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Jun 09th
Home Sections Obituary-Memorial Park My Father Was the Birdman of Bulusan during the War and a Don Quixote Later in Life
My Father Was the Birdman of Bulusan during the War and a Don Quixote Later in Life PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Obituary-Memorial Park
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Sunday, 21 June 2009 12:55

On the occasion of Veterans' Day and Memorial Day (in the U.S.A.), we bring back to the Front Page this article about a guerrilla leader in the Province of Sorsogon, Philippines, during World War II. It tells of some of the atrocities committed by and among the armed combatants of the different opposing forces. Yes, "war is hell ..." and hopefully mankind should have learned the lessons why there should not be any World War again to torment humanity. A Blessed Veterans' Day (and/or Memorial Day) to all Soldier-Dads, Soldier-Moms and Soldier-Brethren. God bless you all, especially those who are now in the Great Beyond.

D uring World War II, my father, Dominador (Domen) S. Reyes, was one of the officers of the 54th Infantry (Guerrilla) Unit. Then Major Licerio Lapuz of the Philippine Constabulary command in Sorsogon Province headed it. But he never wrote his wartime memoirs. He never bothered also to let me write about his wartime exploits, even after I finished journalism. He said that "war is hell and soldiers should not relish their wartime experiences." But I kept on asking people in Sorsogon, especially the guerrillas that served with him, about his exploits.

People at his hometown of Bulusan called him the "Agbaan," which was the local name of the most-elusive species of wild dove. The Japanese soldiers and their Filipino collaborators that belonged to the so-called Makapili brigade called him the equivalent of the "Birdman" because he escaped capture in quite a few instances.


The Japanese soldiers captured Dominador once and confined him in a second-floor cell of their barracks in Bulusan. Just hours before his scheduled execution, he managed to escape by jumping out from a window in broad daylight. Another time he was cornered by the Japanese in a hut on a hill near Bulusan Lake. He escaped again, this time by rolling down the hill full of abaca plants. He did his Houdini-like escapes by outrunning and outwitting his pursuers.


But the Japanese, the Makapili mercenaries and the guerillas of the opposing guerilla camp led by Sorsogon Gov. Salvador Escudero, Sr., called him also the "Butcher of Bulusan." Dominador headed the Lapuz Guerrillas' so-called "Liquidation Squad" that hunted down the Makapili soldiers and executed Japanese officers that were known for their arrogant and abusive conduct. Some families in Sorsogon accused him and his squad members of capturing several Escudero guerrillas, who were never seen again. My father refused to talk about these episodes; he refused to confirm or deny any of the accusations.

Major Lapuz ordered my father to hunt then Gov. Salvador Escudero, Sr. Domen found him in a remote area in Samar Province but the governor was barely conscious, as he was delirious with malarial fever. Domen did not harm Governor Escudero and left in peace. Later, he was asked why he did not kill him. He said that the governor was defenseless and besides, Christians ought to visit, and take care of, the sick and not harm them.


Editor’s Note: Excerpts of this essay were read during a memorial service for Dominador S. Reyes in January 1999 in Sorsogon City.


How the “Butcher” Fought Japanese Invaders and the Makapilis

S ome of the soldiers who served with the Lapuz Guerrillas talked, however, of several instances that showed the wile and guile of my father as the alleged "Butcher of Bulusan."


The first incident told of how my father eliminated a Makapili ranking leader, who tortured Dominador's widowed mother, Baldomera, in trying to force her to reveal her son's whereabouts. (My grandmother suffered a nervous breakdown that she died within several months after her arrest.) The Makapili henchman and several of his fellow mercenaries had the habit of drinking tuba (coconut alcoholic brew) at a side of a barrio store in Gubat town. Almost daily at the same time the Makapilis were drinking, a woman fish vendor would pass by them. On the chosen day, Dominador disguised as a woman and pretended to be the fish vendor. As he passed by the makeshift table occupied by the Makapili mercenaries, Dominador pulled out a .45-caliber revolver from the wicker round basket containing the fishes and shot dead the target. He wounded also several of the Makapili volunteers.


There was also the report of how Major Lapuz was almost killed in an encounter with a Japanese squad led by a Makapili volunteer. Dominador was ordered to arrest the Makapili mercenary and after a few days, he did. A report said that when Dominador presented the Makapili volunteer to his commanding officer, Major Lapuz shot dead the Japanese collaborator on sight. Another version was that Major Lapuz just kicked the collaborator and handed him over to my father for execution. I could not tell which version really happened but the only fact my sources confirmed was that the collaborator was never seen alive again after Dominador captured him.


There was also the killing of a Lieutenant Tanaka in the Irosin town public market. The Japanese officer was known for his bad temper and his habit of slapping people if they did not bow before him. My father's squad shot dead Tanaka in broad daylight, as he was inspecting the public market. The market did not reopen for many months after the assassination happened.


