VICTORY: The Heroic Image of Philippine Veterans During The Pacific War (English translation)

by xiaochua

“The Fighting Filipinos” poster made by Michael Rey Isip used to solicit support for the Filipino soldiers.

Upang gunitain ang ika-67 taon ng pagsuko ng Hapones na si Hen. Tomoyuki Yamashita sa mga pwersang Pilipino sa USAFIP-Northern Luzon sa Kiangan, Ifugao noong 2 Setyembre 1945 na dapat lamang na ipagdiwang bilang isang special working holiday na tinatawag na VICTORY DAY, aking ipinapaskil ang salin sa Ingles ng aking script ng dokumentaryo ukol sa TAGUMPAY ng Pilipino noong World War II.  Ito ang aking unang dokumentaryo bilang direktor, manunulat at mananalaysay.

Unang ipinalabas sa“Images of Valor and Victory:  A Conference on World War II and Filipino Heroism.”  Isinagawa ng Philippine Historical Association sa pakikipagtulungan ng Kagawaran ng Tanggulang Pambansa, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office at ng Multi-Agency Task Force for the 2010 Observance of Araw ng Kagitingan and Philippine Veterans Week.  Ginanap noong 5 Marso 2010 sa National Defense College of the Philippines Auditorium, Kampo Hen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Lungsod Quezon:


The Heroic Image of Philippine Veterans

During The Pacific War


Written and translated from the Filipino by Xiao Chua

Original Filipino Version:

Watch it:

For many years, the perspective on Filipino Veterans in books and documentaries had been that of loss and defeat during World War 2.  That the only ones who destroyed our country were the Japanese, that the real liberators of this country were the Americans.  But if we are going to look at history in our own perspective, we will see the true story of valor and victory, despite the sacrifice, destruction and death, of the heroic Filipino veterans during the Pacific War (1941-1945)

The Philippines at the beginning of the 1940s:  A picture of calm before the storm.

We were starting to build the Filipino Nation-State under the Americans through the ten-year Commonwealth of the Philippines, which started in 1935.  Manuel Luis Quezon was the president.

While in other countries, the threat of fascism and dictatorship was prevalent.  Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy dominated Europe while the Japanese already invaded China and committed atrocities during the 1936 “Rape of Nanking.”

To respond to this threat, the government issued Commonwealth Act no. 1, the Philippines Defense Act.  The citizenry were called to train in defending the country from this threat.  In schools, ROTC was implemented.

To be able to save money, they used in these trainings obsolete World War 1 rifles, surplus uniforms from the States which were bigger in size, and helmet made of coconut.

Despite these obstacles, according to President Quezon’s military adviser and former Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Douglas MacArthur, the Philippines will be able to defend itself adequately by April of 1942.

Meanwhile, to prepare for their grand plan of an “Asia for the Asians,” the Japanese extensively spied on the Philippines.  At that time, the Japanese were already prevalent in many Philippine industries as gardeners, barbers, vendors, photographers, and others.

7 DECEMBER 1941, 7:55 AM

The Japanese Forces had a surprise attack on the naval base of the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, early morning of 8 December in the Philippines.

According to biographer William Manchester, MacArthur wasn’t able to decisively move in those very important early hours, and like most people, was gravely surprised.

The whole morning, American planes at Clarkfield, Pampanga were flying to prepare for the impending Japanese attack.  When they landed to briefly refuel, the Japanese attacked by noon and destroyed the whole fleet of American planes.

Edmundo F. Nolasco:  Yes, we knew that war was coming, but we were so sure that it would only last for a couple of days.

Eliseo D. Rio:  What can Japan do against Americans?  That was the thing that we were thinking of.

10 DECEMBER 1941

The bombing of Manila

Despite the lack of equipment and training, and thinking that the war was just like a “picnic,” many Filipinos enlisted to fight the Japanese and defend their native land.

Because of the quality of their products and height, the Filipinos underestimated the Japanese and thought that the war will only last a couple of weeks.

