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(© 2018 Journal GlobaLinks)


CHICAGO (JGL) – When super typhoon Yolanda (Hayan) struck in 2013, it did not only dump a massive volume of rainwater, it also plowed the underground beside the church of Balangiga in

Eastern Samar in the Philippines that it unearthed the mass grave where men of the C Company of the U.S. Army 9th Infantry were buried a day after the massacre. 

The U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, however, was tightlipped when this reporter asked its press staff Molly Koscina if it verified reports if the artifacts are those of among the 48 out of the 74 U.S. servicemen, who were hacked to death by Balangiga natives. The natives were territorially displeased by the presence of the new colonizers of American soldiers in the small fishing municipality near the end of the Philippine American War at the turn of the 19th century, only a couple of years after driving away the Spaniards.

About 27 Filipino guerilla natives were also killed.

The patriotic acts of the natives were only the second time in the history of the Philippines and Asia when the natives took matters into their own hands when they fought western foreign invaders. The first time was the slaying of Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, a poor general who dropped anchor in the shallow China Sea seashore, where he was slain by Chieftain Lapu-Lapu as he sprinted towards his far-off ship in nearby Mactan Island in Cebu. The Pacific Ocean usually provides a deep sea harbor even near the seashore. 




FORMER BALANGIGA MAYOR VISCUSO S. DE LIRA and Balangiga Municipal Tourism Officer Contessa Maria “Maricar” A. Amano show this reporter what looked like rusty parts of Springfield Model 1892-99 Krag, the standard of United States Army military longarm at the time, and a set of teeth in this photo. They were artifacts exhumed by the devastating supertyphoon Yolanda (Hayan) in 2013. (JGL Exclusive photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

 Based on the investigation by PM (philamessenger.com), there are about six to eight slain U.S. Army men who are still missing in action (MIA's) to this day. 

It is also possible that those bones were those of the 27 Filipino bolomen, who also died when they attacked the U.S. soldiers followed by the pealing of one of the three bells that were returned to the Philippines last Tuesday, Dec. 11.


THESE DIGGINGS BESIDE the Balangiga Church, St. Lawrence Deacon & Martyr,  were the handiworks of supertyphoon Yolanda (Hayan) that exhumed bones, skulls and Krag rifles and other turn-on-the century artifacts that could be traced from the garrison of Company C of the 9th U.S. Army Infantry where 48 of the 74 of its officers and enlisted men were hacked to death by an unwelcoming Balangiga, Eastern Samar villagers. Katipuneros (Philippine Independence fighters) just repulsed Spanish colonizers two years earlier. The natives must have imitated the Americans, who defeated the British redcoats during their War of Independence. (JGL Exclusive photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA) 

“But these bones were a little bit longer than the length of an ordinary Filipino,” then Balangiga Mayor Viscuso S. de Lira explained to this reporter during a visit in Balangiga in 2015. Efforts to get in contact with the incumbent Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza did not generate a response. 

Various accounts of the surprise attack that was later described as “Balangiga Massacre” and “Balangiga Encounter” show that a day after the attack, Balangiga natives buried both the American and Filipino dead in a mass grave beside the Balangiga church, San Lorenzo de Martir (St. Lawrence Deacon & Martyr) church.


MS. JEAN GAMLIN WALL, the daughter of one of the survivors of the Balangiga Massacre/Encounter, has visited Balangiga twice. She could not believe the three Balangiga bells have been returned to Balangiga. She is shown in this photo with reporter Joseph G. Lariosa. (JGL Photo)

According to the records kept by Jean Wall, a daughter of Pvt. Adolph Gamlin, one of the survivors of the Massacre/Encounter, “Thirty-two (32) bodies were buried in a mass grave in Balangiga on the (Sept.) 29th (1901, the day after the attack) when (U.S. Army) Capt. Edwin Bookmiller's party arrived to destroy the town and bury their comrades.” 

The battle took place on Sept. 28, 1901 inside the headquarters of Company C.



