War is the scourge of man. It is organized armed conflict between the groups of people or states. War is not found elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Since recorded history began, man has been involved in hostility, for different aims: power, territory, wealth, ideological domination, security and independence. Until modern times, most wars were fought with limited means for limited aims, but modern weapons of mass destruction and total warfare can eliminate whole populations and endanger the survival of the human race. (Robert A. Rosebaum, Editor in Chief Desk Encyclopedia. New Jersey: New American Library, 1984: 1248).
Evidently what Puerto Princesa is today attests to this reality of its strength in character, endurance, resilience and perseverance for having survived the Japanese occupation and other trials that came its way to purposeful and significant development.
THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
Immediately ater the outbreak of World War II, there were 16 Japanese civilians in Puerto Princesa who were picked up and disappeared sometime in April 1942 somewhere in the vicinity of kilometer 37 of the national highway. In Coron, Lieutenant Baldomero Garcia of the Philippine Constabulary rounded up 122 Japanese civilians and captured two launches. A number of Palaweños were called to active duty. These reservists of the Philippine Army were in the battlefields in Bataan and experienced the Death March. Some of the veterans of Bataan returned to Palawan: Regional Trial Judge Jose P. Rodriguez, Provincial Board Member Andres Baaco and City Councilor Felix Rafols, Jr. to cite a few.
ELIZABETH CLARK ALBA writes:
Usually ushered in by the onset of the nostalgic northeasterly breeze, December was always a favorite month, especially among the youngsters looking forward to a string of joyous events. In pre-war years, Time dragged its feet ever so slowly. A year seemed like forever- and celebrations were few and far between.
0So on that morning of December 8, 1941, most everybody in this sparsely populated town had turned up at the Rizal Park. It was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and everyone was in a festive mood – ball games had begun, bicycle races were to be run; there was the exciting hitting of the pot and the climbing of the greased pole.
That day, I was among the crowd of spectators in the park (those were the cherished years when children could be let loose in crowds or in the streets and parents had no fear from pickpockets, hold-uppers, snatchers or tricycles).
Four days short of my birthday, war was farthest from my thoughts – that was when news of the attack on Pearl Harbor came over the radio, it implied nothing. I didn’t even know where, much less what Pearl Harbor was. But when the bombing of Manila and Davao soon followed, fiasco ensued. It seemed like everybody panicked and started running in all directions. I ran home and found my mother and sister rushing out of the house. I joined them and found ourselves among a maze of people in near – hysteria. If the Japanese had strafed Puerto that moment, there would have been carnage on the streets. No one was prepared for this!
When sanity returned, evacuation began. We rushed to my father in Canigaran - about seven kilometers from town and stayed there until our fears subsided. After a couple of days, we returned to Puerto especially since my sister was due to be delivered of her baby any time and needed to be near a doctor.
A somber Christmas came and went – spent in fear and darkness as blackouts were imposed. Then in December 31, assisted by Dr. Higinio A. Mendoza, Sr., my sister gave birth to a baby girl. That New Year’s Eve was just as dark, quiet and melancholy.
The next day, January 1, 1942, the morning started to loom like another uneventful day. Towards mid-morning, I curled up with my Grimm’s Fairy Tales Book and was enjoying a story when I heard the drone of airplanes – faint at first but definitely coming closer.
I alerted my mother, ran across the room where I caught a glimpse of my sister lying helplessly in bed with the baby, rushed out of the gate and dashed across the street to my brother-in-law’s house. I met Cristobal, the houseboy and told him to go fetch the baby. He quickly reappeared with her and clumsily handed her to me.The ground floor of Renato Marcelo’s house was unbelievably packed with people. I found a spot, laid the baby beneath my body and hoped I could shield her from bullets or pieces of shrapnel. We had expected bombs to be dropped. It was first time in my life I had felt so close to death. Then the frightful staccato shelling began – it seemed endless.
Why so many people rushed to this nipa-roofed house baffled my father who was in Canigaran and bewailed the fact that he missed the excitement. It was Providential that not one bullet went through the roof. Our houseboy Leong, who was frying fish for lunch in the house we left, said he heard some pelting on the galvanized roof. Bullets or empty shells? Anyway, he went through the shelling, frying fish.
When we across the street, finally got up, pale and shaken from that horrible ordeal, I gave my sister back her day-old infant, Maria Elena Marcelo, now Mrs. Edward Hagedorn.
What followed was a rush of baptism and confirmation. Mother Trining Acosta, O.P. practically dragged all the children to church. At age 14, I was a Godmother to a few nieces.
Our family being quite large, was scattered in different evacuation places north of Puerto Princesa. Babuyan, some 80 kilometers from town, was our first stop. My brother Alfred lived there and we moved in with him. Every so often, we’d drive back to town to gather more belongings. On one such occasion in March, we stayed overnight at our house once occupied by my uncle Renato Palanca, Sr.. The next day, I climbed a cashew tree and helped myself to some plump luscious fruit at the top. Then I heard that dreadful drone again. I clambered down the tree, called out to Mother and we both ran to the nearest grove of mango or acacia – I cannot now recall. Each tree sheltered a group of frightened people seeking cover from the fast approaching planes. Mother and I latched ourselves on to one such group and when the shelling began we moved on mass around the tree – quite like the “fox and hen” game in our grade school days. Everyone, inhis own tongue, was crying out to Heaven for help. After the air raid we beat a hasty retreat back to Babuyan.
When Japanese forces occupied Puerto, we went further north to the hinterlands of Tarabanan. With the help from pinpin palm leaves; the flooring from bamboo and for the stairs a slant pole. We had to do without walls though – a welcome privation if you were a lover of nature. Moonlight nights provided spectacular scenes of the moon climbing up behind almaciga trees on mountaintops then finally descending behind the lacy bamboos. We were in a beautiful valley surrounded from all sides with mountains.
It was there that my father received a letter from Mr. Hara – a long-time Japanese friend who, in pre-war years, owned a store right where the governor’s residence now stands. Mr. Hara and his family were in Puerto as far back as I could remember but left just before the war broke out. We later were told that he was a Colonel in the Japanese Imperial Forces.
In his letter, he pleaded with my father to come down from the hills and sounded genuinely concerned about my father’s health – he personally guaranteed his safety. Conditions in the hills were such that my father nearly gave in to Mr. Hara’s invitation but my mother wouldn’t hear of it – and rightly so- not long after, we heard that Mr. Hara was killed in Brooke’s Point. Then father decided to move back south to where my sister Pansy and family were. It was a rainy afternoon when he, mother, our loyal Leong and I trekked back to Beabelnan – not far from Tanabag.
On July 27, 1942 we were awakened by the sound of a motor launch, friend or foe? This always caused us some concern. Then to our relief and surprise, from out of the thicket emerged Alfred and Paul Cobb. They were very close family friends from pre-war days and we always held them with high esteem even as they later would be by the American POW escapees because of their bravery, courage and derring-do. The Cobb brothers’ presence always made one feel secure.
After some conversation with my father, they and my brother-in-law, Renato, decided to go down towards the shore. Whether they were aware that a Japanese launch had come, I did not know.
Before long, shots rang out from their direction. The exchange of fire seemed endless. Then a dreadful silence and the interminable wait.
To everyone’s relief, they finally showed up – unhurt. Paul related to me how two Japanese were killed. He said their comrades were able to grab one before speeding away while the other was left on the beach.
There was no question about Japanese retaliation. It was decided we’d leave with the Cobbs that night for Culasian but the idea was later abandoned when father thought it better to go to Dr. Mendoza instead. He had a canker in his back that needed medical attention.
So, on August 1, 1942, my brother Alfred came and we started our trip by foot along the beach. About mid-ways we were overwhelmed by the stench of death. The fallen Japanese’s bloated and sun-scorched corpse was lying on its back. Three dogs had taken over and were fiercely digging into its empty rib cage.
We reached Dr. Mendoza’s place late in the afternoon. His place lay on a mountainside between Babuyan and Tanabag. Farther up was a cave called Tarao. In our earlier days in Babuyan my father and I were fascinated with it and called it Castle Rock. It’s still there today, rising majestically above a mountain slope.
In August 4, the avenging Japanese shelled the location of the Cobb encounter from a ship.
