Data Driven Infra and New Cloud Economy to Spur Economic Growth

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 2

Following the introduction of the efforts being made to create smart cities, to strengthen e-banking, and to usher in a more inclusive board of tech leaders in Day 1 of the World Fintech Festival (WFF), Day 2 of the virtual event on Dec. 8 saw panelists do a deep dive into the more technical but crucially important regulatory actions that serve as both the backbone and the lifeline for a sustainable fintech future in the Philippines.

Data-Driven Infrastructure and A New Cloud Economy To Spur Economic Growth

Adoption of a data-driven infrastructure and integration into a new cloud economy can hasten the country’s post-COVID economic recovery.

Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Country Head Allen Guo recognizes the fast growth of the PH economy (its GDP rising higher than others in SEA the past five years), and is committed to investing 200B CNY to build new-generation data centers.

Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) Asec. Manny Caintic affirmed that the national line agencies are more comfortable about its adoption now, compared to its apprehensions about security years ago, and said it is more efficient currently to implement the cloud-first policy.

The digitalization of our internal systems as a future fintech leader in Asia has seen the need for infrastructures that support such initiatives on a nationwide scale.

As Anna Lamentillo, the Chairman of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) Build Build Build Committee says, “We use roads not just to bridge people together but also to support high-speed internet. The master plan is for Facebook to utilize the infrastructure and, in turn, they will provide P2 million for the government’s initiative.”

The talk also highlighted that by 2021, 83 major cities can expect free wi-fi connectivity and cloud-first access. The cloud-first policy hopes to encourage government agencies to adopt cloud-based systems to heighten their efficiency and foster real-time collaboration via data sharing.

National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) CEO Michael Lim shared the organization’s deep collaboration with the DICT in order to push forward the implementation of these initiatives, especially with the continuously growing BPO sector that can attribute a third of its jobs from the NICP councils.

Monchito Ibrahim, incoming head of the Philippine Association for Digital Commerce and Decentralized Industries (PADCDI), shared that the beginning stages of this effort can be traced back to the implementation of the Dep-Ed Internet Connectivity Project a decade ago, stamping e-commerce as the next frontier and initiating the ideals in security and transparency that lead the new initiatives today. With all of these combined efforts, each collaborator aims to create accessibility to thousands of Filipinos and successfully digitize the Philippine countryside.

Central Bank to Shift 50% of Retail Payment to Digital

According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director Mel Plabasan, its Digital Transformation Roadmap, which was recently introduced, ushers in a whole-of-society approach to democratize financial services, initially targeting to shift 50% of retail payment to a digital form, and 70% of Filipino adults to have access to their own transaction accounts.

This was the highlight of the second panel on the second day entitled “The Legal and Regulatory Framework: Fintech’s Lifeline to Global Competitiveness,” moderated by Ida Tiongson, CEO – President, OPAL Portfolio Investments (SPV-AMC).

 “Securing financial and data security is our mission, there must be a tight grip on how development is made,” said tech attorney Mark Gorriceta, Managing Partner of Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra.

“We also have some of the highest internet penetration, and when we combine these with the changes happening we can see the Philippines is at par with some of the most prominent fintech markets. We’re at the forefront of these emerging technologies.”

Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commissioner Ephyro Amatong reminded that, “Regulation is necessary to promote sustainable growth when dealing with innovation. One of the primary lessons we learned in past economic crises is that regulations help to keep things in order and will help keep distribution of wealth and financial opportunities.”

Addressing the interest in a deeper collaboration between public and private sectors, JustPayto CEO Gemma Guerrero, said, “Hopefully, the government can help to put mandates in place that will allow tech, like cashless transactions, to really help the population to pivot with the necessary changes due to COVID-19. From 200 fintech companies we can see how the regulation can evolve from there.”

Pandemic compressed 6 years of Organic E-Commerce Development to just 6 Months

According to DragonPay CEO Robertson “Dick” Chiang, studies have shown that about 80-90% of people have already adapted to online living.  The country currently has 159% mobile penetration and only in the last month, 76% of adult internet users did at least one online purchase, and 66% bought items using a mobile device.

New business models have adapted to take advantage of these new technologies. What remains now is for the government to put the right policies in place to ensure sustained growth. These industry-changing trends were tackled in the last panel for the day, “Setting Up the Infrastructure for the Day – The Rise of E-commerce.” PADCDI Founding Director Jayjay Viray moderated the panel.

“It’s a sunrise industry and if you join it now with this new digital economy, you can be part of this new value chain with a career for the next several decades,” explained Great Deals Co-founder and CEO Steve Sy.

“For all retailers in general, if you had a storefront you had an advantage, because you had a following,” said Victor Paterno, President of 7-Eleven Philippines, in regards to established businesses adapting to the online platforms. “But now that’s why online grocery makes sense to us as an e-commerce product because it’s the most logistically challenging.”

“Investors will still go to our neighbors in Asia before us, like Thailand or Malaysia. But with our population we are soon going to be in the running,” continued Sy. “We can look at these other countries and see it as a crystal ball into what we can look forward to.”

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Recuerdos del Pascuas de ayer en Zamboanga

Here We Come A-Caroling

These memoirs consists of two parts: the first covers the period 1963-1968 and the latter the early 1970s.

That’s because our family moved from our apartment at the corner of Barcelona and Pura Brillantes Streets in the pueblo (poblacion) to our own house at Moret Field, Baliwasan in 1968.

The Apartment along P. Brillantes and Barcelona St. where we lived from 1957-1968

The recuerdos for the  first period that are top of mind are the aguinaldo and cumbancheros, traditions that are alas mostly forgotten nowadays.

The aguinaldo or caroling by kids would usually start on December 16, at the same time as the Misa de 9-day Misa de Aguinaldo (Simbang Gabi)  starts.  During those days, the pastores (carolers) would mostly be kids and more often than not they would go through their rounds of the neighborhood carrying a farol (parol) lighted with a candle or by a battery powered bulb.

The Filipino caroling tradition is known as Aguinaldo in Zamboanga (Painting by Ryan Carreon Aragon @ all rights reserved)

The thing I miss most about the aguinaldo during those times were the villancicos or Christmas Carols sung in Spanish that was a tradition unique to Zamboanga City, and perhaps also to our compoblanos in Cavite City where the Chabacano language is still spoken.

“There was a time when the Yuletide celebration in the Philippines was not complete without the villancico,” wrote columnist Baby A. Gil in her column Sounds Familiar some years ago. “This is a form of music native to Spain, which was usually performed during important feast days of the Catholic Church. As time passed, the villancico came to be associated largely with Christmas festivities, like Christmas carols.” 

Among the favorite villancicos sung by the kids during our younger days were Alegria, Alegria (Esta Noche Nacel Niño); Niño Jesus, Niño BonitoNacio, Nacio Pastores (Villancico de Navidad) Venid Si Quereis GozarPastores A Belen, and Las Zagalas Y Pastores.

Listen to Nacio, Nacio Pastores (Villancico de Navidad) sung by the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company from their album Christmas in the Philippines here.

Of course, kids being full of fun and mischief at their age, would somehow replace some of the lyrics with their choice pendejadas, much to the chagrin of the padres.

One of those I recall till now at their version of Pastores A Belen with goes Pastores a Belen, Dale Cincuenta Cen! (Please give us fifty centavos!)

I am forever indebted to my former colleague at the Ateneo de Zamboanga Christian Life Community, Lulung delos Reyes-Vasquez for gifting me with a CD of their Canciones de Pascua by their group The Stages where they sang all these favorite Villancicos.

Canciones de Pascua by The Stages (image courtesy of Totoy Vasquez)

It also introduced me to others which I am not so familiar with, such as Caminanse A Belen, Esta Noche Es Noche Buena, O Noche Feliz, Noche Sagraoand Yo Bajo del Monte.

The Cumbancheros, a local Filipino musical band, performed on DZAS. (FEBC International). The cumbancheros we saw were rather a  bit older than the boys in the picture.

Later in the evening towards midnight, our parents would wake us up to listen to those whom we called the cumbancheros. These were older folks, usually young men who did not sing, but played the familiar Christmas carols with their ensemble of instruments which often featured drums made up of big tin cans covered with stretched fabrics held in place by rubber  bands which passed for bongos, bamboo sticks struck together, and with the ubiquitous harmonica carrying the melody.

One time, we were even serenaded by entire brass band (not sure if it was the Ateneo de Zamboanga band) with brass, woodwinds, percussion and drums. Our little sala revibrated to the sound of villancicos that must  have carried to the whole neighborhood.

Zamboanga Remembered by Cesar Lee

These traditions even extended as far back as the 1930s and 1940s (and perhaps even earlier) as vividly described in the late Cesar Lee’s memoirs of his time in Zamboanga Remembered:

“The pastores, or carolers were out in the streets every night just a little after sundown, going from house to house and singing the joys of Christmas to make money. They didn’t go caroling for free or out of goodwill. They expected to be paid, and they were paid, anywhere from a few centavos for children to perhaps fifty centavos or a peso for grownups. The money collected was strictly theirs to keep, and at the end of the evening they divided the take amongst themselves.”

“Carolers ranged from as few as two small but enterprising children to a dozen or more adults. Some, from the outlying barrios, were very good. Others were just so-so, and many were downright terrible. Regardless of the quality of their singing, the only way to get rid of them was to pay them.”

“To go into business, the children only needed a lantern and jingles made from flattened bottle caps nailed to a piece of board. Each group sang virtually the same carols in Spanish or English over and over again, to the distress of the listeners. Adult carolers were well organized and sang beautifully, mostly in Spanish, to the accompaniment of a small band. But they also expected to be rewarded amply. If the payment was deemed inadequate, they would demand more, and usually an argument would ensue, because the house owners, already fed up with an overabundance of pastores, refused to pay more. Our parents, especially Father, absolutely forbade us to go caroling. He said the practice was nothing more than begging.”

During the second chapter of my Recuerdos de Pascua, we had already moved to our house in Moret Field, Baliwasan where the aguinaldo by roving kids was much more frequent. We lived in the second floor of our apartment in the pueblo so the carolers often played downstairs or in the staircase, but now here we could see them better from the picture window in our sala through the fence nearby.

At this time most of us kids were already in our teens but the mischief level rather than fade away was ramped up to new heights. I have no idea where they came from, but we used to have a lot of the old one centavo coins known in Bisaya as the dako because of its relatively big size.

Though already demonetized at that time, their relatively bigger diameter compared to contemporary coins of higher value of the late 60s and early  70s made it hard for carolers to check them out in the dark or by the light of their farol.

My younger brother Edgar and I were the usual perpetrators of this mischief and we were in stiches as we  listened to the carolers comment with glee they had been given fifty centavos and would usually top this with an enthusiastic rendition of the Thank You song at our generosity to our utmost amusement and laughter.

During my college days at the Ateneo de Zamboanga during the middle to late 1970s, I learned some more villancicos such as  Chiquiriquitin, Campanas de Belen, Somos Pastores, and one of which I recall more vividly because of its title, Zapatos Rotos.

Ateneo de Zamboanga Brebeuf Gymnasium circa 1950 (Victory Studio)

This catchy tune was a perennial favorite among the competing academic fraternities during the traditional annual Christmas Carol Contest which was usually held at the old Brebeuf Ateneo gym.

Its fast paced tempo, snappy lyrics and shepherds’ theme made it not only a musical but also kinetic favorite which easily lent itself to frenetic (read: award winning) choreography by the singers.

However, when these villancicos started being posted in YouTube, I found out there were many regional variations of the favorite ditties I grew up with among the various Spanish communities worldwide such as Mexico, Spain, Argentina and others.

Listen to Los Pastores a Belen by David Archuleta with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on YouTube here.

What we were familiar with as Zapatos Rotos for instance, was called Los Pastores a Belen in other countries. Not only that, it also had different lyrics and in other versions, different melodies as well!

For a totally different version of Los Pastores a Belen click here and go to 39.45 of the link. It’s the 18th song in this collection Villancicos De Navidad Clásicos – Canciones De Navidad Populares Música Navideña En Español

But let not those differences detract from our enjoyment of this Christmas tradition. Hopefully, in time, our younger generations would once again enjoy singing and listening to our favorite villancicos, especially considering these are dedicated to the One whose Birth we celebrate each Yuletide season.

¡Vamos! Pastores ¡vamos!


Fintech Growth: Powering Up Cities, Communities, and The Entire Country

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 1

One of the most renowned and highly attended fintech events in the world, the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) pivots to become the largest tech event, encompassing a global audience with the Philippines being one of the key participating countries in a 5-day virtual event from December 7-11.

Having transformed into the World Fintech Festival (WFF), local thought-leaders in digitizing cities, e-banking, and the rise of Filipinas in tech were featured in the panels of the first day on  Dec. 7.

Fintech Leadership Moves to Asia 

Fintech leadership is moving to Asia, and the Philippines has strong potential to emerge among its central players.

