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ENHANCING SECURITY: THE PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN MEMORIAL (Last of Two Parts)


 

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The Philippine Military Academy boasts of a long and illustrious history of preparing only the best Filipino men (and, in recent times, women) for military service….”– PMA website, 2014

On 23 October 2004, the Philippine-American Memorial Project was officially launched at Cavalier’s Park, Fort del Pilar, with groundbreaking rites and the laying of a time capsule by PMA Alumni Association Chairman Commodore Carlos Agustin, USNAPHIL President Congressman Roilo Golez, and WPSP President Ambassador Joey Syjuco, Jr.  The event was witnessed by US Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone, AFP Chief of Staff General Narciso Abaya, and PMA Superintendent LtGen. Cristolito Balaoing. 

The Memorial Project site underwent two more relocations after that:  (1) the first was approved by SND Gilbert Teodoro in February 2003, and (2) the second is the current site agreed upon in 2012 by the Joint Committee and its proponent, MGen. Alfredo Peralta, PMA Superintendent.

The PC And The PMA

In terms of the national security of the Philippines and our quality of peace, order and law enforcement, two of our country’s most important pioneer institutions have been the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).  And, behind the relevance and effectiveness of these revered organizations had been the cultural influence of the United States.

The PC was established in 1902 by the Philippine Commission under Governor-General William Howard Taft who designated US Army Col. Henry T. Allen as the first Chief, PC. 

In 1905 the PC School for Officers (PCSO – the precursor of the PMA) was established at the Santa Lucia Barracks in Intramuros, Manila.  The 11 cadets of its initial Class of 1906 were all recruited from the enlisted ranks of the US Army, while the succeeding Class of 1907 had 3 Filipinos out of 8 cadets.  It was decided in 1908 to transfer the PCSO to Baguio at the newly acquired PC Camp (later named after Col. Henry T. Allen) to improve its academic and training facilities. 

In September 1926 the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 3496 renaming the PCSO the PC Academy (PCA), lengthened its course from nine months to three years, and strengthened its curriculum.

Unknown to most, the PMA really began in October 1898 with the establishment of the Academia Militar in Malolos, Bulacan by order of the first President of the young Philippine Republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo.  Graduates were to be awarded a regular commission in the Armed Forces.  Its existence, however, was short-lived – when hostilities between the Americans and Filipinos erupted in January 1899.

The USMA/West Point Model

On 21 December 1936, Commonwealth Act No. 1 (also known as the National Defense Act) was enacted.  The law formally created a new PMA and authorized it to confer a Bachelor of Science degree on its graduates after successfully completing the four-year course.

The PMA was modeled after the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point based on a policy directive of General MacArthur (USMA 1903) who had been a former USMA Superintendent.  Officers from the Philippine Scouts and the regular United States Army were the initial instructors.  Many mentors in the early PMA were products of the US Service Academies, notably Major Dwight Eisenhower (USMA 1915), and Major James Ord (USMA 1909) who took turns under MacArthur’s direction in supervising PMA beginnings.

Notable among the USMA and US Naval Academy alumni assigned to the Commonwealth PMA were Colonel Pastor Martelino (USMA 1920) as Superintendent, and Lieutenants Alfredo Pecson (USNA 1933), Tirso Fajardo (USMA 1934), Enrique Jurado, (USNA 1934), and Rafael Pargas (USNA 1935) as Tactical Officers. 

Pioneer Filipino USMA Graduates

Twenty-three Filipino USMA graduates fought in WWII.  Sixteen of them became Prisoners of War (POWs), of whom seven were executed by the Japanese. 

BGen. Vicente P. Lim (USMA 1914) was the first Filipino West Pointer.  He was the stalwart Division Commander, 41st Division, USAFFE.  He survived the Bataan Death March, escaped to join the guerillas in Mindoro, was recaptured by the Japanese, and executed in January 1945. 

