A former POW, a survivor of the infamous Palawan massacre during WW2, came to town incognito last week on a sentimental journey. With the help of Dr. Linda Ganapin of the Palawan State U, I was able to locate him and spent almost an entire day with him interviewing and taking pictures. My article is due to come out in the Inquirer hopefully next week.
It was in this hellish camp where over 150 American prisoners were massacred by the Japanese Kempetai on December 14, 1944. Fearing an American siege of Palawan was beginning, the Japanese officers ordered the herding of the prisoners into the prison’s underground air raid shelters where they were doused with gasoline and burned alive.
Don was lucky to have been transferred to the Bilibid Prison before the massacre. He had been captured and beaten following an escape attempt and was being tried by court martial when it happened. But he knew all those who had died and had written a book on the war.
Don’s name is inscribed in a bronze memorial marker at the center of Plaza Cuartel, now a quite garden beside the main Roman Catholic Cathedral and frequented by school children for its shade and playground.
Chatting with schoolchildren at the Plaza Cuartel:
“I didn’t realize kids here speak English well… during my captivity, I will be executed if they caught us talking to the locals.”
“There used to be six coconut trees standing here in the middle of the camp. They would tie up erring prisoners against the trunk and beat them with wooden planks in full view of the other prisoners.”
Etching on the bronze marker to take home a memento. After the War, Schloat went on to establish a successful career as a cartoon animator in Disney.
“No one wanted to escape. They just wanted to wait for the Americans because they knew the war was going to end. On that night of my attempted escape, there were four of us. All of us were captured. I found out later that the other two were executed.”
A visit to the Palawan State University where Schloat agreed to donate war memorabilia to the PSU Museum. (From left: faculty member, PSU President Dr. Teresita Salva, Schloat, PSU Vice President Dr. Erlinda Ganapin, me)
The marker stood atop one of the bunkers where the American POWs were herded into and burned to death. Those who had managed to crawl out were razed down by machine gun fire or stabbed by bayonets.
“I think of the 11 folks inscribed here, all have already died and I’m just the only one hanging in there. “
A friendship is forged.
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