This was one major analysis that came out during the first panel of the day entitled “Fintech Growth: Powering Up Cities, Communities, and The Entire Country.” 

Industry leaders who spoke in the panel were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director Melchor Plabasan, Ayala Corporation CFO TG Limcaoco, Finnovation Co-founder and Chairman Malik Kotadia, senior digital financial advisor John Owens, and WFF-Philippines convener Amor Maclang. The panel was moderated by British Chamber of Commerce Chairman Chris Nelson.

Mr. Kotadia described the turning tide of change, “There was a time that when fintech was mentioned, London was the hub of that world or people thought of Silicon Valley. But now the pivot is shifting to Asia, which is the next group engine for fintech.” 

Mr. Owens described how he had seen this shift come to the Philippines, with its fintech sector’s stride into e-money, data sharing, and data privacy showing why it is the inarguable champion for innovation in Asia: “The Philippines as a leader, is the chair of ASEAN working group. The Philippines has one of the best central banks—the BSP–to join the region, and they continuously foster collaboration among regulators.”  

The success and strategies of Philippine institutions like BSP and GCash were studied and adopted by M-PESA, the African-based mobile phone-based money transfer service.

Mr. Kotadia added that the Philippine customer base—which is one of the largest internet and social media users in the world—” is more than ready than ever before for fintech to rise in Asia.”

Mobile Wallet is New King, as GCash Hits P1-T Annual Transactions

The Philippines’ transition to a truly cashless society is well underway, as leading mobile wallet GCash hit P1 trillion transaction value this year. This was even more than the cumulative gross value it had accomplished from 2017 to 2019.

Martha Sazon, President and CEO of Mynt (GCash), said safety protocols and limited mobility during the pandemic have changed the conventions of financial transactions, paving the way for a frictionless, cashless future.

“We are used at least twice a day, every day. But now, we registered 1000% transaction growth in relevant use cases. We even hit a P1 trillion transaction value – which goes to show how much we’ve helped Filipinos. This was our vision for 2023, yet this was brought to life this year,” Sazon announced in the Panel: “Banks and FinTech: The Advantages that Mass Adoption Brings to the Public.”

Joining her in the panel were UnionBank Fintech Business Group Head Arvie De Vera, UNO Bank Co-Founder and CEO Manish Bhai, Tonik Chief Technology Officer Arivuvel Ramu, Binance Director Colin Goltra, and Pera Hub President and CEO Ian Ocampo.

Ocampo said the digital economy is changing the way people do business and live their everyday lives. “What we will see is a radical shift to neo-banking. More startups will be able to bring in fintech advancements, which will benefit the nation as a whole. What will boost this further is the collaboration with the government.”

Debunking Disadvantages with Women in Tech

The tech world isn’t a boy’s club anymore. With many Filipinas establishing their names and taking up space in the tech scene, women in senior positions prove that gender stereotyping is now a thing of the past.

Mynt’s Chief Technology & Operations Officer Pebble Sy-Manalang identified one possible root cause of gender stereotyping in the Philippine tech space: the gap in the labor force starts in education with the misconception that STEM is only fit for men.”

Manalang debunked the misconception that men are more productive than women citing that the latter’s childbearing hinders career productivity.

Manalang was joined by Impact Hub’s Asia Pacific Regional Lead Ces Rondario, Apptitude’s Chief Investment Officer Josephine Romero, and AHEAD Education Technologies Founder Rosanna Llenado. All of them agree that the key to nourishing more women in higher positions is by providing a mentorship program that is anchored on sincere willingness to listen to the needs of women leaders; provide sincere career advice, and allocate time for consultations on friendly ground.

“If you want to see more women in the leadership position, it is important to have support among them,” Manalang emphasized.

For Romero, the glass ceiling in the tech industry has long been broken as a group in the ‘90s tagged as “WIT” or Women in Tech who introduced ATMs and set up computers in school. “I remember how the misconception that tech is just for men wasn’t even discussed. This was the kind of mentorship I try to pass on to people I work with. We brought this mentorship in ASEAN as an example to our fellow entrepreneurs in ASEAN and to show that we are using tech to evolve, step ahead, and make it efficient resources-wise.”

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When World War II broke out in Cagayan, Misamis

Remembering the Day that will live in Infamy

Today, December 8, 2020 marks the 79th Anniversary of the start of World War II in the Philippines.

Actually, as reckoned from the international date line, it was just a few hours after the infamous attack of the Japanese Navy on the US Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Filomeno Avancena Bautista Jr., one of the remaining eyewitnesses of that day, recalls it was a Monday when they were informed by their principal, Federico Ablan, after their usual morning flag ceremony at the Misamis Oriental Provincial High School that war had broken out with Japan.

Filomeno A. Bautista, Jr.

“We were all sent home to join our families. But Boy Scouts were asked to don their uniforms and help direct traffic. Armed forces were in high state of mobilization.”

“Us Boy Scouts were asked to stay as long as we can help it,” said Bautista, who was then a second year high school student and a Boy Scout at the MOHS. “Our parents were already busy planning to evacuate elsewhere.”

Dodong Bautista’s Boy Scout Troop sometime in 1941. Dodong is the rightmost scout in the first row. Fernando Ablaza is the flag bearer in the front center. Reuben Canoy is to his right. Misamis Oriental High School Principal Federico Ablan is at the center of the 3rd row and to his right is Scout Master Segundo Salas. (Kagay-an Kaniadto)

“People became disoriented and confused, many did not know what to do next,” said Dodong, as he is known to his friends and relatives.

“People were considering moving to places such as Tibasak thinking the Japanese would not bother to go into such places. The Tibasak area that was flooded by Tropical Storm Sendong became the de fact evacuation place of people from Cagayan,” he recalls. “However, our family was never interested in that since we already had our farm in Balingasag.”

During this time, the poblacion was moved to Pagatpat. Town officials moved their offices to the Canitoan-Pagatpat area, which was already considered a distant location during that time.

The Cagayan de Oro Wharf at Macabalan  circa 1935.

Kagay-anon residents had good reason to be disturbed by news of the outbreak of the war with Japan. Besides having the Macabalan wharf which was the major seaport of entry to Mindanao from the Visayas, Cagayan also had a pursuit airfield at Patag (present day Patag Golf course and Camp Evangelista).

The Sayre Highway was the only highway which linked Northern Mindanao to Davao during the early 1940s. (NARA)

It was also the terminus of the Sayre Highway (also known then as Highway No. 3) which was the sole link between Northern Mindanao and the Davao area. These three key facilities and strategic location made Cagayan a prime target for the Japanese invaders.

During this time, the Bautista residence was at the corner of F. Abellanosa, Apolinar Velez and Tiano Brothers streets just across the Mission Hospital (present day UCCP Cagayan de Oro) in what is now commonly known as “Agfa” next to Sabal Hospital.

Living nearby were their neighbors  Dr. Gerardo Sabal, Aquilino Pimentel Sr., and the Frias and Pacalioga families.

At this time, J. Pacana street was the only road connecting the Cagayan seaport to the center of the town so the Bautista family and their neighbors had reason to fear they could be in the line of fire of Japanese aircraft and warships which would target this key facility for bombing, shelling or shelling.

Pre-war photo of Macabalan Wharf  (Kagay-an Kaniadto)

The family moved to Balingasag aboard a truck of the Department of Public Works and Communications (now the Dept of Public Works and Highways).

The DPWC was composed of Bureau of Public Works, Ports, Aeronautics, Coast and Geodetic Survey, Metropolitan Water District Division of Marine, Railway and Repair Shop, National Radio Broadcasting, Irrigation Council and Board of Examiners for Civil, Mechanical, Chemical and Mining Engineers.

In 1941, outbreak of World War II, the DPWC and other government offices were practically abolished due to dislocation of manpower, lack of funds, materials and equipment, installation of enemy administration and the setting up of the resistance movement.

When they moved to Balingasag, the Bautista family only brought with them a modicum of their daily needs.

“We only brought some clothes and daily essentials,” Mr. Bautista recalls. “During wartime, you don’t bring along with you your furniture, only your bare essentials.”

Staying with the Bautista family in Balingasag were their former neighbors in Licoan, the families of the late Dr. Jacinto Frias and Pacalioga families.  

However, even when the Bautista family already moved to Balingasag, they did not completely abandon their residence in Puntod and would come down to check on it from time to time.

A Civic & Military Parade in Divisoria, Circa 1940 (shared by Ermin Pimentel)

“In fact, the sisters of my mother who had a restaurant, was still running the business though now most of their customers were military personnel since most of the civilians had already evacuated out of Cagayan at that time,” he noted.

In the following week, local authorities imposed a mandatory blackout on the city and vehicular traffic was tightly regulated, with Boy Scouts helping the Filipino and American soldiers enforce the two measures.

In the following week, local authorities imposed a mandatory blackout on the city and vehicular traffic was tightly regulated, with Boy Scouts helping the Filipino and American soldiers enforce the two measures.

For a more detailed story on Dodong Bautista’s wartime adventures at Balingasag and Lagonglong, click here.

Living nearby at the Ilogon Compound was Dodong’s neighbor and schoolmate, 16 year old Jesus “Jake” Bongato Ilogon, the eldest son of Pastor Ilogon. Like Dodong,  he was also a student at the Misamis Oriental Provincial High School where he was a fourth year high school student when the war broke out.

The families of Escolastico Ato and Pastor Ilogon taken at their ancestral house in Licoan which was destroyed by the American bombing during the Liberation in 1945. Mrs. Leonisa Bongato Ato (2nd row left) and Pilar Bongato Ilogon (2nd row right) were sisters. Jake Ilogon is rightmost in the first row. (Ilogon Family Collection)

His parents immediate concern was sending his mother in law, Maria Dumanon Bongato back home to Butuan. “Popo Deya” wanted to be present in Cagayan whenever her daughter gave birth. Fortunately, the elder Ilogon managed to get her aboard the last trip of the Mindanao Bus Company to Odiongan, Gingoog, Misamis Oriental, since the military had already commandeered all public transportation for its mobilization. From there she hitched a ride to Butuan aboard an Army truck courtesy of Lt. Francisco Conde of Butuan.

“By the second and third week of December, 1941, all our neighbors and relatives in Licoan had already evacuated out of town. Papa’s family was still in  Licoan because Mama was due to deliver anytime in January 1942,” the younger Ilogon wrote in Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Army, his memoirs of his time as a guerrilla during the second world war.

Unfortunately, the baby was still born and failed to survive the stress and rigors of running to a cottage in Balacanas where the family sought shelter whenever the Japanese bombed the Patag airfield.

Unscathed by Japanese bombers in 1942, the Ilogon house in Licoan was destroyed by bombs from American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on 10 March 1945.

“It was terrifying sometimes,” Ilogon wrote. “We were trembling with fear upon hearing the drone of the bombers and the earth shaking explosion of bombs. With Patag so near, Licoan could be the next target. It was not a Merry Christmas nor a Happy New Year, being the only people left in Licoan, with Mama in labor, and constantly in terror of the bombings.”

In the second week of January, the family finally evacuated to Laguindingan, Alubijid in a truck owned by Vicente Mendoza driven by Roman Escobido.

Carabao sleds locally known as balsa are capable of carrying heavy loads. (Photo: The Road to San Isidro)

“We were the last to leave Licoan,” Ilogon recalls. “The belongings were loaded in sleds pulled by carabaos from Laguindingan to Lapad. The piano was the heaviest item. German Andugo, a migrant from Bohol and one of Mendoza’s stevedores,  was requested to stay behind and watch the house during the Japanese occupation.”

Already in Lapad, were their friends and relatives from Cagayan – the families of Tiano, Bacarrisas, Abellanosa, Dael, Bautista, Dy, Llanderal, Salcedo and Boquiren.

Pastor Ilogon’s Sugar Mill at Lapad, Laguindingan. served as a command post for Maj. Angeles Limena
(Ilogon Family Collection)

By this time, Davao was already occupied by the Japanese and there was heavy fighting in the Bataan peninsula. In May 3, 1942 the Kawamura Detachment, an elite unit of the Imperial Japanese Army’s 5th Koi (Carp) (鯉兵団, Koihei-dan) Division, landed on Cagayan and barely a week later, the Visayas-Mindanao Force of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) under Maj. Gen. William Sharp surrendered.

Barely a year later, Jake Ilogon was inducted into the guerrilla resistance and served until the war ended in 1945.

For more stories of Jesus Ilogon’s adventures as a guerrilla see Defending Dipolog April 1945 : A young guerrilla’s eyewitness accountWe Must Tell Their StoryLife During Wartime.  


The Battle of Colgan Woods

The fiercest battle of World War II in Bukidnon

With Marion Hess and Maj. Thomas Deas, MD

On 17 April 1945, the returning forces of the United States successfully landed in Parang, Cotabato for the final phase of the Battle for Mindanao dubbed Operation VICTOR V.

