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Guerrillas of the Kagay-an Liberation Force

By Mike Baños

Cagayan de Misamis was liberated by Filipino Guerrillas on May 12, 1945 after a four-day operation with the help of close air support from the Americans.

The units involved in the so-called general offensive were the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 110th Infantry Regiment which secured the Bugo-Tagoloan area of Misamis Oriental’s eastern coastline, while the 109th Infantry Regiment’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions secured the western coastline and did the actual liberation of West Cagayan and its Poblacion, with another three battalions from the 111th Regiment, 109th Division covering the right flank, and the 120th regiment, 108th Division based in Iligan, supporting the left flank with 300 enlisted men.

The 110th Division was tasked to secure the eastern coast of Cagayan, specifically the Bugo-Tagoloan area to protect the right flank of the US 108th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) of the 40th “Sunburst” Division charged with capturing the strategic northern terminus of the key Sayre Highway and the Del Monte Airfield.

Col. Wendell W. Fertig, commanding officer of the 10th Military District, was authorized by Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, commanding officer of the X Corps, to eliminate the Japanese forces at the Bugo-Tagoloan area.  Fertig ordered the 1st Battalion (Bn), 110th Infantry Regiment under Maj. Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr. to undertake the mission.

From 27 April 1945 till the eve of the Macajalar Bay landing on 09 May 1945, guerrillas fought a see-saw battle with Japanese garrison troops in Tagoloan and Bugo, with air support from American B-24 Liberators and B-25 Mitchell bombers.

Guerrillas of the ‘Eastern Front’

The 110th Infantry Regiment was actively involved in two key operations against Japanese garrison troops in 1945.

On 22 April 1945, it destroyed the Japanese barge staging area at Talisayan, Misamis Oriental and ejected the garrison troops permanently with the assistance of the US Navy Task Group 70.4. This Talisayan operation is historically significant because it was the first amphibious guerrilla offensive against the Japanese- the first of several successful operations in conjunction with Task Group. 70.4.

From 27 April to 09 May 1945, the 110th Infantry Regiment was the primary offensive unit in the Tagoloan-Bugo operations which cleared Japanese garrison troops from the Eastern side of Cagayan and protected the right flank of the US Army’s 108th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), of the 40th “Sunburst Division which landed at Tin-ao, Agusan, Cagayan on 10 May 1945, ultimately leading to the capture of the Sayre Highway in Bukidnon, and leading to the Liberation of Cagayan on 12 May 1945 by Filipino Guerrillas.

Maj. Dongallo Sr. was the commanding officer of the  110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division. The regiment’s officers included 1st Lt Othelo Emano -1st battalion commander; 1Lt Emeterio Moreno – S1 & Hq Co; 1Lt Pablo Borja– S4; 1Lt Crispin Joaquin, S2 & S3;1Lt Gerardo Sabal, Medical Co; 2Lt company commanders were Vicente Genzola, Co. A ; Romulo Kionisala, Co. B ;  , Co. C ; Francisco Abbarientos, Co. D ; & S1; Abundio Dimaano, Combat Co.

2nd Battalion was commanded by 1Lt. Antonio Mortis. The company commanders were 1Lt Quintin Bardilas, 1Lt Agapito Nadel, 1Lt Bartolome Pajamapan, 1Lt Monico Clemena. 2nd Lts were Aladino Blando; Marcos Cacho; Eleuterio Collado; Teodoro Iballe; Vicente Lucas; Agripino Nanundo,  Alejandrino Prado; Emilio Valde; and Leonardo Tiro.

Following are brief sketches of some officers and men of this unit who actively participated in the Bugo-Tagoloan operations.

Major Rosauro P. Dongallo Sr., 81st FA, 81st-Division, USAFFE (tribute artwork by Philip M. Garcia)

Major Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr.

Major Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr. entered military service when he was drafted at the age of 20 and sent for training to Camp Dau in Mabalacat, Pampanga. He was commissioned as 3rd Lieutenant of the Philippine  Army in 1940 and was called up for active duty the following year.

When World War II broke out, he was first assigned to Camp Carmen in Bohol; thence to Majuyod, Negros Oriental; and eventually to Bugo, Misamis Oriental in 1942.

Between 2 and 3 January 1942, the 61st and 81st Field Artillery Regiments were relocated by ship to Cagayan from Panay and Negros, respectively, as part of a large scale relocation of troops from the Visayas to Mindanao in order to strengthen the defenses of the latter.

