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THE WARRIOR: DENNIS MASA'AO MOLINTAS

A tell of destiny

Commanding Officer of the 66th Infantry Regiment, USAFIL-NL
Commanding Officer of the 66th Infantry Regiment, USAFIL-NL

In a time when weapons were not of avail, the courage of the warrior was literally a savage spirit in battle. The belief in a warrior and its parallel concepts defined a brave experienced fighter, essentially of interest in former times. Distinctive of the Ybaloi ethnic group, the warrior is regarded superior with elite social status of mythical quality. A warrior is expected to possess the discipline to exert both mentally and physically to triumph in conflict with a competent adversary; in decisive protection of tribe and ancestral homeland of equal importance. A life deliberately placed in danger rather momentously for the propagation of kin; shows to say that the survival or extinction of tribe constitutes the incontestable rudiments of traditional knowledge---thus the veneration of The Warrior.

Ybaloi is one among the ethnic groups of Ygolottes north Philippines. Ygolottes is the Spanish term for the prejudice for mountain dwellers both pagan and said ignorant. Over the Spanish era 1521-1898, the highland territories had not been cowed by the crown of Spain. As a matter of fact, the Ybaloi endured several genocide expeditions with significant loss of warriors, which continued with prolonged isolation and marginalisation that developed into generations of assimilation and conventions of dismissive by the change of hands at helm. Between 1826 and 1839, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillermo Galvey was Comandancia General del Pais de los Igorrotes. During the decade of command by Galvey, disparaging expeditions against the Ybaloi occurred and recalled as:

"The greatest loss of life and property ever suffered by any one group of Filipinos during the Spanish regime; Colonel Guillermo Galvey, cut down Igorot crops by the hectares, burned houses by the hundreds, and decimated the population with smallpox by the thousands. By 1840, La Trinidad's 500 houses had been reduced to less than a hundred; by 1860, there was no Igorot community of more than 250 persons in the entire Agno Valley; and by 1880 all the rice terraces southwest of Kiangan were abandoned due to disease. Whatever effect these excursions may have had upon the relationships between the highland and lowland protagonists involved, they certainly helped the former to become a minority statistically ."

One peculiar of the Ybaloi, is leadership is sought in the brave rather than the wealthy. The following men whose deeds once as brave warriors are looked up to as deities: Amdagan, Balitok, Bangon, Bangan and Bulian; Daongan, Gatan, Kabigat, and Lumawig; Moan, Montes, Obag, and Obagobagan; Wigwigan and Wigan. An ancient traditional chant in honour of the warriors is recorded in the Nabaloi Law and Ritual. The chant narrates the bitter hardship encountered by the warrior in protection of the tribe; the glorious victories and appreciation. Rituals indicative of reverence to the warrior include the Bindayan and Tigiting; Pachit, Chawak and Bayjok; Batbat and Saad; Kapi and Amdag; Sagausau and Nansaang; Basil, Diau kasib and Sabosab; Abasang and Pungau.

Honourable Major Dennis Masa'ao Molintas was a savvy intellectual and inordinate leader-with or without authority. His leadership and acts of courage compelled duty of many, many tribe warriors during the final battles in the capture of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita, as fact instrumental closure of World War II.

It was destiny. Dennis was Principal of a Settlement Farm School when appointed by American Lieutenant Colonels who had escaped capture in Bataan: Arthur Noble and Martin Moses. Dennis was to form the 12th Infantry Regiment over the course of war; responding the fall of Bataan. Note this occurrence is within the duration the Philippine Islands surrender of Allied forces in May 1942 after the Fall of Bataan in April; and MacArthur's return in October 1944.

Alfred W. McCoy writes: Lieutenant Colonel Mosses established "An Anarchy of Families' of paired leaders and units for USAFIP-NL: Governor Ablan and Praeger in Apayao; Enriquez's 14th Infantry in Nueva Vizcaya; George Barnett in La Union; Robert Lapham and Charles Cushing in Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija; and Dennis Molintas in Benguet-from October 1 of 1942."