Mindanao posed a greater challenge than most of the VICTOR operations for three reasons: the inhospitable island geography, the extent of the Japanese defenses, and the size and condition of the defending force.

Like most of the Philippine Islands, indeed like most of the places where the U.S. Army operated in the Pacific, the geography of Mindanao offered little to inspire the soldiers who would have to fight there.

The zigzag road portion of the Sayre Highway in Mangima Canyon, Tankulan (now Manolo Fortich), Bukidnon is a  fair representation of Mindanao’s rugged terrain. (NARA)

The second largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao boasts a long and irregular coastline. Inland, the topography may be kindly characterized as “rugged” and “mountainous.” Most of the terrain is covered by rain forests and contains innumerable crocodile-infested rivers, except for those areas that are lake, swamp, or equally trying grassland.

Within the grassland regions, furthermore, the cultivatable areas contained dense groves of abaca trees that produce not only Manila hemp fiber, but also a vision-limiting, strength-draining obstacle through which soldiers would have to force their way.

April 30, 1945 – Troops of the 1st Platoon, 124th Regiment, 31st Division, descend 60 feet down a lifeline to cross the Sayre Highway after Liutian Bridge was blown up by retreating Japanese troops in Bukidnon. (NARA)

Exacerbating the problem of movement on Mindanao was the existence of only a few roads worthy of the name. Two were operationally significant.

Cutting across the southern portion of the island, from just south of Parang on Illana Bay in the west to Digos on the Davao Gulf in the east and then north to Davao, was the generously named Highway No. 1.

Bukidnon Plateau. Sayre Highway at the near-junction of Agusan and Tin-ao canyons. Looking SW 22 October 1944 (NARA)

At Kabacan, about midway between Illana Bay and Davao Gulf, the main north-south road, the Sayre Highway also known as Highway No. 3, ran north through the mountains to Cagayan and Macajalar Bay on the northern coast.

The Japanese had long expected MacArthur to begin his reconquest of the Philippines with an invasion of eastern Mindanao. Believing that the American attack would come in the Davao Gulf area, they had built their defenses accordingly.

View from the N of Libby Aerodrome with a 155mm artillery in the foreground & Mount Apo (right). Davao 1945. (NARA)

Greatest attention had been paid to defenses around Davao City, the island’s largest and most important city. Strong coastal defenses stretched along the shoreline which bristled with artillery and antiaircraft batteries. Davao Gulf itself was heavily mined to counter an amphibious landing. Inland, the Japanese had prepared defenses in depth, in keeping with their intention of prolonging the campaign as much as possible.

Anticipating that they ultimately would be driven from Davao, the Japanese also prepared defensive bunkers in the jungle behind Davao to which they could retire. Situated from two to four miles inland, the extensive fortified positions ran from approximately thirteen miles southwest of Davao City to about twelve miles north of the city.

Japanese Disposition and Strength in Mindanao

The major units in eastern Mindanao were the 100th Division, commanded by Lt. Gen. Jiro Harada; the 30th Division, under Lt. Gen. Gyosaku Morozumi; the 32d Naval Special Base Force, headed by Rear Adm. Naoji Doi; and the Hosono Unit, an Air Force command of ill-armed service personnel. The 100th Division, with the 32d Naval Special Base Force attached for ground combat operations, held the Davao area and controlled the southeastern third of eastern Mindanao. The 30th Division was responsible for the defense of the rest of eastern Mindanao.

General Sosaku Suzuki, Commanding General, IJA 35th Army

Nominal command in eastern Mindanao rested with General Morozumi, who became de jure commander of the 35th Army after General Suzuki’s death on April 19th after Allied planes attacked his ship. But Morozumi chose not to exercise his authority except insofar as to largely ignore advice from General Tomochika, 35th Army chief of staff, who reached Mindanao in late April.

Lt. Gen. Gyosaku Morozumi, commander of the IJA 35th Army defending Mindanao

Beset with formidable communications difficulties, and realizing that most inhospitable terrain separated the main bodies of the 30th and 100th Divisions, Morozumi believed he could render his best service by staying with the 30th, leaving General Harada and Admiral Doi more or less to their own devices.

On paper the Japanese forces seemed formidable. But numerous supply shortages—artillery and ammunition, communications equipment, and transportation vehicles—left the defenders unable to compete with the Americans at the operational level.

Col. Wendell W. Fertig, Commander, 10th Military District, US Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) (right) was the recognized overall guerrilla commander in Mindanao by General Douglas MacArthur. (NARA)

Further complicating life for the Japanese was a vibrant guerrilla force led by Col. Wendell W. Fertig, an American reservist who had escaped from Bataan in 1942. By mid-April 1945, Colonel Fertig’s 38,000-man force controlled most of the island, keeping the Japanese confined to their garrison towns and to the major roads. The guerrillas were prepared to participate actively in future actions.

The guerrillas had added greatly to the woes of Morozumi and Harada by April 1945. For example, the Japanese transportation problems were many times compounded by guerrilla demolitions, roadblocks, and bridge destruction. Guerrilla raids had destroyed communications equipment and supply dumps. It was impossible for the Japanese to send small truck convoys up and down the roads of eastern Mindanao, and small patrols had been out of the question for months.

Japanese soldiers on the march. Although the Japanese 35th Army defending Mindanao looked formidable on paper, it was beset with lack of close air support, transportation and logistics support, ammunition and food supplies which degraded its efficacy as a fighting force.

American estimates of Japanese strength in eastern Mindanao ran from 34,000 (Eighth Army), to 40,000 (X Corps), to 42,600 (Fertig), with more agreement on the deployment of major units. Fertig’s estimates were the closest, for there were over 43,000 members of the Japanese armed forces in eastern Mindanao, and there were, in addition, nearly 12,850 Japanese noncombatant civilians in the area. 

Japanese Army ground combat and service troops (including about 7,350 civilians recently inducted into the armed forces) numbered roughly 28,600. There were some 8,000 Army Air Force troops, almost all of the service category, and around 6,450 Navy personnel. Of the total, almost 15,000, including 500 men of the Navy, could be classed as trained ground combat effectives. Most of the service troops were armed as auxiliary infantry.

Also working against the Japanese was their belief that the March 1945 operations in the Zamboanga Peninsula by General Doe’s 41st Division constituted the extent of American plans for Mindanao.

VICTOR V Operations

On 11 March General MacArthur formally ordered the Eighth Army to clear the rest of Mindanao in Operation VICTOR V. MacArthur expected that the campaign could take four months.

General Douglas MacArthur with Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger, CG Eight Army, AUS (NARA)

Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger, Eight Army commander, thought otherwise. Based on his knowledge of how the Japanese units were disposed, he expected the strongest Japanese resistance to be centered around Davao City, in eastern Mindanao. In just over two weeks of hard work, Eichelberger’s Eighth Army staff produced an operation plan to deal with the Japanese dispositions as efficiently as possible.

Instead of the expected frontal assault into the teeth of the Japanese defenses, the plan called for securing a beachhead at Illana Bay in the undefended west, then a drive eastward more than one hundred miles 23 through jungle and mountains to strike the Japanese from the rear.

 If the invading force achieved surprise and pressed forward quickly and aggressively, Eichelberger calculated, the attack would unhinge the Japanese both physically and psychologically.

The plan was not without risk. Success was highly dependent on the beachhead performance of the landing force at Illana Bay and then on the ability of the Americans to maintain the momentum of their attack. The invading force had to move faster than the Japanese could react and had to do so before the rainy season arrived and turned every island road and trail into a morass.

Col. Lyle H. Meyer, center, CO Marine Aircraft Group-24, with Lt Gen Robert L. Eichelberger, left, CG, Eighth Army, and Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, X Corps Commander.

Eichelberger assigned ground operations to Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert’s X Corps. Sibert’s principal combat units were the 24th Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff, and the 31st Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin.

The plan called for Task Group 78.2, now under Rear Adm. Albert G. Noble, to carry the 24th Division and the X Corps headquarters to the assault beaches near Malabang on 17 April to secure an advance airfield. Then, five days later the 31st Division would be transported twenty miles farther south to Parang, located near Highway 1, the route to Davao.

Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith’s Thirteenth Air Force, reinforced by elements of the Fifth Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Command, and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing under Maj. Gen. Ralph J. Mitchell, was designated “air assault force” for the Mindanao Operation. Its mission prescribed a continuing air offensive over the Southern and Central Philippines to neutralize Japanese air, ground, and naval forces, and to prevent Japanese reinforcements and supplies from reaching the objective area.

Major General Ralph J. Mitchell and Brigadier General Field Harris at Torokina Airfield during air operations within Bougainville Campaign. MGen Mitchell commanded the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing whose dive bomber and fighter squadrons lent close air support to the 124th RCT during the Battle of Colgan Woods.

Displacement of the four scout bombing squadrons equipped with the SBD Dauntless patrol dive bomber from Luzon to Moret Field in Zamboanga (formerly San Roque Airfield) began on 24 March. VMSB’s 236 (Black Panthers) and 142 (Wild Hares/Wild Horses) arrived at Moret on the 24th; followed by VMSB-341(Torpid Turtles) on the 25th and VMSB-243 (Flying Goldbricks) on the 26th.

Marine PBJs of VMB-611 in the background have just landed after bombing enemy positions only 1,000 yards from the Malabang airstrip, which later became Titcomb Field, for MAG-24.

As Task Group 78.2 moved toward Illana Bay, Colonel Fertig sent welcome word that his guerrillas owned Malabang and its airstrip. Earlier, Fertig’s men had trapped a battalion-size force of Japanese within Malabang, but could not evict them.

Beginning on 3 April, Colonel Jerome’s Marine aviators from Dipolog landed at the airstrip, received targeting information from the guerrillas, and then bombed the Japanese positions. This broke the stalemate, and by 14 April the surviving Japanese had fled through the guerrilla lines.

The fabulous Vought F4U Corsair, the Marines’ aircraft of choice in the Pacific War, gave Leatherneck pilots a victorious edge over their Japanese opponents. As a versatile fighter-bomber, it could carry bombs to 1,000 pounds (as shown here) and provided both close and long-range air support. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A412617

With friendly forces in complete control of Malabang, an opportunity was presented to speed the initial penetration of central Mindanao. Generals Sibert and Woodruff and Admiral Noble quickly changed their plans to take advantage of the new developments.

Although one battalion from the 21st Infantry would still land at Malabang, the bulk of the 24th Division was to come ashore at Parang, much closer to Highway No. 1, and thus speed up the entire operation.

Japanese in the Malabang-Cotabato area numbered 1,500 men–the reinforced 166th Independent Infantry Battalion, a 100th Division unit operating under 30th Division control.

In the event of an American attack, the 166th IIB would conduct a fighting withdrawal to the Sayre Highway-Route 1 junction at Kabacan and would then help defend the southern section of the Sayre Highway, along which Morozumi had deployed the bulk of the 30th Division. 

There were no Japanese along Route 1 from Kabacan southwest for thirty miles, but the 100th Division was responsible for holding the highway for the next twenty miles to Davao Gulf.

24th ID Amtracs landing in Parang, Cotabato, Mindanao (World War Photo)

The landing at Parang on 17 April went unopposed, and the division quickly headed inland along Highway 1.

Correctly perceiving that the Japanese would destroy the bridges along the highway, the planners decided to use the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 3d Engineer Special Brigade, to exploit the Mindanao River (Rio Grande de Mindanao).

This waterway ran roughly parallel to Highway 1 and was navigable for thirty-five miles, some ten miles west of the crucial town of Kabacan and the north-south Sayre Highway.

24th Infantry Division unloading from amtracs after landing in Parang, Cotabato, Mindanao on 19 April 1945
(Filan AP Photo,. US Signal Corps MX 48)

On 21 April Lt. Col. Robert Amory led a small fleet of gunboats upriver and seized Kabacan and the junction of Highway 1 and the Sayre Highway the next day. The Japanese garrisons, startled by the sudden appearance of an American freshwater navy, fled north and west.

The Mindanao River soon became the main line of supply as troops and supplies were offloaded far upriver. If “not for the successful completion of this river campaign,” Admiral Noble stated, “our forces would be at least a month behind their present schedule.”

 General Martin’s 31st Division began landing on 22 April, the same day that Marine Air Group 24 arrived at Malabang to provide air support for Mindanao ground operations.

Marines Close Air Support

At the earliest possible date after R-Day, (target date for initial landings) the dive bombers of Colonel Lyle H. Meyer’s Marine Aircraft Group 24 were flown from Luzon to the Malabang Airstrip and took station there, 150 miles across the Moro Gulf from the Marines at Moret Field, Zamboanga.

The Marines re-named the airstrip Titcomb Field, in honor of Captain John A. Titcomb, who had died of wounds received while a member of a support air party on Luzon.

