Vets want to correct erroneous story on Yamashita ‘surrender’

WAR VET. Veteran Albert M. Bugtong, 92, of Mankayan, Benguet attends the Victory Day celebration at Kiangan, Ifugao on September 2, 2019 where he shared stories of their movements as guerilla soldiers during World War 2. He said their group was part of the Battle of Bessang Pass in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, during World War II. Photo courtesy of Jamie Joie Malingan/PIA-CAR

BAGUIO CITY --- The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) wants erroneous entries on the supposed “surrender” of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita corrected using an original document from soldiers on the battlefield during World War II.

“[General Tomoyuki] Yamashita did not surrender, he was captured by the operatives from the USAFIP-NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon),” retired Maj. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the PVAO, said in an interview.

He said the PVAO is now in possession of copies of the original document from the United States National Archives and Records Administration in Virginia.

A PVAO team obtained the copies of the document submitted by the veterans to the Americans, for their recognition, Aguilar said.

“The forces of Yamashita were really cornered. He has to live in order to… magiging slaughter kasi if he will not come out, kung hindi siya lalabas kasi talagang most of the Japanese were already sick and hungry, so kung papasukin talaga ng guerillas, talagang maraming mamamatay sa kanila (it will be a slaughter if he will not come out and will make the guerillas attack. Many of them, who are already sick and hungry will die),” Aguilar said.

He said out of the 80,000 Japanese troops who retreated to northern Luzon, about 50,000 were killed mostly by Filipino guerillas.

“Mga 30,000 na lang ang nag-surrender (there were only about 30,000 who surrendered). This is a fact that was never written really by our historians,” Aguilar said but noted that it was part of the document obtained from the US library.

Aguilar said right after the war, the documents of the guerillas were taken by the Americans for purposes of their recognition.

“Sinurrender lahat ng Filipino guerillas all over the country ‘yung kanilang document (the Filipino guerillas in the country surrendered all their documents) to prove their services during the war -- forms, roster of troops, after battle reports, everything including diaries. If there are photographs, they surrendered everything,” Aguilar said.

After the war, Aguilar said it was the Americans writing the history and selecting information which they wanted from the document.

On the other hand, the Filipinos only have stories from memory to tell but have no reference until more than 70 years after, he said.

“Fortunately, after 70 years, PVAO sent a team to the US national archives and records administration in Virginia and we were able to scan the original document and it is already available in the internet, in our server for the reference of any Filipino who wants to write the history based on facts,” Aguilar said.

“The rectification of erroneous entries in our history can be done by ordinary Filipinos now that the document is already available to any writer who would interpret for us the events that were documented during the war by the guerillas,” he added.

Quoting from the story published by the Philippine Information Agency Cordillera published in September 2018, “Pedro Indunan who was then part of the Land Communications Company detail said ‘It was Company A of the 11th Infantry attached to 121 who surrounded Yamashita in a hill in Mt. Napulawan which locals call Nabigihan Hill.”

This is a place in Hungduan, Ifugao which stories say was the exact place where Filipino guerillas captured Yamashita. He was then turned over to the Americans on the way to Kiangan, Ifugao, where the Yamashita surrender shrine stands at present.

On September 2, 1945, the World War II ended as Yamashita was captured and then ferried to Bagabag airport in Nueva Vizcaya, about one hour and 30 minutes away by vehicle from the shrine. From there, he was flown to Baguio for the September 3 signing of the “Instrument of Surrender”.

Ifugao province had been celebrating Victory Day for several years to remember the gallantry of the Filipino veterans who fought for the country’s liberation from the Japanese.

First official victory day

By virtue of Republic Act 11120 that took effect on October 30, 2018, Ifugao province was officially on a special non-working holiday every September 2 in commemoration of the surrender of Yamashita. This is the first time Ifugao is celebrating Victory Day based on the law.

On September 3, the whole nation, by virtue of RA 11216 that took effect on February 2019 declares the date as a special working public holiday throughout the country in commemoration of the surrender of Yamashita.

“We are laying the foundation for the Victory week. This is our stepping stone that will lead us to the national commemoration,” Aguilar said.

He said they are looking for a legislator who would sponsor their draft bill making September 2 and 3 a special or a regular holiday to remind Filipinos of the events that happened in Ifugao and Baguio, which ended World War II.

After 74 years following the end of the World War II, there is now only less than living 4,000 war veterans, who might still see the real story printed in history books.

The youngest surviving World War II veteran is now 92 years old.

The PVAO officers in the city said there are now only 22 surviving veterans in Baguio and Benguet and an estimated 30 in the Cordillera Administrative Region. PNA