Col. Fidencio Laplap, Liberator of Cagayan de Misamis
When Major General Sharp, the Commander of the USAFFE in the Visayas and Mindanao had determined that further resistance would be fruitless, the subordinate commanders were ordered to surrender their men, weapons, and equipment to the Japanese. But whereas Sharp himself had little alternative to surrender, his subordinate commanders enjoyed somewhat more flexibility. The names of new Filipino recruits for example, were purposely omitted from the surrender rosters, and these men were ordered to return to their homes and bury their weapons , hopefully to fight another day. Some Filipino Officers did not surrender and evaded capture by the Japanese, and they too went underground and waited for the right time to act.
One such officer was Capt. Fidencio Laplap, the Executive Officer of the B Company of the 81st Engineering Battalion, 81st division USAFFE in Camp Overton, Iligan. As Col. Fertig began to organize the guerrillas in Mindanao, he was able to pacify the warring guerrilla factions in Cagayan, but to do so, he must replace both the guerrilla commanders with an officer that both guerrilla factions respect. Capt. Laplap became the obvious choice. Laplap became the commander of the largest guerrilla group in Cagayan.
As a recognized guerilla leader, Laplap now a Major and Commander of the 2nd battalion of the 109th Infantry Regiment was authorized by Col. Fertig to receive Arms and Ammunition from the Americans via submarine. The first submarine shipment arrived on August 31, 1944 in Punta Sulawan in a fiesta like atmosphere. It unloaded among others, an 81mm Mortar, a .50 caliber Browning machine gun with extra barrel, M1 Rifles and Carbines, radio sets, hand and rifle grenades, uniforms, combat boots, medicines and boxes assorted ammunition.
“Sept, 8 1944. Major FIDENCIO LAPLAP took his new eighty-one millimeter trench mortar, just arrived from Australia, sneaked into position, and shelled the Lumbia airfield, about three miles from our house. We watched from our hill and through a transit could see that one plane was destroyed. But the transit and tripod made a good target for the Japs, and they shelled us with artillery. Then they sent out two planes to strafe and bomb us. No one was hit” (excerpts from the book Guerilla Padre by Fr. Edward Haggerty)
By September 9, 1944 American B-24 Bombers bombed the Pueblo of Cagayan de Misamis, destroying most structures occupied by the Japanese Army, Including Ateneo. Most of the Civilians were forewarned of the bombings and had fled to nearby towns. During this time, the men under Capt. Laplap had their hands full. They began harassing Japanese Convoys and patrols and shelled the Japanese airfield in Lumbia with the new 81MM Mortar that destroyed the airstrip and at least one Japanese Fighter. They began making their presence felt in Cagayan and nearby towns which greatly annoyed the Japanese commander that he sent a Platoon of Japanese Imperial Army aided by collaborators to arrest or kill Laplap and his men in El Salvador only to be repelled by heavy fire coming from the Guerillas newly acquired .50 Cal. BMG and 81MM Mortar.
In retaliation, the Kempeitai arrested Laplap’s Father, Melanio and brutally tortured him to force Capt. Laplap to surrender. Advised, by his mother not to do so or else he too would die, Laplap would later on learn that his father was killed and buried in hastily dug grave in the Masonic Cemetery. His father died without giving away the whereabouts of Maj. Laplap and his men.
On January 4 1945 a few days after his father’s brutal death, Laplap and his men, all of the 2nd Battalion of the 109th Infantry Regiment under the guerilla network of Col. Wendell Fertig, staged their first attack at dawn in poblacion Opol. They practically annihilated the Japanese outpost during a thirty minutes battle. The lone guerrilla casualty was 3rd Lt. Francisco Piit of D Company.
The Following day, Maj. Laplap’s men again attacked Lumbia and Patag Airfield in a simultaneous raid that destroyed most of the Japanese facilities and equipment forcing the Japanese to flee to the safety of Cagayan.
At the break of dawn on January 7, 1945, Laplap’s men started shelling the Japanese High Command headquarters at the St. Agustine Cathedral, where a sizable number of Japanese troops were entrenched. The Volume of fire coming from Maj. Laplap’s Mortars were too much for the Japanese that they beat a hasty retreat towards Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Cagayan de Misamis was Liberated by Capt. Fidencio Laplap by 3:00 in the Afternoon. The Guerrilla forces remained in town until September 15, when the US Army finally arrived to start rehabilitating the town and setting up base in Lapasan.
Maj. Fidencio Laplap was awarded with a Silver Star for gallantry in action – the third highest military decoration given by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Armed forces of Western Pacific during World War II.
He died on March 8, 2009 at the age of 87