Guerillas were used to guard the field and any planes that landed there. By 20 April (R-plus 3) when MAG-24’s planes began to arrive from Luzon, the pilots and crews found an engineering line already set up and a camp area beginning to take shape.

Colonel Clayton C. Jerome, Commander, Marine Aircraft Groups Zamboanga (MAGSZAM)

Even before the SBD’s of MAG-32 arrived, Thirteenth Air Force had designated Colonel Clayton C. Jerome as Commander, Marine Aircraft Groups Zamboanga (MAGSZAM), which would include not only MAG-12 and MAG-32, but also MAG-24 when it arrived on Mindanao a month later. 

Lt. Col. Keith B. McCutcheon, Operations Officer, MAG-24

The organization for flight operations was set up by Lieutenant Colonel Keith B. McCutcheon, who, although the operations officer of MAG-24 (still at Mangaldan), had accompanied Colonel Jerome from Luzon for the express purpose of placing into effect an operations structure similar to the one used by MAGSDAGUPAN.

MAG-24’s ground echelon arrived in Mindoro on 12 April, and left that island two days later in a convoy with 24th Division assault troops. During its operations on Mindanao, MAG-24 once again would be under the direction of Colonel Jerome, for the Malabang-based group would be a part of Marine Aircraft Groups, Zamboanga.

Charles Fink’s original VMSB-244 Bombing Banshees artwork done in November 1943.(National Museum of the Marine Corps). Trained as an industrial artist before the war,  Fink won a bottle of gin for winning the inter-unit competition for a logo that the unit’s aircrew wore on their leather jackets.

Once the strip at Malabang was available, the Marines poured in the dive bombers of MAG-24, which arrived on 20 April from Luzon.

First of the dive bomber squadrons to arrive was VMSB-241(Sons of Satan) ; on the following day the flight echelon of VMSB-133 (Flying Eggbeaters) arrived, and on 22 April the last SBD squadron, VMSB-244 (Bombing Banshees), landed safely at Malabang.

Marine Air Groups Disposition Mindanao

After MAGSZAM operations began to get well under way, and the dive bombers had arrived from Luzon, the F4Us and SBDs frequently carried out assignments together, and they made a good team. Both were capable of delivering close and accurate support attacks, and the Corsair could serve as a fighter escort for the more vulnerable dive bomber on the way and to and from the target area.

The Chance Vought F4U Corsair  was a perfect complement to the Marines SBD Dauntless scout bombers and the two types often worked together in close air support role in Mindanao.

The Corsairs, although designed as fighter planes, proved to be well adapted for close support work. They had three bomb racks capable of carrying a variety of bomb and napalm loadings, and they were armed with six forward-firing machine guns.

Faster than the SBDs they possessed ample speed to get in and out of a target area in a hurry. Also, since Corsairs were equipped with both VHF and MHF radio sets, they fitted into the air-ground liaison system easily, without a necessity for additions or alterations to existing equipment.

On 22 April MAG-24 commenced air operations in support of the 24th and 31st Divisions, whose forces were pushing eastward across Mindanao. Strikes were concentrated in two principal areas: (1) Davao City and environs and the western margin of Davao Gulf south to Sarangani Bay. (2) The Central Valley, from Kibawe north along both sides of the Sayre Highway to Del Monte.67

With both divisions ashore and ahead of schedule, Sibert ordered them to undertake separate thrusts.

General Woodruff’s 24th Division, minus the 21st Infantry in corps reserve, was to continue its advance along Highway 1 to Digos, then seize Davao City. General Martin’s 31st Division would follow to Kabacan and then attack north up the Sayre Highway toward Macajalar Bay.

Japanese infantry crossing a human footbridge

The Japanese apparently blundered in allowing the Americans to seize the key road junction of Kabacan so easily; the 30th and 100th Japanese Divisions were hopelessly separated with the American advance, while allowing X Corps to build up momentum and ultimately lead to their destruction. That Japanese error was the direct result of the surprise achieved by Eight Army Commander Lt Gen Robert L.  Eichelberger’s decision to land at Illana Bay.

With General Woodruff’s 24th Division moving so rapidly, the Americans were almost on top of the Japanese around Davao before General Morozumi realized that the western landing was, in fact, not a diversion.

Upon reaching Digos on 27 April, the Americans quickly overwhelmed the defending Japanese, who were prepared only to repel an assault from the sea, not from their rear. The 24th Division immediately turned north and headed toward Davao City.

Highway 1 to Kibawe

Meanwhile, the 31st Division had forged ahead to the town of Kibawe on Highway 1, some 40 miles (64 km) away, since 27 April, with the 124th Infantry Regiment of Colonel Edward M. Cullen at point.

Landing at Cotabato on 23 April at the southwest coast of the island, the 124th Regiment was ordered to Kabacan and then to advance north on the Sayre Highway No. 3.

The 124th Infantry Regiment consisted of three battalions. Each battalion consisted of four companies, and each company had about 200 men at full strength. 1st Battalion consisted of Companies A, B, C, and D; 2nd Battalion consisted of Companies E, F, G, and H; and 3rd Battalion consisted of Companies I, K, L, and M (letter ‘J’ was not used). Companies D, H, and M were heavy weapons companies.

Major Thomas Deas (3rd from right) on Morotai in 1945, with the 124th Infantry Regiment Headquarters Staff.
(photo courtesy of Marion Hess)

“We arrived at Cotabato, Mindanao, on 23 April and debarked under peaceful conditions as the 24th Division had landed here a couple of weeks before and headed due East to Davao on the East coast,” wrote Maj. Thomas Deas, regimental surgeon of the 124th Medical Detachment in his post-war memoirs. “We were given the assignment to move by land and by boat to Fort Pikit and Kabacan. “

Getting to Kabacan involved a 50-mile trip in landing craft up the crocodile infested Mindanao and Pulangi Rivers to Fort Pikit.

American troops heading upriver in the Rio Grande of Mindanao (Mindanao River) to Fort Pikit aboard an LCM of the 533d EBSR, 3d Engineer Special Brigade.

“We reached there about 27 April, 1945. Then we headed North up the Sayre Highway, a wide dirt trail through fields of grass six to seven feet high and at times through swamps where the road was just two planks about 18 inches wide for wheels to ride on.”

The so-called highway, General Eichelberger later recalled, was soon “discovered to be something of a fraud.” A thirty-mile stretch had never been completed and dissolved into deep mud whenever it rained—and it rained virtually every day.

Furthermore, the combination of Japanese and guerrilla activity had destroyed every bridge along the route. The first twenty five miles north of Kabacan alone contained at least seventy bridges that required some degree of repair or reconstruction.

Japanese Disposition on Sayre Highway

In central Mindanao, where there were fewer troops to cover a far greater area, operational preparations of the 30th Division had been virtually stalemated because of other urgent requirements.

Due to an acute shortage of foodstuffs prevailing in the upper highlands along Highway 3 since August 1944, troops were used to forage for provisions, particularly rice in Cotabato Province, and to transport them over the inadequate roads to Malaybalay.

Due to an acute shortage of foodstuffs, Japanese combat soldiers often had to forage for their sustenance in the countryside.

However, Morozumi hastily stopped these foraging operations and proceeded with regrouping his available troops thus three widely dispersed elements were moving to the northern part of Central Mindanao by mid-April when an American landing in Cagayan became imminent.

The 3d Battalion, 41st Infantry, had recently arrived in the Ampayon area en route to Balingasag from Surigao. The main strength of the 11st Battalion, 74th Infantry, was ordered to suspend the foraging of supplies in the Dulawan area and was near Kabacan en route north to join the main strength of the regiment. Farther south, the 11st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment, was in Dulawan on its way north from Sarangani Bay. 

PLATE NO. 134 Japanese Dispositions on Mindanao, 16 April 1945 (

The tactical grouping of the 30th Division was now as follows:

Surigao Sector Unit:
…..3d Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment
North Sector Unit:
…..30th Reconnaissance Regiment
…..1st Battalion, 77th Infantry Regiment
Central Sector Unit:
…..74th Infantry Regiment
Under Division Control:
…..30th Field Artillery Regiment (less 3d Bn.)
…..30th Engineer Regiment (less 2d and 3d Cos.)
…..30th Transportation Regiment, reinforced
…..Miscellaneous division troops
South Sector Unit:
…..One Company, 1st Battalion, 74th Infantry Regiment
…..Two field duty companies. (temporary)
…..Miscellaneous units
West Sector Unit:
…..166th Independent Infantry Battalion

In a post-war interrogation in Tokyo, General Morozumi detailed the combat efficiency of his unit at the time the Sayre Highway operation began:

“5,000 were concentrated in the Malayabaly area, 500 along the highway from Kabacan to Malaybalay to destroy bridges and build road blocks, 100 above Malaybalay for the same purpose, 900 at Butuan, 300 at Talakag, 400 at Dalirig, and about 1,000 were stricken with malaria.”

Japanese soldiers firing a 75-mm. gun Type 41 (1908), usually found in an infantry regimental artillery company. Called a mountain (infantry) gun, it was light and easily handled, and was very steady in action. It was usually deployed four per regimental artillery company. (Courtesy

He had two field artillery companies, one howitzer company with 12 pieces altogether moved by manpower with 100 rounds per weapon concentrated at Malaybalay.

Due to the imminent threat of American invasions from north and south Mindanao, Japanese forces were often forced to move their meager troops from one sector to another.

The infantrymen all had rifles with 240 rounds each supported by four light armored cars, which were used to tow artillery and patrol the roads but were never used in combat. There was an ammunition dump north of Malaybalay which they did not get to use either.

Kabacan to Kibawe

Departing Kabacan about 1800 on 27 April, Col. Edward M. Starr’s 124th Infantry led the division’s advance up the primitive road. Colonel Starr planned to compensate for his transportation shortage by leapfrogging his battalions up the highway—each with a battery from the 149th Field Artillery attached.

At approximately 2200 at a point about nine miles north of the Pulangi crossing during the first evening of the advance, the division vanguard—Lt. Col. Robert M. Fowler’s 2d Battalion with Battery B, 149th Field Artillery —ran into the 1st Battalion of the 74th Infantry Regiment, IJA 30th Panther Division with a strength of 350  under Major Kasuyoshi Hayashi that was moving north from Kabacan on its return to Malaybalay.

Morozumi had earlier dispatched this unit southward to reinforce the 166th IIB but had pulled it back when, on 21 April, he had learned that the 24th Division had reached Fort Pikit. On the 26th, no American thrust up Sayre Highway having developed, Morozumi again started the battalion south, directing it to hold the crossing over the Pulangi River just north of Kabacan.

The towed 105 mm Howitzer (M2A1 & M101A1) was the mainstay of towed light field artillery battalions of the American Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve  for decades. Its crew of eight soldiers could normally fire a sustained 3 rounds per minute, or 10 rounds per minute for 3 minutes in extreme circumstances. (U.S. Army Center for Military History)

Although darkness and the jungle prevented coordinated maneuver during the ensuing engagement, Fowler committed his force unit by unit into the fighting. During the ensuing engagement Battery C, 149th Field Artillery, hurriedly unlimbered its 105-mm. howitzers and within twenty minutes delivered accurate support fire, as observers at the front adjusted range by the sounds of the exploding shells.

Before the skirmish was over at dawn on 28 April, the 124th Infantry had lost about 10 men killed and 25 wounded, and had killed at least 50 Japanese. Its morale apparently shattered by the unexpected turn of events, the Japanese battalion broke and disappeared from the Sayre Highway.

After 28 April the 124th Infantry drove on northward against very scattered opposition, delayed mainly by the poor condition of the highway.

Guerrilla demolitions, given the finishing touch by engineers of the Southern Sector Unit, had accounted for most of the bridges along the road north of Kabacan, and there were some seventy bridges, in varying states of ruin, from Kabacan north twenty-five miles to the Mulita River.

In a post-war interrogation, Gen. Morozumi admitted that the destruction of bridges along the Sayre Highway formed an integral part of the Japanese defense plans.

“Demolitions were already placed at the bridges. All bridges north of Malaybalay were blown as soon as the Americans landed. South of Malaybalay bridges at Omanay and 10 kilometers south of Omanay were blown and defenses prepared at these positions,” Morozumi said.

Master Sergeant Aubrey (Paul) Tillery in 1943.

“With the retreating Japs (sic) blowing up about 75 bridges, it made our advancing troops face many problems while crossing streams and ravines,” recalls M/Sgt. Aubrey (Paul) Tillery of the Service Co. who wrote a World War II History of the 124th Infantry after the war.

“Getting trucks through with supplies was extremely difficult, At points we moved jeeps as well as supplies across these places on cables rigged for such purposes. At other times, the “Biscuit Bombers” (c-47 Dakotas) were used.”

