P. B. Robosa from "Baao Vignettes"
Last December 14, 2007, sixty six years had passed since the conquerors from the Japanese Empire disturbed the cheery and peaceful life of the people of Baao. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 spearheaded the Japanese juggernaut in the Pacific and on December 12, five days later, they reached close to home in Legaspi. In the early morning of December 14, the Baaoeños awoke to the sound of the Japanese advance forces slamming their way through the Bicol region. On December 18 and 19 along the national highway, the town saw a continuous flow of Japanese armaments and personnel going towards the direction of Naga, heralding almost four years of occupation.
Initial reaction was slight as Filipino-American forces chose to avoid engagement and instead moved northwards to regroup. Government employees prepared to abandon their posts and readied themselves and their families for as yet uncertain future, some of them raiding whatever was left of the town coffers. The local government disbanded or resigned in anticipation of a possible brutal take-over. For a while, the town was almost deserted as initial fear grew into panic and most of the residents moved into the outskirts of the town. The fear of the Japanese later subsided as Japanese propaganda and good public relations began to take its effect and most of the towns people needed return to the ”poblacion” to buy and sell needed foodstuff and commodities. In a few months, a semblance of a local government was reorganized and in Baao, the respected Tomas Guevara was persuaded to take the difficult job of steering Baao through the subsequently difficult years. History proved that the choice was a godsend because Mayor Guevara proved to be a match for the dangerous situation that was thrown to his lap. His mettle in dealing with the arrogant and unpredictable Japanese was responsible for saving unnamed but valuable Baaoeño lives.
When the Japanese promises proved false and the war resulted in the eventual downturn in the economy, the Baaoeños had to fortify themselves to years of scarcity, uncertainty and depravation. The fortunate few who retreated to the mountains could live off the land but still food was scarce because the men who tilled and planted were either scared to work, were being held in Japanese prisons or were forced under the employ of the Japanese. An adventurous lot had joined roaming guerilla bands to harass the Japanese, while a few took advantage of the situation and simply resorted to banditry and extortion. For everybody, food and money was scarce, thus danger could come from anywhere, from the shameless bandits impersonating guerillas to the abusive and undisciplined Japanese soldiers. Thus, a life in town was safer and was endured by some in order to protect their property while living under the menace the enemy. The scarcity of manufactured goods lead some enterprising citizens to try their hands at making such necessities as soap or oil and going into trades like weaving and wine making.
In the end, Japanese brutality brought up its worst as the war turned disastrously for them. Although the Japanese were always swift in meting punishment to guerillas or anyone suspected of having ties with the underground as demonstrated by the execution of Baao’s Chief of Police Eusebio Dato, who, early in the occupation, was found aiding the guerillas, the anticipation of sure defeat and annihilation began to dull their reason. As American planes started to bring damage to their positions and causing casualties among their ranks, maddened and crazed Japanese burned more than 70 people including women and children inside houses in Agdangan on October 17, 1944 in what will be one of the war’s documented cold-blooded atrocities by the Japanese against Filipino civilians. At these point, further Japanese crimes in the form of summary arrests and kidnappings was the order of the day and not a few prominent Baaoeños and Chinese residents became victims of this reign of terror, causing most of the people to avoid the town altogether. Japanese retreat was followed by American planes harassing them and not a few of this American bullets and bombs found their mark not on the enemy where they were intended, but on the local civilians. However, relief was felt among the people that the long awaited end to the war was near. The war ended in Baao officially on April 15, 1945 when American advanced scouts reached Baao. Though the town was half deserted, the news of the arrival of the Americans was greeted with jubilation.
By Pablo B. Esplana, Bureau of Education
December 14-at 5:38 A.M. A division of Japanese forces passed in Baao with complete war armaments.
December 18 to 19 A continuous flow of Japanese cavalry units passed Baao. The Bicol Region is completely overrun.
December 25 - Japanese forces landed at Atimonan, Tayabas.
April 10 - Municipality of Baao raided by guerilla forces. The Treasury Department said to be ransacked
April 19 - The Municipality of Iriga was raided by Guerilla forces, some Japanese were killed and the Japanese position in Alatco burned.