The 61st transferred from the 61st Division, and the 81st from the 81st Division. The 61st and 81st Field Artillery were organized and equipped as infantry, due to the lack of artillery.

As a lieutenant, Dongallo was a platoon commander in the 81st Field Artillery, and had a reputation for being fearless, calculating and cool.

It was at the time of Dongallo when the 110th Regiment was most active. He is remembered for retrieving some P143,000 in emergency notes from the Provincial Building  during the guerrilla siege of Butuan by the 110th and 113th Regiments on March 3-10, 1943, under constant Japanese enfilading fire from a distance of some 20 meters.

His regiment also figured in the advance of the Americans on Malaybalay in May 1945, and subsequent mopping up operations of the enemy in that sector. It also contributed to the collection and processing of intelligence information for the Tenth Military District.

After World War II ended with the Japanese surrender in September 14, 1945, Dongallo retired from his active military duty on April 29, 1946.

He served as vice governor of Misamis Oriental in 1972, and became acting governor when then Governor Concordio Diel was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government in 1974.

On March 30, 1976, Dongallo was sworn into office as the twentieth Governor of Misamis Oriental by President Ferdinand E. Marcos at Malacañang.

As a public official, he belonged to the “old school” of public service, which meant that he denied himself the benefits and trappings that came with his office. Some of the old people still remember him as the governor who took the motorela to office. In 1976, he was recognized as the “Most Outstanding Governor of the Philippines.”

2nd Lt Rodolfo Moreno

Rodolfo A. Moreno

 3rd Lt. Rodolfo A. Moreno was third oldest sibling of the four sons of Jose Moreno of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, who joined the guerrillas.

Born on  05 June 1920 in Balingasag, Rodolfo was a college student and cadet officer at the Ateneo de Cagayan when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Philippine Army and subsequently absorbed into the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

His military record with the USAFFE show that before the war he served as a Finance Services Clerk at the General Headquarters in Manila from August 28 to December 31, 1941. 

On January 1, 1941, he was inducted under the Provisional Battalion, 31st Infantry, Philippine Army as Platoon Sergeant.

The 31st Inf., PA under Brigadier General Clifford Bluemel was tasked with protecting the coast of Zambales but was pulled out to Bataan on 7 January 1942 to form the protective line along with the Abucay-Morong position under the I Philippine Corps defending the left flank of the USAFFE forces in Bataan and its coastal areas facing the sea. 

The 31st Infantry led a counterattack on January 20 to relieve the 51st Infantry, Philippine Army of the II Philippine Corps protecting the right flank of the Bagac-Pilar line.

During the lull, Rodolfo was transferred to the 3rd Battalion of the unit, composed of the I, K, L, and M companies from March 6 to April 8, 1942. After the Fall of Bataan, he survived the Bataan Death March despite being stricken with malaria, and incarceration as a prisoner-of-war at the concentration camp in Capas, Tarlac.

After taking an oath of allegiance to Imperial Japan, Rodolfo was released just before Christmas Day on December 23, 1942.  He managed to slip back to Mindanao where he was joyfully received by his family who believed he perished in Bataan.

Rodolfo spent the next ten months recuperating from his illness and incarceration with his family at their hometown in Balingasag before he signed up with the guerrillas in October 1944.

From 09 Oct 1944 to 9 January 1945, Rodolfo was assigned as Platoon Commander of the Headquarters Platoon, 110th Infantry Regiment. Later, he was transferred to D Company of the same unit on 10 January 1945 and served as Platoon Commander of the 2nd Platoon from 10 January to 28 May 1945. On 1 May 1945 he was commissioned as a 3rd Lieutenant.

During this time, he and his unit participated two of the most successful guerrilla operations against the Japanese garrison troops in Misamis Oriental: The Tagoloan-Bugo Operation on 27 April to 09 May 1945, and the guerrilla raid on Talisayan, Misamis Oriental on 22 May 1945.

Later, Rodolfo was transferred to C Co, 110th Reg as Platoon Commander, 1st Platoon from 30 May to 20 Oct 45. His unit was engaged in mopping up operations in cooperation with the US Army and was later utilized as bridge guard at Tankulan, Bukidnon.

From 21 Oct 45 to 26 April 46 he was transferred to H Co, 2nd Bn, 53rd Inf Reg, PA on 24 Oct 45 as Section Leader, Weapons Platoon giving lectures on operations in different phases of military tactics.

In his penultimate assignment, he was Transferred to 1st Bn, 63rd Inf. Reg., 6th Division PA on 7 April 1946 where he served from 27 April to 30 June 1946, before reverting to inactive status on 1 May 1946.