Click here and go from 06:05-08:10 to view archival film footage of C-47 “Biscuit Bombers” air dropping supplies to the 124th Regiment in Kibawe without parachutes

When they came to the Muleta (Melita/Mulita in other accounts) River which was about four feet deep and 50 yards across, they had to build a makeshift bridge to get their half-dozen jeeps across.

We “jerry rigged” the blown bridges over the narrower creeks and had built a “sometimes bridge” over the shallow  river using 55 gallon oil drums and 75 mm artillery ammo that we found in an enemy supply dump, Deas recalled.

The 124th RCT HQ Co & Medical Detachment jerry rig a makeshift bridge across the Muleta River with 55 gallon oil drums filled with rock, 75mm artillery shells and planks.

“Filling the drums with rock and using 2×8 and 2×12 planks from the destroyed bridge, we made a 2-track contraption so that we could drive our vehicles across. This bridge was about 100 feet long and shaped like a lazy S.  It worked and later was very helpful in casualty evacuation. We were right proud of it, for HQ Company and the Medics built it.”

“Our objective was the Kibawe Air Strip, where the road took off east to Davao. As we passed it on May 6, we had been fighting up the road for nearly 50 miles.”

Winching a 105-mm howitzer over a  Bukidnon gorge by cable (NARA)

Deep gorges and landslides induced by heavy rains added to the 31st Division’s supply problems. At one point, the 124th Infantry and the 108th Engineer Battalion had to rig cables to get jeeps, quarter-ton trailers, three-quarter-ton weapons carriers, and 105-mm. howitzers across a pair of gorges.

It was not until 3 May, when engineer bulldozers completed fills, that the 124th could bring up heavier equipment. Obviously, the 31st Division would have to depend in large measure upon air supply to maintain its advance northward.

A Douglas C-47 Skytrain dropping much needed supplies to advance units of the 31st Infantry Division at Kibawe airstrip, Bukidnon, Mindanao.1945. (NARA)

The 124th completed its first mission when it reached Kibawe on 3 May after a 45-mile, five-day push up the Sayre Highway, despite determined resistance, banzai attacks, blown bridges and three treacherous mountain gorges. It set up roadblocks north of that barrio, and probed about a mile southeast along the trail that supposedly led to Talomo on Davao Gulf.

May 5, 1945 – Artillery Liaison plane taking off from Kibawe Airstrip, Bukidnon. Due to the length of grass, softness of fields and shortness of the airstrips, this field was usable only by liaison planes. (NARA)

Despite its supply problems the regiment had, within a week’s time, secured the 31st Division’s first objective. The advance from Kabacan to Kibawe had cost the 124th Infantry approximately 15 men killed and 50 wounded, while the Southern Sector Unit had lost over 175 men killed.

The Talomo Trail Recon in Force

Until the first week of May the 31st Division had been able to employ only one RCT along Sayre Highway. When the 41st Division’s 162d Infantry reached eastern Mindanao from Zamboanga, it took over responsibility for the protection of the X Corps rear areas from Parang to Fort Pikit, and permitted the 31st Division to bring its 155th RCT forward. The 167th RCT, 31st Division, aided by guerrilla units, protected the supply lines from Fort Pikit to Kibawe.

Since two RCTs were now available along Sayre Highway, General Sibert assigned additional tasks to the 31st Division.

Beach No. 12 in Tin-ao, Barrio Agusan was code named Brown Beach for the 10 May 1945 Macajalar Bay Landing. (NARA)

First, he directed the division to continue northward to clear the highway and to establish contact with the 108th RCT, 40th Division. General Eichelberger, the Eighth Army’s commander, had decided to put the 108th ashore at Macajalar Bay both to speed the conquest of Mindanao and to open a new supply route to the 31st Division, the supply problems of which increased with every step its troops took northward.

The 31st Division’s second job was to strike southeast along the Kibawe-Talomo trail. General Sibert’s preoccupation with this maneuver reflects the state of mapping and of weather information the Army had concerning Mindanao.

Clearing Eastern Mindanao X Corps 17 April-30 June 1945

Kibawe was the northern terminus of a supposed Japanese supply trail that twisted and turned south until it reached the ocean shore town of Talomo, a few miles west of Davao City. American planners had initially regarded the Kibawe-Talomo trail as an important line of communication for the 100th Division, and the 31st Division was prepared to begin a major push down it.

Sibert soon learned from Colonel Fertig that much of the Kibawe-Talomo trail was a figment of the imagination. Wheeled vehicles could negotiate only the first five or six miles of the trail south from Kibawe even in dry weather, and as a recognizable trace the trail extended only thirteen miles southeast from Kibawe to the Pulangi River.

In the Davao area the trail was fairly good from Calinan (terminus of Route 1-D from Talomo) northwest about six miles to the Tamogan River, but then disappeared. In the unmapped region between the Pulangi and Tamogan Rivers rainfall in April, May, and June sometimes reached a total of forty inches per month.

During June and July 1945 Japanese troops hacked a fairly definite path through the jungles and rain forest across the forty-five miles of rugged terrain separating the Pulangi and Tamogan Rivers, but never was this stretch such that large bodies of men could use it.

After making an aerial reconnaissance over the ground southeast from Kibawe, General Eichelberger put an end to plans to make a major effort southeast along the trail from Kibawe and about 10 May directed Sibert to limit operations on the trail to a battalion-sized reconnaissance-in-force.

19th Infantry Regiment on Route 1 moving through hemp plantation toward Davao. (NARA)

By this time, the 24th Division had the situation well in hand in the Davao area and the 31st Division could employ additional troops to good advantage along Sayre Highway. Sibert accordingly directed the 31st Division to push one battalion southeast from Kibawe as far as the Pulangi River and with the rest of its available strength to resume the drive up Sayre Highway. A battalion of the 167th Infantry began moving down the Talomo trail on 11 May.

A 1,000-man Japanese force held the trail, but jungle rain forest, torrential rains, and abysmal trail conditions were the real obstacles.

The Kibawe-Talomo Trail became a regular hunting ground for the low-flying PBJ’s of VMB-611 (in this unexplored and precipitous area, Lieutenant Colonel George H. Sarles, the squadron’s commander, was lost on 30 May); and MAG-32’s SBDs, together with MAG-12’s fighters and the dive bombers of MAG-24, now based at Titcomb Field, also pressed the attack.

Airdropped supplies to the isolated infantrymen were common as the trail was impassable for motor vehicles. Well beyond normal supply lines, they were dependent on air drops and beyond the range of their heavy supporting weapons, which had to be winched across the gorges on cables.

Eighteen days were required to reach the Pulangi River, some thirteen miles down the trail, and the sheer physical requirements of occupying the trail soon entailed committing the entire regiment to the operation.

The Pulangi River, winding through the Maapag Plain. Seen from Mount Musuan between the boundaries of Valencia City and Maramag in Bukidnon province, Philippines.

Yet even with the assistance of Filipino guerrillas, it took the 167th Infantry until 30 June to move five miles beyond the Pulangi River and seize the Japanese trail-force headquarters at Pinamola Mountains in Kibawe. By that time the enemy was already retreating farther south, and the 167th was content to let them go.

 Skirmishing along the trail cost the American regiment 80 men killed and 180 wounded, while counting almost 400 Japanese dead.

General Morozumi was also making changes in his plans in early May. Appalled by the speed of the 31st Division’s advance as far as Kibawe, Morozumi directed his units to start assembling at Malaybalay immediately in preparation for retreat eastward to the Agusan Valley.

He ordered a battalion of infantry southward to delay the 31st Division in the vicinity of Maramag, fifteen miles north of Kibawe, until 10 May at least, by which date he hoped his main forces would have passed through Malaybalay. The Japanese battalion was hardly in position when the 124th Infantry, which had started north from Kibawe on 6 May, reached Maramag.

A day earlier, on  or about the 5th of May, the Americans reached the deep gorge located 10 kilometer south of Omonay, Damulog where the retreating Japanese had destroyed the bridge.

Colonel Kanetake Ouchi, with his two companies of engineers from the 30th Engineer Regiment and the remnants of the Hayashi and Murase (formerly the Sanitation Unit) Battalions which were also withdrawing, took positions on the north side of the gorge and put up a determined resistance.

However, the combination of superior engineering ability, abundant supplies, and efficient air support of the Americans forced them out after two days.

Into the woods

The 124th Infantry had resumed its progress up the Sayre Highway on 6 May, even before the Talomo trail reconnaissance had begun. In doing so, the regiment moved into its toughest fight of the Mindanao campaign, if not of the Pacific war itself.

Difficulties stemmed from two separate factors. First, the regiment initially lacked artillery support. Destroyed bridges, rain, and generally impassable terrain had left the artillery battalions farther and farther behind the hard-pushing infantry.

Second, General Morozumi had decided to consolidate his 30th Division around Malaybalay before undertaking a final withdrawal eastward into the Agusan Valley.

In an effort to gain time for this movement, Morozumi ordered Ouchi to engage the enemy while in the dense forest. The 2nd Battalion, 74th Regiment, under the command of Major Hotta, was ordered to Omanay as reinforcement. This force retreating from the position, took advantage of the dense jungle to delay the advance.

With no heavy artillery in place, the regiment advanced with the support of a company of 4.2-inch mortars. After only a few hundred yards the regiment encountered the enemy in strength and began the hardest, bloodiest, most costly action during its entire service.

Imperial Japanese Army soldiers firing a Type 92 (1932) 7.7-mm. heavy machine gun, gas-operated and air-cooled. This was the standard Japanese heavy machine gun. (Courtesy

The Japanese troops had entrenched themselves in well-prepared and completely camouflaged spider-type pillboxes with connecting tunnels. These lined both sides of Sayre Highway, which was little more than a dirt road.

The advancing American soldiers could pass within a few feet of the pillboxes and not see them. The Japanese occupants would let the troops pass and then rise up and shoot the unsuspecting soldiers from behind. An entire morning’s fighting by the 1st Battalion gained 300 yards.

“The Japs (sic) were effectively dug in and determined to halt our advance at this point,” recalls M/Sgt. Paul Tillery. “Being well prepared for combat and with such strong positions they were able to inflict heavy losses upon our attacking troops. Our foot soldiers attacked these positions time and again, sustaining heavy casualties to no avail.”

With the artillery yet to catch up with the fast moving infantrymen, Marine SBD dive bombers and F4U Corsairs were called in to pound the hardened Japanese positions with bombs and napalm.

Describing the concentrated strikes in the Colgan Woods, one of the pilots, First Lieutenant Thurston P. Gilchrist, said:

“This was the most heavily bombed area of any in the whole Philippine campaign. The Japs (sic) were dug in underneath trees and in foxholes so well that we had to blow up the whole area before the Army could advance. Our Marine observers, who were with the ground liaison party in this area, said the damage was terrible and almost indescribable. Flight after flight of planes bombed and strafed this small area for days. When we began it was a heavily wooded area and when we finished there wasn’t . . . anything left but a few denuded trees . It was from these Marine observers that we pilots found out for about the first time how much damage we were doing to the Japanese troops.”

Click here and go to 2:16-3:10 to view archival footage of US Marines SBDs dive bomb Japanese positions in Colgan Woods, followed by US Marines F4U Corsairs dropping napalm, and Japanese KIA in one of two banzai charges.

On 8 May, VMSB-241(Sons of Satan) and VMSB-133 (Flying Eggbeaters) flew what one squadron report termed “the closest support mission yet flown.” The Japanese lines were only 200 yards from the infantrymen of the 31st Division, and the enemy was unyielding. Marked with smoke, the tiny target area was plastered with nearly five tons of bombs, and the Japanese position simply disintegrated.

However, the 124ths infantrymen on the ground did not share the Marines’ optimism on the efficacy of their bombing sorties.

“It would be days  before the sorely missed artillery could get up in order to land their support. In the  meantime, Marine dive bombers were called in and made raids for a few days but were not effective against these strong enemy positions,” M/Sgt. Tillery opined. “Our artillery finally arrived and began shelling and in just a few hours on 12  May 1945, our troops were able to move through this area. The remaining Japs retreated from this heavy artillery barrage.”

Maramag Landing Field, Bukidnon  1942 (NARA)

On the same day, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to bypass the bogged down 1st Battalion and secure the Maramag airstrip No. 1 less than two miles to the north. They were caught in the flank by a banzai attack which inflicted heavy casualties. Cries for medics could be heard and the corpsmen of the 124th Medical Detachment dashed into the woods to evacuate the wounded. They, too, were shot down.

“The 1st Battalion was stopped and so was the 2nd Battalion on the other side of the road. Many were wounded. The Japs (sic) would let us advance so far and then come out of their holes and shoot from behind,” Deas said.  “Their holes were not over two feet wide and were five to seven feet deep with connecting tunnels. It was a devious situation.”

Japanese soldiers in hidden foxholes would let American soldiers pass then shoot them from behind.