From the narratives of the Bataan Diary Website, a weakening leadership clout by the American militarymen is illustrated. This followed by the apparent stronghold of tribe headman in the battleground: "Having escaped from Bataan, Lt. Col. Martin Moses and Lt. Col. Arthur Noble founded their guerrilla command in the northern mountains near Baguio. They contacted Philippine Army commanders in the area who had refused to surrender and guerrilla organizers from Col. Thorp's organization, and began to plan a major strike against the Japanese. On October 15, 1942, they attacked the Japanese-owned Itogon Mines near Baguio and held the area for more than a week. The Japanese counter-attacked with infantry and tanks and drove the guerrillas back into the mountains, then took heavy reprisals on the civilian villages in the area. Moses and Noble retreated into headhunter country, and began to collect intelligence data to send to General MacArthur. These men were tracked down by the Japanese and captured in June 1943, then executed."

A contextual appreciation awaiting the return of allied forces is found among the historical narratives of the Ohio State University, by James Villianueva: "After launching an uncoordinated, though effective, attack into the Itogon mining district on October 15, 1942, the guerrillas drew significant Japanese attention, with the latter flooding northern Luzon with thousands of troops. As 1942 came to a close, the guerrillas in northern Luzon would find themselves in a difficult situation, with many of their civilian supporters gone, supportive towns razed, and civilians cowed into at least tacit support for the Japanese."

Elements of the Moses-Noble command became independent units or were taken over by USAFIP-NL: The United States Army Forces in the Philippines--Northern Luzon, organized by the American Guerrilla Captain Russell Volckmann, which developed into the the largest and best organized guerrilla operations in Luzon, if not the most ruthless.

The Honourable Major Dennis Masa'ao Molintas became the Commanding Officer of the 66th Infantry Regiment in 1944. The Regiment composition by Volckmann combines the 1st Battalion of 43rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion of the 11th Infantry Regiment, and the 3rd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment (43+11+12=66). The Regiment was based in Kapangan; of what is now known as Camp Utopia, and popular for the personification of the creed: To be nowhere, yet everywhere.

USAFE Army Daughter Patricia Murphy Minch, published in the Small Wars Journal descriptives of the day-to-day guerrilla tactics: "Units of the 66th Infantry, now commanded by Major Dennis Molintas, harassed the enemy daily, particularly in and around Baguio. As soon as enemy road crews rebuilt a bridge on the Naguilian or Kennon roads, their boys destroyed it again. Sometimes they ambushed the crews even as repairs were underway. If the Japs tried to move troops, they were tracked and ambushed. If they sent out parties to commandeer food from the local farmers, those parties were wiped out. Other units of the 66th worked the surrounding areas, including the Mountain Trail north of Baguio, keeping the Jap road crews hopping and preventing food and supplies coming in from the Cagayan Valley."

By 23 June 1945 in the period of the conflict, the only Japanese forces remaining on Luzon were positioned to the far north and belonged to Shobu Group, the last of General Yamashita's three groups. Shobu Group, numbering about 152,000 troops, proved to be the most tenacious Japanese group. Jerry Holden for the Hyper War Foundation transcribed the US Army Manuscript War in the Pacific, Chapter XXIX Pursuit in Northern Luzon, synthesized to read:

On the northwest and west, opposition was stronger and better organized. Here the 15th Infantry finally secured the Sabangan junction of Routes 4 and 11 on 9 July, and on the next day the 11th Infantry occupied Bontoc. The 19th Division's defenses in the Lepanto Mines-Mankayan area began to fall apart before attacks of the 66th Infantry on 10 July; Mankayan fell on the 20th. The 66th Infantry secured the junction of Routes 11 and 393 at KP 90 on 25 July, making contact the same day with troops of the 15th Infantry coming down Route 11 from Sabangan. The 19th Division now began withdrawing into the upper Agno Valley to block the northern, western, and southern approaches to Toccucan, at the western end of Yamashita's last-stand area in the Asin Valley. The 15th and 121st Regiments immediately began attacks toward Toccucan, but found the 19th Division remnants still capable of effective resistance. By 15 August these leading units were four miles short of Toccucan on the northwest and a mile and a half short on the west.

Meanwhile, the 66th Infantry had struck south from KP 90 along Route 11 to make contact with troops of the 32d Division, coming north from KP 21. The clearing of Route 11 north from Baguio had become a matter of pressing urgency because the heavy summer rains were making it nearly impossible to supply either by airdrop or over tortuous Route 4 from the west coast. Mixed forces of the 58th IMB (Independent Mixed Brigades of the Imperial Japanese Army) and the 19th Division held along Route 11, having principal defenses located in the vicinity of Gambang, about five miles south of KP 90.

