OpinionThe Calindagan Massacre

The Calindagan Massacre


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79 years ago in Dumaguete

Little is known about the death of Tomas Merced, mayor of Bacong (nearby town of Dumaguete to the south), during the Japanese Occupation of Negros Oriental.

As far as the records would show, especially those written in the local history books about the Japanese occupation of Dumaguete or Negros Oriental, Merced was a victim of guerilla reprisals in Bacong. In fact, his name is only a footnote in the book of local historian Prof. Caridad Rodriguez, entitled The War Years.

Consequently, many would quickly assume that Merced was killed for being a puppet mayor or a collaborator. One account would say, however, that he was a victim of mistaken identity. This is based on the interrogation done by the Americans of his son, Norberto “Totong” Merced, who was around 16 years old when his father was killed.

As the story goes, Tomas Merced, 41 years old, was appointed as mayor of Bacong by the Japanese occupying forces in August 1943. This was the result of the constant persuasions of Maj. Bartolome Soledad, 73 years old, mayor of Luzuriaga, that Merced should head Bacong.

In the early morning of Nov. 6, 1944, a large unit of former USAFFE troops, now part of the newly-organized 7th Military District, launched an attack against the Japanese forces stationed in a school building, which was their garrison, at Poblacion Bacong. They went behind the church, and attacked the Japanese stationed near it.

A short fight ensued, and it seemed that the guerillas were gaining the upper hand as a result of their numbers, almost reaching a hundred, and the continuous and steady mortar supporting fires.

The Japanese forces then scrambled out of Bacong, and returned to the main garrison in Dumaguete. After the gun fight, Mayor Tomas Merced went outside the school building where he and his family were hiding, and tried to check the surrounding area; however, to his son’s surprise, the guerillas fired at the Mayor killing him instantly.

After the shooting, the guerillas went straight to the school building where the Mayor’s family was getting their clothes and other essentials. They took the wife of Mayor Merced and their three children, excluding Totong Merced.

When they retreated to the hinterlands, Totong Merced got his father’s pistol, and went straight to Dumaguete where he was met by Lt. Hitoshi Mori, intelligence officer, who confiscated the pistol.

Based on the account of Jose Sedillo, the cook at the Dumaguete garrison, Totong Merced had reported about the killing of his father to the Japanese garrison commander, Captain Yamamoto, together with other officers, Sgt. Nagahata and Sgt. Hamasaki.

Then Totong Merced took shelter at his grandmother’s house along Cervantes St.

It only took less than a week for the Japanese forces in Dumaguete to exact vengeance on the killing of Tomas Merced.

At around 2 am on Nov. 10, 1944, Sgt. Nagahata woke Sedillo up, and ordered him to “bring big machine gun”. When Sedillo went out, he saw around 40 Japanese soldiers gathered, which later on increased to around 100 soldiers. This would include both members of the Keibitani and the Kempeitai under Cpt. Masatomi Tokunaga.

By 5 in the morning, they marched to Bacong, together with Norberto Merced. It was about an eight-kilometer walk, stopping in Barrio Banilad, about five kilometers from the Dumaguete poblacion, at around 6 in the morning.

According to eyewitness Nicolas Patola, the “Japanese arrested all the men they could find.” He recalled: “I was hiding in a grove of nipa palms when I was caught. Severino Banono, Narciso Misamis, and several others were with me when the Japanese, led by Vicente Bayona, spy; Alfredo Aquino, spy; Totong Merced, spy found us in our hiding place.”

The civilians were also asked to take everything out from their houses, and place them in bags. All in all, there were 25 civilians arrested in Banilad that day. They were later on rounded up with their hands tied behind their backs, and asked to march back to the Dumaguete poblacion.

On their way to Dumaguete, they stopped in barrio Calindagan. Two of the men – Nicolas Patola and Narciso Misamis – were pulled out by Vicente Bayona, a spy/military collaborator for the Japanese, were asked to carry two bags of goods confiscated from the group, and were ordered to stay near the house of a certain “Antera on the west side of the road”.

Meanwhile, the other 23 civilians, which included 20-year-old Generoso Misamis, son of Narciso, were “put in a line on the east side of the road” and interrogated by the Japanese officers, like Lt. Mori, aided by interpreters Amino and Vicente Kanisero.

