Araw ng Kagitingan 2024

79 years since the end of WWII, we have seen the setting sun for our veterans of WWII due to old age, notwithstanding the impact of the current pandemic that targeted the senior citizens with our WWII Heroes the most vulnerable. A town who does not knows its local heroes, especially our WWII Heroes, is a testament of the need to put focus to bring to life, the honor for the bravery and sacrifices of our grandfathers and uncles who fought for our Country. Our knowledge of History should also give emphasize to the men and women who sacrificed for our Country, and to some extent, gave lives for the freedom we enjoy today. Sadly, many of these unsung heroes remain forgotten in the annals of History of WWII; ordinary men who took the call for duty and served our Country.

Bonifacio Lacanlale, of the Lacanlale Clan of Bamban, is one of unsung Heroes of WWII, fought in the battlefields of Bataan and served in the clandestine guerrilla forces fighting during the Occupation Period and further served in the military’s post WWII; being appointed as Chief of Police of Bamban. The Lacanlale, much like other families of Bamban whose sons served and fought during WWII like the Dela Cruz, Guilas, Raagas, Anunciacion, Wage, Maristela, Sibal, Escoto, etc., sons of Bamban who dutifully fulfilled patriotic vow to fight in the face of overwhelming adversary.

His younger brother, Crisopacio Lacanlale (Battery A, 1st Field Artillery Philippine Army, later assigned at Coast Artillery – PA at Grande Island), also made distinction in the artillery service, just like him. Their father, Juan Lacanlale, also served as chief of police of Bamban in “Peace Time” or pre-war years. It was a rare case of both brothers served in the artillery in the Commonwealth Army prior the outbreak of WWII and fought as USAFFE guerrillas during the Japanese Occupation.

In order to shed light to his contribution in the fight for our freedom during WWII as part of my research for the forgotten heroes of WWII (WWII Heroes Project), it took me more than a decade of searching to be able to get the sources and military service records and related materials in order to unveil the story of Bonifacio Lacanlale; a Hero of Bataan and Veteran from Bamban as a fitting tribute on this Veterans Week. A meeting with his son Abel in May 19, 2020 gave me the break when he handed me copies of the military service records and related documents of his father and donated to Bamban Museum. Another source of information was the late Oscar Tuazon, his father, Avelino was also a Bataan Defender and a nephew of Bonifacio whom I conducted several telephone interviews in 2019.


The proximity of the town of Bamban to Stotsenburg and Clark Field had influenced a lot of the young men in joining the military. Fort Stotsenburg was a home to several Philippine Scout units, particularly the 26th Cavalry Regiment, and the artillery’s 86th Field Artillery, 24th Field Artillery and 23rd Field Artillery. Some of the sons of Bamban enlisted on these Philippine Scout units based at the fort, to include Dominador Rongero, Melencio Figueroa, Florentino Contapay, Marcial Agabon, Esteban Villareyes, and Jose San Luis; to cite some few. Many of these young men, some in the prime of youth, would eventually serve before and during WWII either as regular soldiers (Commonwealth Army), guerrilla forces (USAFFE and HUKBALAHAP), and New Philippine Scouts 1945-1946.
Bonifacio was a typical young man, who grew up in Bamban and may have portion of farmlands in Sitio Macapul near the base of the Sapang-Magurul-gurul-Pulung Diablo hill-mass. He attended and finished high school, probably in Tarlac, Tarlac.

In July 1941, the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) was established, allowing all organized US Army, Philippine Scouts and Philippine Army units in the service of the United Sates. There were massive recruitment activities in the provinces and towns. Starting September 1, 1941, branches of service including infantry and field artillery were called for duty. Bonifacio was one of the several sons of Bamban who heeded the call for duty and reported to the nearby Camp Del Pilar (also called Camp Dau, the artillery training center of the Philippine Army) on September 9, 1941, reporting to Lt. Castillo of the field artillery. Some of his fellow Bambanenses who reported to Camp Del Pilar during mobilization period were Venerando Halili, Alfredo M. Bobiles, his brother Crisopacio Lacanlale, Castor Guilas, Jr., Victoriano Lindo, and Jose Liwag; all of them would be serving in the field artillery. Camp Del Pilar was a vast complex of cadre barracks and administrative buildings and had the 75-mm and 155-mm guns used for training. On September 11, 1941, Bonifacio was officially inducted into service by Lieutenant Colonel Hirsch. On September 12, he was assigned at the Battery A, 1st Field Artillery Philippine Army, training in the operation of field artillery, including 75-mm and 155-mm guns. With the reorganization of the field artillery forces under General King, 301st Field Artillery PA was established with 700 men and armed with 24 155-mm guns and 2 155-mm howitzers under Colonel Alexander Quintard. Many of the men of 301st came from the Camp Del Pilar center, including those from Bamban and Bonifacio Lacanlale.