22 DECEMBER 1941

For each soldier, 12 bullets were given, when they faced the large Japanese land troops which landed in Lingayen, Pangasinan.  With the arrival of this larger force, the Filipino soldiers were forced to retreat.

Quezon, MacArthur and the Commonwealth government evacuated to the isle of Corregidor, Cavite, “The Rock.”  To prevent the Japanese from destroying Manila, MacArthur declared it an “Open City” on 26 December.  This declaration didn’t stop the Japanese from bombing the city.

When MacArthur saw the strength of the Japanese Forces, he implemented War Plan Orange 3 in January 1942.  All Filipino-American forces scattered around the country were collected to defend just one area, the Bataan peninsula, and the isle of Corregidor while awaiting food, medicine and troop reinforcements from the government of the United States.

Despite the audacity of the Japanese aggressors to take Bataan, it was successfully defended by the Filipinos:

Even the Igorots, and other indigenous peoples, joined the fight.

The Filipino-American Forces were in high morale, especially because they were expecting American reinforcements.  The “Voice of Freedom” from Corregidor became the voice of victory of the defenders of Bataan.

To discourage the morale of the defenders of Bataan, Japanese propaganda were sent to the defenders to make them want to come home and abandon the fight.

Photos of beautiful women and their families were shown by the Japanese.

The defenders countered this by remembering the woman found raped and killed by the Japanese, “Remember Erlinda.”


After frustrating the Japanese advance in Bataan, and because of the many fatalities from their troops, the Japanese retreated under Gen. Masaharu Homma while awaiting Japanese reinforcements.

In the meantime, the Japanese already had most of Southeast Asia…


According to Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Filipino soldier is THE BEST WARRIOR IN THE WORLD.

Floro Henson:  The propaganda then was that, President Roosevelt is sending a long convoy of reinforcements so, just keep on holding Bataan, …keep on holding.

Unbeknownst to the Bataan defenders, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt already decided that the US cannot focus on two different fronts of war, the Atlantic and the Pacific Theaters.

War Plan Rainbow 5 was implemented which states that the worst enemy must be the first one to be defeated.  Therefore, to defeat Adolf Hitler first, “Europe First.”

All reinforcements intended for the defenders of Bataan were to be sent to help the Europeans and the Britons defeat Germany and Italy.

Quezon told MacArthur:

How typically American to anguish over the fate of a distant cousin (Britain) while a daughter (the Philippines) is being raped in the back room.”

Quezon left Corregidor and in the United States continued to be the president of the Commonwealth Government-in-exile.

MacArthur left the Philippines and promised, “I SHALL RETURN.”

APRIL 1942

The Japanese, with renewed strength, attacked Bataan once more.  Because of hunger and disease, the defenders were easily defeated.

3 APRIL 1942:  Mt. Samat was captured.

9 APRIL 1942

This “Voice of Freedom” broadcast, read by Norman Reyes and written by Salvador P. Lopez was heard:

Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world cannot fail.”

If the American leaders did not surrender, the Filipinos will fight to the death.

Jose R. Austria:  We thought that we will die.

Juan A. Sanchez:  When we ran out of bullets, we would dig out boulders atop of Mt. Samat and rolled them toward the invaders.

Emilio C. Aquino:  Many of us wept when we heard that broadcast.  But what can we do, that was our fate.

The remaining 60-70 thousand Filipino soldiers, and 11,000 Americans, despite promises of fair treatment, were made to walk 120 km. from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga; taken aboard smelly trains to Capas, Tarlac; and made to walk an additional 13 km. to Camp O’Donnell.

This was famously called the “Death March.”

Even if the Japanese were mercilessly killing evading soldiers, and those who would cause the slowing down of the procession, the civilian heroes secretly handed water, food and even helped in making other soldiers escape despite the danger of sure death.

Floro Henson:  It was hell!  It was summer; April and so hot!

Emilio C. Aquino:  Life (at Camp O’Donnell) turned out to be hopeless.

Jose R. Austria:  Because in our barracks where we were assigned, we were about 200 in a barracks that can accommodate only about 100.  So, it was terrible.

