Col. Jose A. Arambulo, Gold Cross awardee
The Gold Cross Medal is the third-highest military award for combat of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), recognizing gallantry in action. For the benefit of our readers who may not be too familiar with this particular award, let me provide a brief description: The award is a golden Maltese cross the center of which bears a left-facing profile of Manuel Luis Quezon, President of the Philippine Commonwealth, on a dark blue disk surrounded by a wreath of golden laurel leaves. Of the three highest awards that include the Medal for Valor, and the Distinguished Conduct Star, the Gold Cross is the only one with the picture of an individual.
One of the first Gold Cross awardees during the Pacific War that started in December 1941 was Maj. Jose A. Arambulo, who commanded the First Battalion, Second Constabulary Regiment. After Japanese bombers wiped out the US Far East Air Force in air attacks at Clark Air Base, Pampanga, and Iba, Zambales, enemy landings commenced in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan, and Atimonan and Mauban in Quezon. These beaches were defended by lightly-trained troops and Arambulo’s battalion was sent to Batangas to block the Japanese advance. Two Philippine Army divisions in the area—the 41st and the 51st—were ordered to proceed to Bataan. Arambulo’s new orders were to move forward and hold the Tiaong River in order to allow the two divisions to move back safely.
The following citation under General Orders No. 190, Headquarters Philippine Army (Baclagon, Filipino heroes of World War II), provides more details: “On 27 December 1941, Japanese advance elements were attempting to cross the Tiaong River. Arambulo and his battalion at once engaged them in a heavy firefight that continued without letup until 29 December 1941, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. The ferocity of this engagement did not allow the First Battalion to dig foxholes or make any protective cover for their defense but Arambulo inspired his men to fight heroically and stubbornly. He crawled from one company to another under heavy enemy fire to give orders to his men, inspiring them to hold their ground firmly. As a result, the enemy was prevented in his attempt to cross the river which otherwise would have cut off the 51st Division from Tayabas and prevent the 41st Division from reaching the highway in its withdrawal to Bataan as well as in the reorganization and consolidation of these forces. This feat enabled the successful retreat of the 51st Division. Later, the First Battalion under Arambulo was ordered to cover the retreat of the 41st Division, which was completed at 0400H on 31 December 1941.”
Jose Arambulo who was born and raised in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, entered the Philippine Constabulary Academy and graduated among the youngest who graduated in the Class of 1921. Commissioned as third lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary, he was assigned in the Cotabato and Lanao provinces of Mindanao, where his conduct and demeanor as a unit commander gained him the respect of the local Muslim populace. Gen. Rafael Crame after whom the PC (now PNP) Headquarters in Metro Manila is named, was the chief of constabulary. At that time, a PC officer was not just a soldier and law enforcer. He was expected to be a mediator or even a diplomat. He was empowered to execute arrest warrants, enforce tax collection, and even serve as a justice of the peace if necessary. Arambulo and his fellow officers had to maintain the highest standards of conduct while cultivating friendships with people in their communities.
During the Bataan campaign in 1942, he continued to serve his country with great courage and leadership until the surrender of Allied forces in April. Arambulo survived the horrors of the Death March and Camp O’Donnell, and after release, he joined the guerillas operating in Laguna, providing intel information on Japanese movements and defenses.
Upon Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s return, Arambulo was recalled to duty and served as inspector general where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. After studies at the Adjutant General School, Camp Lee, Virginia, he was designated AFP adjutant general, and promoted to full colonel.
In his book, “Serve Your Country,” Roger Arambulo, youngest of six children of Jose Arambulo and Luisa Tiongco, called his father “an authentic hero,” one who fought his enemies with raw courage and disciplined skills. A daughter, Lydia, recalls that “my father was very nationalistic. Every Independence Day he insisted on displaying the Philippine flag. He was proud to be a Filipino.”
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