BAGUIO CITY – The Summer Capital was the second devastated city in the country during the hostilities between the Japanese Imperial Army and Filipino and American guerrilla forces in World War II, a history expert said here.
Dr. Ricardo Jose, a professor of the University of the Philippines Diliman Department of History, said Manila sustained the heaviest devastation during the 3-year war but Baguio owns the distinction of where the war started on December 8, 1941 and where the war ended on September 3, 1945.
However, Jose said Baguio could have not been heavily devastated in the war if the Americans listened to the reports of Filipino guerrillas in the late 1944 that Japanese soldiers were moved back by Gn. Tomoyoki Yamashita to the northern part outside the city.
“Despite reports that Japanese soldiers were already moving back to the north eastern parts of the city, American warplanes continued to bomb the city that contributed to the city suffering from heavy damages. The city could have been spared from damages if the Americans listened to the guerrilla reports on the ground that Japanese soldiers were moving outside the city,” Jose stressed.
He said at the start of the war, two presidents were in the city, former President Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmena.
On December 8, 1941, 18 Japanese warplanes, which was earlier perceived as American warplanes to protect the city, came to the city and started dropping bombs with the Camp John Hay gate as its target and that was the only time that President Quezon believed that the war in the Asia-Pacific started.
Because of the big Japanese population in the city, Dr. Jose cited it was easy for the Japanese soldiers to use the city as its headquarters and Gen. Yamashita used the Igorot labor to build the tunnels that served as their hideouts during the duration of the war.
Jose said Japanese soldiers tried to immerse themselves with the Baguio community but guerrillas continued providing Gen. Douglas McArthur with the strategic positions of the Japanese in the city in preparation for his second landing in the Lingayen Gulf in order to help liberate the country from the tyranic Japanese rule.
Jose was the guest of honor and speaker during the celebration of the 70th Baguio Liberation Day Monday at the Veterans Park along Harrison Road here.
According to Dr. Jose, Gen. Yamashita decided to distribute the Japanese forces up north in the late 1944 in order to confuse the guerrillas and continue establishing their stronghold of the city but American warplanes repeatedly bombed the city that resulted to its massive destruction.
Based on the gathered intelligence reports, joint Filipino and American forces belonging to the 66th United States Armed Forces in the Philippines – Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL)organized themselves to liberate Baguio with attacks coming from Naguilian Road, Marcos Highway, Kennon road and Halsema Highway until the successful liberation of the city on April 27, 1945.
Jose said the various battles continued in the different parts of Benguet, Bessang Pass until such time that Gen. Yamashita was captured in Kaingan, Ifugao on September 2, 1945.
Gen. Yamashita was immediately brought to the city and on September 3, 1945, he signed his surrender documents inside the Ambassador’s Residence in Camp John Hay that formally ended the war in the Asia-Pacific Region.
The UP history professor cited the two important contributions of Baguio city in the country’s rich history must be given due recognition by concerned government agencies in order to iron out the proper records of the country’s history through the years, saying that the right information must be the ones to be passed on to the future generations of Filipinos.
He asserted living veterans who gallantly fought for our country’s independence must be given the necessary respect and must be accorded equal importance in our lives for us to value their contributions to the democracy and freedom that we are now currently enjoying.
Jose challenged the sons and daughters of living veterans to learn to document the stories of their veteran relatives before they bid goodbye to this world so that they will be able to pass on to the future generations the untold stories of the war for the present and future generations of Filipinos.
By Dexter A. See