One of the memorable experiences I had as a reporter was when I wrote for The Freeman a special report on the liberation of Cebu from Japanese occupation. For that 10-part series, I interviewed World War II veterans, went to the site of the former headquarters of the Cebu guerilla forces in Tabunan, Cebu City and walked/crawled inside tunnels dug up and used during the war. It was a sobering act.
The Cebuano resistance against the Japanese occupation was one proud moment for our people that it should have been retold over and over. Unfortunately, the colonial-minded in us made sure that stories about the bravery of our soldiers would be buried by tales about the exploits of people not our own, especially the Americans. And so students are largely ignorant about Tabunan and what it symbolized for our freedom fighters.
I was with our photographer then, Tonee Despojo, for a visit to Tabunan. One old man brought us to a grassy area that seemed no different from the others in that hilly terrain. Here, he said, was buried people whom the guerillas suspected to be local informers for the Japanese. He added that everytime he passed by the place, he would pray and talk to those buried there.
Another interesting sidelight was our pursuit of people who knew of the song about “Conchita,” which was popular during World War II and the period immediately after it. Conchita, if I recall the story right, was wrongly executed as a spy. We went as far as Napo in Sapangdaku, Cebu City to track down those who could provide us with the lyrics of the song. It would have been good to continue the research but there were time constraints.
While in Tabunan, we hired the old man I mentioned earlier to dig the “graveyard of suspected spies” for proof. We did find some bones that we asked the old man to keep for our return. Tonee had suggested that we put a marker in the place, a project that The Freeman management supported. In the end, though, I lost interest and the stone marker made for the purpose was forgotten–neglected in a lonely corner in the office (how symbolic).
That was 1995. Now I blame myself for missed chances.
–Candido O. Wenceslao
August 18, 2006