United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) soldiers from Northern Mindanao who fought in Bataan and survived the Death March managed to find their way back to Cagayan de Misamis and joined the guerrillas to continue the fight against the Imperial Japanese Army garrison troops.
We feature some of their stories to commemorate our Araw ng Kagitingan and celebrate the memory of their valor and sacrifice for their beloved Philippines so that we may have the freedom we enjoy today.
The Tiano Brothers
Perhaps the most remarkable Kagay-anon patriots were the Tiano siblings, for whom the Tiano Brothers street in Cagayan de Oro is named after. No less than six of the siblings, five males and one female, were involved in the war versus the Japanese occupiers in World War II.
The eldest Ronaldo, was a 1st Lt. with the 7th School Squadron of the nascent Philippine Army Air Force (PAAC) Class 41-B, based at Maniquis Airfield in Cabanatuan under Lt. Benito Ebuen. They were equipped with the Stearman 76D-1 and 3 other aircraft. They also had an instructional airframe of an obsolete Martin B-10 Bomber (not in flying condition) also in Maniquis Air Field.
He survived the Bataan Death March, but was released by the Japanese from the POW Camp in Capas, Tarlac and instructed to report to the Japanese headquarters in Cagayan. He came home wearing his full PAAC uniform. Instead, he joined the 120th Infantry Regiment under Maj. Angeles Limena as one of his staff. After the war he joined the newly organized Philippine Air Force (PAF) but left after 18 months to join Philippine Airlines (PAL). He died in a plane crash on Jan. 24, 1950.
The second eldest sibling Nestor was killed in action at the young age of 24 while repelling a Japanese attack at Aglaloma Point, Bataan on Jan. 23, 1942.
Apollo became a 2nd Lt. and platoon leader of “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based in Initao, Misamis Oriental. He died fighting with the 19th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) defending Hill 191 (also called Arsenal Hill) and Hill Eerie, comprising Combat Outpost No. 8 at the Chorwon-Siboni corridor in the west central sector of Korea on June 20,1952 while repelling a superior force of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. The Philippine Navy’s BRP Apollo Tiano (now decommissioned) was named in his honor.
Uriel became a sergeant of “A” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based at Pangayawan, Alubijid, Misamis Oriental, and ended the war in the Signal Corps.
The youngest brother Jaime was a private first class at only 15 years of age, and served as a medical aide of the 120th Regimental Hospital together with his sister 1st Lt. Fe B. Tiano (RN), who was the unit’s sole regimental nurse at the regimental hospital at Talacogon, Lugait, Misamis Oriental.
As Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon relates in his unpublished manuscript, Memoirs of a Guerrilla: The Barefoot Army, “Lt. Fe Tiano and PFC Jaime Tiano were engrossed in their hospital work, tending to the sick of the regimental hospital. They were so busy that they forgot to apply for their vacation, and when they did, it would be disapproved.”
“This is the story of the Tianos-brave and courageous, their battles are now part of history. While they went to war, their parents Emilia Bacarrisas and Leocadio Tiano and two sisters Ruth and Emily were left in Lapad (Alubijid, now part of Laguindingan), to stoke the home fires burning,” Ilogon noted.
The Fighting Moreno Brothers
Very few of the current generation are aware fifteen members of the Moreno clan of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, fought together under one guerrilla unit based in this town.
All survived the war and went on to establish their own families and had children who are now prominent figures in their own right.
Moreno Family Portrait take 19 May 1952 at their ancestral house in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental: Standing from left to right: Emeterio Sr.(father of Mayor Oscar S. Moreno), Redentor Sr. (father of Dr. Sonny Moreno); Metelo, Taurino, Rodolfo (father of Fr. Tony Moreno, S.J.) and Manuel (father of Cecile Kionisala). Seated left to right: Papias Tiro (husband of Humildad); Milagros (shown carrying the 1-yr old Oscar Moreno) , Leonor, Josefina, Jose, Perla, Violeta and Jose Jr. (Seated in front of Josefina and Jose from left to right: Purisima, Humildad, and Nieves). Photo courtesy of Fr. Antonio Moreno, S.J.
Most prominent among the fifteen were four male offspring of the seven sons and three daughters of Jose Gonzales Moreno and Josefina Almendrala who served with the 110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division (Guerrilla) of the 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) during World War II, along with a son-in-law married to the eldest of their three daughters.