On December 8, 1941, Clark Field was bombed by Japanese army and navy fighters and bombers, destroying America’s main air force in the defense of the Philippines. Camp Del Pilar was spared from the bombings, although it is close to the airfield facilities of nearby Clark. The main road to Clark was at the entrance of the artillery training center. With the imminent Japanese landings in the north, Bonifacio’s unit moved out of Stotsenburg on December 10, further south at Camp Murphy (present Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City) until the 14th, since Clark was being bombed at almost daily by the Japanese air forces. The defense of Luzon being fought in the north with the Japanese landings, his unit moved to San Fernando, Pampanga, awaiting further order. On December 25, 1941, USAFFE Headquarters ordered the withdrawal of North Luzon Force (as well as the South Luzon Force) in a retrograde movement, establishing defensive lines from Lingayen to Bamban, and into Bataan known as War Plan Orange. On the same date, the 301st FA was ordered into Bataan, with the II Corps and Bonifacio took position near Abucay Line covering the east coast of Bataan on the town of Mabatang and running into westerly direction into Mt. Natib. Bonifacio set foot on the battlefields of Bataan, where he fought with the 301st FA until surrender of all Filipino-American forces on April 9, 1942. The 301st participated in action in the Battle of Abucay from January 9 to 23, 1942.

As the battle rages on in the fields of Bataan, the Filipino and American troops begun to feel the effects of the continuing battles with less food supplies, medicines, and battle fatigue. With the resumption of the Japanese offensive on April 3, Bonifacio’s unit with the 301st moved further south of Limay, in support of the last defense being established in Alangan River, just north of Lamao. The 301st FA was still intact then, along with other artillery units from the 21st FA and the Provisional Field Artillery Brigade. The intense artillery and aerial bombardments against the position of the Filipino-American forces made untenable, and on April 9, 1942, Bataan fell and surrendered to the Japanese forces of General Homma.
The surrender of more than 78,000 Filipino-American forces by General King on April 9, 1942 marked the highest number of forces ever to be surrendered by the US Army. Although, there are no accurate account of the true number of officers and men surrendered, the most accepted accounting is that of 68,000 Filipinos and 10,000 Americans. After the surrender, these Filipinos and Americans were forced to do the march for an almost 110 kilometers from Mariveles to San Fernando, and then at Capas train station to the O’Donnell enclosure with casualties of 5,000-10,000 Filipinos and 400-500 Americans who died along the route of the Death March.

Bonifacio met his brother Crisopacio and Avelino Tuazon (married to Rosario Lacanlale, was attached to engineering unit of the Philippine Army), also from Bamban in the battlefields of Bataan. Bataan Death March was not a single march of Filipino-American prisoners but a series of marches for several days in groups or columns, at about 100 emaciated men due to more than 3 months of heavy fighting, hungry and most of the time suffering from malaria. And the march was done in the hottest days in the Philippine summer. For a period of 2 weeks (April 10 to 23), this Bataan Defender did the march starting at Limay in Bataan.

Bonifacio was again met by Crisopacio and Avelino Tuazon along the march. He was suffering with a head wound, so severe as blood oozed out, that his younger brother thought he would never make it alive. It was Crisopacio who carried his older brother along the march, with Avelino with them. Passing entry into the Pampanga border in Lubao, the three were able to withstand the heat of the April sun, reaching the town of Betis. Many Filipino prisoners including those from Bamban (one was Jose Liwag) were able to escape at Lubao with the help of the civilians. As the three were at Betis, Bonifacio was able to escape when his column was near the housing area full of Bougainvillea plants, and saved by Kapampangan family, where he was nurtured until healed of his wounds and regain strength. He stayed in Betis with the family for a couple of months before going back to Bamban. Both Crisopacio and Avelino made it at the terminus of the death march at Camp O’Donnell; the former survived and was released by end of June 1942 while the latter died at the camp.

The remaining days of April, and into the months of September 1942 allowed Bonifacio to nurtures his health and strength from the scars of the Battle of Bataan. However, the resistance movement in Bamban has been brewing after the fall of Corregidor in May, started by 2nd Lt. James H. Hart (194th Tank Bn) who moved into the mountains after evading capture in Moncada in late December 1941. He was aware of the establishment of the USAFFE guerrilla forces of Bamban, whom he all knew as cabalen, most of them members of the Philippine Scouts and Philippine Army and fellow Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor like Fortunato Anunciacion (Company B, 12 Med Bn), Melencio Wage (91st Coast Artillery Regiment PS), Felipe Dagucon (24th Field Artillery PS), and Eduardo Navarro (HQ & HQ Battery, 1st Bn 21st Field Artillery, 21st Division PA). His love of Country never faltered, and contacted his fellow Defenders of Bataan, joining the USAFFE guerrilla forces of Bamban, the 101st Squadron and inducted at Tapuac Hills by Lieutenant Colonel Claude A. Thorpe who was on his way to O’Donnell (Capas, Tarlac) mountains after escape at his Mt. Pinatubo headquarters. He was given the rank of Sergeant and posted as platoon leader. From organization and training, Sergeant Bonifacio was an active member of the unit, until the death of Lt. Hart in September 1943, and Captain Alfred Bruce (12th Military Police, PS) took over the command of all USAFFE guerrilla forces and designated the 101st as Bamban Battalion, South Tarlac Military District STMD – Luzon Guerrilla Force, in which he was later promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. Bamban Battalion, with many of its officers and men were Bataan and Corregidor defenders, became one of the most active guerrilla forces in Tarlac and vicinity of Clark-Stotsenburg; conducting intelligence, sabotage, and combat operations especially in the waning days of 1944 with the imminent American landing in Lingayen.

