of 516 prisoners of war by American soldiers and Filipino guerillas from
the Pangatian Concentration Camp in Cabanatuan City on January 30, 1945
has been described as one of the most daring and successful rescue missions
of its type in the annals of military history.
That event is
immortalized in stone in the Pangatian War Memorial.
The memorial is along the
Cabanatuan-Palayan road in Barangay Pangatian, some eight
kilometers from the city
proper. It is hard to miss -- its steel fence and manicured lawn
provide a stark contrast
to the surrounding rice fields. For 20 years before World War II,
the site served as a military
training camp, but during the Japanese occupation it was
converted into a concentration
camp for Allied prisoners of war, mostof them
survivors of the infamous
Once inside the gates of
one's attention is drawn
to a lone marker...
... a tribute to American
and Filipino soldiers
who died on that hallowed
A long dirt road between
rows of cypress trees leads to the memorial.
The elevated, circular Pangatian
War Memorial, built in 1982, is the only place
in Nueva Ecija where the
American flag flies side-by-side with the Filipino flag.
For a good reason: it is,
after all, an American shrine
maintained by the U.S. Battlesites
The focal point is a huge
marble niche with
simply the name "Cabanatuan"
engraved on it.
A marble tablet atop the
niche explains the significance of the site.
Off to the right side is
a memorial to West Pointers who died in the concentration camp.
Engraved in marble are their
and the class years to which
At the far end of the compound
are two long memorial walls.
Listed are the names and
ranks of the
American servicemen imprisoned
in the camp.
A marker commemorates the
dedication of the memorial wall
during the time of ex-President
Ferdinand Marcos, himself a war hero.
No structure remains of
the original Pangatian Concentration Camp
save for the concrete foundations
of a water tank which have been
left untouched at the back
of the memorial.
On April 6, 2003, the provincial
government inaugurated a second memorial
on a piece of land adjacent
to the U.S.-maintained memorial.
The first memorial honors
the heroism of Americans in the liberation of Pangatian POWs;
the new memorial, on the
other hand, pays tribute to the Filipino guerillas
who participated in that
The provincial government's
memorial sits in the middle of a lush mango orchard
which further underlines
the Filipino character of the site.
Atop a circular platform
are two identical markers from the National Historical Institute,
one in English, the other
...recounting the exploits
of Filipino guerillas -- Squadron 201 led by
Captain Juan Pajota and
Squadron 213 led by Eduardo Joson --
in the liberation of the
The Pangatian War Memorial
-- a testament to the bravery
and heroism of Novo Ecijanos.
photos and text by Ramon R. Valmonte