The third son Rodolfo joined the USAFFE and fought in Bataan, captured by the Japanese and survived the death march after which he was held captive and tortured in Capas, Tarlac. He was later released after taking an oath of allegiance to Imperial Japan and found his way back to Balingasag where he joined his siblings Redentor, Emeterio Sr. and Manuel in the guerrillas.
Their brother in law Papias Tiro, who married their eldest sister Humildad, also fought in the same guerrilla unit. The three other brothers were Metelo, Taurino and Jose, Jr., and the two younger sisters Purisima and Nieves.
Rodolfo A. Moreno
The third oldest sibling 3rd Lt. Rodolfo A. Moreno, probably had the most colorful wartime career among the four sons of Jose Moreno who joined the guerrillas.
Born on 05 June 1920 in Balingasag, Rodolfo was a college student and cadet officer at the Ateneo de Cagayan when World War II broke out and enlisted in the Philippine Army and subsequently absorbed into the USAFFE under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
“He was a cadet officer of Ateneo de Cagayan when he was enlisted,” said his son, Fr. Antonio F. Moreno, S.J. “It led him to the fall of Bataan and then to Capas, Tarlac. He hardly spoke about his ordeal and torture in Capas. My grandparents were told he had died. They had a requiem Mass for him owing to an account of his friend. My father was so furious, but happy to be reunited with his siblings and parents.”
His military record with the USAFFE as recorded in the Notes on the Philippine Army of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Digitized Collection show that before the war Rodolfo served as a Finance Services Clerk at the General Headquarters in Manila from August 28 to December 31, 1941.
On January 1, 1941, in the opening salvo of the war, he was inducted under the Provisional Battalion, 31st Infantry, Philippine Army as Platoon Sergeant.
The 31st Inf., PA under Brigadier General Clifford Bluemel was tasked with protecting the coast of Zambales but was pulled out to Bataan on 7 January 1942 to form the protective line along with the Abucay-Morong position under the I Philippine Corps defending the left flank of the USAFFE forces in Bataan and its coastal areas facing the sea.
The 31st Infantry led a counterattack on January 20 to relieve the 51st Infantry, Philippine Army of the II Philippine Corps protecting the right flank of the Bagac-Pilar line.
During the lull, Rodolfo was transferred to the 3rd Battalion of the unit, composed of the I, K, L, and M companies from March 6 to April 8, 1942. After the Fall of Bataan, he survived the Bataan Death March despite being stricken with malaria, and incarceration as a prisoner-of-war at the concentration camp in Capas, Tarlac.
After taking an oath of allegiance to Imperial Japan, Rodolfo was freed just before Christmas Day on December 23, 1942. He managed to slip back to Mindanao where he was joyfully received by his family who believed he perished in Bataan.
“He told me about his death march experience and the torture in Capas, but no details were given. He told me about getting sick and my sister confirmed that it was malaria on their way to Capas, but he managed to reach the destination,” Fr. Tony relates. “According to my cousin Elvira Moreno Magsalay, he was incarcerated kay “niwang kuno siya pag-abot sa Balingasag.” It was our Tito Nick Jimenez who helped his release. My father also mentioned Tito Nick who gave him medicine when he was sick in Capas. And that was a game changer for him.”
According to Rodolfo’s military records recently retrieved by Fr. Tony from the Veterans Records and Management Division (VRMD) of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), Rodolfo spent the next ten months recuperating from his illness and incarceration with his family at their hometown in Balingasag before he signed up with the guerrillas in October 1944.
Among the records kept by PVAO was an affidavit signed by 1Lt. Benjamin Ch. Pacana, Acting Adjutant, of the 1st Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division, the guerrilla unit headquartered at Balingasag, and subsequently S-3, 3rd Battalion, 63rd Infantry Regiment, Philippine Army.
Pacana said he personally knew 2nd Lt Rodolfo A. Moreno, ASN 0-37659 Inf-Res, Philippine Army of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, who reported for duty on 9 Oct 1944.