On or about September 7, my father, John Tompson Clark, told me he’d gone up Castle Rock (Tarao) and circled it. Sensing that I felt left out, he promised to take me up there soon. It was not to be. After celebrating his 68th birthday on September 9, he felt ill the following day and his health worsened by the day. On October 4, 1942, he passed away. My brothers Alfred and Danny buried his remains in Babuyan.
A few days later Alfred came for mother and me and took us by pumpboat north of Talabigan where Pansy was. (We zigged and zagged northern Palawan a lot during the war). That was the last we saw of him. He went back home to Babuyan where in October 22, he was shot to death by Arnaldo Toribio.
A few weeks later, Dr. Mendoza and family joined us in Talabigan. Here another member of the family was added to our family when, on December 10, 1942, he delivered my sister Pansy of a baby girl. Following a Batac tradition at the time where they named their children after trees, plants or locations where they were born, so we called her Talabigan. To this day Aida Marcelo Mayo is still Talabit (for short) to us.
Here, I celebrated my 15th birthday – the first time without my father. Mother and I open the can of Jacob’s assorted biscuits my father had been saving for this occasion. They had turned stale and unfit to eat.
In December 31, Dr. Mendoza’s family, my mother and I boarded a “pangco” and sailed that night for Culasian. Sea travel was always by night for fear of Japanese patrol planes – so before the break of dawn we dropped anchor at Tinitian. It was New Year’s day of 1943. The morning wore on and we could hardly believe that we were seeing fresh fish brought in from the traps. Fruits and vegetables were in abundance too. Compared to the places we had come from. Why, this was land of milk and honey. The decision to stay was unanimous.
Dr. Mendoza lost no time in organizing a guerilla movement – with headquarters in the coastal town of Tinitian. His family and the rest of us holed up further inland – a place called Jolo – about an hour’s hike from town.
The guerrillas rose in number – and all dedicated to the resistance movement. Social activities became part of guerrilla life. Every now and then a dance party called “Six to Six” would be held at headquarters and it was as the title implied – 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next day. Everyone looked forward to this break in the humdrum life in camp. The dance music was provided by a guitar and some good and sturdy vocal chords.
Life somehow, had returned to normal. We were interacting with the natives – and getting to meet old friends from Puerto – the Decolongons, Asuncions, Matros.
With spare and outgrown clothes, which the farmers preferred to “script” or legal tender, we were able to accumulate enough rice for subsistence. Then there arose a demand for thread – “unravel your socks” said the resourceful ones – and sure enough, fetched us more rice.
After sundown our houses would flicker with coconut oil lamp, - they were small improvised containers fashioned with a float and wick torn off an old undershirt. A log was kept smoldering under the house to help keep the mosquitoes away, and supply us with instant fuel for cooking and provide some warmth on cold nights.
We learned to eat “curot” – a poisonous root crop you didn’t mess around with unless you were prepared to call it quits with the world. The tedious procedure by the experts was to pare the dug out roots, slice them thin, place them in baskets and soak them in sea water and running river for weeks. The finished product, when cooked in coconut milk, was to me a delicacy.
Out nights in Jolo were spent thinking of home, of loved ones lost, and what lay ahead. Friends livened up the hours when they’d come to visit. Every now and then there’d be Alfred Cobb, Tony Decolongon, sone POW escapees like Bob Pyor, Bill Swift, George Marquez, Errol Glen (later shot to death in Cuyo), Sunshine Shea and Johnston.
Now wherever Tony was, could music be far behind? A proficient guitar player, we’d gather around him and sing old favorites – and there never was a shortage of good old Cuyunon jokes and humor. Thus, was our time spent in Jolo until that early morning of January 7, 1944.
Since we lived close by a river, I’d while my time away trying to fish with a hook and line. So there I was at the river bank with my bait waiting for some luck as I ate my breakfast of boiled banana.
Suddenly, a shot rang out – quickly followed by another. I looked towards the foot bridge and saw them, Filipinos and Japanese crossing toward our side! I ran to the house, picked up my clothes and, with Mother, hit the trail for the woods. Then a spray of machine-gun fire seemed all around us – we flung ourselves to the ground, and I overheard my Mother grumbling about how she narrowly missed a stinking filth.
When the firing subsided, we ran to the hills, (a pig trailing us closely away from the “war zone” but we lost him somewhere along the way) and there met Pansy. All her children and good old Leong. All these started about 7:00 o’clock in the morning and we holed up in the hills til dark when we sent Leong to scout around our place.
We all went back when he said all was clear and we found Trining and children at home all shaken, she suffered a bruise on her stomach when kicked by a Japanese. Dr. Mendoza, along with Renato Marcelo were taken by the Japanese to Puerto. Dr. Mendoza happened to be with his wife that day because it was their wedding anniversary.
In a nutshell, guerrilla Namia who at one time was assigned to be on guard duty at the Mendoza house, was captured by the Japanese while on patrol. He showed the Japanese and their Filipino P.C. conspirators the backdoor approach to our house.
Our own houses were ransacked by the invaders. Anything of value like the typewriter and the binoculars were stolen. Even the eggs and chickens were nowhere to be found.
Some weeks later, Renato came back bringing a lot of enticing goods – cigarettes, candies and anti-malaria pills. He said all was well in Puerto, that they were treated well and that it was time we went back. And with his family, accompanied by Mr. Donato Manga, we sailed back to Puerto, a few weeks later.
The first thing we tried to do was contact Dr. Mendoza but he was nowhere. The Japanese officials gave conflicting and evasive answers. Some said he was in Manila, others in Japan for further medical studies. His whereabouts became a matter of conjecture and notwithstanding our concern and apprehension we tried to be calm.
We settled in Tagburos on the Marcelo property. Mrs. Mendoza stayed in town where the Japanese Commander (Sato?) would frequently stop by and give the children candies.
In the mean time, our family had befriended a truly nice Japanese soldier, Mr. Sumida. He was one of those in charge of the U.S. POWs and seemed very fond of the one he referred to as “my boy Hough”. Through him, my sister (Mrs. Mendoza) would send the prisoners cakes she’d tie up in her red bandana – hence her code name “Red Hanky”. Mr. Sumida had become so close to the family, he’d sometimes prepare his dish of raw fish in the house then take a nap on the bamboo floor.
In contrast was a Mr. Watanabe of the Kempeitai. They were in Mr. Benito Marcelo’s town house one night and this Captain Bonife of the Japanese P.C. took it upon himself to bring the captive Iwahig Band to do the serenading. This Japanese came along, sat on a chair, brought his feet up and then sat there stoned faced all the while. He looked fearful.
One other pleasant Japanese was introduced to me by my brother-in-law, Renato as Commander Tojo – Commander of the Air Force in Puerto. We were along the roadside of Tagburos when he happened by. After some difficult conversation due to his inability to speak fluent English, he managed to ask my brother-in-law if he could visit “on Monday”. He was exceptionally tall and well-built for a Japanese and his manners were surprisingly refined.
Monday came and he arrived with an aide that rainy afternoon. With a lot of gesticulation we got our conversation going smoothly. I learned he was 22 years old, not related to then Minister Tojo of Japan and that he flew before dawn everyday to patrol the skies.
When I asked if he had any encounter with U.S. Forces, he replied that he had sunk a U.S. submarine. My heart sank, I almost relished what happened next. He sat so prim and proper across the table from me and was saying something when all of a sudden a leg of his chair went through the bamboo flooring and he practically disappeared beneath the table. It took all of my will power and self-control to keep from laughing.
Toward the end of his visit, he asked if I could “go out of the house tomorrow”, with a white handkerchief and wave at him as he was going to fly “very low” over the house from his dawn patrol. I thought it rather silly but why not?
Before he stood up to go, he said he’d come back “on Thursday”. Then goodbyes were said with a lot of bowing and as we walked across the clearing toward the coconut grove, he’d stopped and looked back several times to wave.
True to his word, at about 7:00 o’clock the next morning, his fighter plane came into view, just a speck in the sky at first, then it approached and dived so low over the house, I could see him looking back at me as he swept back into space, circled, then dived again. It was such a thrill. I was having the fun of my life waving that white handkerchief at him. After his third dive he flew off into the clouds. I later learned that some distant neighbors were thrown into a frenzy by the buzzing and the swooping of the plane.
