Lubang town sends condolences for Onoda’s death
Lubang town sends condolences for Onoda’s death
Juancho Mahusay (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2014 - 12:00am

CALAPAN CITY, Philippines - – The municipal government of Lubang Island in Occidental Mindoro has expressed its condolences to the Japanese people for the death of Army Lt. Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier who came out of hiding on the island years after World War II.

“The people of Lubang wish to convey their deepest and sincerest sympathy to the Japanese people and bereaved family of Lt. Hiroo Onoda,” wrote Mayor Juan Sanchez in his letter dated Jan. 17 to Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe.

“He has proven man’s indomitable spirit to survive 30 long years of extreme isolation, loneliness, deprivation and suffering, practically alone in the wild jungle of Lubang Island without interaction with the population all for the soldier’s love for his honor, duty, country and his God,” Sanchez added.

According to a historical study of the Lubang Tourism Office, in 1944 some Japanese imperial soldiers in Occidental Mindoro broke into small units and managed to retreat to the hinterlands of Lubang Island after American forces reoccupied the province in the second week of December of that year. This was months before the end of World War II.

Among the Japanese soldiers who retreated to Lubang were Onoda and his companions. They waged guerrilla warfare on the island, making the area untouched by the locals for three decades even after World War II ended.

Trained as an information officer and guerrilla tactics’ coach, Onoda was dispatched to Lubang in 1944 and was ordered by his superiors never to surrender, never to resort to suicidal attacks, and to hold firm until reinforcements arrived.

Onoda and his companions continued to obey that order even long after Japan’s defeat in 1945. They continued to survey military facilities in Lubang, occasionally fighting with local residents and Philippine forces.

One by one Onoda’s colleagues fell as the years passed until he was the only one left to carry out the fight. 

Onoda finally surrendered in 1974 when his former commanding officer and another compatriot came and convinced him that the war had long been over.

Last week, the 91-year-old Onoda died of heart failure in a hospital in Tokyo.

In honor of Onoda, the local government of Lubang named after him a trail-and-caves site where visitors learn how to survive in the wilds.

Sanchez said another legacy of Onoda in Lubang was his efforts to protect the forest, which residents also learned to love and preserve. 

“This has resulted in preventing disasters such as landslides and flooding even during occurrence of heavy rains caused by habagat (southwest monsoon)and typhoons,” he added.

AMONG THE JAPANESE ARMY LT HIROO ONODA JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TOSHINAO URABE LUBANG LUBANG ISLAND LUBANG TOURISM OFFICE OCCIDENTAL MINDORO ONODA WORLD WAR
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