Skip to main content »


To boost the morale of the soldiers, General Douglas MacArthur shared this breathtaking battlefield story of Igorot heroism.

 |  4 min read


FEBRUARY, 1942, the fighting had been raging on for two months now, since the invading army of the Land of the Rising Sun had breached the Philippine shoreline December of the previous year.

Though battle-weary and undersupplied, the joint forces of the American and Filipino soldiers appeared to be holding the Bataan defensive line. When elements of the 20th Japanese Infantry made a breakthrough and established defensive position well within the Allied line, a counterattack by a tank unit supported by infantry was set into motion. But right away the thick vegetation of the Bataan jungle wasn't cooperating, as the American tankers were impeded by tall bamboos, vines and creepers. Advance was nearly impossible; and those that tried to push through were caught up in the entangling foliage. This was when the Igorots of 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry sprang into action. While being exposed to enemy fire, they brought out their bolos, chopping away the entangling foliage, before the valuable tanks could become easy targets for the enemy. When the advance resumed, the Igorots weren't done. To prevent the tanks from getting entangled again, they climbed atop the tanks, still exposed to great peril, disregarding their personal safety to serve as eyes for the tanks drivers. To any infantryman, such stunt by the Igorots might be labeled as crazy, if not suicidal. But these warriors were no ordinary soldiers. Quick-thinking too as they devised an effective way of communicating with the tank drivers, using sticks to point the way, while their other hands firing away with pistols at the enemy position.

When the counterattack was over, the smoke subsided, and the Igorot war chants turned into silence, none of the Japanese enemy was left standing.

General Douglas MacArthur was so impressed by such display of courage that he wanted this story to be retold. And with the passion of a great storyteller MacArthur always possessed, he recounted the same story to a group of his fine officers who might not have heard of it yet. Telling them... ..."Many desperate acts of courage and heroism have fallen under my observation on many fields of battle in many parts of the world. I have seen forlorn hopes become realities. I have seen last-ditch stands and innumerable acts of personal heroism that defy description. But for sheer breathtaking and heart-stopping desperation, I have never known the equal of those Igorots riding the tanks. Gentlemen, when you tell the story stand in tribute to those gallant Igorots."

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,FROM A WAR DIARY TO A SONG,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

In keeping with General MacArthur's directive of telling their story, I'm proudly sharing this story (albeit arranged into a song), arranged and performed by musicians from my hometown of Besao. Only a few months ago, Radge Eming and Dale Yongaan got a hold of this war diary of Private Picpican Pa-ay, an Igorot soldier who served in the Second World War.
Private Pa-ay was among the gallant fighting men of the 66th Infantry Regiment.

As we all know, through recorded history and storytelling that this story of Igorot heroism didn't only happen in Bataan. Closer to home, the fighting men of the 66th Infantry Regiment, also served with distinction ever since the Regiment's formation to the last battle they ever fought.


Let me share just the same, a little info about the singer in this video. Radge Eming is a grandson of another Igorot soldier who fought in the Second World War. Radge's grandfather, Dimas Tangliben, survived the war, went home to Besao and became a carpenter the rest of his life. He passed away few years ago. But in the words of the General MacArthur, "old soldiers never die, they just fade away," and so Dimas, though he passed away, the wartime stories he shared to his grandchildren will never fade.

One story that they treasure the most was during the last stages of the war, when the Japanese army was in retreat. Along the trail, Dimas' unit happened to pass an enemy soldier so baldly weakened by lack of food. Dimas was ordered to finish him off.
But Dimas said, "Inayan. It's not right to kill a man who couldn't fight for himself."

Instead of putting a bullet to his head, he cared for him, until the Japanese soldier regained his strength.

Such is the nature of an Igorot warrior. His courage and ferocity in the battlefield are beyond compare. But he too is capable of showing compassion to the enemy.

Mountain dweller, etag eater, and I love my dog the way a white man loves his turkey on his thanksgiving day.

Sharing is caring, kailian!

We do hope you find something great in this story. If you find this helpful, please do share it with the people you care about.

Igorotage is a social networking site — all contents are user-generated. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Igorotage.

Except as otherwise noted, the content of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Comments (2)

Sign in to share your thoughts. No account yet?

What to learn next?

You might also like to read these related articles or browse more stories filed under Stories — or jump to a random article.

Stories Surprise me


Remembering a friend gone too soon. Someone from the lowlands, who made our mountains his home, and embraced the Igorot culture until the end.

Tue at 11:13pm · 2 min read
Igorot Prizefighter, REY TAM

Regarded as the best boxer to ever emerge from the Cordilleras, Rey Tam fought from 1974 to 1982. In 1978 he challenged Arguello for the world title.

Aug 24 · 1 min read

Arnold Guiad Valle is a Baguio-based singer/songwriter. If you tell him he sounds like a foreign artist, he will proudly reply he is an FBI.

Aug 18 · 2 min read

I want to share this story of someone I've known for not so long but touched my heart and became one of my inspiration in life !

Mar 7 · 1 min read
KASIYANA (A Kankanaey Optimism)

What's up with their optimism?

Dec 3, 2020 · 1 min read

A poem I wrote, in my local local language, as a tribute to my grandfather who passed away in the middle of covid.

Nov 22, 2020 · 1 min read
What happens when a former NPA Rebel and an Army Officer meet at the airport?

Former Miss Kalinga LT Col. Jessie Rose Bucalen-Austria shares her memorable story when she met a former NPA rebel at an airport.

Sep 22, 2020 · 5 min read
The Eerie Siren

Bits of a childhood memory in a mining town.

Aug 8, 2020 · 2 min read
Overcoming Anxiety (Depression)

An insight of a real life experience of mine. High School Trouble.

Apr 20, 2020 · 4 min read

Share ko man met daytoy storya ti maysa OFW nga na inlab ijay ka chat na. Sapay kuma ta adda maadal you ditoy karo dagijay kakadwa nga OFW.

Apr 12, 2020 · 14 min read