Guerrillas of the ‘Western Front’

The 109th Infantry Regiment’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions secured the western area and did the actual liberation of eastern Cagayan and its Poblacion, with another three battalions from the 111th Regiment, 109th Division covering the right flank, and the 120th regiment, 108th Division based in Iligan, supporting the left flank with 300 enlisted men.

The three battalions of the 109th Regiment, 109th Division, with headquarters in Talakag, Bukidnon, were the spearhead, led by Capt. Andres D. Bacal, 1st Battalion; Capt. Alberto Chaves, 2nd Battalion; and Capt. Marcelino Maagad, 3rd Battalion.

Three battalions from 111th Regiment, 109th Division covered the right flank. These were led by Capt. Purito Rubio, 1st Battalion; Capt. Felix Arcaña, 2nd Battalion; and Capt. Ramon M. Onahon, 3rd Battalion.

Captain Andres D. Bacal (Tribute artwork by Philip M. Garcia)

Andres D. Bacal

Andres Daba Bacal was born in Cagayan, Misamis Oriental on 17 October 1917.

He was commissioned and inducted as 1st Lt. Inf., PA, ASN-37523 on 12 December 1942 by Maj. Manuel D. Jaldon, commanding officer of the 109th Infantry Regiment.

Bacal joined the guerrillas on 1 November 1942 with “A” Co., 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry and promoted to Captain, Infantry, effective 16 June 1944 by Lt. Col. Robert V.  Bowler, “A” Corps commanding officer on 16 June 1944.

He served as battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry, from 10 November 1942 until the liberation. He led  this unit in capturing Patag Airfield on May 9, 1945 and led the advance towards the west side of Cagayan road on 11May 1945 from highway to Patag.

Bacal married Portia Abonitalla Chaves on 27 November 1943 in Tignapoloan in the midst of the Second World War, with whom he five children. He passed on at the relatively young age of 47 on May 24, 1965.

Captain Ramon M. Onahon (photo from Onahon Family Collection)

Capt. Ramon M. Onahon

Born March 15, 1918 at Tankulan, (Manolo Fortich) Bukidnon. A government scholar in one of the Colleges in Cebu City, he was called up to active military service, and assigned in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on December 8, 1941 to January 15, 1942.

He distinguished himself among the Filipino soldiers who fought the Japanese invaders in Davao and Cotabato from January 16 to May 10, 1941. On June 21, 1942, Onahon slipped back to his hometown in Bag-as, Tankulan, Bukidnon where he organized The Black Widow Spiders guerrillas in August 1942, later integrated into the 3rd Battalion of the 111th Regiment, 109th Division.

On August fifth, 1942, 24 Filipino and American guerillas under Capt. Onahon ambushed nine trucks filled with Japanese soldiers and accounted for ninety Japanese soldiers for the loss of one man. This encounter is immortalized in the Mangima Heroes Shrine in Manolo Fortich.

During the Talakag Operation the 3rd Battalion shepherded around a thousand civilian evacuees to Cagayan de Oro City via Imbatug, Baungon, Bukidnon.

From June 18 to 29 June, 1944, guerrilla units of the 109th Division engaged Japanese, Korean troops of the Imperial Japanese Army’s 41st Infantry Regiment, 30th Panther Division, the latter bolstered by Filipino Constabulary soldiers, close air and artillery support, in a running gun battle at the key Bukidnon town of Talakag. It was considered as one of the most intense battles between the guerrillas and the Imperial Japanese Army in Mindanao during World War II.

Onahon’s last encounter with the enemy was between upper Managok and Cabanglasan, Malaybalay, Bukidnon on 09 June 1945 where he was ambushed and wounded. He was brought to American hospital in Valencia, Bukidnon and later airlifted to Leyte for further hospitalization.

Married to the former Felisa Gayos Sumbalan with whom he had 12 twelve children. Onahon became a Provincial Board Member of the Province of Bukidnon from 1946-1954, and died while serving as Municipal Mayor of Manolo Fortich on June 13, 1973. (compiled by Mike Baños)

The Liberation of Cagayan de Oro during World War II will be commemorated by the “War of our Fathers” World War II Exhibit starting May 12, 2024 at the 2nd Floor of SM CDO Uptown. This is brought to you by the Philippine Veterans Bank, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), City of Cagayan de Oro, Province of Misamis Oriental, SM CDO Uptown and the Cagayan de Oro World War II & Veterans Studies Committee. Exhibit is open during mall hours. Admission is free.


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