THESE ARE SOME OF THE MEMBERS of the “C” Company of the U.S. Army 9th Infantry sometime in July 1901 in Madison Barracks, Sachkets Harbor, New York a few weeks before they were shipped to Manila, Philippines for their war service. More than half of them (48) out of the 74 members did not make it back to the United States when they were hacked to death by Independence-fighting natives of Balangiga, Eastern Samar who felt territorial, threatened and intimidated as they considered their village like their “home is our castle.” (Photo courtesy of retired U.S. Navy Capt. Dennis Wright) 

Miller was probably accompanied in the burial party by survivors (Pvt. Anthony) Quia, (Corp. Arnold) Irish, (Pvt. Roland T.) Clark, (Pvt. Anthony) Stier, (Pvt. Clifford M.) Mumby and (Pvt. Elbert) Degraffonreid. Miller wanted the party along to identify the dead. 

The ship carrying the party picked up Pvt. Walter J. Bortholf and Marak en route to Balangiga, which is bounded by the Balangiga river to the west. A doctor was with the party to record wounds that might have caused deaths.



BALANGIGA, EASTERN SAMAR Chief of Police Valeriano Abanador, who lead the attack on the garrison of the headquarters of Company C of the 9th U.S. Army Infantry, is shown according to the caption in this photo exhibit at the Balangiga Museum as “standing with arms folded across his chest (sixth from right)” as he mingles with elements of the Company C in this group photo opportunity six weeks before launching the Massacre/Encounter on Sept. 28, 1901. (Balangiga Museum photo)


“Most of the bodies were hacked after death and these were not recorded. The bodies had been stripped and I presume they were buried so. They had been in the hot sun for a considerable time and the task was very unpleasant for the soldiers,” Ms. Wall said. “All were identified but two – Williams and South. Both had been badly burned. However, at least one of the soldiers (Stier) was able to recognize Williams as he found a medal by his body as well as a thimble (Williams did work as a tailor in the company to earn extra money and had been a tailor in civilian life).” 

She said the bodies were buried with a bottle placed between each dead man's legs. Inside the bottle was a piece of paper with the soldier's name. This was a common practice.




THIS MONUMENT OF BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar Chief of Police Valeriano Abanador in the plaza between Balangiga town hall and the scene of the attack must have been inspired by the massive monument of Andres Bonifacio in Caloocan City where the Philippine national hero declared his open break with the Spanish colonizers two years earlier. At right is former Balangiga Mayor Viscuso S. de Lira and journalist Joseph G. Lariosa. (JGL Photo)

After the burial ceremony, the town was razed and Bookmiller's soldiers plus the detachment of C Company men returned to Basey (pronounced “bah-sigh” not “bah-see,” a neighboring town of Balangiga to the west), Samar in the evening of the 29th

A couple of days later, a company of the 11th Infantry occupied the town and initiated vigorous patrol activities throughout the region to track down the civilians who participated in the attack. 

They found many items that had belonged to the soldiers. Two soldiers (Quia and Sgt. Markley) of the C Company were attached to the company to act as guides as they were familiar with the territory.

The party of the 11th Infantry came across the body of (Harry or Jerry) Wright, the attached medic, who had been missing. There were eight dead Filipinos beside him. Wright had many wounds and his body was in advanced stage of decomposition so they buried him on the spot. When the cemetery corps came two years later, they could not locate the exact spot and Wright's remains is still there.


