Rustic Pangasinan town aids in PH defense vs Japanese during WWII

Mar 24, 2018

ALCALA, PANGASINAN – Unknown to many, this once sleepy and rustic town of Pangasinan played a brief but stellar role in the defense of the Philippines after Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 8, 1941, which forced the United States to declare war against the “Land of the Rising Sun.”
It was in this little town in eastern Pangasinan where Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, the man who surrendered the allied forces in the Far East to the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942, mapped out battle plans during the first few days of the Pacific War.
Records show that the highest-ranked Asian-American in the US military, Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, is a son of Alcala. In 2005, Soriano was honored by the municipal government, then headed by Mayor Manuel T. Collado, as one of the most outstanding Alcaleneans.
The late public school teacher Alberto T. Marquez, a local historian, said the American general and his troops arrived in the town on Dec. 12, 941, setting up his temporary headquarters at the old boundary of Barangays Canarvacanan and San Pedro Ili.
At the time, Wainwright was commanding general of the North Luzon Force (NLF) of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), which was headed by bemedalled Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
In his book “War Memoirs of the Alcala Veterans,” the towering Marquez said the eight-hectare bivouac site, which was camouflaged by big trees and bamboo grooves, was owned by the prominent Duque, Valdez, Nastor and Limos families.
From his foxhole, surrounded by bigger foxholes used by his troops, the NLF commander directed military operations against enemy positions until Dec. 18, 1941, when Wainwright and his men pulled out of Alcala.
A week after the American troops left the place, Marquez scoured the area and found a bundle of papers near the foxhole of General Wainwright. He also found a diary of a certain Santos Tadena, an ROTC cadet from Siliman University.
Tadena, according to the diary, was very weak and gravely ill when he and his comrades moved out of the place.
While in the town, Wainwright inducted into the USAFFE eight Alcaleneans who volunteered to join the fight against the Japanese invaders. Marquez identified the eight as Antonio Aquino, Leoncio Urlanda, Avelino Bacerra, Gavino Fronda, Nicolas Tadeo, Modesto dela Pena, Gigolo Aquino, Avelino Bacerra and Andres Lacerona.
Marquez, who joined the resistance movement at the age of 17, said that only four of the eight survived the war.
From Pindangan East, Alcala, among those who fought side by side with American soldiers included Maj. Franklin Estrada, Jose “Peping” Mabalot, Mariano “Fred” Agsaoay, Prudencio Gabriel, Segundo Gabriel, Raymundo “Ondong” Belmonte, Alejo Belmonte, Ricardo “Nardo” Belmonte, Maturino Palay and Alfredo “Eling” Dingle Mabalot
Neighbors, cousins Ondong and Alejo Belmonte, Palay and brothers Prudencio and Segundo Gabriel saw action in Baguio City. Prudencio was shot by a sniper while trying to take a Japanese flag from a slain enemy.
Before he left the island-fortress of Corregidor for Australia on March 12, 1942, General MacArthur designated Wainwright, the most senior among the American military officers in the country, as commanding general of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines (USAFIP).
Today, a growing number of Alcaleneans, including those now living abroad, want the government, through the National Historical Institute, to place a marker at the place where Wainwright set up his command post in 1941. ALFREDO L. MABALOT/ABN

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