103-year old Filipino war veteran recalls WWII exploits

April 8, 2013 10:28 pm 

MANILA, April 8 — At 103, Bataan war veteran Capt. Jose P. Javier can still vividly recall his World War II exploits in Bataan.

He attributed his survival of the infamous "Death March" to what he described as the infinite mercy of God.

Javier, a member of the Philippine Scouts, is one of the few living WWII veterans who have breached the century mark. He has an elder brother, Fernando, 105, also a war veteran residing in Baguio City.

“Prayer saved me from the claws of death in many occasions during the recovery of battle casualties at the height of the fighting in the battlefield,” Javier said in an interview with the Philippines News Agency.

The interview at his Quezon City residence took place three days to the 2013 Philippine Veterans Week, themed “Tribute to All Filipino Heroes” who fought and died for freedom and liberty since the colonial times.

The fact that he and members of the medical corps were not armed and had to crawl to wounded Filipino and American soldiers in the middle of the fighting was doubly more dangerous and risky, he said.

He described the war in his book memoirs titled “A Century’s Journey.”

He said: “Our troops dug in and fought from their foxholes. Our cannons fired continuously day and night. But the Japanese could not be stopped. Their advance could only be delayed."

He added: "News from the U.S. received by clandestine radio reported that reinforcements promised by President Roosevelt were on their way. That buoyed us up.

"But one month passed. Two months. Three months. And still, no reinforcements. Several times, overpowered by the enemy, we retreated to a pre-determined line of defense which our troops could hold at all cost. ‘No more retreat’ was the order. But our troops could only hold for a period of time. Finally, we were pushed to the foot of Mt. Samat.”

He said the Death March was “day and night without any stop, without food or water.”

But civilians along the way gave them water in cans, he said.

He added: “We helped ourselves when not seen by the guard who did not want us to get out of the column. I chanced upon Dr. Fernando Tinio of the Clearing Company.

"He had thrown away his shoes because his feet were all blisters, and he wrapped his feet with towels. I walked slowly with him for awhile at the rear of the column. Fortunately, the guard was not cruel. He just prodded us to walk faster to catch up with the rest.”

Javier said after five days and nights of walking he reached San Fernando. Others reached the town days later.

He said the Japanese dug a hog pit where the POWs relieved themselves. “It was nauseating,” Javier said.

It was, for Javier, then a 32-year-old doctor, a hell of experience he will never forget, particularly when he was captured, with thousands of his comrades in arms following the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and the eventual “Death March” from Km 0 at Mount Samat in Pilar town to San fernando in Pampanga.

“I prayed the Holy Rosary with intensity,” Javier said, his voice still strong despite being a centenarian.

“My prayers were answered because I was not wounded, even a scratch and I did not get sick during the long march under the blazing heat of the sun,”

He said that weeks before Filipino and American forces surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, their food supplies were running low.

“We hade to eat limited rice and canned foods during those trying times of our lives,” Javier said.

“The fighting in Bataan was one sided as we had no planes and the Japanese had plenty, although we had our artillery to fight the advancing enemy,” Javier added, his voice trembling.

“After we surrendered, the Japanese told us that we were going home,” he said.

He added “there was no point of escaping because we are going home anyway and escaping was never my plan,” Javier said.

He learned later that the Japanese deceived them as the POWs found themselves in concentration camps.

“Those who tried to escape were bayoneted to death,” Javier said.

“Then the Japanese brought me to Zambales before I was sent to Bacolod City in Negros Occidental where my captors told me to prod the people to side with them (Japanese) but no amount of convincing convinced our people,” Javier said.

Javier was brought to back to Manila and “in August of 1942 I was released as a POW.”

He was reunited with his parents in 1943 and they returned to their home province in Ilocos Sur where he awaited the opportunity to join to guerrilla movement in northern Luzon.

That came in 1944, and as a guerrilla he fought the Japanese until liberation in 1945.

After the war he married Filomena who bore him nine children. (PNA)

HBC/RBC/UTB

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