By Jani Arnaiz
October 20, 2011
MAASIN CITY – Sister Lourdes Kangleon was only thirteen years old when the war broke out but she can vividly recall the untold exploits of her late father, war hero and Senator Ruperto K. Kangleon, and the ordeal of her four siblings who were imprisoned by the Japanese for three years during the war.
Looking back 67 years after the Leyte Gulf Landings on October 20, 1944, she said, Spanish old churches in Southern Leyte, the imposing Leyte Capitol and other big buildings would have been wiped out had Gen. Douglas McArthur not heeded then Lt. Col. Kangleon’s strong opposition to the American’s plan to bomb these establishments.
“Papa was able to convince Gen. McArthur that there’s no need to bomb those establishments because the Japanese have retreated to Dulag Leyte (50km from Tacloban) and they were nowhere near the churches,” said Lourdes, a physician by profession.
“Who would rebuild these buildings and the churches? The gov’t. could not afford it,” said Lourdes of her father as telling Gen. McArthur.
She said her father was leading the first wave of the American Landings the reason why he was not with Gen. McArthur of that famous Leyte Gulf Landings photo of the general.
The general was set to land in Pangasinan but Kangleon was also able to convince McArthur to land in Leyte as it’s contiguous unlike the northern Luzon province which is composed of so many islands, recalled the hero’s daughter. The rest is now the famous Leyte Gulf Landings.
For three years she had not seen her father and her four siblings who were imprisoned at the provincial jail. They were only reunited after the war.
Her four siblings 14 years old Corazon, Teresita, 10, Aida, 7 and 5 years old Jesus were captured by the Japanese while escaping in the jungle of Libagon, Southern Leyte, recalls Lourdes, who said she has not joined them because she was sickly with pneumonia.
“They were captured because some residents were telling the Japanese where they were,” said Lourdes.
She said that her four siblings have to endure hunger, leeches, mosquitoes and other pests in the jungle.
The four were incarcerated at the old house of the Escaños in Malitbog town in Southern Leyte. The Spanish Escanos were at the time the richest in the province.
While in prison the eldest of the siblings Corazon, was ordered by the highest ranking Japanese officer named Capt. Itzumi to write her father and tell him that they would be killed if he will not surrender.
As she was told, Lourdes said, her father wrote back saying he was not going to surrender. “I will not surrender because I love my country. I will leave my children in the hands of God,” Lourdes recalled her father as telling the Japanese.
She said that when the officer read the letter, he was heard as saying, “I would also do the same.”
Help from Japanese officer
They have stayed in the Malitbog jail for over a year before they were transferred to the provincial jail in Leyte.
Capt. Itzumi, whom Lourdes could not recall his first name, had later befriended the siblings.
Lourdes narrated that her three sisters and a brother became friends with the Japanese officer when the latter saw them praying the rosary.
Sister Kangleon, said, they were always a prayerful family they always had a rosary with us.
“When Capt. Itzumi saw my siblings praying the rosary, he said I also have one like that. Then he got from his pocket and showed his rosary beads,” said Lourdes.
After that incident they became friends. Itzumi who was educated, would always put my brother on his lap while playing the piano.
When Capt. Itzumi was going to be transferred to Indonesia he told the Kangleon children that they would be brought to the Leyte provincial jail Tacloban to escape a possible death when he is gone.
“There you will be safe because no one would know you are the children of Col. Kangleon,” said Lourdes of Itzumi telling her siblings.
Although the four endured the pangs of hunger as they were only feed with rice and salt as viand or uncooked kamote, at least they were safe from death.
When the war was finally over, they were reunited in Tacloban. “It was the happiest moment in our lives. We could not put words into our mouth how happy we were when we saw each other for the first time in three years,” said Lourdes adding that Gen. McArthur really meet my siblings, after he promised Col. Kangleon in the ship that he would like to meet his children.
Gen. McArthur called the guerilla leader to his command ship before they made the landings.
Until now her four siblings who are now in America would not like to talk of their ordeal. “They are still on state of war shock.”
"When my father was asked to go to Japan on Victory Day with McArthur, my siblings asked our father to look for Capt. Itzumi so they could thanked him." But Capt. Itzumi incidentally died in Indonesia when his plane was bombed.