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.
--- VIDEO SOURCE: https://www.facebook.com/radge.eming/videos/5605311202844583
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.