Very early, before dawn the next morning, I was awakened and shaken from sleep by an earth-shattering explosion. Mother, who was already awake said, she saw a flash of blinding light almost simultaneously. An eerie feeling came over me. Thursday came and he did not show up. My premonition was well founded. News had leaked that a pilot had left his plane in the runway that night. Unaware, Commander Tojo rammed his plane into it as he was taking off that dark morning.
A few months later, with still no word from or about Dr. Mendoza, we felt certain he had been done away with. Tell-tale evidence of skeletal remains were found at the northern end of Canigaran by a Tagbanua who told my brother-in-law Benito Marcelo and my sister Aliva passed this information to me.
Our apprehensions rose to high levels when we heard the Japanese were making head counts of evacuees at Mt. Sarunay in Tagburos – purportedly for medical purposes. At one time they asked Renato how many we were.
Renato started planning our get-away. Sometime about the third week of December, my sister Aliva told me in confidence that a friend, Persing Macasaet, informed her that the American POWs had all been killed – burned or shot to death. She warned me though against telling my Mother and sister Pansy – knowing they were both prone to panic. I had to live with this nightmare kept to myself – until such time when we could get away.
It was agreed that on the morning of December 23, Renato, his wife and children, Mother and I would take his big sailboat from Tagburos to guerrilla-held Babuyan. We quietly hurried to the beach that dark and early morning – each carrying a load – mine was a pot of cooked rice. I was finally going to get rid of this festering secret in my chest.
Forgetting the adage about the “slip between the cup and the lip”, I did. I told them of the POW massacre – just before we boarded the boat.
And of all the luck! When we all got in the boat, the water seeped in to the brim. Renato said there was no way we could sail this way. He would just have to proceed to Bacungan with our belongings while we would have to take the mountain trail and meet him there.
And I had already let the cat out of the bag! On our way back, frustrated and now more scared than ever over our aborted trip, my Mother and sisters turned on me. Never in my young life had I been subjected to such verbal abuse. Why didn’t I tell them sooner? But Divine Providence always opens a door when he closes a window. This gave my Mother the chance to persuade Benito Marcelo to let his family come with us. (He has no plans of leaving Tagburos).
The next day, December 24, long before sun-up, the twenty or so of us started our journey – first across the national road (frequently patrolled by Japanese soldiers in trucks) into the long stretch of rice fields. With so many small children, it took forever before the last of the long queue disappeared into the forest. We hired two guides to see us through Bacungan – one point of rendezvous with Renato. We crossed rivers, climbed hills, went up and down crags and crannies and suffered all sorts of cuts and bruises. We finally reached Bacungan Christmas Day. (Bacungan had earlier been blown up by the guerrillas). We were now in free soil.
The news reached us that the evacuees at Mt. Sarunay were slain by the Japanese. One lived to tell that tale – Domingo Aurelio.
We finally reached Babuyan in a few days – reunited once more with other members of the family and friends. It wasn’t long before one of the survivors of the POW massacre arrived at Mrs. Mendoza’s place. Elmo Deal was left for dead by the Japanese – so he was so confused and shell-shocked though – we could hardly get him to talk. How he made it from prison camp, through a town full of Japanese soldiers, to freedom was an enigma – and still to this day. Some said he escaped to the Catholic Church, donned a priestly garb and sought shelter with some kindly folks who ministered to his badly infected bayonet wounds. They led him on to Babuyan.
Then Benito Marcelo Sr. soon arrived – (The man who had no plans of leaving Tagburos) for once more, it seemed the hand of God intervened.
One morning, a drunken Japanese soldier came to his place, (he’d never seen him before) then asked, “you, Marcelo”? Tomorrow you . . . .” then made a gesture of slashing his throat. Benito lost no time in rushing to Isla de Cañon – then to Babuyan. On the morning of February 10, 1945 a thunderous applause and shouts of joy from the guerrilla camp broke the silence. A group of U.S. soldiers led by Capt. Pope, with Lt. Pinpkin, Sgt. Fitzerald and about four others, had come to coordinate with the guerrillas in laying the groundwork for the U.S. troop landing. Among those who went with Capt. Pope and penetrated the Japanese-held airfield was Lt. Tony Palanca.
Liberation of Puerto Princesa had begun.
JOHN TOMPSON CLARK
John Tompson Clark was born on September 9, 1874 in Perry Pike County, Illinois. His parents were Charles Folsom Clark and Aliva Read, whose ancestral lineage came from England.
His maternal great grandfather, Robert Read was born in Norfolk, England while wife Susannah Callows was born in Yorkshire, England.
His paternal grandfather, Benjamin Clark, served in the English Army in 1812. Robert Read and wife Susannah traveled from England in a slow sailboat arriving in Baltimore, Maryland on July 4, 1835. They crossed the Allegheny Mountain in a stagecoach via Virginia, Cincinnati and Missouri, arriving at Perry, Illinois (then called Booneville after Daniel Boone) that same year. Their son, John C. Read was born in American soil. John married Lucy Brower, a Dutch girl from New York (once called Amsterdam). Their first child was Aliva.
When John T. Clark was old enough to leave home, he went to Dodge City in Kansas. He grew up there and took up studies in the A and M College of Oklahoma where he obtained a degree in General Science in 1898.
In June 1901, he took the United States Civil Service examination for “Philippine Service”. He then left for the Philippine Islands on board the USS Thomas.John was got an appointment in the Office of the Treasurer of Cagayan de Misamis. Then he was assigned as Secretary Treasurer of Palawan on October 16, 1906. He wrote a letter to a cousin, “I have been sent to this Isla de Paragua for an indefinite period. It is not a bad island just like Mindanao, except that it has fewer people, but it is lonesome, only one boat a month and there is not much work but lots of traveling about to get to different towns. I have just finished a trip of 3,000 miles in a row boat and it is tiresome.” He added, “They raised my salary or I would not have taken this place.” He continued that he was “sailing again but by steamer this time.”
In 1910 he again made a trip to the United States. He came back in August that same year on board the S.S. Manuel Calvo. Palawan, having no roads in those times, he had to do his travelin by sailboat along the coastal towns of the mainland. In so doing, he acquired a lot of friends and experienced real Palaweño hospitality. One of those who according to him welcomed him warmly even if he arrived in the middle of the night in Tumarbong, was Jeku Hara, a Japanese. John said, “he’d open the house to me, make me some hot tea and serve me warm food even in the wee hours of the morning.”
On October 25, 1911, John married a local girl, Concepcion Miraflores Palanca. She was born on July 16, 1896 in Inagawan, Puerto Princesa. The couple was blessed with nine children: Esperanza, Alfredo, Trinidad, Daniel, Patricia, Aliva, Virginia, Elizabeth and Jackie. Concepcion’s mother, Antonia Miraflores descended from the Mondragon and Miraflores families of Cuyo, Palawan. Her father, Yu Dee Hu was from Amoy, China but later adopted the Christian name Joaquin Palanca.
In February 1914, John T. Clark resigned from government service. He concentrated in planting coconuts in his land in Canigaran. His mode of transportation to and from the seven kilometers stretch of narrow and rocky road was by horseback, “Nelly.” In 1934, he got his first car just in time for “Nelly” to retire due to old age. John Tompson Clark passed away on October 5, 1942 in their evacuation place called “Tarao” which he likes to call “Castle Rock.”
Japanese Occupied Territory. Sometime in May 1942, Atty. Iñigo Racela Peña was captured by the Japanese. He was forced to serve as Governor and later Congressman of Palawan. As Governor he maintained the delicate balance between pleasing the Japanese and yet ably protecting his countrymen from the abuses and cruelty of the occupation force. In this task, records show of much “humane treatment” of the civilians. Guerrillas who were caught by the Japanese military wer released upon representation and guarantee of the Governor. The best proof of hius success in protecting the civilian population of Palawan was when he was tried for collaboration with the Japanese by the People’s Court. He was acquitted. The primary witnesses in the defense of Peña were two guerrilla leaders who were beneficiaries of his effort to shield civilians from the abuses of the Japanese soldiers. Of the many accused of collaboration from Palawan, Peña was the only one who stood trial, the rest were beneficiaries of government amnesty.