Juan A. Sanchez:  I got sick with malaria and beri-beri.  And chicken lice stuck to our bodies.

Emilio C. Aquino:  When you wake up in the morning, it’s still dark, you can faintly see this long convoy, carrying the dead.  Even after the sun sets, the line is still long.  Imagine that.

Victory was still achieved even with the defeat of the defenders of Bataan:

The end of formal resistance, however, saw the birth of a strong, nationwide, guerilla resistance against the Japanese—a struggle for freedom which sustained the ideals of Filipinos throughout their colonial history.

…the heroic struggle brought out the best in the Filipino character in the face of adversity and served as a beacon to freedom loving peoples everywhere.” –Ricardo Trota Jose

6 MAY 1942

After a successful attack, and after one month of holding out, the isle of Corregidor fell down to Japanese hands.

Corregidor was the last to fall to the Japanese.  The courage of the defenders became an inspiration to the world to continue to fight for freedom, “Remember Bataan and Corregidor.”

Even in defeat, there is a victorious heritage that was left by Corregidor to the over-all victory of the Pacific War:

The Monkey Point radio intercept station had a very key role in providing intelligence on Japanese naval victories in Coral Sea and Midway… 


“Had Corregidor fallen sooner, had the intercept station been destroyed, the vital information would not have been relayed.  The victories at Coral Sea and Midway would not have been possible, and the war would have taken a turn for the worse.  Thus was Corregidor’s important role in the Pacific War.” –Ricardo Trota Jose

Many soldiers from Bataan and Corregidor called on others to join them fight once again as guerilla units until war’s end.

There were Filipino heroes who did not collaborate with the Japanese.  When Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos was captured, he did not agree to become a leader of government under the Japanese.

His son Pepito saw his last moments.

Jose Abad Santos, Jr:  He cautioned me and said, “Do not cry Pepito, show these people that you are brave, not everybody is given the opportunity to die for one’s country, son.”   He marched proudly with his shirt flapping.  And then after that I went up to the house and I took my prayer book and read the prayer for the dead.  And after a few minutes, I hear a volley of shots and I knew that my father was gone.

There were also heroes who collaborated with the Japanese and were called puppets, but by doing so saved many many Filipino lives.

When Quezon left Manila, he handed the responsibility to Justice Jose P. Laurel to collaborate with the Japanese to ensure an orderly situation in the Philippines.

6 MAY 1943

Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo visited Manila.  Many Filipinos seemed to be shouting, “Banzai!”  They were actually shouting, “Bangkay!” (Dead corpse)

1 OCTOBER 1943

In a meeting in Tokyo, PM Tojo asked Laurel to declare a state of war between the Philippines and the United States and its allies.

It was a shock to all three of us; we did not expect this instruction and we were not prepared to meet it on the spot.  I silently prayed and said the Pater Noster.

“…I got up to say as politely as I could that I could not comply with the request.  I said that my people would not approve of it; that I could not carry them; that I have never been a popular leader;

…that even if I should be willing to do what they wanted me to do would be a leader without following because the Filipinos were opposed to such a step; and that it would not be ‘decent’ for the Filipinos to declare war against the United States that was their benefactor and ally and that only unworthy people could be expected to do that.” – Jose P. Laurel

He then offered the party sums of money ‘necessary for the achievement of independence.’  Laurel turned down the offer.  Tojo, again unprepared for rejection, told Laurel that he was ready to assist them in any way.  Laurel asked for an airplane to take them home.  Tojo gave it to them.” – Ricardo Trota Jose

When he became president, he only “recognized” that a state of war already existed between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States.  Unlike in Indonesia wherein many Indonesians died in different lands fighting for the Japanese, Laurel didn’t do anything to conscript Filipinos to fight for the Japanese.

14 OCTOBER 1943—The Japanese proclaimed Philippine Independence.  General Artemio Ricarte and General Emilio Aguinaldo raise the Filipino flag at the Legislative Building.

Kihara Jitaro appeared at Malacañang, stating that he was to be Laurel’s adviser.  Laurel told him:  ‘I don’t need an adviser.  I could be your adviser, Kihara, but you cannot be my adviser.  You had better get out!’

