Saturday, June 7, 2014

By: Neil Edwin Wagas

On October 8, 1944, at the height of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, an incident happened when my grandfather (Gervasio Wagas Sr.) together with Cebu Governor Hilario “Dodong” Abellana and his family were arrested by the Japanese Imperial Army in Brgy. Cabadiangan, Compostela, Cebu.  The said date was based in other history books but Benjamin “Tiyo Ben” Canen insisted that the correct date was August 5, 1944 for he was one of the captives when it happened.  Until the time that I was writing this book, I really had a puzzle of what really is the exact date.  Tiyo Ben might be right or wrong with regards to the date but his accounts on the event was unquestionable because he was an eyewitness.

Fortunately, Lolo Basio was released by his captors due to the intervention of my father (Gervasio Wagas Jr.) who kept on hugging on Lolo Basio’s neck.  My father was already 3 years old at that time when it happened.  Lolo Basio told me he was lucky that no one from the Japanese Army went inside the house because he was working with his typewriter to make a report for the guerillas as part of his job as a correspondent during the war.  And he continued talking that if they just saw the paper in my typewriter, I'm sure I'm dead that day. After that incident, Governor Abellana never came back and believed to be executed by his captors at the U.P. Campus in Lahug, Cebu City.  Some accounts reveal that he was killed on January 15, 1945.

According to my father, Governor Abellana and his family were already in a safe place somewhere in Bohol but returned to Cebu and planned to transfer in Barangay Tabunan where the general headquarters of the guerilla forces stationed.  According to some witnesses, the Governor landed in the shores of Jubay, Lilo-an, Cebu aboard a pump boat and then proceeded to Brgy. Cabadiangan where Lolo Basio was hiding.  Prior to the incident, Governor Abellana was courted by the Japanese Forces to pledge allegiance to the Japanese puppet government but refused and became a fugitive. 

Manong Elias Canen had a different story regarding the incident for he was there when it happened.  He insisted that Governor Dodong Abellana was already in Barangay Tabunan and it was Anita Abellana (wife of Dodong Abellana) and her children that arrived in Jubay, Liloan aboard a pump boat.  The children were Mario, Vicente, Hilda and Lourdes. Immediately after their arrival, they proceeded to Lolo Basio’s residence in Sitio Libo of Barangay Cabadiangan in Compostela, Cebu.  Lolo Basio’s house became the meeting point of the Abellana family for the latter was a close friend of the Governor and beside he was also serving as a Civil Relations Officer of the guerilla forces during that time. 

I was really puzzled by the two versions of the story. But Judge Lorenzo Paradiang has an article published in a local newspaper about that incident and its says that Governor Abellana and his party arrived from Bohol. His version sounds similar to my father's version.

At early dawn of that day, a group of Japanese soldiers and Filipino under covers from Lilo-an town, were patrolling to Barangay Cabadiangan whose mission was to arrest Governor Abellana.  The arrival of the Abellana family in Jubay, Lilo-an was already detected by the Japanese soldiers with the help of Filipino spies.  The Japanese forces were guided by a certain Frank Vidal, who was once a guerilla and later became a spy, with a certain Teofilo Ponce who served as a hostage guide after being captured in Lilo-an. Some historical accounts mentioned that Mr. Ponce was arrested on September 03, 1944. That's more than a month before the said incident. And because of this, I am convinced that October 08, 1944 was the correct date.

Upon arriving in Barangay Cabadiangan, the Japanese Forces divided themselves into two groups.   The first group proceeded to the house of Benita Wagas-Toong (Lola Nitay) and the other one to the house of Gliceria Wagas-Canen (Lola Teliang).  Both Benita and Gliceria were sisters of Lolo Basio.  At the residence of Lola Nitay, Titong Cabatingan and Juanito "Aning” Rumanillos were captured while sleeping.  Both of them came from a Benefit Dance (Bayle) in Barangay Cambayog and maybe because of being tired and drunk, they slept at Lola Nitay’s house. Coincidentally, they were found by the Japanese soldiers with a revolver in their position while sleeping. Both Titong and Aning were members of the guerilla forces. Anatalio Wagas (Lolo Tayong), Lola Nitay, Florentino Toong, Margarito Pepito and Restituto “Tito” Calo were also arrested at the time it happened and all of them were brought to the house of Titong Cabatingan.

Meanwhile, the other group of Japanese soldiers that proceeded to Lola Teliang’s residence, arrested Benjamen Canen, Ireneo Durano, Marcelo Paradiang and a certain Lucia “Lusing” Cinco who was also maltreated by the Japanese soldiers by removing her dress with only a panty remained in her body.  Minutes later, Lusing was released upon the arrival of her cousin, Felimon Delgado who happened to be an under cover during that time.  That incident was witnessed by Benjamin Canen, who was sitting right beside Lusing when it happened. All of them were also brought to the house of Titong Cabatingan but Ireneo Durano and Marcelo Paradiang managed to escape on their way to Titong’s house.  They run through darkness of the forest while their captors were firing at them.  Luckily, they survive. According to Benjamin Canen (Tiyo Ben), Margarito Pepito and Teofilo Ponce were tied up and hang to the ceiling of Titong’s house.  Mr. Ponce’s sex organ was scorched by the flames of the torch by a certain TSURUYAMA, a Japanese soldier.  Both of them were tortured and struck with a garrote in their body.  Tiyo Ben's hands were also tied up and beaten together with the other captives but was later released for he was too young at that time.

The two groups of the Japanese soldiers rejoined again at the house of Titong Cabatingan with their captives.  From there, they proceeded to Lolo Basio’s house in Sitio Libo to arrest Governor Abellana. Titong Cabatingan, Aning Rumanillos, Lola Nitay and Lolo Tayong served as hostage guide on their way to Lolo Basio’s house and the rest of the captives remained including Frank Vidal, the said spy.  Then and there at Lolo Basio’s house, Governor Dodong Abellana and his family were arrested.  Vicente Abellana, a governor’s son and a certain Candelario Sanchez, a body guard of the Governor, managed to escape.  Manong Elias Canen was on the other side of the mountain while watching the incident.  Inside the house were Lola Olding (wife of Lolo Basio) and the children namely; Ranulfo, Estrella, Virginia, my father (Gervasio Jr.), and Angelina.  Lolo Basio was about to be included in the arrest but my father (Gervasio Jr.) climbed to Lolo Basio’s neck while crying that changed the mind of the leader of the arresting officer. Aside from that situation, the arresting officers were not able to identify Lolo Basio as the mayor.  Arturo “Riking” Abellana, also a son of Governor Abellana, arrived late at the time of the arrest for he was in Barangay Tabunan.  According to Manong Elias, it was the last time they saw Governor Abellana.

After the arrest, the Japanese soldiers went back to Titong Cabatingan’s house and then proceeded to Lilo-an town where the Japanese forces stationed.  On their way to the town proper, Teofilo Ponce was shot in Barangay Tamiao and was released wounded with a gun shot. Fortunately, Mr. Ponce survived the incident and was elected as mayor of Lilo-an town years after the war.  All of the captives were brought to Cebu City except for Lola Nitay and Lolo Tayong who were released in Lilo-an town hall and survived the incident.  Anita, the wife of Governor Abellana and her children were also released in the city.

After that incident, Frank Vidal was arrested and executed through a firing squad by the guerilla forces at the headquarters in Brgy. Tabunan, Cebu City.  He was sentenced to death for guilty of treason.