From 09 Oct 1944 to 9 January 1945, Rodolfo was assigned as Platoon Commander of the Headquarters Platoon, 110th Infantry Regiment, before he was transferred to D Company of the same unit on 10 January 1945 where he served as Platoon Commander of the 2nd Platoon from 10 January to 28 May 1945. On 1 May 1945 he was commissioned as a 3rd Lieutenant.
During this time, he and his unit participated two of the most successful guerrilla operations against the Japanese garrison troops in Misamis Oriental.
From 27 April to 09 May 1945, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 110th Infantry Regiment fought a see-saw battle with Japanese troops in the Bugo-Tagoloan area with close air support from American fighter-bombers.
These preliminary operations were meant to clear a beachhead for the 108th Regimental Combat Team (108th RCT) of the 40th Sunshine Division which landed on Tin-ao, Barangay Agusan in 10 May 1945 and protect the unit’s right flank as it went straight up to Bukidnon to clear the Sayre Highway.
“During the landing of the American forces in Bugo, Lt. Moreno with his unit formed a part of the beachhead from Agusan to Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental,” read Pacana’s account of the action. A comprehensive account of that action can be read here.
Rodolfo’s unit was again involved in the guerrilla raid on Talisayan, Misamis Oriental on 22 May 1945 which destroyed a barge staging area of the Japanese and resulted in 145 Japanese killed and 6 captured, with 6 guerrilla casualties and none of the supporting 70.4 Task Force of the US Navy which provided close fire support.
“His unit was engaged in mopping up operation from Talisayan to as far as 50 kilometers away and inflicted a number of enemy casualties,” Pacana’s affidavit relates.
Archival film footage of the raid was featured in Peter Parson’s documentary about the intelligence missions of his father Chick in “Secret War in the Pacific”. Click here to view the footage along with voice clips from Maj. Paul H. Marshall and Filipino Guerrilla Private First-Class Alfonso Sumastre who served as a guide aboard one of the LCS gunboats.
Following this, Rodolfo was transferred to C Co, 110th Reg as Platoon Commander, 1st Platoon from 30 May to 20 Oct 45. According to Pacana’s affidavit, his unit was engaged in mopping up operations in cooperation with the US Army and was later utilized as bridge guard at Tankulan, Bukidnon.
From 21 Oct 45 to 26 April 46 he was transferred to H Co, 2nd Bn, 53rd Inf Reg, PA on 24 Oct 45 as Section Leader, Weapons Platoon giving lectures on operations in different phases of military tactics.
In his penultimate assignment, he was Transferred to 1st Bn, 63rd Inf. Reg., 6th Division PA on 7 April 1946 where he served from 27 April to 30 June 1946, before reverting to inactive status on 1 May 1946.
However, his military records filed with the Headquarters of the Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental Chapter of the Reserve Officers Legion of the Philippines show that he served one final time as Assistant Supply Officer on 26 October to 15 November 1954 with the IV Ma Bn which was assigned to election duties for that year.
Angeles L. Limena
While our third patriot did not fight in Bataan and did not suffer the Death March, he and his men were similarly force marched from his command at Cagayan to Camp Casisang, in Malaybalay Bukidnon, previously a training ground for the Philippine Constabulary, where American and Filipino prisoners-of-war (POWs) were incarcerated.
Angeles Labrador Limena was born October 2, 1899 in Sorsogon, Sorsogon. He was christened Angeles by his parents since his birth date fell on the Feast of the Catholic festival of the Guardian Angels.
He went to study in Sorsogon to be a priest, but before he was ordained he left to join the armed forces in Manila where he was accepted into the Philippine Constabulary.
Limena was assigned to the School for Reserve Commission in Camp Keithley, Lanao (now the Philippine Army Officer Candidate School at Camp O’Donnel, Capas, Tarlac) where the American camp commander noticed his all around abilities and sent him for formal military training to the Philippine Constabulary Academy at Camp Henry T. Allen, which eventually became the Philippine Military Academy in 1936.
However, before he was assigned to Baguio, Limena met and married Mary Figuro Kelley while he was at Camp Keithley. Mary was the daughter of Marion Lee Kelley from Grand Rapids, Michigan, a US Army veteran who fought in Cuba during Spanish-American War, and came to the Philippines to help educate the Filipinos.