Bonifacio and his fellow guerrillas from the Bamban Battalion greeted the coming of the first American soldiers from the 160th Infantry, 40th Division on January 23, 945, immediately undertaking combat operation with their American counterparts during Liberation. His unit with the Company A was posted at the Bamban Sugar Central, which was converted into military headquarters and camping base for operations at nearby Bamban Hills with the 40th, 43rd, and 38th Division US Army until early May 1945. His younger brother Crisopacio was posted on the same unit as corporal (squad leader); both of whom were mobilized at Guagua area in the remaining days. Subsequent assignments and unit attachments included with the 63rd Infantry 6th Division, 152nd Infantry 38th Division and the 343rd Infantry 86th Division – US Army until December when unit was processed for demobilization at Camp Porac, Porac, Pampanga.

Bonifacio continued his military service even after the demobilization of Bamban Battalion in December 1945. Going back to Bamban, he studied Criminal Investigation at the Provost Marshall School – Military Police Command (Luzon Zone Military Police Command), located at the Bamban Sugar Central (located in front of the present Bamban Museum). He was posted at 100th Military Police Company, Philippine Army in March 1946 based at nearby town of Angeles, Pampanga. His last assignment in the military service was at the Northern Luzon Zone – Philippine Constabulary with headquarters at the Bamban Sugar Central. Where he was discharge on January 14, 1948. His love for duty in the military service went further, working as Civilian Investigator with the Headquarters, American Graves Registration Service until September 25, 1948.

Five years thereafter, he was appointed as Acting Chief of Police of Bamban on January 1, 1953 by then Mayor Enrique Sison, replacing Miguel Ballesteros, also a fellow member of Company A, Bamban Battalion who died on December 13, 1952. This is a rare case of father-son becoming chief of police. A very disciplined man, he was strict and straight in the implementation of the rules of law as the chief of police, in pursuit of his military character in devotion to duty. His appointment as the chief of police by Mayor Sison was cut on June 30, 1957. He went back to his ancestral home in Sitio Macapul, enjoying the simple life with his wife Lolita (from Sibal clan) and children Juan, Arturo, Abel, Jessie, Ruth, Eliza, and Bonifacio, Jr. However, the things he valued so much for his services before, during, and after WWII in the Service led him to a tragic death, when on November 19, 1964, he was gunned down after watching carabao race (Lulung Damulag) near his home in Macapul. Thus, ended the life of a true soldier, a patriot to the last, and a forgotten hero of the Bataan Campaign.

In time with the commemoration of the 79th Fall of Bataan, and as we celebrate the Araw ng Kagitingan, please join me in giving honor and remembrance to the Hero of Bataan and of WWII from Bamban, Bonifacio Lacanlale. May his legacy inspire generations of Bambanenses for love of Country and devotion to duty.

Rhonie Dela Cruz
Bamban Historical Society
Bamban Museum of History
(WWII Museum)
(1) Military Service Records and related papers of Bonifacio Lacanlale. Bamban Historical Society Collection. Courtesy of Lacanlale Family of Bamban.
(2) Dela Cruz, Rhonie. Compiled List of Philippine Army and Philippine Scouts from Bamban Who Fought in Bataan and Corregidor – 1941 to 1942. Manuscript. Bamban Historical Society Collection. Bamban, Museum, Bamban, Tarlac.
(3) Jose, Ricardo T. The Philippine Army 1935-1942. Quezon City: Ateneo De Manila University Press, 1992.
(4) Morton, Louis. US Army in WWII The War in the Pacific – The Fall of the Philippines. Commemorative edition. Center for Military History, United States Army: Washington DC, 1989.
(5) G.R. No. L-18443, May 31, 1965.…/juri…/may1965/gr_l-18443_1965.html. Accessed April 9, 2021.
(6) Tuazon, Oscar. Interview via telephone by the author. October 17, 2018.

(a) Portrait of Bonifacio Lacanlale. Courtesy of Lacanlale Family.
(b) Aerial view of Camp Del Pilar, Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga; pre-war photo.
(c) Gate of Camp Del Pilar, circa 1945. This gate was seen by Bonifacio on his reporting for duty on September 9, 1941 for training at Camp Del Pilar.
Carl Mydans Photo.
(d) Tactical formation at the Military Police Command, Bamban Sugar Central (Central Luzon Milling Company), 1946. US National Archives photo, courtesy of David Metherell.
(e) Portrait of Abel Lacanlale, son of the Hero of Bataan, during visit at Bamban Museum, circa 2020.

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