Saturday, June 7, 2014

By: Neil Edwin Wagas

One significant event that happened in Compostela (Cebu, Philippines) during World War II was the famous Battle of Guila-guila in Barangay Bagalnga that took place on March 5, 1943.  Japanese forces were ambushed by Filipino guerillas led by a certain Lt. Agapito “Pete” Admana under the command of Major Fabian Sanchez.  The said ambush was very successful and inflicted heavy casualties against the invading forces.

At early dawn of that day, Japanese forces lead by General Sosaku Suzuki were already sighted patrolling in the vicinity of Liloan town going to the north direction.  It was Amado Castro (father of Rogelio and Vicente), a guerilla and a native of  Guiwanon, Compostela, made the first shot against the patrolling enemy.  Unfortunately, Mr. Castro was wounded during the exchange of fire.  As the guerilla forces were retreating to Brgy. Estaca for being outnumbered. Mr. Castro was left hiding under Jubay Bridge and got killed by the enemy during the chase.  Most people said that Castro was a good runner but failed to escape because he was already wounded in the leg. Witnesses said, he was stabbed to death by the Japanese Imperial Army.

While the enemies were approaching Barangay Estaca of Compostela, a certain Antero Tapayan, another patriot and a native of Panangban, Compostela, Cebu was already in position waiting for the enemies to arrive and was ready for fighting.  Unfortunately, Mr. Tapayan was killed in action.  One witness said, the Japanese army who killed Mr. Tapayan disguised as a woman.  According to some sources, the order of the Major Fabian Sanchez was to harass the enemies upon patrolling by delaying their movements while preparing for a possible ambush in Sitio Guila-guila.  Major Sanchez was already suspecting that the real objective of the Japanese soldiers was to invade the general headquarters of the guerillas located in Brgy. Tabunan part of Cebu City.  Geographically, the Guimbal-Dapdap road was the easiest way going to Brgy. Tabunan and the ambush in Sitio Guila-guila was very strategic for the guerillas.  Many people said, the said ambush was already planned a long time ago.

According to a certain Jose Bobo, who was one of the guerillas participated in that ambush, three machine guns were already in position waiting for the Japanese forces to arrive.  Mr. Bobo said, that they dug foxholes to cover themselves while waiting for the enemies to arrive. According to him, it was around 2:00 o clock in the afternoon when the fighting started but they only retreated because they were running out of bullets and ammunitions.  He also said that Lt. Admana was asking for additional supplies from the central command but nothing arrived and instead they were ordered to withdraw.  I also asked him on the number of casualties inflicted on the enemy side and he said that he cannot give the exact number but he was sure that it would be more than 500 or maybe a thousand.  He even joked at me that the order was to shoot and not to count on how many dead bodies.  Some history books accounted less than 300 dead bodies only. 

Some civilians who witnessed during the clean up said that truckloads of dead bodies were transported that they even counted as much as ten 6x6 trucks. This was confirmed by Mr. Marcos Castro who claimed to be a guerilla and a native of Compostela, Cebu.  Days after that incident, Japanese Forces bombarded the area in retaliation and burned down the houses in the vicinity of the ambush area particularly the house of Cirilo Cohitmingao. According to Mr. Bernabe Castro, his father Calixto Castro was the one in charge of the provisions for the guerillas during the fight.  The said provisions were kept at the house of Mr. Cirilo Cohitmingao.  The planned ambush was well implemented and it was considered as one of the greatest achievement for the Filipino fighters during the war.

I got a chance to talk to Mr. Jose Bobo when we visited Sitio Luzaran of Brgy. Tag-ubi in Compostela, Cebu sometime in 1986.  A year later, Mr. Bobo was murdered allegedly by men in uniform for he was suspected as a supporter of the New People’s Army.  His son Nolasco Bobo or known as Kumander Bobo was allegedly a communist rebel and was already in prison when it happened. Years later, another son of Jose Bobo in the name of Mesias “Mising” Bobo was also murdered allegedly by military men at his residence in Brgy. Cogon, Compostela, Cebu.  It was a tragic experience for a patriot like Mr. Bobo.

The said date (March 5, 1943) was also confirm on the accounts of Col. Manuel Segura’s history book and other witnesses including Jose Bobo and Marcos Castro.  On the other hand, my Auntie Binya (Virginia Wagas-Velasco) argued that the correct date was on March 11, 1943 for she can still remember that day when her sister (Angelina) was born at the time the incident happened. She said that when her mother (Lourdes Gala-Wagas) was about to deliver a baby, loud explosions and sounds of gun fights were heard from their location in Sitio Libo, Barangay Cabadiangan.  Lolo Basio was on his way to Mana Basay’s house, the only midwife at that time, when he was met by a certain Toto Gahi.  Mr. Gahi told Lolo Basio not to continue his way to Mana Basay’s house and offered his help to get the said midwife out of fear that Lolo Basio might encounter a Japanese soldier as the gun fights in Sitio Guila-guila already took place.  Mr. Gahi even told Lolo Basio these words “You are an important man of this town, so you must be in a safe place.  Go back to your house and I will get Mana Basay instead”.

In my own personal view, the said incident that Auntie Binya was referring to was the retaliation of the Japanese Army after the ambush.  I believe that March 5, 1943 was the correct date of the ambush and March 11, 1943 was the retaliation.

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