I am surprised to learn today that my high school mentor in Math is among the American POWs in Cabanatuan. He was seen by a relative tending a group of carabaos in a Cabanatuan rice mill, pulling carts loaded with rice supply for POWs. Let me pay tribute to this great hero named Aaron Kliatchko. He was a Russian Jew, native of Belarus, migrated to US in 1907, enlisted in the Corps of Engineers, saw action during WW I under Gen John J. Pershing in France, later assigned to Corregidor in 1919 as a Master Engineer to build Malinta Tunnel. When his enlistment expired, he joined a US Engineering Co in Manila (Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Co.) that constructed various projects in the Phil. One such project was Angat Dam and Irrigation System wherein Kliatckko was the project engineer with the center of activities in my hometown, Quingua, Bulacan. Being a bachelor, he boarded with the Garcia Family that resulted in his marrying my relative Vicky Cervantes. He decided to build his residence next door to our ancestral home. He was 35 when he got married to Vicky, 22, in 1922. In 1932, he retired from Atlantic Gulf Co., purchased 50 hectares of riceland in Quingua and Bustos and become a gentleman farmer while raising a family of nine.
Engineer Aaron Kliatchko became my mentor in Math during my high school years since 1932 and continued till 1936 when I took the exam for PMA. Am informed that after WW II started, he felt that beause he was a former member of the US Army and a US citizen, it was his duty to join us in Bataan. And so in mid-March 1942, he managed to go to Bataan during the lull period, via a rented motor boat from Malolos. A few weeks later, Bataan surrendered, was taken POW, joined the Death March and Concentrated in Camp O’Donnell until he was transferred to Cabanatuan. As a farmer since 1932, he is good in handling carabaos and I am not surprised of his assignment by the Japanese. What surprised me is why he joined us in Bataan at age 55 when he could have been detained only in Santo Tomas as an American civilian national. For me, my former mentor is a patriot, a hero. He helped build Malinta Tunnel, Angat Dam that supplies fresh water to Manila and the Irrigation System that covers the farmlands of Bustos, Quingua, Guiguinto, Pulilan, Bigaa and Bocaue enabling the farmers to harvest rice twice a year.