As Governor of Palawan, the most trying days of its history, he is credited for having preserved the government records of the Province, a legacy to the people of Palawan. The Japanese Garrison in Puerto Princesa. On May 18, 1942, the Japanese garrisoned Puerto Princesa. At the height of its occupation, there were approximately 1, 265 men billeted in several houses in Puerto Princesa. The Japanese Commander Captain Nakahara established in 1942 to 1944, garrisons composed of a squad to company strength at Barangays Caramay, Mentes, Kemdeng, Inagawan of Puerto Princesa and other parts of Palawan.
Air Raids. The strategic importance of Puerto Princesa, in particular, in the war effort of the Japanese Imperial Army was subjected to air raids. Mrs. Patrocinio (fondly called Pat) Magay Aukay, a retired public school teacher recalls: Air raids were almost daily. People have gone in all directions in confusion and fear. Meanwhile, the raids were covering far wider areas than usual. Other nights were spent cowering in the dark for fear that any light might reveal our location. We cooked our food in ways that would not produce too much smoke for fear that signs smoke would invite attention. A number of the prisoners from Iwahig went out of the reservation, trying to find their way to their homes somewhere in the Visayan Islands, Southern Luzon or elsewhere. Most of them were welcomed by civilian evacuees to help in the farm or perform other services for pay and to secure three square meals a day of lugao (porridge) or root crops.
Japanese Atrocities. Mrs. Patrocinio Aukay recalls that when the Japanese entered Puerto Princesa in February with a captured military Palaweño military officer as puppet Governor of the province, encouraged the evacuees to return to their homes in town and live a normal life. Many returned by subsequently found their life and freedom very much restricted and imperiled by Japanese harsh treatment of suspected spies or supporters of the guerrilla movement. The Japanese used the Kempei Tai , the Japanese version of the German Gestapo under Watanabe. Deguchi was the second in command.
Cuddling, feeding or sheltering enemies was a grave offense and punishable by death. One close family friend, Valentin Macasaet, and his son Perseverando, and couple, Sgt and Mrs. Paredes were suspected as guerrilla members, were arrested and put under intense interrogation. With hands tied, they were swung around like airplanes, sometimes their heads dunked into a drum full of water and almost drowned., and other times, their arms, faces and other parts of their bodies were burned with cigarette butts.
Guerrilla Unit. As early as February 9, 1942, three months before the Japanese forces occupied Puerto Princesa, Governor Higinio A. Mendoza, Sr. organized the guerrilla unit in Puerto Princesa. It started with twenty-two members and before its integration into the Palawan Special Battalion the group numbered 299, armed with only fifty firearms of various calibers.
Palawan was then divided into four sectors, each under a Company Commander. Sector A under Captain Higinio A. Mendoza, Sr. covered the areas from Puerto Princesa to Carramay with headquarters at Tinitian; Sector B under Lieutenant Felipe Batul with headquarters at Danlig, the area of operation covered Cuyo, Dumaran and the area from Caramay to Taytay; Sector C under Sergeant Emilio Tumbaga with headquarters at Brooke’s Point. The area of operation included all areas from Puerto Princesa down to Balabac; and Sector D under Carlos Amores with headquarters in Coron.
Guerrilla Raids. A classic raid was executed by Carlos Amores on September 7, 1942 with an old shotgun attacked the Nippon Kogyo Kabushibi Kaisa at Singay. The group killed six Japanese and destroyed approximately Php 700,000.00 worth of property. The guerrillas captured ten rifles, several short range guns with limited ammunition and a stock of dynamite. Coron area was practically cleared of Japanese. In six places raided, there were about thirty Japanese killed and prevented the shipment of five thousand tons of ore, five hundred sacks of rice besides a cache of arms and ammunition on September 21, 1942.
Japanese Philippine Constabulary Soldiers Surrender. At dawn on May 3, 1944, Lieutenant Felix Rafols and Lieutenant Francisco Geronila led two platoons of poorly armed men in surprise attack on the Japanese Philippine Constabulary garrison at Caramay. With the cooperation of some of the Japanese PCs, the garrison was completely surprised when the twenty-seven Japanese Bureau of Constabulary surrendered with thirty rifles, three pistols and eleven hand grenades.
District and Neighborhood Associations. To ensure the protection and safety of the people in the occupied territories, Jorge B. Vargas promulgated Executive Order No. 77, creating the district and neighborhood associations on August 1, 1942. Ostensibly, the associations were used as channels for distribution of sugar, matches and other prime commodities to the families. This was patterned after the tondrigumi or neighborhood societies in Japan. In reality however, the Japanese utilized the associations as spy network. The Japanese obliged the neighborhood members to report new persons who came to live in their neighborhood and on the activities of their neighbors.
Inauguration of the Japanese –Sponsored Republic. The Japanese proclaimed Philippine Independence on October 14, 1943. On that day, Chairman Jorge B. Vargas of the Executive Committee proclaimed Dr. Jose P. Laurel as the President of the Republic after he was elected by the National Assembly. President Laurel said, “The Filipinos have long night of their (Filipino) colonial subjection.” . . . . “With heads erect and brows serene they now stand in the sun even as one, more than four hundred years, their forefathers stood as free men beholden to none.” In a sense the proclamation embodied “the ancient honor of there is redeemed at last. For the rich and unbounded opportunities that freedom offers now within their grasp.”
The vision and hope of freedom outlined by Laurel was short-lived for on September 21, 1944, President Laurel proclaimed a state of martial law in the country because of air raids. The “rationale was that the President of the Republic of the Philippines assumes all powers of government essential to or incident in the establishment and maintenance of martial law over the Philippines, and to that extent will exercise such powers and functions personally or by delegation by him the presently organized and existing civil authorities”.
It could be said that President Laurel was to personally guarantee, “public safety” since the dangers of life and property and the guarantees for human freedom and national security. General Douglas MacArthur has smashed his way island hopping in the Southwest Pacific areas of war routing the Japanese forces and irresistibly approaching the Philippines. The United States Navy planes bombed Japanese installations in Davao on August 9, 1944 and three days later, several waves of American planes raided the Visayas. American planes bombed the Japanese vessels in Manila Bay and airstrips around the city on September 11, 1944. It was because of these raids that caused President Laurel to proclaim martial law.
THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF FREE PALAWAN
The Provincial Gopvernment of Free Palawan during the Japanese occupation was an extension of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. It was established on January 1, 1942, after a conference of all provincial officials and leading citizens of Palawan.
The provincial officials were: Governor, Gaudencio E. Abordo; Treasurer Pedro Cecilia; Auditor, Angel Paguia; Health Officer, Dr. Nestor Matro; Sheriff, Gregorio Quicho; Clerk of Court, Emilio Decolongon; Superintendent of Schools, Gaudencio Vega; Fiscal Cordova and others. The seat of government was moved to Aborlan then to Mentes, to Tandayag and two months later to Buenavista. Except for Aborlan, all other places were barrios of Puerto Princesa.
For more efficient and effective administration of the affairs of government, Deputy Governors were designated: Jacinto Alli for northern Palawan and Jose Abid for Cuyo and Agutaya, while southern Palawan was directly under Governor Abordo.
The areas under the Provincial Government of Free Palawan were all municipalities of Palawan, except, Coron which was garrisoned on May 2, 1942 to secure the manganese mines at Singay and Carmelita and Puerto Princesa. On January 1,1942, eight Japanese planes bombed Puerto Princesa but did not land troops until May 18, 1942. Later, Taytay, Araceli and Balabac were garrisoned by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces.
Printing of Scrips. The disappearance of the “genuine money” which was in circulation before the war, forced the Free Palawan Government to print scrip (a certificate of indebtedness issued as currency, as by a local government without funds). The scrip, printed in several denominations was legal for all intents and purposes. President Manuel L. Quezon through General Manuel A. Roxas authorized the printing of scrip. The scrips were mimeographed on whatever kind of paper that was then available. These were signed personally by the Governor, the Provincial Treasurer and Provincial Auditor. The scrips were used to pay the employees, soldiers and other needs.
