Today is a happy-sad day for me. After going around Camp O’Donnell the past three days, I finally found PMA classmates Bart Cabangbang, Tom Tirona I used to chat with in Corregidor and Dodong Caballero, Joe and Rey Mendoza of the Bataan group that made me happy. However, I learned from them that my dear friend and former roommate (and soulmate), Washington Sagun had died last May 16. This made me so sad as we bonded like brothers when we were roommates and I want the whole world to know the great legacies he left at PMA. A talented artist, during the early days of our plebe year, he was tasked into designing the original PMA cadet uniforms, insignias, diplomas, class rings, and other graphics like that of the “Corps” and “Sword”. He was one of the two starmen of our class for four straight years and graduated No. 2 but I still believe he should have been No 1. He left his belongings (class ring, cash, effects) to our classmate, H. B. Tuazon after he died.
As CO of a unit of the 31st Engineers, he dynamited Calumpit bridge after the last USAFFE unit from the south had crossed it last Jan 1. He saw gallant action in Bataan front lines with the 31st Div. Our nation lost an outstanding officer with great potential when he died. I consider it a great privilege to have been his roommate at PMA for two years.
According to Cavs Tirona and Cabangbang, it was also reported two other classmates, Alberto Aranzaso and Damian Pavon have died even earlier than Sagun. Before the surrender of Corregidor, Aranzaso and Pavon tried to convince them to escape from Corregidor to Cavite by small boat. They took separate boats that later capsized and sunk. Cav Aranzaso was a heroic P-26 pilot that challenged the Jap Zeros with Capt. Jesus Villamor last Dec. 10 and together, were the first recipients of Silver Stars personally awarded by Gen. MacArthur. Cav. Pavon was a 3-year starman qualified to be with the CE but chose to be with PAAC. He is another officer with great potential lost at a very young age 26. Aranzaso was 25 and Sagun 27 when they passed away. A sad day for me, indeed.
I was at Corregidor Wharf to welcome M/S Kolambugan that arrived 0730 today from another “smuggling trip to Looc Cove” similar to what we did a week ago. This time Q-111 is the escort with Capt. Navarette CO & Sqdn. Comdr. and Capt. Panopio with the Kolambugan, a confident veteran now. After our successful “smuggling opn” a week ago, USAFFE Hq adopted the SOP I established specially the coastal zigzag route. The indefatigable Maj. Rueda was able to procure another 3,000 tons of rice and 200 heads of cattle for USAFFE Hq to risk another attempt. I briefed Capt. Navarette and Cap Panopio on the SOP and the trip is successful. There is another “garapon” of pancit molo for the President from Rueda so I accompanied Navarrete to deliver it as he did not know the Quezon Lateral.
I was surprised to see the president very sick, constantly coughing still upset no reinforcements are coming. However, his eyes brightened when I gave him the flag of his sunken “Casiana” retrieved by my Gunner Sgt. Figuracion. Considering the 100,000 people in Bataan we have to feed which includes 20,000 civilian evacuees, the foodstuff smuggled by Kolambugan twice is just a drop in the bucket but it helps postpone the half rationing schedule being planned. Meanwhile, fighting continuous in the Battle of the Points behind the II Corps of Gen Wainwright with the enemy slowly being decimated every passing day.
On my way back to Q-112 at the wharf, I encountered my classmates Lts. Bartolome Cabangbang, Tomas Tirona, Damian Pavon and Alberto Aranzaso all PAAC pilots now without planes assigned to the AA Batteries in Corregidor. Aranzaso is one of our early heroes with Capt. Villamor shooting down enemy planes. It was a happy brief mini-reunion. I felicitated them for their accomplishments as well as their comrades with the PAAC Inf Bn under Capt. Pelagio Cruz, my provincemate, that fought and defeated the enemy that landed behind our MLR in the battle of Aglaloma Pt. The Voice of Freedom announced the heroism of this Bn as a Unit and cited the following officers awarded the Silver Stars (SS) for gallantry in action at Aglaloma: Capts. Pelagio Cruz; Eustacio Orobia; Pedro Q. Molina (Quezon’s nephew); and my Mistah Lt. Victor Osias. With the 5 SS earned by PAAC last Dec, they now have a total of 9 SS according to my book.
Amazing planeless PAAC, they still manage to earn SS as foot soldiers to show the world how versatile the USAFFE men are fighting in the jungles of Bataan that included young boys of a tender age like those Ateneo ROTC Volunteers very loyal to their Commandant, Capt. Eugenio G. Lara ’38. News report states that the Japanese are poised to land in Singapore which is supposed to be impregnable and defended by the British Forces.
Despite Hitler’s nightly air raid, Churchill’s England keeps fighting back. Their radar system are a great help. The PA’s two elite branches, the OSP and PA Air Corps (PAAC) are busy with their training programs. Because they are located in Manila area our classmates easily maintained contact and found ethos sympathetic to our PMA experience. I became a sort of message center being stationed in Port Area and residing in Manila, among my classmates from the different PA branches far and wide.
My classmate who kept me abreast of the goings on at PAAC is Cav Alberto “Kabayan” Aranzaso, a close chum at PMA. PAAC Hq is located at what was popularly known as Nichols Field but their specific base is called Zablan Field (now Villamor AB) named after an early pioneer, Maj Porfirio Zablan PCA ’15, who died in a plane crash. Out of the 32 class ’40 that tried out, 17 finally got their wings. Tomas Tirona was the first to solo flight while Nolasco Escobar with his instructor Maniquis, crashed, killing Maniquis and an Air Field was named after him. Escobar survived and got his wings.
To date, my 17 PAAC classmates are assigned to various post participating in rigorous training. Alberto Acena and Pedro Baban are with the 9th Obsvn Sqdn in Cebu; Mariano Punzalang, Pedro Bartolome, Crisosostomo Monta, and Damian Pavon are with the 7th Adv Trng Sqdn Maniquis Field, Cabanatuan, as flight instructors: Bartolome Cabangbang, Alberto Aranzaso, Urbano Caldoza, Horacio Farolan, and Pedro Aragon are with the 6th Pursuit Sqdn under 1st Lt Jesus Villamor; Tomas Tirona was appointed Comdt PAAC Basic Flying School with Lauro Ello, Nolasco Escobar, Victor Osias, and Epifanio Segovia as Flight Instructors.
After getting his wings and qualifying as an air pilot, Francisco Vitug, crashed his plane, survived but lost an eye. He transferred branch of service to Finance Service (FS). PAAC is proud of the fact that then Maj. Dwight Eisenhower while on the staff of MacArthur and helped establish PMA, learned to fly and earned his wings under the of PAAC, particularly credited to Lt Pelagio Cruz ’35 of Bulacan.