On 29 July, the 66th Infantry and the 127th Infantry 32d Division, finally made contact. The two regiments next swung eastward into the Agno Valley near Buguias and initiated a drive south along the valley to gain contact with the 126th Infantry 23d Division, coming north up the valley from Ambuclao and Bokod. Starting off on 1 August, the 126th Infantry found few signs of the 23d Division, which had melted away eastward into the inhospitable Cordillera Central.

The battleground
The battleground

On 8 August the 126th and 127th Regiments made contact near Buguias and were preparing a drive toward Toccucan when hostilities ended. On the east side of the Shobu Group's last-stand area, while the 6th Division was making its strongest effort an attack toward Kiangan, elements of the division struck north up Route 4 and reached Banaue on 20 July. Meanwhile, troops of the 66th Infantry had started south along Route 4 from Bontoc and on 21 July made contact with the 1st Infantry 6th Division, at Polis Pass, five miles north of Banaue. This contact, coupled with that between 66th Infantry and 32d Division units on Route 11 eight days later, marked the complete encirclement of the Shobu Group last-stand area."

Much of the tell upturns the idea of a fairy-tale tale turned into a warrior fable "It was the Igorots who trekked in supplies and ferried out wounded and dead U.S. soldiers from steep areas inaccessible to Army vehicles. Igorot scouts struck at enemy supply dumps and boldly rode on the fronts of tanks attacking the Japanese. Their bravery was legendary." Gen. Douglas MacArthur praised them, saying: "For sheer breath-taking 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 ."

Confronted
Confronted

Beneath formidable bravery, Dennis was a man such compassionate with tribefolk and fellows. Written in the WWII Memoirs of Ifugao Deputy Governor Luis I. Pawid: "Kiangan suffers thousand pounds bombs on March 20, 1945, three planes were seen flying over Kiangan and Nayun vicinities. I received a letter from Major Dennis Molintas of the 66th Infantry, Benguet area, informing me that my house in La Trinidad is intact; and that some of the relatives of my wife were killed by the Japanese."

Of course, no one was exempt from the bitter sense of unjust attocities of war. His old man Ogues and sister Juana Molintas-Suayan took unspeakable sacrifices to conceal positions of the 66th Infantry Regiment Commanding Officer. Both were turned in to the Japanese by a local town official, to signal for retreat. Such idiocrasy begot a harsh assassination in public by the end of war; yet hardly had it smelt the deeper wound of treachery.

Dennis Masa'ao Molintas was born on August 17, 1907 at Daclan Bokod Benguet and married Carmen Sabaoan of Datakan Kapangan Benguet. They had two children Dennis Molintas Jr and Lourdes Molintas-Cole (Woman standing on the right is the wife of his son, Donatela Ramirez who is daughter of Colonel Sabbath Ramirez).

The war changed the course of life of a Farmer-Professor and State Scholar.

  • 1918: Completed his primary course at the Bokod Central School

  • 1921: Completed intermediate schooling at the La Trinidad Agricultural School

  • 1925: Completed the high school course at the La Trinidad Agricultural School

  • 1925-1926: An assigned classroom-teacher by the Bureau of then Public School at Kabayan

  • 1927-1928: Assigned at Lao Settlement Farm School (Barrio Laoangan Kapangan). Since 1914 the Bureau of Education under Commonwealth Government, provided special insular aid to the Mountain Province and other non-Christian provinces with settlement farm schools. The schools operated to reduce tribal antagonism, and provide assistance to provincial authorities.

  • 1928: Selected State Scholar under the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes

  • 1934: Completed his college degree at the University of the Philippines, College of Agriculture for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a certificate in Agricultural Education. Molintas introduced langka, cocoa, star apple, avocado and the Zamboanga coffee variety; tucked in an immaculately beautiful orchard pastureland sprawl on two ancestral holdings.