Unsung Heroes. One of the most important segment of the civil government of Free Palawan was the Civilian Volunteer Guards, better known as the “bolo battalion”, because they were armed with bolos. They were utilized to guard the outposts leading to headquarters and gave warning of incoming Japanese patrols; did the hauling of food supplies and equipment for the guerrilla units; constructed shelters for the soldiers; and did all the menial jobs in the camp. They were also given ranks similar to that of the Army. They were not registered in the Armed Forces, had no salaries nor were entitled to pensions and privileges accorded the Army. Many times they were the first victims of Japanese patrols, like what happened in Patonga or Alcaba on October 2, 1942, when the Japanese soldiers brutally shot twenty innocent men suspected as guerrillas. Only two were able to escape to recount the horrifying experience. Moreover, these men provided for themselves their own subsistence while on twenty-hour duty. It was not uncommon that their sons or other male members of the family would pitch-in in their absence.
The other group of volunteers was the Women’s Auxiliary Service (WAS), organized to help the resistance movement. The WAS consisted of members of the pre-war Women’s Club, a civic organization affiliated with the Women’s Club of the Philippines. They assisted by giving coffee, fruits, vegetables, rice and sugar to guerrillas. They also arranged benefit dances, beauty contest and other means to raise funds. They collected used clothing and other useful items for the needy.
All said and done, these Civilian Volunteers were the REAL UNSUNG HEROES!
The Liberation of Puerto Princesa. The liberation of Puerto Princesa was preceded by the landing of two PT boats at Babuyan on February 10, 1945 under Captain Pope. The two officers of Battalion S-2: Major Muyco and Lieutenant Juan Concepcion briefed Captain Pope’s group about the strength, position, arms and other essentials about the enemy in Puerto Princesa. It was estimated that in Puerto Princesa, there are 1285 Japanese soldiers.
Before the Americans left, Muyco received 26 carbines and 2000 rounds of ammunition.
On February 28, 1945 the American Liberation Forces under General H.H. Haney, Commander of the U.S. 41st Division of the 8th Army Task Force, landed unopposed at Canigaran Beach. The Japanese forces had withdrawn after the heavy aerial bombing that preceded the actual landing of troops.
Overnight, Puerto Princesa was turned into a huge military camp. People had to live a make-shift life. Puerto Princesa was in ruins from the air-raids, first the Japanese and then the American Liberation Forces. These were the days most trying for survival after three years of living a life of fear and deprived of freedom.
Puerto Princesa Military Camp. After the landing of the American Liberation Forces, Puerto Princesa was turned into a military camp – a base of operations.
It was transformed into a Seaplane Base. The runway of the airfield was reconstructed with steel matting for land aircrafts. Honda Bay was littered with ships. Canigaran was filled with canvas tents and Quonset huts to house the soldiers. The town once deserted during the Japanese occupation and in ruins was filled with make-shift huts of all sorts. As always with military camps, coffee shops mushroomed, buy and sell of army supplies was the order of business, sailors, soldiers and people crowded the streets. They thrived on American dole outs. The returning residents from their centers of evacuation found had no place to stay for practically all the houses were destroyed except a few sturdy buildings. The Catholic Church and a few private homes were heavily damaged. Life went on with business thriving under the most trying circumstances. There was interminable noise which was only broken when news broke that the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces officially surrendered.
In the morning of August 6, a B-29 super fortress flew over the island of Honshu and dropped its deadly weapon, an atomic bomb, on the industrial City of Hiroshima killing almost half of its inhabitants and destroying 60 percent of the area. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped in the City of Nagasaki. Faced with a choice between destruction and surrender, the Japanese gave up fighting. In August 18, a Japanese delegation went to Manila to negotiate their surrender to General Douglas MacArhtur. Then on September 2, the Japanese delegates on board Admiral Halsey’s flagship, the Missouri, in Tokyo Bay signed the Terms of Surrender.
The days that followed were happy days. Civilians and soldiers waved their hands with victory sign amid shouts and cheers, people from all walks of life greeted the American soldiers with “Hello, Jose! Chocolate Joe!.” It was common sight to see American G.I.s handing out chocolate candies and chewing gum, K ration boxes and cookies to hungry children and old people who had not tasted such delicacies in years. However, it was lamentable to note that the Palaweños did not have the means to sustenance or financial support in every phase of economic life.
The Philippine Civil Affairs Unit. The state of affairs of confusion and chaos floated disturbing apprehensions of “winning the war but losing the peace”. Fortunately, the Southwest Pacific Area General Headquarters knew by experience in previous campaigns, that generally during the landings and subsequent periods of fighting, there would be chaos and dislocation among civilians. In order to care for the civilians and to free the Commanding General from the burden of handling civil affairs, Philippine Civil Affairs Unit accompanied each Task Force. They were not, however, Combat Units, although there were under the direct command of the Commanding General of the Army. (Tentative Outline Plan for Civil Affairs in the Philippines, HDQ, SWPA, Chief of Staff G-1, September 22, 1944, p.2, Osemeña Papers, Box No. 4, National Library)
The policy of the Civil Affairs was to render all possible assistance to the Filipino people through:
1. The establishment of the national, provincial and municipal organs of government throughout the islands.
2. The extension of emergency relief in the supply of essential food, clothing and medicine to the Filipino people.
3. The provision of the hospitalization of the sick and wounded, and shelter for the homeless.
4. The transfer of the appropriate agencies of government of full responsibility covering all these and related civil matters, as rapidly as such action could be taken without manifest prejudice to the interest of the people. (MEMORANDUM: For Commander –in-Chief, GHQ, AFFAC, APO 500, August 25, 1945)
At this point, it is worth recalling what U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt wrote the Secretary of Interior:
. . . Thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians have been slaughtered, and those who have escaped the wrath of the enemy are famished, diseased and helpless. . . . Our pledge to the Filipino people consists not only in their liberation but also in giving them relief and in providing for their rehabilitation and for the security of their independence.
On the one hand, President Sergio Osmeña in his speech delivered before the Philippine War Damage Commission said:
. . . In considering the broad problem of Philippine Rehabilitation, there is one fundamental fact that should be borne in mind and that is, that the Philippines is one state or territory under the American flag which has suffered the heaviest in this war.
Not only is its war casualties the highest in proportion to population, not only has its cities and towns been destroyed and looted, its countryside and farms laid waste, and its whole economic structure ruined, but its people have undergone more physical pain and mental anguish than any other . . .
When the American Liberation Force landed, Puerto Princesa did not have a Municipal President because Eduardo Valencia’s term had expired on February 4, 1943. The Philippine Civil Affairs Unit (PCAU) exercised the powers, duties and functions of government.
MUNICIPAL PRESIDENTS DURING THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
Records show that Teodoro Malate was appointed Municipal President on January 1, 1944. He served until July 2, 1944, for approximately six months.
President Jose P. Laurel appointed Eduardo Valencia, Municipal President in place of Teodoro Malate on July 3, 1944. He served until February 4, 1945, just before the landing of the American Liberation Forces on February 28, 1945.
Eduardo Valencia was a dedicated public servant who served his constituents with unreserved dedication as shown by strong concern for the safety of the civilians from the hands of the Japanese soldiers. This earned him the distinction for an appointment as Chief Deputy Assessor and later as member of the Provincial Board. He was the Superintendent of the Non-Christian Tribes for Palawan when President Laurel appointed him Municipal President of Puerto Princesa. He was later reappointed to the same position until his retirement in 1952.
While the enemy had been dislodged, a new threat for survival emerged even before the local government was recognized. That’s winning peace! From the ruins and ashes of war, a new social order emerged, the concept of “quick rich” through such nefarious smuggling of goods, drugs and even Chinese nationals. These activities were grouped into one term, graft and corruption, a social disease which up to the present has plagued not only the government but the private sector as well. As often as said in whispers, “there are no takers if there are no givers or vice-versa”. Puerto Princesa was not spared the effects of “quick rich” activities. In fact, Puerto Princesa was once a hotbed of smuggling, scams, and the buy and sell of surplus property.
Puerto Princesa, the once beautiful place, inhabited by peace-loving people was left in ruins. The Municipality was faced with the tremendous task of reconstruction with no financial capability to do it. It was entirely dependent on the provincial and national governments for relief and reconstruction of infrastructure, government buildings, roads and bridges, and other facilities found in the Municipality before the war. Added to this was on July 4, 1946, after almost forty-eight years of American tutelage, recognized the independence of the Philippines. There was strained happiness caused by the destruction of war, both physical and spiritual.
