Message from Nakar
In his book “MacArthur, His Rendezvous with History,” Maj. Gen. Courtney Whitney relates how after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor in April and May 1942, a virtual wall of silence appeared to enshroud the Philippines. There was absolutely no information from the country as though it had been cut off from the rest of the world.
“Then suddenly on July 10, 1942, a weak signal addressed to MacArthur was picked up on the enemy-occupied island of Java (part of the Netherlands East Indies, now the nation of Indonesia) and passed on. The message read: Detachments of Fil-American forces—we have not surrendered—are actively raiding northeast barrios and towns of Pangasinan including Dagupan. Radio censorship by Japs very rigid resulting in complete ignorance of Filipinos of the true and correct status of the war…. Our people, nevertheless, are undaunted and continue to seek correct information. Your victorious return is the nightly subject of prayer in every Filipino home. [Signed] Lieut. Colonel Nakar.
“Probably no message ever gave MacArthur more of an uplift. It dramatically informed him that the Filipinos’ spiritual resistance to the enemy still continued after their military bastion had crumbled and that his soldiers who had avoided enemy capture still fought on…. There followed a radio exchange between MacArthur and Nakar in which valuable information concerning enemy activities was received. The darkness and silence was finally penetrated.”
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For many Filipinos, the early period of the Pacific War centered mainly on Bataan and Corregidor, as well as on the resulting Death March after the surrender of Filipino and American forces. Very few of us are aware that Filipino units, mainly in Northern Luzon, that were unable to join the retrograde movement to the Bataan Peninsula joined forces to do battle with Japanese units that had landed in Aparri, Cagayan. This force was designated by USAFFE headquarters as the First Guerrilla Regiment.
On Jan. 13, 1942, the regiment attacked the town of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, and an adjacent airfield killing around 100 Japanese soldiers and destroying three enemy planes on the ground. Re-designated as the 14th Infantry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Nakar, the unit conducted raids on enemy garrisons and ambushed Japanese patrols while the battles of Bataan and Corregidor raged on.
When Bataan and Corregidor fell, Nakar refused to surrender keeping the 14th Infantry intact and laying down the foundations of an effective intelligence network covering the provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Pangasinan (Filipinos in History, National Historical Institute, 228-229).
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Who was Nakar?
Guillermo Peñamante Nakar was born on June 10, 1906 in Infanta, Quezon. He graduated from the Philippine Constabulary Academy (now the Philippine Military Academy) in 1932. One of his classmates was Isagani V. Campo, who later served as Philippine Constabulary chief during the presidency of Carlos P. Garcia.
Physically, Nakar was a short, muscular individual with a military bearing. He sported a “high cut” and a trim moustache. In photographs, he was good-looking and wore his uniform with pride.
Nakar was a captain serving with the USAFFE based in Northern Luzon at the outbreak of World War II.
Under Nakar’s leadership, the 14th Infantry survived as a guerrilla force that made life difficult for the enemy and pinned down many of its troops that were badly needed elsewhere. A coordinated offensive was launched by Japanese forces to apprehend him and other guerrilla leaders.
On Sept. 29, 1942, Nakar was captured and eventually imprisoned in Fort Santiago. MacArthur’s headquarters considered his capture as “the first serious blow to the coordinated command of the USAFFE remnants since Nakar was regarded as the most prominent USAFFE officer in the northern Luzon area.”
Even as a prisoner, Nakar remained defiant. He bluntly refused his freedom in exchange for signing surrender papers and swearing allegiance to the Japanese. In Isabela, the Japanese allowed him to speak in public as part of their propaganda campaign. Instead of humoring or kowtowing to his captors, however, Nakar denounced the abuses and cruelty that the Japanese inflicted on the people.
According to an article written by TD Agcaoili, titled “So Fight the Brave,” which appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine on March 3, 1946, Nakar’s detention at Fort Santiago proved to be a morale booster for his fellow prisoners. While in captivity, he did his best to uplift the spirits of the inmates using a “thumbs up” sign during radio taizo or calisthenics to convey a message of hope and optimism. The Japanese jail guards failed to understand the meaning behind the gestures that signaled “everything was okay, keep your chin up, and keep on fighting.”
On Oct. 2, 1943, a year after his capture, Nakar was executed. Some sources indicate that he was tortured and beheaded. Tomorrow marks the 69th anniversary of his martyrdom. We do not need to create heroes. We have many in our midst that we know little of. Nakar’s life and death is an example of selfless courage and enduring loyalty—if only we took the time to learn more about our past.
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On Jan. 22, 1946, the Distinguished Conduct Star, the 2nd highest military award of the Philippine Commonwealth, was pinned by Brig. Gen. Macario Peralta Jr. on his widow, Angelina Coronel Nakar.
Executive Order 246, dated July 21, 1949 and issued by President Elpidio Quirino, created the new municipality of General Nakar carved out of portions of the towns of Baler and Infanta, Quezon.
On March 30, 1978, AFP General Orders No. 266 renamed Camp Wilhelm (in Lucena, Quezon) as Camp Guillermo Nakar, now the home of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Nakar is survived by his two sons, Guillermo “Willy” Jr. and Wilfredo, and a daughter, Cleofe “Eo”. Willy, married to Guadalupe Limuaco, is the presiding elder of Elim Communities, a global family of Catholic communities. He was formerly an assistant solicitor general in the justice department. I recall that for a while he served with Rear Admiral Romulo Espaldon in the Bureau of Customs, prosecuting smuggling cases. Wilfredo is the branch head of the Servant of the Lord in Infanta, Quezon, while Eo, married to Santiago Dumlao, is a fellow parishioner at Mount Carmel in New Manila, Quezon City.
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