  • 1944-1945: Commanding Officer of the 66th Infantry Regiment

  • 1946-1949: Appointed as Governor of the Old Mountain Province in the re-establishment of the Republic of the Philippines by President Manuel Roxas on August 12, 1946. The Old Mountain Province back then comprised of the Sub-province of Apayao and the Sub-province of Bontoc; the Sub-province of Kalinga and the Sub-province of Ifugao; Baguio City and the Sub-province of Benguet.

A Statesman is a respected, skilled and experienced political figure in most respects opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power. Macapagal (left) Marcos (right)
A Statesman is a respected, skilled and experienced political figure in most respects opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power. Macapagal (left) Marcos (right)

  • 1949-1953: Elected Congressman of the Second District of the Old Mountain Province, for the Second Congress of the Philippines, composed of the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives from December 30, 1949, until December 8, 1953. District Two of the Old Mountain Province comprised of Baguio City and the Sub-province of Benguet. Nonetheless, the Honourable Major Dennis Molintas lost in electoral protest in 1951 that pre-empted tenure. Molintas later on served as Presidential Technical Assistant of Head of State Elpidio Quirino.

  • 1952: Military Intelligence Services of Secretary of National Defence Ramon Magsaysay. Post-war disturbances painstaking duty for military intelligence was counter-insurgency. Editor of the AFP's Office of Strategic and Special Studies Digest, Rino Francisco, wrote in 2013: "The security challenge the Philippines faced in 1950 as a newly independent Republic of the Philippines, was a full-blown rebellion from the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon or Hukbalahap, that first emerged in Central Luzon during the Second World War. Government efforts to end the rebellion from 1946 were largely unsuccessful, described as poor leadership and morale leading to a lack of discipline and manifested in the abuse of civilians by the military." The abolition of the Huk Rebellion through a series of reforms and military victories concluded in 1954.

  • April 1956: Appointed as Board Member of the Old Mountain Province by President Diosdado Macapagal

  • 1964-1968: Elected Vice Governor of the Old Mountain Province. In 1966 Molintas vacates his former position as Vice-Governor of the old Mountain Province; Pio Felwa, senior member of the provincial board of the old Mountain Province is retained by legislation. "In view of the divisions effected by said Act, the old Mountain Province is reduced to the category of a sixth-class province. Molintas as Vice-Governor of the old Mountain Province and subordinate of Governor Lamen, has become the Governor of Benguet established as a second class province."

  • 1966-1968: Transitional Governor by way of succession for the creation of the province of Benguet, in accordance with Republic Act No. 4695 enacted on June 18, 1966. Beforehand, Benguet was a former subordinate province under the jurisdiction and authority of the Governor of then undivided Old Mountain Province, in a larger territory and broader scale of influence.

Bust of Major Dennis Molintas is located in Camp Dangwa of the Municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet Province
Bust of Major Dennis Molintas is located in Camp Dangwa of the Municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet Province

  • Camp Dennis Molintas is a PNP Training Facility located in Bangao of the Municipality of Buguias, Benguet Province
  • Dennis Molintas Road, Tabuk City in the Province of Kalinga
  • Dennis Molintas Road, Alapang Labueg, Kapangan, Benguet Province
  • Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital, Sitio Daclan, Municipality of Bokod, Benguet Province

Notes: After the military containment of the central Luzon rebellion, Ramon Magsaysay became the seventh President of the Philippines in 1954.

In the Pacific Theatre; subsequent reorganizations would see five regiments designated in Northern Luzon: 14th, 66th, 121st, 11th, and 15th Infantry Regiments. Captain Russel Volckman had been originally designated as the Executive Officer of the 11th Infantry Regiment in July 1941. Joining Noble and Moses into the mountains, Captain Volckman organised a Guerrilla Unit in Ifugao with 1st Lieutenants: Francisco Balanban, Guinid Tuguinay, and Pedro Dulnuan Sr. The 14th Guerrilla Infantry Regiment was spearheaded by Major Donald Blackburn operating across Cagayan Valley; while Major Dennis Molintas took helm of the 66th Guerrilla Infantry Regiment in Benguet for the agglomeration of troops from the 11th, 12th and 43rd Regiments. Molintas established the 12th Infrantry in the initital stages of Guerrilla Warfare by appointment of Lt. Col Martin Moses. The 15th Guerrilla Infantry Regiment streamlined the bandit operations of troops spanning across Ilocos Norte: Major Robert Arnold replaced Major George Barnett and Captain John Patrick O'Day. Along the shoreline, the 121st Infantry Regiment drew troops from Pangasinan into Ilocos Sur; under leadership of Captain Walter Cushing, Captain William Peryam and Lt. Col. Manuel Enriquez.

