It is recalled by Pio Toyaoan and Silvino Patawang that sometime in 1941 at the eve of Japanese occupation in the Philippines the Philippine Constabulary and Army issued out an order for all males of twenty-one years and over to see their respective town mayor for enlistment in army training. Sent to the lowlands for a sixth-month training period, the volunteers from Benguet, including those from Buguias, alter come to be known as the “Bolomen”. The “Bolomen” were organized to help the regular civil home defense army in the barrios, in preparation for the Japanese attacks.
The people of Loo noticed by then planes flying over the valley, causing t people to cease from their farming activities. About a week later, On December 8, 1941, John Hay Air Base was bombed by the Japanese Imperial Army.
The outbreak of the war forced Buguias students at La Trinidad to come and be with their families in evacuating from their residents. The natives disperse towards Baogan, Ahin, Tococan, Tinek and Bakun. Roads and bridges were blasted by the Philippine Constabulary and Army to delay the arrival of the Japanese Army to the Mountain Trail. From the sawmills and the mines the Americans also evacuated. Not long after the Japanese military had taken over the Philippine Government and eventually reached the Cordilleras. They rebuilt the roads and bridges, using bulldozers and trucks to reopen the roads. Abatan was reached in January 1942, but the soldiers found no people there.
In Buguias the Japanese soldiers through the captured natives encouraged everyone to return home and go back to their normal activities. A camp and garrison was meanwhile built in Abatan. The mines and sawmills were taken over a week later and operations were resumed. Finding no people from whom they could ask for food, the Japanese soldiers had to shoot down the pigs and cows. Not long afterwards the evacuees began coming out; shortly thereafter they went back to work in the mines, the sawmill, roads and the gardens, this time under Japanese supervision. Former Japanese mechanics who served during the American period turned out to be members of the Japanese Imperial Army. Filipino civilians still in hiding were brought out from hiding by the same Japanese sawmill employees.
The Japanese reorganized the government from 1942 to 1945. Under the Japanese Military Government of the Philippines the municipal government in Buguias was headed by Ben Almora as appointed Mayor from November 1942 to January 1943, with Alejandro Igualdo as municipal secretary. The other natives who served as mayor up to 1946 are the following:
|Nov. 1942 – Jan. 1943||Mr. Ben Almora – mayor appointed by the Japanese Military Government of the Philippines – no vice-mayor|
|Feb. 1943 – April 1943||Mr. Julian Calion – no vice-president – appointed by the people in the community in time of war|
|May 1943 – 1944||Mr. Paskial Jacinto Olsim – from Namanbaneng – was also appointed during the Japanese Government by the civilian people to lead the community|
|Jan. 1945 – Aug. 1945||Mr. Legmayo Butag – No vice-mayor – appointed by the people|
|Sept. 1945 – Feb. 1946||Mr. Berto Cubangay – no vice-mayor – all mayors on war time had no vice-mayors|
The Japanese Military Government swiftly undertook the task of bringing back Buguias life to normalcy. Schools were reopened under Filipino teachers who were supervised and paid by the government. Japanese teachers were also appointed to teach Nippongo. On Christmas the soldiers distributed gifts to all teachers as well as employees of the mines and sawmill to ensure continued support for the government.
Business was also allowed by the Kempetai or the military government. Permits were given for this purpose so that businessmen will not be mistaken for spies or guerillas of the Filipino-American army. People with permits like Pio Toyaoan, informant on the period, traded within Buguias and in Mankayan and Cervantes for pigs, cows and carabaos which were butchered and sold to the miners, sawmill workers, and the Japanese army. One head of cattle cost 500.00 to 700.00 then, in Japanese paper money commonly referred to as the “Yap-yap” Japanese currency. The movement of traders were strictly checked by the soldiers though so that entry into and exit from Buguias and Lepanto were well-monitored.
In agriculture the Japanese army encouraged all civilians to plant camote, gabi and rice not only for their own consumption but also for limited trade with the Japanese workers and employees in the mines and sawmill. Vegetable gardening was discontinued for some time; staple foods were the only ones encouraged for cultivation, and natives were paid handsomely for the root crops and grains that the period for camote, rice and gabi. Animal-domestication was also encouraged, but the civilian natives were wise enough to secretly bring most of their products to the guerillas that were then on Mt. Utopia in Kapangan.
The natives who joined the “Bolomen” were meanwhile organized under Bado Dangwa and Dennis Molintas, Sr. as the 66th Infantry with four companies: the “M” company commanded by Lt. Baroy Bestre for Buguias, Kabayan and Bokod; the “I” company under the charge of Dalupirip of Itogon and Tuba; the “L” company for Mankayan, Bakun and Kibungan; and the “K” company for Kapangan, La Trinidad and Sablan. Widely supported by the civilians despite the activities of Japanese and a few civilian spies of the native soldiers were only bidding time before they launch their operations against the Japanese. By the latter part of 1944 the 66thinfantry received a letter from Gen. Douglas MacArthur notifying them of planned attack against the Japanese. By this time the native soldiers started receiving ammunitions, while the civilian population was advised to begin evacuation gradually. Hence, by January 1945 when the resident of Buguias had already left the area the guerillas began launching ambushes on Japanese soldiers. It was during this time that the Japanese soldiers also began treating the natives badly for they realized that the civilians were conniving with the guerillas. So recalled by Lestino Bestre and Teodoro Maliones the Japanese began killing civilians and even ate human flesh for food – as what happened to Tanglobi, his sister, Mrs. Becaren of Loo, and Dolimen of Buguias Central. Some of the group leaders earlier organized the Japanese: Daoines Awal, Mariano Almora, Alejandro Monang and Valentin Pago. American soldiers followed the Japanese from Baguio to Buguias and toward Ifugao where Yamashita’s group was believed to have escaped too, while other USAFE forces passed through Besang Pass towards Lepanto and then to Abatan. One by one the Japanese camps at Sinipsip Bayoyo, Central Buguias, Pilando, Lengaoan, Abatan, Badayan, Bot-oan, Loo, Kitongan and Lepanto were captured. July and August 1945 are today remembered as the most war-torn months in Buguias. By September 23 a ceasefire was issued as the Japanese from Tocucan, Ahin and Tinek began to surrender in Abatan from where the Japanese soldiers were transported towards Baguio. It took a while before Yamashita, who was hiding in the Buguias-Ifugao mountain area, to surrender; American planes had to drop leaflets and printed copies of Hiroshito’s letter of surrender before he finally gave in. It is recalled by informants that Yamashita and his forces marched from Mt. Napalaoan to Kiangan central where he surrendered and passed through Bot-oan, Badayan and Abatan, heavily escorted by Filipino troopers and a helicopter. Life in Buguias in the three heaviest months of fighting was generally hard such that the military government distributed K-rations to civilians. Reconstruction and rehabilitation after the war, however, was to ensue not long after.