There was also the killing, nay, execution of an abusive Japanese sergeant at an airfield that the Japanese Air Force was constructing in the barrio of Polot in Bulan town. My father recruited a young man by the name of Borlagdan, who was relatively tall and quite muscular. Borlagdan applied to the Japanese as a volunteer for the construction crew at the airfield they were building. After a few weeks of pretending to be a model worker and after befriending the target, Borlagdan killed the Japanese sergeant with a blow of a pickax and fled. He took with him the other construction workers to join my father's guerilla unit.

Domen Leads in the Rescue of Lt. Deming

In September 1944, Domen led his squad in rescuing a U.S. naval aviator, Lt. (J.G.) Wilbur Deming, Jr., who was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft batteries over Albay Gulf. He hid Lt. Deming from Japanese patrols for nearly a month. After confirming that the Americans had landed in Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944, Domen led his men in bringing Lt. Deming in a sailboat (called “sibid-sibid” in Sorsogon and Samar) to Tacloban to rejoin his unit. Domen refused to apply for a medal or commendation for the rescue of Lt. Deming. He said that his brother, Dr. Jose S. Reyes, was to become the Executive Secretary of then Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and he did not want people to say that he got the medal because of influence.


My mother, Justina, was a volunteer member of the Daughters of Tandang Sora (DOTS) when she met Dominador in a campsite in Bulan town. On June 5, 1945, she married Captain Reyes. She was then 18 years of age while he was a 36-year-old lawyer and army officer. Justina was a third-year high-school student when the war came and interrupted her schooling. In 1948, while pregnant with her third child, she decided to finish her high-school studies at the same Southern Luzon Institute where she studied before the war. She earned her high-school diploma in 1949.


Sorsogon Politics

A fter the war, the position of provincial governor was vacant. Then Executive Secretary Reyes decided that no Reyes sibling was to be appointed governor, as he reasoned out that the clan was already involved in national politics. He asked Domen to nominate a Sorsoganon for the vacant position and my father picked a young lawyer, Vicente L. Peralta, who was his buddy in high school. Mr. Peralta was then appointed acting governor but he lost to former Governor Escudero in the following election. But my father’s selection of Mr. Peralta made him a budding political star, as he did become one in the House of Representatives in the 1950s and 1960s.

During the postwar years, Domen and his siblings maintained the Nacionalista Party's provincial chapter. They were political adversaries of Governor Escudero and his fellow Liberal Party members. But they respected each other and often met for coffee.

This writer just laughs when friends and adversaries call him the “Filipino Don Quixote of Southern California.” The moniker simply confirms that he is a chip off the old block. His father was the first Don Quixote in the family and he is simply following in his footsteps.


A fter her husband was defeated in the congressional election in 1949, the family moved to the capitol town of Sorsogon, where Domen practiced law. Knowing that her husband was a highly-principled man who practically "invented" legal aid for the province's destitute litigants, Justina decided to become a teacher. She not only wanted to help increase the family income but she wanted to become a real teacher, which was her dream since her childhood. She enrolled at the Colegio de la Milagrosa in Sorsogon, Sorsogon, and took up a two-year course in Normal Education. She graduated in 1952. At the urging of friends, she took and passed the Civil Service examination in 1956 and started teaching at her husband's hometown, Bulusan. And every summer, she would continue to study at her alma mater, which is a college run by the Sisters of Charity. She eventually upgraded her résumé to include a four-year bachelor's degree in Education. She took up also graduate studies at the Annunciation College in Sorsogon but she was not able to complete the thesis required for her to earn a Master's Degree in Education.


Justina became an expert in budgeting her time and income. For she was married to a lawyer who depended on voluntary fees paid by his financially-disadvantaged clients, who often paid with chicken, fish and other agricultural products. Her husband also was a non-traditional politician who thought that a poor but good man could win elections by simply helping the underprivileged and the oppressed in the style of a local version of Don Quixote. Her husband ran for governor in 1955 and 1959 and lost.

Then retiring Governor Escudero decided to back up Dominador in the latter’s gubernatorial bid as an independent candidate in 1955. Domen won the Nacionalista Party’s convention for governor but was not proclaimed by the party’s national headquarters. Governor Escudero and Domen then fought the handpicked candidate of then President Ramon Magsaysay, Juan G. Frivaldo. Domen came in a close second, with the official Liberal Party candidate, former Congressman Tomas Clemente, coming in third.


