Friday, February 24, 2012

Remembering the Los Baños Raid of 1945

* tarpaulin put up outside Baker Hall announcing the activity
for the 67th anniversary commemoration of the Los Baños raid

* portion of Freedom Park where the barracks for the prisoners were put up;
Fertility Tree and Carillion Tower seen in the background

* Baker Hall in 2012

A chance visit to University of the Philippines Los Baños (UP Los Baños) aided me in recalling an event in the place which I have been deeply interested in when I was still in the formative stages of my research about World War II. The Los Baños Raid which happened in the early morning of February 23, 1945 was facilitated by the combined efforts of the American forces and different Filipino guerrilla groups. Their attack was to free hundreds of war prisoners in the grounds of what is now University of the Philippines Los Baños. It was a feat worthy of retelling as accounts show the rescuers’ efforts in gradually breaching the tight security made by the Japanese forces in the area. It gets on one’s nerves if one would only recall that the peaceful grounds of Freedom Park were once the barracks of the tired and war-torn prisoners.

This year, the celebration is on its 67th year and one can assume that the activity held inside Baker Hall (which was also made into a prison camp during those times) was attended by those who, in one way or another, have been associated with the event.

* commemorative marker for the prisoner camp in U.P. Los Baños

In 2005, on the same commemoration activity, a marker was installed by then National Historical Institute. It reads:
“Pook ng Bilangguang Kampo sa Los Baños: Ginamit ng mga Hapones bilang bilangguang kampo para sa mga bihag na Amerikano at ibang banyaga noong 1943. Nilusob ng pinagsanib na pangkat ng gerilyang Filipino mula sa mga kasapi ng ROTC Hunters, Hukbalahap[,] Ika-48 Iskwadrong Tsino, Sariling Pangkat ni Pangulong Quezon, Pangkat Marking, at iba pang di-regular na tropa noong 23 Pebrero 1945. Ang pinagsanib na puwersa ay inorganisa ni Tinyente Koronel Gustavo Ingles na kasapi ng Hunters at kinatawan ng puwersang Amerikanong nangangasiwa sa mga gerilya ng Katimugang Luzon[.] Pinamunuan ni Tinyente Koronel Honorio Guerrero at ng ROTC Hunters ang unang salakay. Matagumpay nilang nakontrol ang paligid ng kampo at sa tulong ng mga Amerikanong miyembro ng Company B, 511th Paratroop Infrantry ay napalaya ang 2,147 bilanggo.”
Compared to events during the Spanish times in the country, World War II is a more recent event and so this generation must take time in knowing and understanding more the events before and during those tumultuous times of 1941 to 1945.

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