THIS MODERN BALANGIGA CHURCH, St. Lawrence Deacon & Martyr, according to former Balangiga Mayor Viscuso S. de Lira was the same church where it once stood. The Balangiga, Eastern Samar natives some of them cross-dressing as women pretended to be joining a funeral procession toward the church. A U.S. Army sentry, probably Pvt. Adolph Gamlin, challenged them to open the coffin. But the sentry had to step back when natives screamed that the cause of death in the coffin was “cholera, cholera,” an infectious death-causing disease prevalent during that era. As soon as they entered the church, the remains-vacant coffin was emptied of boloes, spears, bows and arrows and other weapons. The natives stayed inside the church overnight before launching the attack followed by pealing of the bells as the signal of the attack. Although U.S. sentry Pvt.  Gamlin alerted his superiors that women and children were leaving the village as a precursor to the attack, the warning signs were ignored. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

Much later, two other bodies were buried in the mass grave. In January 1902, the remains of a soldier were discovered by the Marines who were garrisoned in Balangiga. The body was discovered in the woods near the sinks. He was added to the grave and was incorrectly identified as Buhrer. “I surmise he must have been wearing borrowed clothing marked Buhrer's name. There is no doubt in my mind that this man was (Pvt. August F.) Porczeng,” Ms. Wall added. 

Additionally, a Marine died of disease in the town and was buried in the mass grave. 

In the spring of 1903, a mortuary firm was hired by the Quartermaster General to disinter (exhume) all bodies buried throughout the islands and return them to the U.S. for burial in 1) Arlington, Virginia cemetery; 2) the Presidio of San Francisco, California; or 3) to a nearby national cemetery of the family's choice or 4) parents or other legitimate next-of-kin asked for the bodies to be shipped elsewhere. 

The U.S. Government would bear all expenses for the first three choices but on the 4th option, the Government would only ship the remains free to the desired destination but all other associated burial expenses would have to be borne by the families. Letters were sent out to all families listed as next-of-kin on the soldier's enlistment papers. Most responded and as many of the families were very poor, they opted for the Government to bury them in military cemeteries.



THIS DIORAMA was re-created exactly in the place where the garrison of the Company C of the U.S. Army 9th Infantry was attacked and savaged by the Balangiga, Eastern Samar natives on the morning of Sept. 28, 1901. Local and foreign tourists flock to this Balangiga during the anniversary every year of the attack when the locals dramatize the event. The anniversary is one of the celebrated events in Balangiga. The others are April 1-3, foundation day of Balangiga, which originated from the word, “Balanga” for jackfruit or “Bala” (balay or house in Ilocano and Waray), “ngi” (ngi-ngi, which means mouth) and “ga” (for port or port town) and August 10, town fiesta of St. Lawrence Deacon & Martyr. The church is only less than 200 meters away from the U.S. Army garrison. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)


Throughout the spring of 1903, the Quartermaster employees combed the islands to retrieve all of the bodies buried at the small posts as well as those men who were buried in the field. All bodies were retrieved from the mass grave in Balangiga. Wright's body was not found. A body initially identified as Buhrer had a bottle between the legs with remarks “unidentified 9th Infantry soldier.” Because Buhrer was known to have been killed sometime later, he was listed as unidentified. 

The bodies of Buhrer and Litto Armani who had been killed elsewhere were never found and are believed washed out to the sea during one of the typhoons later. 

In August 1903, the U.S. Army Transport Kilpatrick arrived in New York with over 300 bodies and from there, the bodies were shipped by railroad to their final destinations. If no response had been received from the next-of-kin, the bodies were buried in Arlington or in Presidio. 



HERE ARE THE NAMES of the dead, the wounded and unscathed U.S. Army officers and enlisted men and Filipino guerrilla natives. (JGL Photo)

Also on Aug. 9, 1903, SS Logan transported to Presidio the following remains of Corp. Leonard P. Schley, Pvt. George Bony, Pvt. Robert L. Booth, Pvt. Guy C. Dennis, Pvt. Richard Long and Pvt. Charles E. Sterling. 

In addition to the 32 bodies buried right after the battle, the remains of Schechterie and McGilligan who died before the attack and who were buried elsewhere in Balangiga were also disinterred. 

Among those still missing in action are Pvt. Cornelius Donahue, Pvt. August F. Porzceng, Pvt. Evan Smith, Pvt. Christian Williams, “Dent,” “South,” two unidentified. (Contact reporter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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