The questions from the Japanese officers were simple and direct: “Where are the USAFFE?” and “Did you see the USAFFE?”

The 23 arrested civilians, however, could not provide any answers. The Japanese officers continued riling them up, trying to get answers but to no avail.

Consequently, they were told by Amino to go off the road, and head around 15 meters east through a small path. They were accompanied by Captain Yamamoto, Amino, and other Japanese soldiers. It was a grassy area filled with bushes. Misamis, Patola, Sedillo, and Totong Merced, the witnesses who were interrogated later on, could not have seen what was happening off the road. All they could hear was a mixture of screaming, cries of pain, jeers, and laughter.

There was one survivor, however, who lived to tell the tale on what happened during the massacre in barrio Calindagan.

Pedro Pastor, a 33-year-old farmer, recounted that after they could not give any information on the whereabouts of the USAFFE, they were led off the road, told to form a line, side by side, with their backs facing the road. Then the Japanese soldiers attached their bayonets on their rifles. Then once again, Amino asked the question: “Where are the USAFFE?” But the civilians could only say they did not know.

Amino then told all 23 civilians to kneel down; each of them was hit at the back of their head with the butt of the rifle. Then he asked them one last time about the USAFFE.

Pastor later on recalled that at the first stroke of the rifle at the back of their heads, he felt “groggy”; when he was hit a second time, he fell on the ground. Then he was bayoneted on right side of his neck. He lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he said he tried not to move since he knew the Japanese were still bayonetting his companions as he could still hear their cries and groans of pain.

Other witnesses on the road could only hear groans of pain and cries of “Agoy!” Sedillo recalled that there was shouting for around five minutes, and after hearing the agoys, the other Japanese Keibitani officers – Lt. Mori and Lt. Yamada; and the Kempeitai officer Captain Tokunaga went off the road to take a look.

After the massacre, the Japanese officers ordered the remaining civilians – Misamis and Patula – “to haul their looted things and booty [mostly clothes and plates] to Dumaguete.” More specifically, to the house of Isidoro Limquiaco.

It was then when they saw the Japanese forces scatter and go on different directions.

By 11 in the morning, some Japanese officers brought Misamis and Patola to the house of Serafin Teves — where the officers were stationed — and continued to interrogate them “about the guerrillas in the mountains.”

Afterwards, they took both Misamis and Patola outside of the house near the boulevard, and put them under the heat of the sun for almost four hours.  By 4 pm, they were released.

Apropos of the motives for the massacre, this heinous act was clearly done out of retribution or, as the official report would say, “reprisal against the people near Bacong, because of the guerrilla action which resulted in the death of the puppet mayor of Bacong, Tomas Merced.”

It was a thoroughly planned patrol with an intent of instilling fear among civilians and guerrillas.

The Japanese officers and soldiers who took part in it were an amalgamation of both Keibitani and Kempeitai forces under the command of Col. Satoshi Oie of the 174th Independent Infantry Battalion, who was in Cebu attending a conference when the massacre happened.

To this day, the massacre of the 22 innocent civilians from Banilad in Calindagan, Dumaguete has not been mentioned in any local history books. That being said, the exact site of the massacre has not yet been traced.

Investigations were conducted by the Counter Intelligence Corps after the war as they tried to trace the Japanese officers and soldiers involved in the Calindagan massacre. The perpetrators were: Amino (civilian interpreter), 1st Lt. Hitoshi Mori (Intelligence officer), Capt. Masatomi Tokunaga (commanding officer of the Dumaguete Kempeitai), and Cat. Takeki Yamamoto (head of Dumaguete garrison).

From the findings, albeit I have yet to find conclusive results of the war crimes cases filed against the Japanese officers, all eyewitnesses pointed out that it was Capt. Takeki Yamamoto who ordered the execution of the 23 civilians (of which 22 were killed).

Based on public records, Captain Yamamoto was arrested, and held at the Leyte Detention Center when the US forces arrived.

Suffice it to say, there is no landmark to remind us of the gruesome killing by the Japanese forces of our very own civilians in Calindagan. It is hoped this story would serve as an impetus for the Dumaguete LGU to further trace other details of the massacre to somehow give justice to the  Dumagueteño victims.


Author’s email: JJAbulado@norsu.edu.ph



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