May 1 - Naga was raided by guerilla forces under Capts. Flor Miranda and Gordinker. Naga fell in the hands of the guerilla. Governor Villafuerte and M. Crescini fled to Tinambac. Naga commercial district burned.
May 9 - A unit of about 16 Japanese trucks re-enter Naga from Legaspi in the afternoon same unit was harassed by a guerilla unit at Waras River. The fight lasted for about one hour. Many Japanese soldiers were killed including one officer. About sixteen Filipinos were either killed or wounded. Houses on both sides of the road from Waras to San Nicolas. Iriga, were burned by the Japanese.
May 12 - Camarines Sur recaptured by Japanese forces. Provincial and Municipal Governments formally organized, with Capt. Tuneyosi as Director of Japanese Military Administration.
July 17 - Local Guerilla detachment under Lieutenant Wenceslao and Lieut. Estrada captured at Salvacion, Baao.
Nov. 30 - Baao chief of Police Mr. Eusebio Dato executed by the Japanese soldiers, at the Suspension Bridge Naga, Camarines Sur.
June 20-Mabatobato Japanese position attacked by guerilla unit of unidentified group. Some Japanese were killed.
October 17 - Agdangan was burned with around 100 civilians, mostly women, children and old people were burned, Barrio Lieuts, from San Isidro. and Agdangan Neighborhood President were killed.
October 21 - Fifty U.S. planes raid Mabatobato, Anayan, Pili and San Jose. Pili around 500 Japanese soldiers killed.
Nov. 20. The Cari of Rufino Bayrante. in San Francisco. Baao. raided by Japanese forces from Iriga in an effort to trap Dioscoro Asetre alias (Big Boy). Two unidentified persons, male and female. were killed.
December 30 U.S. bombers raid Naga railway and machine-gunned Iriga. Naga station was completely destroyed.
Jan. 15 - Four U.S. planes raided Iriga, Baao Pili and Naga, Fifteen civilians were killed or wounded in Baao at Maglapid's residence on the road leading from Baao to Nabua.
Jan. 17 -Jap soldiers kidnapped Mr. Juan Badilla and Chinese Diogna, Pana. Arnado and Valeriana Bravo, a Filipina.
Jan. 20 - Japanese soldiers kidnap Dr. Dominador Barreta, Santiago Barretta. J. Barono. S Amilano, P. Blando, M. Botor, Mericia Badiola and her sick husband, with R. Martirez.
Feb. 22 - Japanese soldier kidnapped Martin Badiola, P. Silvestre, C. Bustilia, T. Bersa, A. Bulalacao, N Laut.
March 13 - Sunday as usual for several Sundays Japanese market car came to barter farm products with textiles and others. This day around 50 Japanese solders went with the market car and raided San Vicente killing C Bulalacao. Two others, Tomas Biseno and Fabian Bacsain, were killed in the afternoon, in Del Rosario.
March 25 - Blue Eagle Guerilla harassed Japanese forces at Agdangan, Report made by Commander Juan Guevara states 49 Japanese soldiers killed One B1ue Eagle soldier was wounded.
April1 Last appearance of Japanese market car in Baao, American forces landed at Legaspi, Albay.
April 7 - Japanese soldier abandon Iriga. Pawili Bridge blasted by Japanese.
April 9 - Camarines Sur guerilla harassed Japanese in Naga.
April 12 - Iriga was subjected to a heavy machinegun raid. The Japanese evacuated it earlier, some civilians were killed.
April ??? - Naga was subjected to a heavy raid, Bombs and machine guns were used. Naga Educational area was destroyed. Many Japanese soldiers were burned.
April 15 - American Advance scouts (suicide forces) reach Baao. Civilians jubilant.
April 22 - Baao Municipal Building was burned midnight of this day.
April 29 - Main body of U.S. forces reach Baao. May 5 - PCAU organized the local Municipal Government in Baao. Vice Mayor Francisco Barretto was appointed Acting Mayor and schools were opened.
Sept. 30 - 158th infantry 2nd battalion, under Col. Sandlin leave for another destination probably Japan.