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Marawi siege aftermath

  • Written by Ignacio Bunye
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 317

FOR me, one of the memorable  photographs to come out following the liberation of Marawi shows two
soldiers holding up the flag at ground zero. It was the soldiers’ effort to  symbolize that once again
the republic is supreme in the war-torn city.

It is a proud moment not just for government troops but all Filipinos.
    
The flag symbolizes our country and everything we hold dear. Our troops showed that they are
ready, willing and able to make the sacrifice just to keep it flying.  
 
In Marawi, 162 of our brave soldiers paid with their lives. Hundreds more were rendered
permanently incapacitated.
    
The scene in Marawi should remind us never ever to take the flag for granted.
    
A flag-raising of sorts also occurred in  1945.
    
Filipino troops  belonging to the United States Armed Force in the Philippines–Northern Luzon
or USAFIP-NL were fighting the last stages of the Battle of Bessang Pass.

The Battle of Bessang Pass  consisted of a series of battles fought over almost 6 months. The
initial battle was fought in Bitalac, Tagudin on January 8, 1945 while the last was waged on June 14,
1945 at Nangyatan Hill.
    
In between, bloody see-saw battles were fought in Lower Cadsu Ridge, Upper Cadsu Ridge, Lamagan
Ridge, Laguiatan Hill, Magun Hill and Baracbac Point.
    
The Filipinos were trying to dislodge the 4,000 strong Japanese shock troops directly under the
command of General Yushiharu Ozaki. Ozaki was waging a bloody  rear-guard action to protect Tomoyuki
Yamashita who had fled to Bontoc from his Baguio headquarters.
    
The last bloody encounter took place on June 14, 1945. Capt. Emilio Narcise and his men charged
Nangyatan Hill where the Japanese kept their munitions.
    
After an hour-long battle, Narcise and his men had control of the hill.
    
To signify Filipino victory, Narcise hoisted a make-shift flag. It  consisted of a GI-issue
olive green towel!
    
The Battle of Bessang Pass was over.
    
3,400 gallant Filipinos were either killed or wounded in this epic battle which forced the
eventual surrender of Tomoyuki Yamashita.
    
Last Tuesday, President Rody Duterte declared Marawi liberated. The declaration coincided
with the announcement that two, perhaps even three, of the leaders who staged the siege have been
killed. The bodies of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute have been positively identified. As of this
writing, that of Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian national suspected of financing the attack on Marawi, still
has to be confirmed via DNA testing.
    
Some observers called the President’s announcement “premature” since a pocket of twenty to
thirty terrorists were still fighting. Nevertheless, the outcome is more or less clear. The end for the
holdouts is near.
    
Flashback again to 1945.
    
General McArthur made a similar “premature” move which signalled the end of the Battle of
Manila. The Battle of Manila lasted 29 days.
    
On Day 25, even while guns rumbled in the distance, McArthur turned over the reigns of
government to President Sergio Osmeña in a simple, brief but impressive ceremony inside Malacanan
Palace.
    
This took place 4 days before the actual end of hostilities.
    
On Day 26, allied troops pounded the Agriculture Building, headquarters of the Japanese troop
commander,  with artillery and tank fire.  So heavy was the shelling that the building pancaked on its
own first floor.  The remains of the Japanese commander, said to have committed suicide earlier, was
never recovered.
    
The fighting flared for three more days as the allied troops tried to retake the last Japanese
stronghold -- the Finance Building.
    
On Day 29, US troops cleared the last of the Japanese defenders.
    
As in most conflicts, the most battle-scarred are the children.
    
In Marawi, a soldier found the distressed cries of a rescued child heart-rending. The former
child hostage was crying “Papa, Papa”  trying to look for his father from whom he was separated during
the rescue.
    
In his autobiography, the late Ambassador Antonio Cabangon Chua recalled his own traumatic
experience during the Battle of Manila.
 
As the fighting raged,  civilians who could still escape from the city  tried to cross the
Pasig River. Amba Cabangon Chua (then 9 years old)  and his mother, Dominga, joined a stream of
refugees trying to make it to safety across the Pasig River. Behind them was South Manila going up in
flames.
    
“The bombs were bursting all over, but I was a child and it wasn’t the explosions of war that
scared me but the sights and smells of war. What especially horrified me was the smell of death. The
dead lay everywhere, blocking our path. We had to make our way to the crossing over dead bodies,
bloated bodies, rotting bodies. I was crying with terror and I told my mother I didn’t want to pass
that way -- but there was no other way. I didn’t know rotting corpses had so strong a smell!”
 
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