The sinking of the SS Corregidor 66 years ago

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila () - December 17, 2007 - 12:00am

For tonight’s Special Presentation on Straight from the Sky, we bring you for the first time in our seven-year talkshow, Cebu Pacific Air with Ms. Candice Iyog, vice president for marketing. There is no question that Cebuanos are proud of the fact that Cebu Pacific Air is now considered the biggest airline in this country in terms of number of planes and destinations that they go to. No other airline in Philippine aviation history can pose such a threat to the nation’s flag carrier.

How Cebu Pacific was able to do it in so short a time, Ms. Iyog will explain to us on our show. While recently we have been critical of Cebu Pacific’s punctuality, however this did not prevent Ms. Iyog from accepting our invitation to guest on our show. So watch this very interesting discussion on Cebu Pacific Air on SkyCable’s channel 15 at 8 p.m. tonight.

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My readers know me as an armchair historian, so allow me to bring you a little bit of local history that few people know.  Sixty-six years ago today, it was a cold dreary night on Dec.17, 1941 when the clouds of war were upon us.  The last vessel bound for Cebu and Australia, the S.S. Corregidor of the Compania Maritima left the Port of Manila (the Port then was along the Pasig River near Escolta) when a couple of hours later, it struck a mine just off the island of Corregidor and its hull broke in two and sank very quickly.

On board that vessel was my father’s only brother, Jose Benjamin “Tio Bing Bing” Avila, a basketball player from the De La Salle University and a member of the swimming team, but due to his courageous efforts in trying to save the lives of many passengers who were still in their cabins, he swallowed down with the ship. Very few Filipinos outside of Manila knew about this ship disaster except those who survived the sinking and lived to tell the tale.

My uncle’s exploits was told to our family by Dr. “Doc” Alviola a popular dentist from the University of Southern Philippines. What I learned from my father was that Tio Bing Bing actually missed the boat. When he arrived at the Port in the Pasig River, it had already left. But since my uncle then was courting Baby Quezon, the daughter of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, a harbor pilot recognized him and offered to bring him to the ship which was just getting out of the mouth of the river. That’s what we call fate.

My other uncle, Prof. Salvador “Tio Boy” Segura was supposed to take that vessel but the trip from Los Baños cost him three flat tires, so he never made it. He is still very much alive today. The only other person I knew who survived that sinking is the famous golf professional Tinong Tugot, who used to manage the Del Monte Golf Course in Bukidnon.

While I never saw any publication of that sinking, thanks to the Internet the PT (Patrol Torpedo) boats association had it in their website because the PT boats assigned in the island of Corregidor were ordered to rescue the passengers.  Around 700 were rescued in Manila Bay. Those same PT boats became part of history when they took Gen. Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor to Cagayan de Oro where he would take his plane to Australia. After that trip, the two PT boats came to Cebu to be repaired in Ponce’s Shipyard and figured in a losing battle with a Japanese float plane… both PT boats ran aground in Kawit Island and burned.

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Here we go again, when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revealed that she was going to revive the Anti-Subversion Law, guess who came out vehemently objecting to this move? The militant farmers belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, both of whom took turns in saying that this was a “throwback to Martial Law”. Indeed, whenever there is something that threatens the existence of the Communist Party of the Philippines we always get the flak from their allied front organizations.

So the question we’d like to pose is, do we really need a revival of the Anti-Subversion Law? The fact that the Communist insurgency is still very much around today should tell us that if this law which was put in effect during the Marcos years was able to cause the arrest of Jose Maria Sison and his ilk, then by all means we should reactivate it. If we can put an end to this communist rebellion, then I will be the first to ask for the repeal of this law.

At this point, we mustn’t forget the four “F’s” that the late Pres. Ramon Magsaysay once said in fighting Communism, “Find ‘em, fight ‘em, fool ‘em then finish ‘em then offer them the hand of peace.” Let me say it here that this country can progress faster if we didn’t have a Communist insurgency. If this can be stopped by the Anti-Subversion Law, then we have nothing to fear! Those who don’t like this law are supporting the insurgency.

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For e-mail responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com. Bobit Avila’s columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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