75th Cagayan Liberation Anniversary Feature Story

One of the perpendicular streets which links Burgos to Don Apolinar Velez streets in Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines is named  Antonio Julian Montalvan , but few of those traversing it or even living along it have any idea whom it is named after. 

The young Antonio Julian Montalvan with his father.
(courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

Antonio Julian Montalván y Corrales (Feb. 8, 1906 – Aug. 30, 1944) was a member of an espionage team working for the 10th  Military District under Col. Wendell W.  Fertig in Mindanao, who reported directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur

“He was a medical doctor, first assigned at the Misamis Provincial Hospital (now the Northern Mindanao Medical Center), then to Cebu, then Palompon in Leyte,” said his namesake and nephew local historian and columnist Antonio J. “Nono” Montalvan II. He later served as public health doctor in Iligan.

Antonio Julian Montalvan on his graduation from UST Medical School in 1934.
(courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

When the war began, he was the personal medic of Col. Wendell W. Fertig, head of the organized guerrilla resistance in Mindanao under the 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines. He was recruited to serve as a spy by their cousin and brother-in-law Senator José Ozámiz, Nono added

“He did intelligence work for Col Fertig,” said Nono’s brother Eduardo, who now serves as Board Chairman of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD). “Because of his familiarity with the UST Hospital, and as a doctor, he was able to get information from patients on the movements of Japanese troops in Mindanao. The information he passed on to Col. Fertig was so vital in the guerrilla operations in  Mindanao.”

“He commuted to Manila from Mindanao by banca, going from one island to another. In one of his trips he was accompanied by Roque Ablan, Vicente Raval and Ferdinand Marcos (who was the most junior in the group) who were trying to get the assistance of the Mindanao Guerrilla Movement, “ Ed noted.

The Montalvan Family with Antonio Julian as the youngest (righmost).
Courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II

The group helped establish coastal radio relay stations in Mindanao, Visayas and Southern Luzon. Later, he became part of a Manila spy network.

“His role was first to serve as courier between Manila and Mindanao. The boat would land in Pagbilao, Quezon which is just near Tayabas. Then he would proceed to Manila to get in touch with the Manila spy network (Spyron),” Nono relates.

“He made 3 boat trips. He was about to make a 4th boat trip to Mindanao when he was captured in Tayabas. A carpenter who was doing work in the house squealed to the Japanese. He was brought to Fort Santiago, then to Bilibid,” he added.

Antonio Julian Montalvan and his wife Rosario Llamas on their wedding day on Sept. 11, 1940.
(courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

Then newly married to Rosario Llamas, a cousin of Virginia Llamas Romulo, — the first Mrs. Carlos P. Romulo—he was arrested by the Japanese Kempeitai in Tayabas town, in the house of his mother in-law Doña Tecla Capistrano Llamas. He was about to pack his bags for another clandestine boat trip to Mindanao.

The Japanese later detained and tortured him in Fort Santiago and at the Old Bilibid Prisons in Manila.

Cable dated May 31, 1944 from Col. Wendell Fertig to Gen. Douglas MacArthur detailing the arrest of Capt. Antonio Julian Montalvan by the Japanese in Manila. (courtesy of Marie Vallejo)

On August 30, 1944 he was executed by decapitation with the group of Senator José Ozámiz, and the Elizalde Group of Manila which included the writer Rafael Roces and Blanche Walker Jurika, the mother in-law of guerilla leader Charles “Chick” Parsons. The execution took place at the Manila Chinese Cemetery.

“They were executed together by decapitation. It was a large group — about 40 of them,” Nono said. “There’s a war memorial for them at Manila North Cemetery.”

Philippine historian Ambeth Ocampo describes Montalván as a “World War II hero of Mindanao”.  (compiled by Mike Baños)


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