The task of initiating the reconstruction of the Municipality fell on the shoulders ofDonato Manga, who on July 4, 1946 was appointed Municipal Mayor. He served until December 31, 1947. He was elected to serve a three-year term which ended on December 31, 1951.
When he assumed as Municipal Mayor in 1946, he had to contend with using a rebuilt Quonset hut for a municipal hall, just like most of the public buildings. His priority was peace and order which generally follow wars. He reconstructed the public market being the life blood of the economy and the major source of income of the government. The public market then was located where the Children’s Park is today. But the market was transferred to its present site in 1951.
Donato Manga was born to Eusebio Manga and Paula Novalta of Cuyo, Palawan, on February 10, 1892. He hardly had any formal education. He left school a day after classes opened, because he was punished by his teacher, who caught him playing marbles behind the school building with some of his classmates after class. He was terribly hurt when his teacher knocked their heads together. He fled out of fear and never returned to school.
His family moved to Puerto Princesa. At an early age of an adolescent, he stowed away in a boat to Manila where he worked in a motor launch. Later, he left for Hawaii to work in a sugar plantation. He lived with Justa Madama while working in Hawaii. When the work in the plantation stopped, they returned to Manila. However, Justa left when Donato returned to Puerto Princesa. Upon counsel of his mother, he returned to Manila and married Justa. Then they came back to Puerto Princesa. The couple was blessed with three children: Caludio, Heracleo and Marieta.
His strong personality earned him the appointment of Chief of Police of Puerto Princesa. After a tour of duty as Chief of Police, Governor Anastacio Manalo placed him overseer of his coconut plantation in Tandayag. After clearing the forest and having planted it wit coconuts, he also developed his own homestead in Maruyugon.
Donato Manga ran for re-election as Municipal Mayor in 1951, but he lost to Arturo Magay. But in the election of 1955, Manga was elected. He assumed office in January 1956. He was not able to finish his term as Municipal Mayor because he died of lung cancer on December 7, 1957.
Arturo Magay assumed the position as Municipal Mayor of Puerto Princesa on January 1, 1952. He was born in Iwahig Penal Colony to Agaton Magay and Soledad de los Reyes. His brothers and sisters were: Jacinto, Dominica, Miguel, Albino, Eduardo, Victoriano, Adela, Flora and Daniel. His parents were religious and taught them true love and service to God and fellowmen. They were either members of the church choir or church helpers.
Arturo and his family saw the worst of human sufferings during World War II. When they heard that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the people were trained to always keep their gas mask ready to protect them from breathing in the poisonous fumes. They put off all the lights at night during raids.
On December 8, 1941 during the La Purisima Concepcion Holy Mass, the Japanese warplanes sprayed bullets at the barracks and the plaza and bored a hole on the town’s water tank. It happened again on New Year’s Day of 1942.
Since then, the people abandoned the town. Some went north others south. Arturo’s family retreated into the wilderness in Tagburos. But the Japanese killed their father and arrested the family.
Except for their experiences during the war, none was obtained of the records of Municipal Mayor Arturo Magay. He was succeeded by Donato Manga as Municipal Mayor in 1956.
Vice-Mayor Zoilo Jalandoni served the remaining term of Mayor Donato Manga which ended in December 1959. Briefly, he was born on June 27, 1916 in Jagna, Bohol where he finished his elementary education. At age 16, he worked his way through high school in Tagbilaran. He was inducted into the Army and was sent to the School for Commissioned Officers and graduated with the rank of First Lieutenant. In 1940, he was sent by Governor Agustin Caseñas of Bohol to Puerto Princesa to open the Caseñas Bus Transportation and the Palawan Electric Company, He managed both companies.
When World War II broke, he was called to active duty by the Army and saw action in Bataan. Meanwhile the Japanese took over the transportation and electric power companies he managed. When he was released from the concentration camp, he returned to Puerto Princesa and resumed management of the two companies which were abandoned by the Japanese.
In 1948, he started his political career. He joined the Liberal Party and ran for Councilor then Vice-Mayor. He served from December 7, 1957 (the unfinished term of Mayor Manga) until December 31, 1959. He later died of a heart attack.
Severino E. Vicente succeeded Mayor Jalandoni on January 1, 1960 serving for two terms, ending on December 31, 1963. After his term Municipal Mayor Severino E. Vicente served as Provincial Secretary from January 1971 to August 31, 1974. Then he became Barangay Captain of Salvacion from 1981 to 1987.
Lope Nadayao succeeded Mayor Vicente on January 1, 1964 and served as Municipal Mayor until December 31, 1968.
FELIBERTO R. OLIVEROS, JR.
Feliberto Rodriguez Oliveros, Jr. was duly elected Municipal Mayor of Puerto Princesa on January 1, 1968. But his services as Municipal Mayor were interrupted on December 31, 1969, when the Municipality of Puerto Princesa was converted into a component City on January 1, 1970. He continued to serve as the First City Mayor of Puerto Princesa until March 2, 1986, after the Presidential Snap Election on January 7, 1986.
Feliberto R. Oliveros, Jr. was born on November 17, 1937 in Manila. His parents were Feliberto Oliveros of Cuyo and Leonila Rodriguez of Coron, Palawan. He married Rafaelita Silano. They have two sons Victor and Feliberto III, a Councilor of the City of Puerto Princesa.
Bert, as he is fondly called by friends, completed his elementary and secondary education at the Ateneo de Manila. He took courses in agriculture at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, Laguna. He, however, shifted to mining engineering where he graduated with the Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at the Mapua Institute of Technology, Manila. He was the Editor-in-Chief of The Builder and the MIT annual the Cardinal and God. He took courses leading to the degree of Master in Public Administration at the Palawan State College now Palawan State University.
He first sought employment at the Palawan Quicksilver Mines, Ind., at Sta Lourdes, Puerto Princesa and at the same time part-time instructor at the Holy Trinity College, Puerto Princesa.
He ventured into politics in 1964 with the vision “to improve the quality of life of the people and develop them into self-reliant citizens”. He was elected Vice-Mayor and in 1968 elected Mayor and served as the first City Mayor in 1970.
Some of his significant achievements were: established the first Rural High School in Barangay Maruyugon; reclassification of the City from fourth to first class; established the Barangay Mangingisda Settlement Project, which later became two barangays: Luzviminda and Mangingisda; worked for the upgrading of the airport and seaport; constructed the new City Hall Building; funded from local funds the construction of the first waterworks system at Barangay San Rafael; construction of the first irrigation system serving the northern barangays; worked for the increase of Bureau of Internal Revenue allotments intended for the City of Puerto Princesa under the 60-30-10 (population-land area- equal sharing) scheme which made possible the passage of legislation for the uniform application nation-wide; worked for the improvement of the electric power supply in the City by making representations with the National Electrification Administration (NEA) through Col. Dumon, which paved the way for the establishment of the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO); worked for the improvement of the water supply in the City through the LUWA for grants and loans to the Puerto Princesa Water District; made representations with the Department of Tourism for the installation of lighting facilities along Rizal Avenue; worked for the establishment of the first housing project in the City (BLISS Housing) at Barangay Sta. Monica; worked for the survey and titling of agricultural lands; passage of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan which was implemented under the City Zoning Ordinance of 1978; establishment of Rural Agricultural Center under a Memorandum of Agreement with the Palawan Integrated Area Development Project (PIADP), to improve the quality and quantity of livestock, livestock dispersal project and intensify mango production by putting up nurseries in the barangays and distribution of grafted mango seedlings; and the construction of farm-to-market roads: San Pedro sea road I, II and III; San Jose sea road I, II, III and IV; San Jose-San Pedro road; San Jose-Caramuran road I, II, and III; Dimalanta Road; Irawan-Sta. Lourdes Road; Tagaud-Impapay Road; opening of the Macarascas-Sabang Road; establishment of the Government Center; construction and operation of the first modern abattoir in Puerto Princesa; and the concreting of the following streets in the Poblacion and nearby barangays: Rizal Avenue, Malvar Street, Manalo Street, Abad Santos Street, Mabini Street, Abueg Road, del Pilar Street, Burgos Street, Valencia Street, Lacao Street, Fernandez Street, Jacana Road, Socrates Road, Fundador Road, Wescom Road Phase I and II, Libis Road, Palawan State University Road, F. Rafols Road and San Jose-Caramuran Road III.