Colonel Rafael Garcia (USMA 1916) was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Bataan in 1942, and became a POW.  He was PMA Superintendent at the outbreak of WWII. 

BGen. Fidel V. Segundo (USMA 1917) was Division Commander, 1st Division, USAFFE.  After his release from the Capas concentration camp, he and son Fidel Jr., were arrested for anti-Japanese activities, and executed. 

Colonel Salvador F. Reyes (USMA 1917) served with the Philippine Scouts, US Army and survived the Bataan Death March and three years as a POW.

Colonel Eustaquio S. Baclig (USMA 1918) served as Chief of Staff, 101st Division, USAFFE; joined the guerrillas, was captured and executed in November 1944. 

Colonel Santiago Guevarra (USMA 23) was Commandant of Cadets in the pre-WWII PMA.  He survived the Bataan Death March and in February 1947, became member of a military court that tried Japanese defendants accused of war atrocities. 

Colonel Alejandro Garcia (USMA 1923) served in WWII, was captured and executed by Japanese forces. 

Colonel Ricardo Poblete (USMA 1924) served through WWII as Chief of Staff, 51st Division, USAFFE. 

Colonel Maximiano S. Janairo (USMA 1930) was with the Philippine Scouts, US Army.

Colonel Jaime C. Velasquez (USMA 1931) was Chief of Staff, 91st Division, and then appointed as Presidential Aide-de-Camp.  He accompanied President Quezon and family in their escape from Corregidor to Mindanao, then to Australia, and on to the US. 

Colonel Emmanuel S. Cepeda (USMA 1933) served through WWII and became a POW following the fall of Bataan.  He later escaped and served with the guerrilla forces. 

BGen. Tirso G. Fajardo (USMA 1934) served through WWII, was PMA Superintendent in 1947, and later Commanding General, Philippine Army.

LtCol. Leon F. Punzalan (USMA 1936) participated in WWII as Commander, 1st Filipino Regiment, US Army.

Colonel Manuel Q. Salientes (USMA 1937) served in Bataan, escaped the Death March, joined the guerrilla forces in Panay, and later became DND Undersecretary. 

Colonel Antonio P. Chanco (USMA 1938) served as Commander, 91st Engineer Battalion, USAFFE; survived the Death March and joined the guerilla movement.

Captain Vicente E. Gepte (USMA 1940) served in the 41st Infantry Division, survived the Death March and the Capas POW camp, joined the underground but was arrested in February 1944, and executed by the Kempeitai. 

Colonel Felicisimo S. Castillo (USMA 1940) served as Commander of the 301st Field Artillery Battalion.  After release as a POW, he joined the Bulacan Military Area guerillas of Governor Alejo Santos, and became PMA Commandant of Cadets in 1947.

Colonel Atanacio T. Chavez (USMA 1941) served in the 1st Filipino Regiment, US Army in New Guinea and the Philippine Liberation campaigns.  After WWII, he became Commander of the 20th BCT during the Huk campaign.

Colonel Pedro R. Flor Cruz (USMA 1942) was Regimental S-3 in the South Pacific theatre under Admiral William Hasley. 

LtGen. Rafael M. Ileto (USMA 1943) served with the 1st Filipino Regiment, US Army and the Alamo Scouts which liberated the Cabanatuan POW Camp.  After WWII, he became Commanding Officer of the Scout Rangers, PA, later AFP Vice Chief of Staff, and then Secretary of National Defense. 

Capt. Eduardo T. Suatengco (USMA 1943) joined the 1st Filipino Regiment, US Army, and fought in New Guinea and in the Philippine liberation campaigns. 

1Lt. Vicente H. Lim Jr. (USMA 1944) served with the 1st Filipino Regiment, US Army and participated in the liberation of the Philippines.  He was the son of BGen. Vicente P. Lim and younger brother of Capt. Roberto H. Lim (USNA 1942). 

