Celebrate our victory

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Balik STAR columnist Ramon J. Farolan, in his maiden column Third Eye on Sunday, wondered why the country commemorates the Fall of Bataan, a day of infamy.

“It was a defeat, plain and simple, with the larger force (78,000 Filipino and American troops) yielding to a numerically smaller enemy army. We are perhaps the only nation on earth to highlight such a significant debacle,” said Farolan, a retired Air Force general.

I couldn’t agree with Farolan more.

We Filipinos seem to be a nation of masochists. We celebrate days of infamy, like the massacre of 44 Special Action Force police commandos at the hands of Moro rebels in Maguindanao.

For many years we placed the diminutive maya on a pedestal as our “national bird” when it is a rice farmer’s pest.

We take pride in our defeat when we should celebrate our victory.

My father, Ramon Sr., was a lieutenant in the then newly-formed Philippine Army when he fought in Bataan and survived the Death March.

He talked about his exploits in Sulu, Lanao and Cotabato in the post-war years in the 1950’s as an officer of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary to us, his children, in his retirement years.

But Dad avoided talking about his participation in the battles of Bataan and the Death March; and we never pressed him.

However, my Old Man once told me – albeit self-deprecatingly – about a conversation he had with one Japanese army officer who spoke English at the prisoners-of-war Camp O’Donnell.

My father asked the Japanese officer why his comrades looked kindly at American and Filipino enlisted personnel (soldiers from the ranks of private to master sergeant) but seemed to treat their commissioned officers (lieutenant to general) with contempt.

The Japanese officer’s reply was very insulting: “Because you officers should have committed suicide out of shame rather than surrender.”

*      *      *

I’d like to thank Mona Veluz-Magno, who describes herself as a genealogist and history fan, for featuring my grandfather Felix and father Ramon in her TikTok and YouTube accounts Sunday, the 80th anniversary of Araw ng Kagitingan.

Magno talked about some of the few personalities that survived the Bataan Death March.

She correctly recalled that my grandfather Felix and my father Ramon fought in Bataan and took part in the infamous 100-kilometer march from Mariveles to Capas, Tarlac wherein thousands of surrenderers died along the way.

Felix was one of the survivors of the Death March but died of sickness in Camp O’Donnell.

My father went on to retire a colonel in the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC).

Cpl. Felix Tulfo was enjoying his retirement from the Philippine Scouts when he saw Japanese planes bombing Fort McKinley (from Fort Bonifacio) from his humble house in Guadalupe, Makati.

He asked my grandmother, Genara, to pack his old uniform because he was going to volunteer.

“Okenam, Pelis, huwag ka nang sumama diyan! Matanda ka na. Hayaan mo na lang ang mga anak mo na lumaban (Don’t take part. You’re old. Leave it to your sons to fight),” Lola Genara, an Ilocana from Batac, told my Lolo Felix.

But Corporal Felix, a Waray-Waray from Leyte, was adamant.

Actually, three of them fought in Bataan: Grandpa Felix, my dad and my Uncle Sabas.

Sabas, father’s younger brother, disobeyed orders to surrender and, along with his fellow soldiers, commandeered a banca to escape from Bataan. He later joined the guerrilla movement.

Sabas retired as a master sergeant in the US Army and came home with his wife.

Felix, Ramon and Sabas are all buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio.

*      *      *

Hot-tempered policemen should not carry their guns when they’re on and off-duty.

Especially when they’re off-duty and wearing civvies.

Temperamental S/A Sgt. Junel Buenaflor was caught on CCTV (closed-circuit TV) poking his gun at civilians during an altercation on a road in Taguig.

Even after the two civilians, both Iranians, and Buenaflor had settled their differences, the cop should not go unpunished for threatening two civilians with his gun.

Buenaflor was seen and heard on video poking his gun at Allan Jay Henson, 22, and Ahmadreza Hadiyan, 46, and ordering the two to lie flat on their stomachs on the pavement. The cop kicked one of them.

The altercation came after one of the Iranians, who were astride a motorcycle, kicked Buenaflor’s motorcycle who was in transit.

Col. Robert Baesa, Taguig police chief, seemed to have sided with the gun-poking cop when he didn’t disarm Buenaflor and just let him settle with the two Iranians.

What kind of a law enforcer is Baesa?

On the other hand, what happened to the two Iranians should serve as a warning to foreigners not to mess with citizens in this country.

I’m not saying foreigners in the country should be meek, but they should show some respect to the people in their host country.

The habits of arrogant foreigners might lead to their deaths at the hands of their Filipino hosts, who mostly have bad tempers and would resort to a knife or a gun in settling disputes.

*      *      *

The continuation of the investigation on smuggling of agricultural products by the Senate committee of the whole today is expected to identify the smugglers and their protectors in government.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Federico Laciste, in the previous hearing, refused to identify the smugglers’ protectors in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs.

Laciste said there were some “big-time personalities” and politicians who had asked him to lay off certain traders or seizures of smuggled produce from China.

Is this the same Laciste who, when he was still in the police service, gambled heavily in a room at the Metrowalk mall in Pasig?

Does he still play high-stakes poker?

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