Republic Act No. 5906. “An Act Creating the City of Puerto Princesa,” was approved by President Ferdinand E. Marcos on June 21, 1969, was authored by Congressman Ramon V. Mitra, Jr. as House Bill 18939, during the Fourth Session of the Sixth Congress of the Republic of the Philippines.
On October 23, 1972, the Charter of the City of Puerto Princesa was amended under Republic Act No. 6608, “An Act Amending Certain Provisions of Republic Act Numbered Fifty-Nine Hundred and Six, Known As The Charter Of The City Of Puerto Princesa, And For Other Purposes. It was further amended by Presidential Decree No. 437, “Repealing And Amending Certain Section Of Republic Act No. 5906, Otherwise Known As “The Charter Of The City Of Puerto Princesa,” particularly “under the second paragraph of Section 2, Republic Act No. 5906, otherwise known as “The Charter of the City of Puerto Princesa”, the National Government has ceded to the City of Puerto Princesa, the ownership and possession of all lands of the public domain within the City, and that under paragraph (uu), Section 15 of the same Act, the City Council shall have the power to dispose of by lease or otherwise all land of the public domain ceded to it by the National Government.”
The amendment was made on the premise, “included in the lands of the public domain ceded to the City are public forests and grazing lands, which, by their nature and classification are neither alienable nor disposable, and thence, the grant of “ownership” thereof to the City is of doubtful constitutionally.
Invariably, the City of Puerto Princesa “does not have the necessary administrative machinery to manage and dispose of the lands of the public domain and as a result of the administration and management and disposition of public lands within the City have been in a chaotic situation. Therefore, in order to accelerate and insure the effective distribution of public lands for the benefit of legitimate occupants, claimants and/or applicants within the City, it is necessary to return to the Bureau of Lands of the public domain within the City for administration and disposition in accordance with the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended, otherwise known as “The Public Land Act,” and other related laws.
All these amendments strengthened the position of the City to pursue activities, programs and projects with much leeway. Moreover, the conversion commensurately increased the income of the City thereby provided more funds for reconstruction. As the Capital of the Proivince of Palawan, the City has an added advantage of priority in the allocation of funds.
The reconstruction of Puerto Princesa began slowly but steadily with its conversion into a component city, noticeable and substantial activities, projects and programs were vigorously accelerated by Mayor Feliberto R. Oliveros.
Palawan Long Range Development Plan (1976). It triggered the reconstruction of Puerto Princesa with the City’s participation in its formulation. The ten-year Comprehensive Development Plan from 1977 to 1986 was focused on the improvement of the quality of life of every Palaweño. The means among others, to accomplish this were to raise the income of the people by increasing food and industrial-crop production, increase employment opportunities and raise wage levels; provide low-cost housing; full implementation of Medicare system; improve transportation and communication; improve education and health services; maintain peace and order; establish natural parks; protect wildlife; prevent man-made pollution; provide more scholarships, manpower trainings, and the equitable distribution of wealth.
Palawan Integrated Area Development Project (1978). It was established by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) upon recommendation of the National Council on Integrated Area Development (NACIAD), President Ferdinand E. Marcos on January 18, 1979 approved Palawan as the fifth Integrated Area Development Project (IADP) under the NACIAD. Its Phase I (1982-1988) had three-fold goals: 1) to achieve a regional balance in social and economic opportunities including equitable income distribution and access to social services; 2) to obtain the maximum use of available resources through the effective provision and coordination and complementary inputs of implementing agencies; and 3) to develop areas with substantial untapped resources which can serve as basis for accelerating economic growth and national development. Obviously, the contribution of elementary schools in the formation of basic education and the secondary schools in preparation for college education in the reconstruction of Puerto Princesa cannot be gainsaid. Moreover, the establishment of tertiary institutions of learning:
Palawan State University (1972). It was built in 1976 in a 20-hectare forested hill inBarangayTiniguiban, six kilometers from the City proper, donated by the City Government under the leadership of City Mayor Feliberto R. Oliveros. The area turned out to be claimed by the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Trinity College. The kind hearted Sisters waived their rights. Overlooking the scenic Puerto Princesa Bay, its well-planned and clean-trimmed campus was one of the early tourist attractions in Puerto Princesa City.
The University was a conversion of the Palawan State College which was also a conversion of the Palawan Teachers College which was established on March 2, 1972, in the City of Puerto Princesa under Republic Act No. 4303.
The purpose of Republic Act No. 4303 is “to provide professional and technological instruction with special provision for the non-Chrisitian tribes in the Provicne of Palawan and for progressive leadership in the field of elementary and secondary education.”
In 1965, Congressman Gaudencio E. Abordo, the lonme Representative of Palawan, sponsored House Bill 9167 entitled, “An Act Providing For The Establishment Of A Teachers’ College in the Municipality of Puerto Princesa, Province of Palawan to be known as the Palawan Teachers’ College, Providing for a Board of Trustees, Defining the Board’s Responsibilities and Duties, and Authorizing the Appropriation of Funds Thereof.” The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on April 2, 1965 and by the Senate on May 10, 1965. It was signed into law President Diosdado Macapagal on June 20, 1965.
The opening of a new educational institution in the City of Puerto Princesa was faced with these major constraints: the policy of the Department of Education and Culture not to open teacher colleges for there was a clout or over supply of teachers and graduates in education; and the other was an unwritten agreement forged by the leading political leaders in Palawan and the local private college offering courses in education not to open the College as it will adversely affect its enrollment.
It however, took Dr. Walfrido Rafols Ponce de Leon, the Founding President seven years to convince the authorities that there was a need to open the Palawan Teachers’ College. As there was need to provide the young men and women of Palawan, particularly the less privileged and financially handicapped the opportunity for higher education. In fact, a holder of a four-year degree in education was a rare commodity.
But it took Atty. Teodoro Q. Peña, Administrator of the Export Processing Zone only two weeks to convene the Board of Trustees of the Palawan Teachers’College to pass Resolution No.1, authorizing the establishment of the College effective March 2, 1972. It was a miracle.
Then on March 22, 1975 Secretary Juan L. Manuel of the Department of Education and Culture officiated two very significant activities of the Palawan Teachers’ College: the first was the investure of Dr. Walfrido R. Ponce de Leon as First President of the College and seconds, as its Guest Speaker of the First Commencement Exercises.
In addressing the graduates, Secretary Manuel said, “that the establishment of state colleges and universities is one way of redressing the so-called inequality between the families of the affluent and the families of the poor.”
It was converted into Palawan State College on April 27, 1984 under Batas Pambansa Bilang 797, sponsored by Member of Parliament Teodoro Q. Peña and signed into law by President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Then was converted into Palawan State University under R.A. No. 7818 signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on November 12, 1994 , sponsored by Senate President Edgardo Angara and Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. of the House of Representatives.
Palawan Polytechnic College (1979). The college was established by Atty. Sinforriano B. Alterado on November 19, 1979. It was first organized as MATS College of Technology, housed in a rented building owned by Mr. Marcelo San Juan at Taft St., Puerto Princesa City. It opened its doors with 300 eager students in Maritime education.
The main mission of the College is to cater to the vocational-technical needs of the students and the maritime requirements of the province.
In 1981, its High School Department was opened and in 1982 the College transferred to its present site along Manalo Extension Street.
Other educational institutions in the City were: Holy Trinity College whose expansion of the collegiate offerings provided the much needed technically trained professionals in the acceleration of its development; and vocational schools: Palawan Vocation School which offered courses in typing, stenography and bookkeeping; the Macuendo Fashion School offered courses in dressmaking; and the Puerto Princesa School for Philippine Craftsmen.
THE CITY WATER DISTRICT
Since its establishment, Puerto Princesa was faced with lack of potable water supply. For several years it depended on rain water for drinking and shallow wells which rural communities now have. In some of the more progressive areas, rivers, streams and springs were tapped.
The present water supply of the Poblacion and other nearby areas, was first established in August 1976 as a semi-government agency under the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NWSA). It embarked on a longe-term development program designed to improve pipe and water service to its residents. On March 12, 1992, the Supreme Court declared Puerto Princesa Water District as Government-owned and Controlled Corporation. As such more aggressive program of improving the system was undertaken with the assistance of the Local Water Utilities Authority in the form of technical, financial and institutional support.