Cheaper by the Dozen


T hen Justina thought of constructing the family's own house, as the family was getting bigger. For all the years they lived as husband and wife, they simply rented houses. In fact when Domen ran for governor, his political critics said that a turtle was better off than him for the reptile had a house of its own while Domen was renting one. Through her savings, Justina bought a 200 square-meter lot. Then she started buying materials from lumber to the corrugated iron sheets for the roof. She literally had to force her husband to agree to begin the construction, which took several years to complete. Justina and Domen had to borrow money from friends and kin to pay for the construction costs. Finally the Reyes Family of Sorsogon (now a city) had a modest house they could call its own, albeit immediately mortgaged to the Government Service Insurance System so that Justina could pay off the lumberyard and contractors.

In 1967, Domen and Justina taught us the value of life and the evil of abortion. That year, Justina became pregnant and she was already 41 years of age. A  medical practitioner advised her to terminate the pregnancy, as he said that there was a good chance the baby would be a Mongoloid due to the mother’s age. But Domen and Tinay insisted that abortion was murder. The baby, the youngest of 12 children, appeared normal at birth and was named Audrey Justina. She was salutatorian in high school and graduated cum laude at the University of the Philippines. She passed with flying colors the CPA Board exams in the Philippines and California.


In 1973 Domen finally won an election. In the first election of the Sorsogon Province chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, his peers elected him as their first president. This led Sorsoganons to say that if voters were as educated as the lawyers were, perhaps Domen would not have lost an election. Domen was to retire in 1987 as the dean and doyen of Sorsogon lawyers. When Domen retired, his law office had probably the biggest number of clients in the province but sadly lacking in income; in fact there were months when his wife and children would shoulder his law firm's rental and other expenses.


Poetic Justice


It seems that there is indeed poetic justice in the world. While Justina and Domen could not accumulate material wealth, their union was blessed with 12 children who decided to help their parents and themselves get education. The elder siblings would help their younger brothers and sisters go to college. In turn when the younger brothers and sister managed to graduate and find work, they would help also the next in line. After what seemed an eternity, all the 12 children succeeded in getting college education.


Their children sent Domen and Justina on a tour of the United States after she retired from the Philippine Department of Education in 1986 as Grade V and VI teacher and librarian. Their daughter, Miriam, a nurse and who was already an American citizen, petitioned them as immigrants. And the couple opted to become themselves American citizens, more so since Domen was a World War II veteran whose unit was integrated with the US Sixth Army in 1945. Their US-based children urged them to retire in the United States because Domen, in his quest to do public service, failed to save for his retirement days. Miriam and another daughter, Sandra, who was also a nurse in New Jersey, said that at least senior citizens were being cared for better in the United States than in the Philippines.


Domen and Justina visited annually with their remaining six children and their families in the Philippines. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in Sorsogon City in 1995.


But even a good love story has to end. Domen passed away at the Makati Medical Center in Metro Manila on Jan. 10, 1999, while he and Justina were spending their Christmas vacation with their children and grandchildren.


As the eldest son of Tinay and Domen, I just laughed off when friends and adversaries called me the “Filipino Don Quixote of Southern California.” The moniker simply confirmed that I was a chip off the old block, to use an oft-quoted cliché. My father was the first Don Quixote in the family and I was simply following in his footsteps. # # #

Last Updated on Monday, 30 May 2022 08:37
Comments (7)
1 Monday, 22 June 2009 02:40

What a wonderful story! You must be brimming with pride having a father like him. I too would like to be a father that my two sons and their children will be proud of. But that kind of opportunity that your father had, living during the war may not come in our lifetime. I commend your father for seizing the day (carpente diem) and making his children proud of his accomplishments.

I suggest you go ahead write that book. This may be your last chance to do it since eyewitnesses do not live forever. It may be a disobedience to your father's wishes
but he will understand. I'm sure a producer will turn it into a blockbuster film.

Written after his death, and with eyewitness accounts, it will be seen as an authentic tale of heroism, rather than some self-serving memoirs of past politicians.

Best regards,

Manny Bade
2 Friday, 26 June 2009 23:28
The Don Quixote character is an idealistic righteous person, he also did not kill anyone.
3 Saturday, 27 June 2009 05:18
The Don Quixote character is an idealistic righteous person, he also did not
kill anyone.
4 Sunday, 16 August 2009 15:22
Lt. Col. Licerio Lapuz is the older brother of my grandfather. When I was young my Lola Auring would tell me stories about her life in Sorsogon and the heroic exploits of Lt. Col Licerio Lapuz. My Lola Auring is the 1st cousin of Licerio Lapuz and she lived with his family in Sorsogon during the war. She told me stories about the Lapuz-Escudero feud. Also, heard stories from Sorsoganos who claimed that their fathers were supporters of Licerio Lapuz and that my grandfather is a legend in Sorsogon.

