To their memory, this article brings its gratitude for their exploits, some of them, sadly, still unknown to their provincemates to this day.
Here’s my personal interview with Mendoza’s second to the eldest son, Higinio “Buddy” Mendoza, Jr.
None had mentioned the strategic importance of Palawan and Puerto Princesa Airport in the bigger picture - in stark contrast to the recognition accorded to the latter by the Americans during the war, and in the way both are exalted in the Hall of Heroes of American War Memorial in Bonifacio Global City today.
And now that we have all seen the military significance of the main island of Palawan, based on Eichelberger’s words, let’s all go back in time. To know Higinio Sr. much better, and why, you and I, should commemorate his death.
Higinio was different. He had thought that if he only worked hard and strived for what he wanted, he would get it.
His dream was not driven by a selfish desire, but because his community has not seen a doctor for ages.
With provincial officials and leading citizens attending, and him dominating that meeting, everyone unanimously voted for a ‘Free Palawan Government,” a de facto form of governance by Palawenos at some safe place in the jungles in the north.
This made Palawan one of only three provinces in the entire country to establish a free government, with its own currency (“Script”) to boot.
In one of those instances, he said: “It’s good that they chanced upon me in the house with my family. Had I been in the camp with my soldiers, there would be much bloodshed and I would never surrender.”
He chose to face death rather than betray his country. Before he died, he left these words to his family: “Do not be afraid, don’t be sad. Not many are given the privilege to die for his country.”
“Buddy” as he is often called by Palawenos in Puerto Princesa, was a former city Councilor, Vice Mayor and founded the Palawan Special Battalion WW-II Museum. He financed it on his own to honor his father.