The sources of water supply are both surface and ground water of the Irawan River, located 14 kilometers northwest of the Poblacion. There are four deep wells an two infiltration wells in the river
basin which provides half of the total water produced by PPCWD. The other source of water supply is the Bonton River, located within the Iwahig Penal Colony reservation, about 15.6 kilometers northwest of the City proper. This used to be the main source of water supply in 1938, was rehabilitated in 1984.
The other source of water supply is another surface water from a spring in Barangay Tiniguiban which ws developed by the American Liberation Forces in 1945, about five kilometers from the city proper. This was abandoned by the City until it was rehabilitated by the Palawan State College, now Palawan State University, when it transferred its high school and colleges to the area in 1976.
The Puerto Princesa City Water District has 22 pumping stations within the City proper with the capacity to generate 16,119 cubic meters per day as of May 31, 2005.
The PPCWD has a total of 26.10 kilometers of transmission pipelines with sizes ranging from 100 mm to 400 mm diameter. The oldest was installed in 1938, which consists of nine kilometers of 100mm diameter cast iron pipes from Bonton River to the 150 cubic meter reservoir in Barangay Sta. Monica. The system has one blow-off valve between the weir and the ground reservoir while there are 18 manual air releases valves in the upstream portions of the Bonton main.
The distribution system from the Irawan Pump Center is a 13 kilometer 400mm diameter cement mortar-lined steel pipe, with 18 air release valves and nine blow-off valves along Irawan transmission line.
The distribution system consists of pipes mwith various sizes ranging from 50mm to 350 mm with a total of 35.94 kiloemters. As of this writing, there were more or less 40 hydrants, three blow-off valves and 645 gate valves operating. The disitribution facilities arte located within the City proper, parts of Barangays Sta. Monica, Sicsican and Irawan.
THE PHILIPPINE PORT AUTHORITY
The Port of Puerto Princesa has a rich history. In its early years, Chinese and Muslim traders came to Puerto Princesa to barter clothing, spices, weapons and various wares for almaciga resin, copra, dried fish, lumber and other forest products. The port is favored with a year-round all-weather safe berth and anchorage as it is naturally protected. Moreover, the port lies along a typhoon-free zone. It was not until 1925 that Governor Anastacio Manalo had concreted a rock-cause-way and about 100 meters reinforced concrete deck on piles was constructed. The pier was extended with a T-shaped berthing facility in 1934. Then in 1969 another 92 meters were added. Puerto Princesa since its establishment was the principal port in Palawan for most goods from Manila and also where most of the products were shipped to Manila. The volume of trade and commerce was so limited that only three motor vessels serviced Puerto Princesa and Manila weekly in 1958. The vessels loaded copra, forest products, lumber and small quantities of livestock and fish. In 1962, the Bureau of Coast and Geodetic Survey reported that Puerto Princesa was accessible to foreign vessels. Bancas, sailboats (single and double sailed), and motor launches were used to transport people and good from Puerto Princesa, vice versa, to settlements along the coastline and islands within the province.Shipbuilding was an industry in the Barbarcan area where most of the pancos were built by the Cagayanons and Agutaynons. A number of these were converted into motorized launches used for inter-island transportation.
In 1980, the port was included as a component of the Palawan Integrated Area Development Project (PIADP). Thus, in 1984, Php 60 million was allocated for the development of the expansion of the port. Completed in 1987, the expanded port area increased to about three times its original size. The port facilities have been upgraded to international standards. The port renders such services as berthing, passenger terminal, parking, canteen and lighting.
Since June 1, 1987, the Port of Puerto Princesa is managed by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA). It is considered one of the safest and most ideal sea-port in the country today. The port can accommodate domestic and foreign vessels up to 40,000 GRT. The port serves commercial vessels plying from Manila, Iloilo and other routes in the province.
AIRPORT TERMINAL AND AIR NAVIGATION FACILITIES
The original airstrip of the present airport was constructed during the Japanese occupation by the 154 American prisoners of war under the custody of the Japanese Imperial Army. Projected to be completed in three months, the construction of the airstrip “had taken nearly three years. A naked thousand days of clearing, lifting, leveling, wheel barrowing, backing. Thirty-odd months in close heavy smashing rocks into smaller rocks, hammering said hunks of brain coral into bone white flour with which to make concrete. Ripping out the humus floor of jungle, felling the gnarled beasts of mahogany or narra or kamagong that happened to be in the way. Above the bay, in a malarial forest of skittering moneys and monitor lizards, they had built an airstrip where none should be.” When the American Liberation Forces landed in Canigaran beach on February 28, 1945, they found the nearby airstrip badly damaged by their bombs.The tarmac was 2,200 meters long and 210 meters wide. The United States Army used the airport as one of its bases. They lined the tarmac with steel matting. When the steel matting that covered the runway disappeared, the airport was rendered unserviceable.
The airport today as it was before, is located at Barangay Bancao-Bancao in close proximity to the commercial centers and surrounded by residential and commercial developments. It has a concrete runway of 2.6 kilometers long and 45 meters wide. The facility has a total area of 130.911 hectares, capable of handling big and wide-bodied jets for domestic and international flights. The airport was reconstructed in 1975 and inaugurated in 1976. Old facilities have been replaced by new efficient ones. The control tower was provided by a Japanese grant. It became operational in 1983. New arrival facility and fire station were constructed in 1992.The airport and navigation facilities are good and presently it is jointly used mainly by civil and military for domestic operations. It is a busy airport with flights from Manila, Cebu and other points in the province.
The City is connected by two national roads, the Puerto Princesa South Road which is 59.163 kilometers from the Poblacion to adjoing Municipality of Aborlan and the North Road, 87 kilometers from the Poblacion to the Municipality of Roxas. The total national road covers a distance of 155.907 kilometers while the City roads, 370.028 kilometers.
There are 57 national bridges in the City with a total of 1,378.45 meters composed of 713.92 meters concrete; 557.47 meters steel; and 3.5 meters with other type of construction materials. The City has a total of 23 bridges with a total of 270.91 meters of which 13 are timber while four are bailey and the rest are concrete.
ALFREDO E. ABUEG, JR.
On March 3 1986, President Corazon C. Aquino appointed Alfredo Abueg, Jr. as Officer-in-Charge of the City of Puerto Princesa. He is married to Dr. Nellie San Juan Fabello of Aborlan, Palawan and Odiongan, Romblon. The couple has four children.
Amor, as friends fondly call him, is the eldest son of Alfredo Abueg, Sr. and Maria Edora. He was born on November 2, 1932. He attended elementary schools in Puerto Princesa, Cuyo, Palawan and Caridad, Cavite. He attended secondary school in and graduated from the Palawan High School. He finished his Bachelor of Laws degree from Manuel Luis Quezon University in Manila. He passed the bar examination in 1962. He briefly served as Municipal Counsel of the Municipality of Brooke’s Point and later resigned to practice law in Puerto Princesa.
In 1971, at age 34, he became the Senior Delegate of Palawan to the Constitutional Convention where he was Vice Chairman of the Committee on Civil and Political Rights and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Marine Life. He later served as Commissioner of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
As Office-in-Charge of the City of Puerto Princesa, his program of administration consisted of the improvement, enhancement and streamlining the administrative machinery of the city government; improvement of health and sanitation by cleaning the public places and proper garbage disposal; completed the unfinished portion of the New City Hall at St. Monica; constructed the People’s Amphitheater at the Mendoza Park; constructed and improved the Children’s and Rizal Parks; completed the premium drainage; solid waste disposal; public market and slaughterhouse projects; cemented the Abueg Sr. circumferential road; Abad Santos extension road (now Governor Telesforo Paredes Road) and the Manalo Extension Road.
HIGINIO C. MENDOZA, JR.
Higinio Clark Mendoza, Jr. replaced OIC Mayor Alfredo Abueg, Jr. as Officer-in-Charge on March 2, 1987 to February 2, 1988.
FELIBERTO R. OLIVEROS, JR.
On February 2, 1988, Feliberto R. Oliveros was again elected City Mayor. He served until June 30, 1992.