It’s sad to note that his stories of bravery and heroism are not in any historic books. I did find an article about Lt. Col. Licerio Lapuz in a book about the history of the Philippine Constabulary. It was only when I did a Google search that to my surprise I found articles about my grandfather.

Thank you for your article about your dad and my grandfather. It’s good to know that Lt. Col. Licerio Lapuz has not been forgotten by Sorsoganos
Dear Manong Fred and Dr. Nelson:

According to my Dad (now deceased), he (an ROTC graduate) and his fellow soldiers and guerillas belonging to the 54th Infantry in the Province of Sorsogon -- under the command of Major Licerio Lapuz -- were integrated with the U.S. Sixth Army sometime in March 1945. His unit was integrated as it was being trained already for the invasion of Mainland Japan.

My father's brother, Dr. Jose S. Reyes, was then the acting Executive Secretary of President Sergio Osmena, and he told him (my Dad) that Gen. Douglas MacArthur told Don Sergio that he needed at least 200,000 to 1.0-million Filipino soldiers for the invasion of Japan. My father and his infantry unit were to be part of the US invasion force.

My father married my mother in June 1945 and I was conceived sometime in August 1945. Had the A-bombs not been dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it was very probable that my father would have died in the invasion of Japan, as he was one brave soldier who took many risky assignments for his infantry unit. He headed also the unit's "Liquidation Squad." Then I would not have seen my Dad, as I born only on May 1, 1946. You can read part of my Dad's WWII exploits in this article,

My Father Was the Birdman and Butcher of Bulusan during the War and a Don Quixote Later in Life


So in short, the dropping of the A-bombs "saved" the lives and the limbs of tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of Filipino soldiers. General MacArthur told Don Sergio in the presence of my uncle, Dr. Reyes, that he (Douglas) expected more-than a million casualties (dead and wounded) in the invasion of Mainland Japan.



Lolo Bobby M. Reyes

In a message dated 8/15/2010 2:49:47 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
bcc to some history buffs...

Speculations appear to be part of studying history on why things happened.

For instance, although I am merely a student of history, I speculated that the new Philippine Scouts were planned to be used in the invasion of Japan. I based this on some line in a U.S. Army book that said "... the end of the war came before the Philippines (and the Filipinos) could fulfill the roles planned for them in Japan's inevitable defeat..."

But then I was not aware that the Philippine Scouts were inducted AFTER Japan surrendered. So my speculation shifted to the question of why the Philippine Scouts were organized even if Japan already surrendered. If they were organized to help in the clean up why were they sent home and never set foot in Japan?

This bred another speculation: Were the Scouts recruited because an original plan BEFORE the Japanese surrender was already put into motion and a decision was made to continue the recruitment because of uncertainty that things may still go wrong since the Japanese are notoriously fanatical combatants?

Speculations... This makes history less boring...

Fred Natividad
Livonia, Michigan

=Say nanlapuan lingawen pian antay arapen.
=Alamin ang pinang-galingan upang malaman ang paro-roonan.
=Know where we had been to guide us where we are going.

--- On Sun, 8/15/10, NELSON A PAGUYO wrote:

From what I learned in HS history Japan continued to fight even after 67 cities in Japan were bombed; and ignored the Potsdam Ultimatum outlining the terms of surrender. Hiroshima was selected because of the large military complex in the city. The reason for Truman’s decision was to save lives. Had the bombing of Japan continued and the land invasion of Japan occurred; estimates of over 100,000–2,000,000 soldiers [excluding civilian casualties] would have been killed; and an economically and infrastructural devastated Japan. Of course people later questioned the decisions made/facts and attributed the A–B use for other reasons – which are historical speculations.
6 Sunday, 10 October 2010 02:47
BAPPI Inc. is an organization of Buluseños residing in the Philippines and abroad who are actively interested in uplifting the economic, social and moral conditions of the people of Bulusan.

One of our six area programs is History and Cultural Development. Right now at BAPPI facenook account there are discussions on how to restore the house of Dr. Jose S. Reyes and make it a first class museum of Sorsogon.. We would like to seek for your help/assistance Mr. Bobby Reyes in consolidating the history of that house.. It is the oldest house of Bulusan and we want to preserve it.. Buluseños owe a lot to the Reyeses especially to Dr. Jose S. Reyes.. As respect to him, we want that that house be proclaimed by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines in honor of him. We are establishing the history of that house and as journalist we seek for your help..

BAPPI Facebook Account Administrator
7 Friday, 12 November 2010 18:28
My father after their incarceration in camp o doneal, capas,,tarlac, joined the guerillas in sorsogon and lived to tell about the cruelties and atrocities of this people most notably by one named garganta.
and remarked that the guerillas killed more sorsoganons than the japanese, an offshoot of the lapuz-escudero rivalry and most notable oof this casualties were Lt. Olaveri and major lapuz himself.

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