Lieutenant Colonel Martin Moses served during World War II as Commanding Officer designated with assignment service number O-016924, attached to 57th Infantry Regiment Philippine Scouts. In the course of war, Army Lieutenant Colonel Moses was reported missing and ultimately declared dead on November 1, 1943. Recorded circumstances attributed to having been captured and killed by enemy forces, died in captivity with incident location stated as the Philippines.

Lieutenant Colonel Claude A. Thorp held headquarters in the Zambales mountains, organizing the southern operations against the Japanese. In 1942 he was betrayed by a local and killed by the Japanese, as he traveled south of headquarters. Thorp was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving the Philippine Guerilla Forces in action against enemy forces; his personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty to exemplify the highest traditions of the military.

Captain Russell William Volckmann was the American Army Infantry Officer responsible for regrouping the Philippine Commonwealth Military into Guerrilla resistance to the Japanese conquest of the Philippines during the Second World War. Volckmann obtained the rank Brigadier General and created the US Army Special Forces after completing studies in military science at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The 43rd Division is known as the "Winged Victory Division" derived from the name of its longtime combat commander, MG Leonard F. Wing. The 43rd was the only Division to serve in four theaters of the Pacific campaign - South Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Philippines, and Japan. Although the commanders of the regiment were forced to surrender in May 1942, many of the Philippine Scouts escaped captivity and became guerrilla fighters.

58th IMB was dispatched to Luzon Island on 25 June 1944, initially as a reinforcement unit that was formed from 10th Training Infantry Regiment at Hirosaki, and trained for beach defence purposes. IMB would mean Independent Mixed Brigades of the Imperial Japanese Army in WW2, typically expeditionary.

Yamashita Tomoyoki joined the Japanese Army in 1906; becoming head of the Army's Aeronautical Department and deployed to master the Blitzkrieg tactics in Germany in 1940. An extremely capable officer, taking command of 25 Army and promoted to full General in 1944. Tomo is member of the Imperial Way, a political faction within the Army noted for its ultra-nationalism, contempt for democracy and capitalism, and devotion to the Emperor. General Yamashita Tomoyuki was convicted and hanged in 1946. Procedural irregularities in the trial are cited to include the use of a military commission of officers from MacArthur's headquarters. Notwithstanding, the American Supreme Court declined to intervene. Yamashita was held criminally liable for failure to prevent the atrocities, establishing the precedent for what in international law is now known as the Yamashita Standard. "I want my troops to behave with dignity; but most of them do not seem to have the ability to do so."


References:

  • Agoot, L (2019) PVAO to correct erroneous Yamashita 'surrender' story. Philippines News Agency, 4 September. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1079506, Accessed on January 13, 2020
  • Barton, R (1919) Ifugao Law. American Archaeology and Ethnology , 15(1), pp.1-186.
  • Finin, G (2007) The Making of the Igorot: Contours of Cordillera consciousness. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press
  • Francisco, Rino (2013) AFP's Office of Strategic and Special Studies (OSS) Digest
  • https://amerigorot.blogspot.com/2014/09/
  • https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1956/02/01/official-month-in-review-february-1956/
  • Guardia, Mike (2010) American Guerrilla: The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann
  • Indigenous Survival International (2011) Statement on Indigenous peoples and conservation. In Affairs, Arctic Environment: Indigenous Perspectives. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
  • Kristoffer Esquejo 2018: Family and Politics in an Archipelagic Province: The Moreno Dynasty in Postwar Romblon, 1949-1969. Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies
  • Mike Guardia (2010) American Guerrilla
  • Moss, C (1920) Nabaloi law and ritual. American Archaelogy and Ethnology, 15(3), pp.207-342
  • Scott, W (1976) An Historian Looks into the Philippine Kaleidoscope. Philippine Studies, 24(2)
  • Steinman, Louise (1997) Repaying a Debt Never Forgotten. Los Angeles Times
  • Webster, N (1709) Ethos. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary Cambridge University Press, 1995: Warrior.


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