Earlier USNA (Annapolis) Graduates

President Quezon had specifically directed USNA graduates to organize the Offshore Patrol (OSP), PA.  Major Rafael Ramos, a Nautical School graduate, was the first OSP Chief.  In June 1938, Lt. Jose Adrada (USNA 1930) took over command of the OSP. 

He was supported by other Annapolis graduates, among them:  Lt. Alfredo Pecson (USNA 1933) as Executive Officer, Lt. Rafael Pargas (USNA 1935) and Lt. Marcelo Castillo (USNA 1938).  The OSP was later joined by Lt. Enrique L. Jurado (USNA 1934) as Base Commander, and Lt. Carlos Albert (USNA 1938) as instructor. 

In 1939, two motor torpedo Q-boats arrived from the Thorncroft Company, Ltd. of England.  The Q-boat measured 55 ft. long with an 11 ft. beam, and drew some 2.5 ft. of water at full speed.  Eventually, a third Q-boat, the “Agusan”, came into service.  It was locally built but it bested the first two imported Q-boats during trial runs.  Because of their small size and strike capabilities, the Q-boats earned the moniker “Mosquito Fleet.”

In June 1941, as war clouds hovered, Captain Alberto N. Navarette (PCA 1935), who was in the first OSP batch, became Commander, First Q-boat Squadron.  That same year, former Squadron Commander Captain Jurado took over OSP command from Major Andrada who became Commander, Coast Artillery Battalion, Fort Wint, Corregidor. 

Jurado had completed pilot training at Randolph Field, Texas and in 1936 competed in the Berlin Olympics representing the Philippines in the wrestling bantamweight division.  Upon returning home, he was designated PMA Master of the Sword (Athletics), and was assisted by Lt. Rafael Pargas (USNA 1935). 

Another USNA graduate with the OSP was Lt. Jose Francisco (USNA 1931) who had undergone flight training in Pensacola, Florida and eventually became the only officer in AFP history who served all four Major Services – the PC, PA, PAF and PN (as the Flag Officer-in-Command, PN before retirement).

Among the outstanding “local products” of above Filipino alumni of Annapolis was Lt. Ramon A. Alcaraz (PMA 1940) who distinguished himself as Commander of one of the Q-Boats in the defense of Manila, Bataan and Corregidor. 

The outbreak of WWII in December 1941 disrupted the training of PMA Classes of 1942 and 1943 who were graduated ahead of schedule, and assigned to various combat units in the Philippines. 

The PMA As Tri-Service Academy

The PMA reopened on 05 May 1947 at its former location in Camp Henry T. Allen, Baguio.  Due to the need for wider grounds, the Academy soon moved to its present site at Fort Gregorio del Pilar, a sprawling 373-hectare compound in Loakan, 10 kilometers from downtown Baguio. 

Named after General Gregorio del Pilar, the young hero of the Battle of Tirad Pass between the Aguinaldo forces and American troops in the Cordilleras in 1899, the PMA in its new location soon developed into a military training institution with facilities and infrastructure worthy of our new Republic.

During President FVR’s term, PMA was transformed in 1993 into a “Tri-Service Academy” which introduced specialized, branch-of-service-specific courses during the last two years of training, to prepare fresh PMA graduates for their specific branches of service – to be “field-ready” (PA), “fleet-ready” (PN), or “squadron-ready” (PAF) before graduation.

Also that same year, in accordance with Republic Act 7192, the first female cadets were admitted into the PMA.

THROUGH THE YEARS, GRADUATES OF THE US COAST GUARD ACADEMY (NEW LONDON, CT), US MERCHANT MARINE ACADEMY (KINGS POINT, NY), AND THE US AIR FORCE ACADEMY (COLORADO SPRINGS, CO) HAVE ALL CONTRIBUTED SUBSTANTIALLY TO THE UPGRADING OF THE PMA.

THUS, THE BONDS OF PARTNERSHIP AND CHERISHED VALUES CONTINUE TO BE STRENGTHENED BETWEEN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE U.S.

Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org.  Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.

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