The medics spent most of the day trying to get to the wounded and bring them back, an almost miraculous task. Nineteen year old Pfc. Hugh Summerfield of the 124th Medical Detachment worked tirelessly and seemed to have a charmed life as he brought back man after man till dark.

“Then he was sure that another one of his comrades was alive and in a certain place. Against all warnings by his commanding officer, Summerfield crawled back out to get his comrade. He didn’t come back that night and the next morning our troops advanced again,” Major Deas relates.

“They found Summerfield lying over a comrade. Both were dead.”

Firing from dugout positions, camouflaged spider holes with connecting tunnels, and virtually invisible pillboxes, the Japanese chose to die rather than surrender.

“They had prepared these positions well in advance with the intention of wreaking severe damage to any American troops coming up this road. Thus, they were well prepared when our 124th Infantry foot soldiers arrived. Their pillboxes were connected with tunnels, some of which ran under tree roots. The positions were well covered and camouflaged rendering them most difficult to recognize. Troops would pass nearby and not even be aware of these fortifications. Considering these well-built defenses, it’s no wonder it took the artillery to drive them out,” Sgt.Tillery noted.

However, General Morozumi said it was the attacks of the American infantrymen which led to their final defeat in Colgan Woods.

“Our positions, coupled with the jungle, offered excellent protection against air attacks.  After the loss of this battle (Colgan Woods), we had little hope of winning.”

He considered the battle for the Sayre Highway lost from about May 8th to May 10th.

Chicago Streetfighter

Father William V. O’Connor, Chaplain of the 155th Infantry Regiment, recalls visiting Fr. Thomas Aquinas Colgan, the 124th’s chaplain on that day. “His march had been very long and hard and he was tired,” said O’Connor. “I urged him to drop back and take a rest, but he said he wanted to be where his men needed him.”

Chaplain Colgan walked up to the battalion command post, calmly surveyed the situation and said to the command post personnel, “Those are my boys in there. They need me. I should be with them.”

Staff Sgt. Charles Morgan, who often assisted the priest in his duties, said Father Colgan disregarded a warning from a senior officer that he should not attempt to go into the woods because of snipers.

“He just went down the road and walked right into the woods,” Morgan recalled. “He must have known that he had little hope of coming out alive.”

Father Colgan encountered Staff Sgt. Edgar Beatty, C Company, 1st Battalion, on the scene. Beatty also admonished the chaplain not to go into the woods. “He just told me a joke and said that’s where he belonged,” said Beatty.

“Battle of Colgan Woods” – Pinamaloy, Don Carlos, Bukidnon – 1945 – Oil on Masonite – 44″ x 54″  By Jackson Walker 1991 of Orlando, Florida at the cost of $6,000.  Many 31st Division Veterans contributed to the cost along with the Florida Heritage Series in the 124th Infantry Museum, Orlando, Florida. It depicts Chaplain Colgan ministering to a wounded medic, when he was 
killed.  Henceforth the woods were known as Colgans Woods.

Father Colgan entered the woods amid the fighting. Spotting a wounded man, he began to make his way ducking automatic fire. Suddenly he was hit in the shoulder, but he still continued to crawl through the underbrush until he reached the wounded medic Robert Lee Evans lying in a shell hole. A moment later, a quick burst of machine gun fire killed Chaplain Colgan instantly.

The cruel war

Banzai charges struck the 124th, fighting without supporting artillery, first on 7 May and then on the night of 14 May. The latter ended in a rout, as American automatic weapons stopped the attackers, killing 73 Japanese, marking the end of the battle.

The 149th Field Artillery managed to get within range on May 12 and after an intense barrage, the 2nd Battalion plus L Company finally pushed through the shrapnel-shredded woods.

The Americans named the side of the woods where Chaplain Colgan was killed as Colgan Woods, while the woods on the opposite side of the Sayre Highway they named  Berlin Woods.

On May 8 Marine SBD dive bombers from VMSB-241(Sons of Satan) and VMSB-133 (Flying Eggbeaters) pounded the Japanese fortifications with nearly five tons of bombs but failed to dislodge the entrenched defenders.
US Navy SBD-5 Dauntless by Ron Cole (Ron Cole & Cole’s Aircraft Aviation Art)

Click here and go to 2:16-3:10 to view archival footage of US Navy SBDs dive bomb Japanese positions in Colgan Woods, followed by US Navy F4U Corsairs dropping napalm, and Japanese KIA in one of two banzai charges.

The woods were finally taken after six days of mortar fire, dive bombing by Marine SBD dive bombers dropping high explosive and fire bombs, and daily infantry assaults.

In the fighting for Colgan Woods and Maramag, an area the size of a city block had cost the 124th Infantry Regiment 69 men killed and 177 wounded from 6 to 12 May.

Maj. Thomas Deas helping with a litter patient during the battle of Colgan Woods on Mindanao, between Kibawe and Maramag, on 7 May 1945. The heavy fighting was about 100 yards down the trail behind them. This was Tom’s 29th birthday. The man on Tom’s right was the air liaison. Tom saw him struggling with the stretcher and went to help him.(Photo courtesy of Dr Tom Deas)

In a post-war interrogation, General Morozumi admitted about half of the battalion defending the Colgan woods were killed in action, with the remnants retreating into the mountains to conduct guerrilla warfare. An IJA battalion typically has a complement of 1,100 men in  4 companies of 180 men each, along with other units commanded by a lieutenant colonel. American estimates placed the number of Japanese casualties from this action at 580.

May 15, 1945 -Japanese KIA mounting a banzai attack near Maramag Airstrip 1, Bukidnon, which was met with  artillery of Companies G and H, 124th Infantry Regiment. (NARA)

The casualties could now be retrieved, and Father Colgan was found, his arms still embracing the man he had tried to save. He was identified by the marks on his uniform.

Cpl. Lou Hall on Morotai in 1945, before the landing on Mindanao.

Corporal Lou Hall said that he was one of the men who recovered the padre’s body.

During that battle, he was firing his BAR from a “chevron” position (a description of the shape of the hole) when a Japanese mortar round impacted behind him and blew him out of the hole.

“I still remember flying through the air with my arms out. They put me in a field hospital that was made of tents set up in the kunai grass,” Hall recalls.

He was not seriously injured, and returned to duty. At one point he was also hospitalized with malaria for two weeks.

Wounded troops of the 124th Infantry Regiment being evacuated from Valencia Airstrip 8 May 1945. After completing the last trip of their shuttle runs, troop transport planes picked up wounded personnel to be evacuated and took them back to Leyte. (NARA)

The Japanese battalion ordered by Morozumi to delay the 124th at Maramag some 30 miles (48 km) south to enable the regrouping of his 30th Division, did so with such ferocity, that it took six days for the 124th to reach Maramag.

The battle area from Talomo to Maramag was later renamed Colgan Woods by the troops in remembrance of Chaplain Colgan. The battle remains one of the many brutal struggles in the Pacific theater that mostly remains forgotten to this day.

On to Malaybalay and beyond

With the end of most of the Japanese resistance around Maramag, Col. Walter J. Hanna’s 155th Infantry passed through the 124th on 13 May to continue the drive northward.

Organized opposition along Sayre Highway south of Malaybalay had now melted away, and the 155th Infantry was delayed principally by supply problems and difficulties entailed in keeping supporting artillery within range of possible points of Japanese resistance.

Since they could not be bring them into their mountain retreats, the Japanese chose to deploy their remaining artillery in a rear guard action at Malaybalay.

About noon on 20 May the 155th reached the outskirts of Malaybalay, where fire from remnants of the 30th Field Artillery Regiment halted the advance. Realizing that the regiment could not haul its weapons into the mountains east of Malaybalay, Morozumi had left the unit at Malaybalay to fight a rear-guard action, which was successful in keeping the 155th Infantry out of the town until late on 21 May.

On 22 and 23 May the 155th continued up Sayre Highway, encountering elements of Morozumi’s Northern Sector Unit that had not learned that American troops had reached Malaybalay and were still withdrawing southward to join the 30th Division’s main body.

With the Japanese airstrips at Maramag and Malaybalay now in Allied hands, air resupply for the leading ground troops became feasible, and the supply situation began to ease.

The Macajalar Bay Landing

As the 31st Division was fighting up the Sayre Highway, General Eichelberger had ordered the 108th Regimental Combat Team, 40th Division, to land at Macajalar Bay and open the Sayre Highway from the north. The regiment, commanded by Col. Maurice D. Stratta, moved ashore unopposed on 10 May and headed south.

Click here and go to 00:23-06;04 to see actual archival film footage of 108th Regt Landings at Macajalar Bay, Tin-ao, Agusan, Cagayan, Misamis Oriental on 10 May 1945 ; followed by Lt Gen Eichelberger and Rear Adm Struble Inspecting 108th Regt landing and moves inland.

Advancing inland, the 108th Infantry encountered no significant resistance until 13 May, when, eighteen miles inland, it came upon strong Japanese defenses where Sayre Highway zigzags up and down the steep slopes of the Mangima River canyon. Here Morozumi had posted a delaying force of about 1,250 men who had the support of a few pieces of light artillery.

Click here and go to 0:56-2:15 to view actual archival film footage of the 108th RCT fighting at the Mangima Canyon, machinegun covering the withdrawal of US troops, medics transporting wounded personnel under fire, and US Sherman tank attacking a bunker.

Although Morozumi probably did not know it, he had stationed his delaying groupment at the same point a Fil-American force had chosen to hold just three years earlier when the Kawamura Detachment, an elite unit of the IJA 5th Division, foreshadowed the 108th RCTs operation and landed at Macajalar Bay to drive south along Sayre Highway. 

Machine Guns of the Heavy Weapons Companies 1st Bn, 108th RCT fire on Hill No. 2 on the Mangima Valley Area 15 May 1945 (364527 Signal Corps Photo SWPA-SigC-45-18170 (ONeill) Released by BPH 7 June 1945 Orig Neg Lot 11569

In May 1942 the Fil-American force had held at the Mangima Canyon area for four days, and now in May 1945 history repeated itself, for it took the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, from 15 through 18 May to clean out the region.

Following this action the 108th Infantry–its rear protected by the 3d Battalion of the Americal Division’s 164th Infantry, which reached Macajalar Bay on 14 May–continued south to its rendezvous with the 31st Division.

Pressed by troops of the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, which had already landed at Macajalar Bay, the retreating forces gave the 155th Infantry little trouble and, about 1400 on 23 May, the 155th made contact with the 108th Infantry near Impalutao, twelve miles northwest of Malaybalay, opening another supply route.

Supply problems slowed the 108th Infantry’s advance to some degree, but Sayre Highway was in so much better shape from Macajalar Bay south to Malaybalay than it was from Kabacan north that Eighth Army immediately changed the 31st Division’s supply route to one originating at Macajalar Bay.

May 26, 1945 The 124th Regimental Combat Team, 31st Division, bivouacs in Malaybalay. The regiment command post is upstairs of what remains of the former Governor’s mansion.  On the main floor is the regiment aid station and regiment surgeon’s office. (NARA)

Its share in the task of clearing Sayre Highway cost the 31st Division approximately 90 men killed and 250 wounded, while the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, lost roughly 15 men killed and 100 wounded. Together, the two units killed almost 1,000 Japanese during their operations along the highway, and captured nearly 25 more.

The 108th Infantry’s juncture with Hanna’s 155th Infantry meant total American control of the Sayre Highway and the end of organized Japanese resistance in Mindanao.

The seemingly low cost in battlefield casualties for the Americans in the Mindanao campaign stemmed, aside from the overall brilliance and skill of the Eighth Army planners and leaders, from increasing assistance by Filipino guerrillas, which in military terms, constituted a valuable “force multiplier” for the Eighth Army units.

A guerrilla force moves down a road near Macajalar Bay on 11 May 1945, most probably from the 1st & 2nd Bn, 110th Regt, 110th Division. (NARA)

Before landings, guerrillas harassed Japanese units, provided valuable intelligence about enemy dispositions and the relative suitability of landing beaches. And after each landing, the Filipinos fought alongside the Americans and pursued the Japanese through the island’s interior.

However, in the case of the Battle for Colgan Woods, it appears the American officers did not give much weight to intel reports from the two battalions guerrillas in Bukidnon who had joined up with them in the course of their advance, perhaps leading them to absorb more casualties than they should have.

“I told Colonel [Edward M.] Starr that a big force of Japanese had dug in around the lake, and advised him to strafe and bomb the area before proceeding,”said Franklin Labaon, in a personal interview conducted by author Ronald K. Edgerton on 29 April 1977 in Kibawe and published in the latter’s book “People of the Middle Ground, A Century of Conflict and Accommodation in Central Mindanao 1880s-1980s.”

109th Division Station List 30 April 1945 First Lieutenants No. 40 Franklin Labaon, CO 2d Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment (NARA)

Then First Lieutenant Labaon was the commander of the guerrillas 2nd Battalion,117th Regiment, 109th Division under Lt. Col. James Grinstead. At this time, the 117th Regiment was commanded by  Maj. Waldo McVickers  with a personnel complement of 41 officers and 534 enlisted men with headquarters near Mailag.

