spence.

Spence was hired by then Senator Ferdinand Marcos, who was running for President, to write about his war exploits. Spence produced “For Every Tear, A Victory” which was also made into a film   “Iginuhit sa Tadhana”.  The film, which starred popular movie personalities Luis Gonzalez  as Marcos and Gloria Romero as Imelda Marcos, is partly credited for Marcos’ victory in 1965.

Apparently, Spence just wrote word for word what had been dictated to him. He described an almost invincible soldier who kept fighting despite being wounded several times.

“-In January 7, 1942 he was “struck in the left kneecap by shrapnel.  He was out of commission for several days but refused to go to a hospital.

“-In January 12, 1942, sniper fire in the right thigh…..bullet grating on his thighbone….he cut out the bullet with his knife….again he refused to be hospitalized.

“-In January 22, 1942 he was captured and tortured… but escaped.

“-Then one more wound….by shrapnel and sniper fire in the abdomen…”

The more discerning reader just could not believe it.With all those serious wounds, how could Marcos have survived the Death March where more able-bodied soldiers fell on the wayside?

Pre-martial law, future national artist for literature Nick Joaquin debunked Spence’ work as “mostly hocus-pocus”. Because of this remark, Joaquin was blacklisted in Malacañang functions.

Joaquin was lucky. Had he made that remark during martial law, he would have ended up in jail or worse.

In 1982, Jose Burgos Jr. published in We Forum, an opposition newspaper, an expose of former legislator Bonifacio Gillego, who questioned Marcos’ exploits. Burgos’ audacity in printing Gillego’s findings resulted in the immediate closure of We Forum, and the incarceration of Burgos and 14 of his staffers  for subversion and rebellion. In addition, they were charged with libel because the articles supposedly maligned not only Marcos but also all war veterans.

Primitivo Mijares, an ex-aide of Marcos, who had the temerity to question not only Marcos’ heroism but also the excesses of martial law, mysteriously disappeared never to be heard from again.

So how does one explain the 33 medals, including the Medal of Valor,  that Marcos received?  Writer Manolo Quezon had a simple explanation. Marcos received most of his  medals at least 12 years  after the war ended.

At that time, Marcos was serving as the chairman of the Defense Committee in the House of Representatives and later as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. In both positions, Marcos had a great deal of influence in the armed forces due to his control over the AFP budget!

LutongMacoy!

Goodbye Treasurer Al Miñosa

I emailed him on April 5 to request for a statement of realty taxes I have to pay the City of Muntinlupa. I did not receive the usual quick response. I texted him on April 6, again no reply. I also tried calling him several times but he could not be reached. So I requested a mutual friend to tell Al that I have been contacting him. It was only then that I learned that Al had passed on that very same day.

City Treasurer Al Miñosa, a good friend and an exemplary public official, died on April 6 –  the 210th COVID 19 victim in Muntinlupa City. Earlier, Jennifer Bote, another model employee (she was Chief of the Medical Technology Unit of Ospital ng Muntinlupa) became Covid’s 199th victim.

Even prior to Al’s and Jennifer’s deaths, Mayor Jaime Fresnedi already noticed a high attack rate of up to 211 cases per 1000 population among employees. This prompted Fresnedi   to order on April 3 the reduction of manpower reporting to the city hall and other government premises, more frequent disinfection and stricter observance of health safety protocols. Fresnedi also enjoined the public to take advantage of online platforms in transacting with the local government.

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