When Kihara refused, Laurel saw General Kuroda about this and also complained about the Japanese guards.  Malacañang became the bastion of the Philippine Republic.” – Ricardo Trota Jose

According to the stories from some guerillas, Laurel himself met with them at the banks of the Pasig in Malacañan Palace!

Despite Japanese cruelty in carrying out tortures and executions, many lives were saved because of Laurel’s intervention.

After the greatest naval battle in World History, the Americans defeated the Japanese and MacArthur was able to land at Red Beach, Palo, Leyte on 20 October 1944 with the new president of the Philippine Commonwealth Sergio Osmeña, and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo.

When MacArthur’s forces landed in Lingayen, Pangasinan on January 1945, they launched the recapture of the City of Manila.


The Americans entered Manila and by night they immediately liberated the civilian internment camp in the University of Sto. Tomas without much resistance from the guards that were mosty Taiwanese under Japanese officials.

On the day the Americans came, the Japanese Forces were divided.General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the 14th Area Army, Commanding General of all Japanese Forces in the Philippines, ordered all the Japanese out of Manila and proceed to the mountains to continue the resistance there.

The Army was leaving Manila at that time.

But Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi of the Manila Naval Defence Force did not follow the orders.  He believed that Manila can still be defended.  Iwabuchi deployed 17,000 men from his naval forces who were not trained for land combat.

The Americans move to the south of Manila was frustrated when the Japanese destroyed all bridges leading to the center of the city.

23-25 FEBRUARY 1945

Bombing by artillery shelling became the strategy of the Americans in retaking Intramuros.  MacArthur discouraged aerial bombardment to minimize the damage it would inflict on the city and its civilians.  During the last day (25 February), the Americans recaptured Fort Santiago.

26-28 FEBRUARY 1945

From the Japanese, the Legislative and Agriculture Buildings were recaptured.

3 MARCH 1945—With the surrender of the remaining Japanese soldiers in the Finance Building, Manila was “liberated.”

The price of the ”Liberation” of Manila:

16,665 deaths among the Japanese

1,010 deaths among the Americans

100,000 dead civilians.

The Manileños suffered the most, due also by extensive American bombings, but more so because of the systematic massacre of civilians by the Japanese in that final month.  A massacre believed to have the final approval of leaders in Tokyo.

Manila became the SECOND MOST DESTROYED ALLIED CITY IN THE WORLD, second only to Warsaw, Poland.  In only one month, Manila was raped by American and Japanese britality.

According to historians, the Americans were not the only ones who liberated our motherland, but the Filipino guerillas and veterans in the whole archipelago:

In fact, by the time ‘liberation day’ came in October 1944, large parts of the archipelago had already been cleared of Japanese, thus making the American efforts less costly.  And yet, the contribution of the Filipino to the war has not been justly recognized.” –Samuel K. Tan

Floro Henson:  Our country was invaded by Japan, whether it was invaded because of America or not it seems to me, that it should not matter.  It is our country and I think it is our duty to defend it.

Eliseo D. Rio:  The significance of Bataan is it demonstrated the spirit of the Filipino as a soldier …as a fighting man.

Manuel T. Yan:  The point here was a call for preparedness.  It was a lesson that we cannot afford to miss again.

Emilio C. Aquino:  If you really love your country, you will surely remember.

The Americans returned Philippine Independence on 4 July 1946.

The Filipinos once more rebuilt their country towards the “kaginhawaan” (well-being) of all.

And after half-a-century:  The battlefields of valor and victory left in different  locations in the Philippines under the supervision of the private sector and of the government, must be continuously maintained and cherished.

The heoric veterans and soldiers …must be continuously cared for.

Because when they were called to defend us, they did not cower and went back to their homes, but they suffered, many were killed, not for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren.

Because of their sacrifices, you are alive today.  To make us worthy of their sacrifices, it is up to us to continue their heroism.

The Filipino definition of a “bayani” is someone who works towards the good of the community without expecting anything in return.