Even though his troops had outdistanced their artillery support, Starr went ahead and sent one company to reconnoiter. They immediately came under heavy enemy fire.

The Battle of Pinamaloy by  BGen Restituto Aguilar (Ret) Army Troopers Newsmagazine Apr-June 2013

In the article The Battle of Pinamaloy published in the April-June 2013 issue of The Army Troopers Newsmagazine, Brig. Gen. Restituto A. Aguilar (ret)., former head of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), said the Americans ignored repeated warnings from the guerrillas about the well-entrenched Japanese and would have even suffered more casualties had not the Filipino guerrillas helped them destroy the well-sited Japanese fortifications.

A typical guerrilla garbed in his fighting clothes from Mandirigma Uniforms of the Philippine Fighting Man 1935-1945. More photos from their FB Page MANDIRIGMA.

“Many of them were barefooted that was why perhaps the Americans thought they were not knowledgeable in the art of fighting,” Gen. Aguilar noted. “They did not have decent uniforms, some were in tattered clothes or old khaki uniforms.”

Gen. Aguilar relates how he got first-hand accounts from two former guerrillas who witnessed the brutality of the fighting when he was assigned to Cotabato in 2004. One rued the complete lack of accounts about the battle, while another related how he cried upon seeing the gory scenes of dead Japanese. The terrible scenes of carnage were apparently the reason why many who witnessed the Battle of Colgan Woods were reluctant to talk about it at all.



1.       World War II Diary of Robert T. Webber, Personal Diary April 12- June 28, 1945, F Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, 31st Infantry Dixie Division, 8th US Amy

2.       Hall, Louis L., F Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, 31st Infantry Dixie Division, 8th US Amy

3.       Deas, Thomas M. 124th Medical Detachment, 124th Infantry Regiment, 31st Division

4.       Hess, Marion. Chicago

5.       Deas, Thomas M., A Day in the Life of a Regimental Surgeon, published in the Homer, Louisiana, Guardian Journal in 3 episodes on 29 February, 5 March and 12 March 1992. Transcribed by Paul M. Webber on 11 January 2002

6.       Deas, Thomas M., The Last Full 

7.       Tillery, Paul (Aubrey) M/Sgt., Service Co., 27 Feb 1941 – 27 Dec. 1945, Written in 1998, 124th Infantry Regiment World War II

8.       Staff Study of Japanese Operations in Mindanao Island, Special Staff, US Army Historical Division, 10th Information and Historical Service, Headquarters Eight Army (courtesy of Dr. Ricardo T. Jose)

9.       Aguilar, Restituto A. Maj. Gen. (ret)., The Battle of Pinamaloy, Army Troopers Newsmagazine, April-June 2013. Pages 13-15

10.   Smith, R.R., 2005, Triumph in the Philippines, Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, ISBN 1410224953

11.   “West Virginia Veterans Memorial: Remember… Thomas Edgar “Jock” Clifford 1911–1945″. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

12.   ^ Col. Mang Thomas Edgar “Jock” Chupainguine Archived April 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (Dateline: 1944 – Ref. Col. Thomas Edgar “Jock” Clifford)

13.   Lofren, Stephen J., Southern Philippines 27 February – 4 July 1945, The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II, U.S. Army Center of Military History, pp. 22-26, 29-31 (retrieved 01 December 2020)

14.   Organization of the Japanese Imperial Army, Wikipedia

15.   Smith, Robert Ross, Chapter XXXII The Conquest of Eastern Mindanao: Plans, Preparations, and Penetrations, U.S. Army in World War II, The War in the Pacific, Triumph in the Philippines (retrieved 02 December 2020)HistoryFlicks4U (archival film footage)

16.   Luzon Pacific Activities in the Philippines, Army Pictorial Service (archival film footage of American troops of the 6th and 8th army battle the Japanese in the jungles near Manila on Luzon and on Mindanao island during the Philippines campaign of World War II. Also shows dramatic scenes of corpsmen aiding their wounded comrades while under sniper fire. ( with sound and narration)

17.   108th Regiment Landings at Macajalar Bay, Mindanao, P.I., 10 May 1945, Arch & APC MP 690’ Silent, ADC 4446 (Army Pictorial Center, US Signal Corps), N.A.R.A.

18.   CHAPTER XI, Operations Of The Eighth Army In The Southern Philippines, Southward Advance,, page 348-355 (retrieved 03 December 2020)

19.   CHAPTER XVI, The Central and Southern Philippines, Reports of General MacArthur, Japanese Operations In The Southwest Pacific Area, Volume II – Part II, Compiled from Japanese Demobilization Bureaux Records, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 66-60007, Facsimile Reprint, 1994 CMH Pub 13-2, pages 528-531, 549-556

20.   Boggs, Charles W. (Major) USMC, Marine Aviation in the Philippines, Historical Division Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1951, pages 114-116, 124-131 (online monograph retrieved 04 December 2020)

21.   Chapin, John C. (Captain) USMC Reserve (Ret)…And A Few Marines: Marines in the Liberation of the Philippines, Marines in World War II Commemorative Series, HQMC June 2002, Distribution: PCN 19000314380, pages 25, 26 (retrieved 04 December 2020)

22.   Rottman, Gordon L., U.S. Marine Corps World War II Order of Battle: Ground and Air Units in the Pacific War, 1939-1945 , U.S. Marine Corps Squadrons World War II (Updated 25 March 2014), (retrieved 04 December 2020)

23. Williams, George Lt. Col. (S-1), THIRD BATTALION 124th INFANTRY APO 31, MEDIVAC CAMPAIGN April-May-June 1945 , World War II Journals 3rd Battalion 124th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, These Journals Belonged to Pat Harrison Bullock, Seminary. Mississippi.  Written by Lt. Col. George Williams, They Contain Day by Day Records of The Battles in New Guinea and The Philippines Compiled by: S-1 Section  Maps: Mindanao 1/50,000

24. Edgerton, Ronald K., People of the Middle Ground, A Centurty of Conflict and Accommodation in Central Mindanao, 1880s-1980s. Ateneo de Manila University Press@2008, pages 197, 209

25. History of the Thirty First, 31st Division, page 52, 55-56  

Marawi City General Hospital to complement Amai Pakpak Medical Center

MARAWI CITY —– The construction of a  general hospital in Barangay Datu Naga in Marawi City will complement the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, currently the only government-run hospital in Marawi.

Dr. Adriano Subaan, director of Department of Health (DOH) Region 10, said the two hospitals will complement each other similar to how the Northern Mindanao Medical Center  (NMMC) and the JR Borja General Hospital (JRBGH) in Cagayan de Oro City work together,

Department of Health (DOH) Region 10 Director Subaan in a press briefing in Marawi City on November 27 said the ground breaking of the Marawi City General Hospital symbolizes the rising up of the health sector in Marawi that was destroyed by the armed conflict in 2017. (Divina M. Suson)

The NMMC is a DOH-maitained hospital while JRBGH is run by the LGU of Cagayan de Oro.

“The APMC will be the apex hospital in this part of Mindanao so the Marawi General Hospital can provide services and that will complement the services of APMC so there will be a referral system,” Subaan said during the ground breaking ceremony of the P290-million general hospital in Marawi on November 27.

Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) and the LGU of Marawi broke ground to commence the construction of the 50-bed capacity three-story hospital inside the most affected area (MAA).

The first phase of the  P62 million project, was taken from the P3.5 billion 2020 fund for Marawi rehabilitation program according to Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario, also the TFBM chairman.

Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Sec. Eduardo Del Rosario said the first phase of the project worth P62 million will be  taken from the P3.2 billion Marawi rehabilitation program for 2020. (Divina M. Suson)

The remaining  P228 million will be sourced from the 2021 Marawi rehabilitation fund worth P5 billion.

To be called Marawi City General Hospital, it will be a three-storey hospital “with complete level of medical equipment and ambulance” according to Dr. Dave Mendoza, Local Health Support Division Chief of the DOH Northern Mindanao.

The actual construction will start before the end of 2020 or at the within the first 15 days of January 2021, and will be completed by December 2021 according to the TFBM.

“It will take ten (10) months to construct the hospital. The construction time will not exceed December 31, 2021,” said DHSUD Chief of Staff Zyril Carlos during the press briefing after the ground breaking.

DOH Region 10 Director Adriano Subaan (2nd from left), Dept of Human Settlements and Urban Development Sec. Eduardo Del Rosario (4th from left) and Mayor Majul Gandamra (5th from left), lead the ground breaking ceremony on November 27 for the P290 million local government-operated hospital inside the most affected area in Marawi City. (Divina M. Suson)

“This ground breaking symbolizes the rising up of the health sector in Marawi that was destroyed by the armed conflict (in 2017),” Subaan said.

With the construction of a LGU-run hospital in Marawi, the DOH is looking forward to the establishment of an efficient city-wide health system  aligned with   the universal health care thrust of the DOH, according to Subaan.

“The health referral system, the health facilities systems were destroyed, the health workers were displaced and also affected (during the Marawi siege). Even the private sector, the owners of the pharmacy, the clinics of private hospital were also displaced,” Subaan recalled.

Aside from the operation of the hospital, LGU Marawi will take care of the staffing.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra in a press briefing on November 27 said the establishment of Marawi City General Hospital is a big help for the city since many private hospitals were greatly affected and damaged by  the siege in 2017. (Divina M. Suson)

Mayor Majul Gandamra said the establishment of this hospital is a big help for the city since many  private hospitals were greatly affected and damaged because of the siege in 2017.

The local chief executive also said the hospital  will augment the services being given by the AMPC which is now overwhelmed with patients due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

“Napakalaking tulong ang pagpagawa ng hospital (The establishment of the hospital is a big help).  It can augment the services being given by the existing government hospital, the APMC. Sa panahon po ngayon ng existing pandemic, naging sentro po sa ating APMC (During the pandemic, AMPC has been the center for accommodating patients),” said Gandamra.


Seven dead, vehicles, properties damaged in Jasaan vehicular accident

ILIGAN CITY —– Seven persons died and dozens of vehicles and properties were damaged when a 10-wheeler crashed into a group of people attending a vigil along the national highway of Barangay Aplaya, in Jasaan town, Misamis Oriental past 11:00 pm Tuesday, .

Photo courtesy: Jasaan PNP

The police report said an Isuzu prime mover was travelling from Butuan City to Zamboanga City when the trailer’s body cracked and the driver lost control.

“The truck ran over a  group of people, properties and vehicles parked along the highway,” said Maj. Evary Bacunawa, officer-in-charge of Jasaan Police Station.

Photo courtesy: Jasaan PNP

Bacunawa identified the fatalities as Lemwel Edorot, 33 years old and Wilfredo Capilador, 32, barangay councilmen of Aplaya;  Cirick Jadumas, 53; Helardo Montecillo, 65, and Jomie Montecillo, 45, all residents of Claveria town, Misamis Oriental; Justine Pepito, 15, resident of Jasaan; and one unidentified.

Five other unidentified persons were injured and were brought to a community hospital in Jasaan.

The accident damaged 14 motorcycles, six vehicles, a small store, a fence and a gate, and an auto repair shop.

“The police warned them to stop the vigil because it is still forbidden because of the pandemic and the area is dangerous because it is along the highway,” Bacunawa said.

Photo courtesy: Jasaan PNP

The driver of the truck, whom the police did not name, is now under the custody of Jasaan police for further investigation and filing of cases.


The True Meaning of the X in Xmas

We are republishing this article in memory of the late Bishop Lorenzo Genotiva who first enlightened us during a Christmas Day Service in a dialogue with his son Calvin.

Bishop Lorenzo Genotiva, United Church of Christ in the Philippines

The word Christ and its compounds, including Christmas, have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern Xmas was commonly used.

Christ was often written as  or Xt; there are references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as far back as 1021.

This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the Greek letters χ (Ch) and ρ (R) used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for Christ), and are still widely seen in many Eastern Orthodox icons depicting Jesus Christ.

Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Jesus Christ in Greek, which Constantine saw in a vision along with the words in this sign you will conquer.

The labarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the OED Supplement have cited usages of X– or Xp– for Christ as early as 1485.

The labarum (Greek λάβαρον) was a vexillum (military standard) that displayed the Chi-Rho symbol ☧, a christogram formed from the first two Greek letters of the word Christ

The terms Xtian (and less commonly Xpian) have also been used for Christian. The OED further cites usage of Xtianity for Christianity from 1634. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, most of the evidence for these words comes from “educated Englishmen who knew their Greek”.

In ancient Christian art, χ and χρ are abbreviations for Christ’s name.

In many manuscripts of the New Testament and icons, Χ is an abbreviation for Χριστος , as is XC (the first and last letters in Greek, using the lunate sigma);[ compare IC for Jesus in Greek. 