When World War II broke out, Limena was assigned as the Provincial Commander of Camp 1Lt Vicente Garcia Alagar, Cagayan de Misamis, Misamis Oriental. Major General William F. Sharp, commander of the USAFFE Mindanao Force, on orders of Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright from Corregidor, ordered all American and Filipino soldiers under his command to surrender to the Japanese on May 9, 1942.
Limena surrendered Camp Alagar to the Kawamura Detachment on May 10, 1942, and he and all his men were forced to walk from Cagayan to Camp Casisang, in Malaybalay Bukidnon, previously a training ground for the Philippine Constabulary.
Another Death March?
Although Google maps says it usually takes a one hour and 54 minute ride to negotiate its 93 kilometers, the old Sayre Highway which the marchers took was a much longer route, and definitely as long as, if not more brutal than the Bataan Death March. It has an all uphill stretch at Carmen Hill in Upper Puerto and a particularly difficult stretch through the Mangima Canyon where it dips down gorges and up cliffs as deep and high as 420 meters. Older folks from Malayabalay used to say it took them around 5-6 hours to travel to Cagayan by motor vehicle over the old route.
“I became a Prisoner of War of the Japanese Imperial Army on May 10, 1942 on the island of Mindanao in the Philippine Archipelago. On that date all U.S. armed forces were ordered by our commanders to lay down their weapons and to surrender to the Japanese,” reads the personal account of Pvt. First Class Robert W. Phillips, an Aircraft and Engine Mechanic, Second Class, crew chief and flight engineer with the 28th Bombardment Squadron stationed at Del Monte Airfield.
“Immediately after our surrender we were ordered to make our way to the Philippine Army cantonment called Camp Casisang, near Malaybalay, Bukidnon Province. I walked most of that distance before catching a ride in one of our trucks whose destination was the same as mine.”
However, even before the Japanese evacuated all POWs from it on August and October 1942, Limena managed to escape, walking towards Misamis Oriental, avoiding Japanese soldiers, crossing rivers, forests and mountains. He reached Alubijid where he meet few of his trusted soldiers guarding his family.
On September 22, 1942, Limena organized the Western Misamis Oriental Sector Guerrilla at Manticao, Misamis Oriental, around the core group of Ramon Legazpi, Sr. They covered the province from Lugait, Misamis Oriental to Ugyaban river, Cagayan.
Unsurrendered soldiers from the USAFFE, Philippine Constabulary, Philippine Army and Philippine Scouts comprised the fighting core while fishermen, farmers, students from surrounding barrios also volunteered to serve as civilian volunteers.
Among the ranking officers who reported to Major Limena upon the creation of his guerrilla were Major Juan Taduran, Capt. Laureto Talaroc, Capt. Carlos Subang, Capt. Porferio Pakingan, Capt. Ricardo Abellanosa, Capt. Magno, Capt. Vicente Austria, and Capt. Antonio Ognir. Major Juan Taduran, a Bicolano, inducted the new officers-Lt. Ramon Legaspi Sr., Lt. Salvador Legaspi, Lt. Paterno Padua, Lt. Elson Lagrosas, Lt. Paterno Lagrosas, Lt. Elegio Pacana, Lt. Jose Carlos, Lt. Alfonso Dadole, Lt. Ben Johnson Ratunil, Lt. Gang Wilkomm, Lt. George Wilkomm, Lt. Jose Gabe, Lt. Eutiquio Madriaga, Lt. Amado Ravidas, Lt. Monico Chaves, Lt. Herculano Babatido, Lt. Edipalo Lagrosas, Lt. Jesus Juario, Lt. Romeo Villaraza, and Lt. Elpedio Lagrosas.
On November 28, 1942, Limena was designated Regimental Commander of the 109th Infantry Regiment. 109th Division by Col. Wendell W. Fertig.
His assigned officers and their designated area of responsibility included Lt. (later Maj.) Fidencio Laplap’s 1st Battalion, covered Lumbia District to el Salvador, Cagayan; Capt. Carlos Subang’s 2nd Battalion, covered Alubijid to Initao, Misamis Oriental; and Capt. Vicente Austria’s 3rd Battalion, covered Naawan, Initao to Lugait, Misamis Oriental.
Perhaps it was only fitting that Limena returned to his Creator on April 9, 1976, appropriately enough the 34th Anniversary of the Araw ng Kagitingan.