My interest in our local world war history started six years ago. But studying it with the absence of written primary sources compounded with the dying population of veterans was a hard task to do.
Our local historians were silent about it perhaps because word-of-mouth and pass down stories were hard to validate without written primary sources. Yet Cagayan de Oro is blessed with so much written history. Our local heroes were properly documented starting with the arrival of the Spaniards. But after the Fil-Am War the trail suddenly turns cold.
Therefore I considered World War 2 as the missing link of our local history.
I grew up listening to my father's war stories. It is still vivid to me how his eyes would shine when he talked about the heroic battles of guerrilla legend like of Maj. Angeles Limena and Capt. Fidencio Laplap.
These brave guerrilla leaders gave them so much hope. Their names became bywords which travelled far and wide across Mindanao. People made songs of their battles and triumphs. They were there when the defeated Filipino people needed a hero.
My 16 year old father ran away from home to enlist in the guerrilla army in Alubijid, Misamis Oriental led by Maj. Limena. He fought the Japanese with few ammunition and no shoes – barefoot for 2 ½ years. They fought against all odds rather than live on bended knees, my father said.
The heroics Tiano brothers, better known for a street named Tiano Brothers, was another story worth telling.
Their stories were so grand. The patriotism was meant to be told. It was a shame to let them take their stories to the graves.
Somehow I always felt that there are more stories of local heroes waiting to be told. My intuition was proven right when I was given the task by the City's World War 2 & Veterans Studies Committee headed by former Congressman Tinnex Jaraula to research the actual date of Cagayan de Oro's liberation from the Japanese occupation.
Fortunately, 2 years ago I was led to a website of declassified World War 2 documents. The drought finally ended and I found myself flooded with declassified documents – all primary sources. I felt like kid in a candy store.
Declassified records show that Cagayan was liberated on May 12, 1945, after a four day general offensive against 650 Japanese troops.
My intuition for Cagayan’s forgotten hero was proven true. The research led to the discovery of another Kagay-anon hero.
In the History of Mindanao Guerrillas compiled by 10th Military District, Capt. Andres Bacall, a Kagay-anon from Carmen, was cited in the battle report for his prominent role in the liberation of Cagayan.
Capt. Andres Bacall was the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 109th Regiment, 109th Division based in Talakag, Bukidnon. His regiment was assigned to lead the frontal attack against 650 well- entrenched Japanese troops.
120th regiment of 108th Division from Iligan covered the left flank while the 111th Regiment of 109th Division supported the right flank.
When lead element of Capt Bacall’s 109th regiment started the general offensive, they encountered slight resistance at Dipnoan but the Japanese put up a stiff and almost fanatical defense at Dipnoan Bridge when reinforcements of 100 Japanese soldiers arrived.
But after an hour of heavy fighting the 1st Battalion commanded by Capt. Bacall was able to capture Patag Airstrip.
The rest of the troops were able to reach the west side of Cagayan River on the same day. The three regiments of all Filipino guerrilla troops were able to liberate and occupy Cagayan after four days of fighting.
Inspired by the heroic story of another Kagay-anon, I dug a little deeper. I wanted to know more about our latest uncovered local hero. Thru my network of Kagay-anon friends I contacted Dr. Eric Bacal. He told me Capt. Bacal was an older brother of his father but died before he was born. Dr. Bacal said Capt. Bacal has a son now living in Cebu.
In a long distance call, William Bacal told me his father died of stroke in 1965. He was 48 years old. At the time of his death, they were living in Manilla where father worked for the government.
Col. Adecer of the Phil. Air Force, also a Kagay-anon, was his father's best friend and classmate in Flying School. He brought them and the body of his father to Cagayan de Oro in a C-47 plane for the wake and burial.
He was the 4th child in the brood of 10 by Mariano Bacal and Aquilina Daba Bacal. Before the war he married Portia Chaves, the daughter of Roque Chaves of Cagayan. William is the second of five children.
William said his father was a graduate of flying school in Manila and was inducted into USAFFE.
Before the surrender of the Philippines, Capt Andres Bacal came home to Cagayan in a PT boat as one of the escorts of General Douglas MacArthur in his famous Breakout from Corregidor, William added.
But that's another story.