So apparently, the X’mas abbreviation has been used for hundreds of years (some texts cite its first known use as 1551) in religious writing and variants such as Xtemass, originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation /ˈkrɪsməs/

Besides the Greek letter X representing Christ, the word mas in Xmas is from the Old English word derived from Latin for Mass.

 The word Christ and its compounds, including Christmas, have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern Xmas was commonly used.

Unfortunately, most probably because of its widespread use in commercials and other Christmas season advertising and marketing, many people have inadvertently interpreted the term Xmas as an informal abbreviation of the word Christmas and even pronounce it as /ˈɛksməs/.

There is a prevalent and persistent misconception that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmasby taking the Christ out of Christmas.

In the United Kingdom, the former Church of England Bishop of Blackburn, Alan Chesters, recommended to his clergy that they avoid the spelling. In the United States, in 1977 New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson sent out a press release saying that he wanted journalists to keep the Christ in Christmas, and not call it Xmas—which he asserted was a pagan spelling of Christmas.

 Dennis Bratcher, writing for a website for Christians, states “there are always those who loudly decry the use of the abbreviation ‘Xmas’ as some kind of blasphemy against Christ and Christianity”.

 Among them are evangelist Franklin Graham and CNN journalist Roland S. Martin. Graham stated in an interview: “for us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ.

 Martin likewise relates the use of Xmas to his growing concerns of increasing commercialization and secularization of one of Christianity’s highest holy days.Bratcher posits that those who dislike abbreviating the word are unfamiliar with a long history of Christians using X in place of Christ for various purposes.

 According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, most of the evidence for these words comes from “educated Englishmen who knew their Greek”.  It further states that its modern use in advertisements, headlines and banners is extensive because its conciseness is valued.  The association with commerce “has done nothing for its reputation”, according to the dictionary.

 Besides the ancient writings, Xmas has also been extensively used in many countries and cultures in the centuries predating its extensive use in media.

Following are just a number of instances once can easily access from its URL in Wikipedia

Early use of Xmas includes Bernard Ward’s History of St. Edmund’s college, Old Hall (originally published circa 1755). An earlier version, X’temmas, dates to 1551. Around 1100 the term was written as Xp̄es mæsse in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

Xmas is found in a letter from George Woodward in 1753.Lord Byron used the term in 1811, as did Samuel Coleridge (1801) and Lewis Carroll (1864).

In the United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. used the term in a letter dated 1923. Since at least the late 19th century, Xmas has been in use in various other English-language nations.

Quotations with the word can be found in texts written in Canada, and the word has been used in Australia, and in the Caribbean.

Citations of the aforementioned uses may be referred to at the end of this same cited entry in Wikipedia.

Besides its extensive use in the abbreviations for Christ and Christmas, the X representation for Christ can also be found in other Christian Holidays such as Easter in Russia.

Russian families pack straw baskets with pyramids of paskha and columns of kulich (both decorated with the Cyrillic letters X B, which stand for the Russian words meaning Christ is risen

Russian families pack straw baskets with pyramids of paskha and columns of kulich (both decorated with the Cyrillic letters X B, which stand for the Russian words meaning Christ is risen.

The paskha is decorated with traditional religious symbols, such as the Chi Ro and the letters X and B (Cyrillic letters for Христосъ Воскресе  the Slavonic traditional Paschal greeting “Christ is Risen.”

The pascha is decorated with traditional religious symbols, such as the Chi Ro and the letters X and B (Cyrillic letters for Христосъ Воскресе the Slavonic traditional Paschal greeting Christ is Risen.

Wikipedia also cites how other proper names containing the name Christ are abbreviated similarly, either as X or Xt, both of which have been used historically, e.g., Xtopher or Xopher for Christopher, or Xtina or Xina for the name Christina.

 In the 17th and 18th centuries, Xene and Exene were common spellings for the given name Christine. The American singer Christina Aguilera has sometimes gone by the name Xtina.

 (This article has been sourced from online sources. The reader is encouraged to surf the internet to verify for himself the above mentioned citations)


53rd Shell NSAC Awards: hope during this pandemic year

Through Filipino art students from all over the country

As audiences reckon with art’s essential place in providing comfort and positivity during difficult times, an environment of support is essential for young struggling artists to thrive—so that they may continue to spread messages of hope and shine a light on the future.

Founded on its mission of empowering the young artists of tomorrow, Pilipinas Shell’s National Student Art Competition (NSAC) held its 53rd run this year, with the timely theme of “HOPE IN OUR ART.” For the first time in history, the longest-running Philippine student art competition was held completely online, its platform reaching out to more young artists around the country.

The 53rd NSAC concluded with an awarding ceremony held last November 27 via Zoom, with entries totaling 1,500—a testament to the art sector’s rapid growth and potential and the vibrant enthusiasm of young Filipinos towards art. 

“For young Filipino artists, NSAC has been a platform to learn and grow by harnessing personal experiences and transforming them into works of art,” said Cesar Romero, President and CEO of Pilipinas Shell. “May we work together to reinforce art’s place in a post-pandemic society — one that deserves to be cultivated for many years to come.”

“The importance of art has never been clearer during the months we spent in isolation when art was used to express feelings—from fear and gratitude, to trying to make sense of what the world is going through,” stressed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat, who was a guest speaker at the event.”

“Our young artists will tell the story of how our people overcame this crisis—drawing on our spirit of bayanihan, talent for innovation, and desire for a just society,” she added.

Of the 1,500 entries submitted from all over the country, three winners were chosen for four categories : Digital Fine Arts, Sculpture, Watercolor, and Oil and Acrylic.

The following are the winners and their respective schools:

Digital Fine Arts Category

3rd Place: “One by One, Whole Body” by Victor Nadera from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The piece references the quintessential 1×1 ID photos taken for school admission, but it also reflects how the education system has had to change because of the pandemic—which has robbed many students of the chance to enjoy this period of their youth alongside their friends, classmates, and teachers. Despite this, many students around the country continue to persist through their studies in the hope of fulfilling their education and one day improving the nation .

2nd Place: “MHM (Mental Health) Matters” by Bea Therese Musni from the University of Rizal System, Angono Campus. The artwork depicts a cry to recognize the rise of mental health amid this turbulent year. With catastrophes and crises going on everywhere, mental health often gets put on the backburner, but the young artist Musni reminds us that taking care of one’s health is integral before becoming a beacon of hope for other people.

1st Place: “Wala Akong Choice Kundi Magdasal” by Rianne Abucejo from the University of San Carlos. The winning entry is a powerful expression of the power of prayer as a source of strength as the world attempts to make sense of the uncertainties surrounding them. Although there are often more questions than answers, faith and a spiritual connection in the grand scheme of the universe can be a lifeline of hope.

Sculpture Category

3rd Place: “Ako Ay May Lobo” by John Lirio from the University of the East, Caloocan. The artwork utilizes elements of youth, particularly toys, to portray a picture of beginnings that can signal hope for humanity. At first look, Lirio’s artwork may appear like random objects attached together, but the rising balloon signifies that we, as humans, can go beyond our suffering and emerge stronger and wiser.

2nd Place: “Pag-Asa Bldg. Room 50/50” by Jao Pelaez from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila. The sculpture speaks of the tragedy that occurs when lack of education paralyzes the youth. Composed of one-half of a school chair and another half of a wheelchair, Pelaez puts together two unlikely objects to assert the message that the youth are indeed our hope for the future—but they must first be supported and empowered to thrive.

1st Place: “Ayuda” by Bea Cortez from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The piece, the title of which translates to “help” in English, depicts camaraderie and the Filipino spirit of community which sustain our countrymen during the hardships. Cortez makes use of cans, which alludes to canned food products—the standard type of relief goods received by Filipinos in need. To some people, canned food products may not be a big deal, but it is a significant symbol of hope—and a literal lifesaver—for others.

Watercolor Category

3rd Place: “I Am Genuinely Optimistic” by John Magbuhos from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila. It is inspired by the adage “just be positive.” From mere catchwords, these words have taken on new meaning amid the pandemic. While tribulations threaten to bring people down, staying positive becomes an energizing act of hope.

2nd Place: “Pag-usbong ng Binhi” by Mark Lagrana from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila. The piece symbolizes the inevitable challenges of life, and how they can be used as fuel for resilience and rising together once more. In the context of COVID, the pandemic revealed numerous cracks in the system, but on the other side of the coin is a chance to repair these cracks and start anew.

1st Place: “Rep-Leksyon” by Wendel Candawan from Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology. The artwork explores how people can lift each other up in this time of the pandemic. Through solidarity and trusting each other, communities may unite and find collective strength.

Oil and Acrylic Category

3rd Place: “Plantito/Plantita” by Gyles Abac from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. It is an ode to nature and its importance to humanity. The piece references the activity of gardening, which has become a source of respite for many over the lockdown period. But more than a hobby, plants depict growth, hope, and new beginnings. 

2nd Place: “Back n Front” by Ranier Bolivar from GK College. The piece talks about the balance of life—how every moment of difficulty comes with another side of hope. This hope is depicted through an image of a medical frontliner holding the earth in her hands, as their dedication to their work has become a source of hope amid all the darkness.

1st Place: “Foresight” by John Santos from Bulacan State University. The artwork expresses the role of the youth as harbingers of hope for the future. In this piece, a student wearing a mask is seen holding an astronaut helmet. It shows that despite how bleak the future may look, it is still important to hold on to hopes and dreams.

Similar to previous competitions, Pilipinas Shell also tapped various veteran artists and esteemed community members to serve as judges for the 53rd NSAC, namely: Lex Kabigting, Jose Tence Ruiz, and Ross Capili for Digital Fine Arts; Edgar Fernandez, Renato Habulan, and Nemi Miranda for Watercolor; Jan Leeroy New, Toym Leon Imao, and Ram Mallari, Jr. for Sculpture; and Nestor Olarte Vinluan, Kenneth Esguerra, and Mark Justiniani for Oil and Acrylic.

For over half a century, the NSAC has nurtured and cultivated many legends in the field, including National Artists Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, and Ben Cabrera. Ayala Museum Director Mariles Gustilo concluded, “Shell NSAC has a colorful history. We’re proud of the talent that Shell has discovered and nurtured throughout the years. This competition is an opportunity to be active advocates of arts and culture and a way to create social change through art. Our nation needs artists now more than ever.”

For updates on the virtual gallery, please follow Shell Philippines’ social media pages and website.


Iligan flood victims return home despite risks

ILIGAN CITY —– Some 100 families are back home in their houses along the river banks in Barangay Suarez a few days after being displaced by massive flash floods

Sunday afternoon (November 22).

Over a hundred households fled to  barangay evacuation center after their houses were flooded, with two totally destroyed after coconut trees fell on them.

Women displace by flashfloods in Barangay Suarez, Iligan City, received used clothing as assistance from a neighborhood.
(Divina M. Suson)

Resident Iris Cabasag said heavy rains started to pour around 2:00 o’clock Sunday afternoon with subsequent flash floods catching them by surprise. 

“Kalit man kaayo. Mga bata ra gyud akong nabitbit kay ang tubig mihapak naman sa among balay,” said Cabasag, whose husband works as baker in Marawi City.

She and her three children moved to her mother’s house meantime, which although also flooded was not damaged.

Lilyfel Manlangit, whose house was totally destroyed, said she remains thankful because no one from her family was hurt.

“Maayo nalang kay adlawan to nahitabo. Kay kung gabii pa, patay ming tanan,” Manlangit recalled. (I was happy  it happened at day time because if it was night time we might all be dead by now.)

0ne of the two houses destroyed by flashfloods in Barangay Suarez in Iligan City on Sunday, November 22. 
(Divina M. Suson)

Barangay Chairman Butch Gelica said the barangay has no area to relocate the affected families and can’t stop them from going back to fix their damaged houses.

Gelica said the barangay council would submit a report to the LGU requesting assistance.

In February 2012, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Iligan passed and approved City Ordinance number 12-5815 declaring areas in several barangays in the city as danger zones based on the report rendered by the Geosciences Division of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – 10.

Iligan City Social Welfare and Development staff interviews a woman who was displaced by flashfloods in Barangay Suarez on Sunday, November 22. (Divina M. Suson)

The report was the result of the rapid post-flood assessment of some barangays in Iligan City that was badly affected by the December 2011 tropical storm Sendong that killed hundreds of individual and destroyed thousands of properties.

Barangay Suarez was not included in the ordinance.

The areas declared danger zones are eight puroks of Barangay Santiago which are classified as highly susceptible to flooding and another five puroks of the same barangay in which development should be restricted. This barangay has the most number of residents died during the Sendong calamity.

Classified also as highly susceptible to flooding and where development should be restricted are nine puroks and the whole Bayug Island of Barangay Hinaplanon and four puroks of Barangay Sta. Filomena.