A Legacy of Leadership: The U.P. ROTC History

Founding

It was 1912. The international situation was rapidly changing, foreboding of worse things to come. With the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion in China, Filipino and American leaders realized the need to develop a flexible military force that could be mobilized in the event of war.

Organized military training began in 1912 with Cpt. Silvino Gallardo as Commandant of Cadets. All able-bodied male students of the university were required to undergo training mainly in infantry and the use of the rifle. Due to the increasing threat of war in Europe, the Philippine National Guard took over the program in 1913 with Cpt. Juan Villasanta as Commandant of Cadets. However, the PNG did not actively participate in the war in Europe and was disbanded soon after. Military training continued, albeit informally.

UP ROTC Cadets on march circa 1920

The training during this period had many limitations. Mostly wooden guns were used, there was no definite program of instruction and very little equipment was available for military training. The greatest difficulty was the fact that there was no promise of a military career for those who underwent this training due to the absence of an organized reserve corps.

Efforts to formalize military training in the University began in November 1921 when then U.P. President Guy Porter Benton recommended to the Board of Regents the formal establishment of a systematic course in military science in the University. On November 9, 1921, the Board of Regents made representations to the United States War Department and received the services of U.S. Army Captain Chester Arthur Davies as professor of Military Science on March 17, 1922. He authorized the establishment of the Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST). Thus, the University of the Philippines Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was the first ROTC unit of the country, established on July 3, 1922.

The objectives and purposes of the DMST were announced: (1) To develop patriotic, physically sound, upright and disciplined citizens; (2) To create a Corps of Trained Officers for the Reserve Force; (3) To take the lead in fostering the University Spirit.

In October 1922, the UP Corps of Cadets paraded in honor of alumni members of the Philippine Legislature. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1922, Governor General Leonard Wood enthusiastically praised the Corps and counseled them to be prepared to defend their country.

I have seldom seen, if ever, a more splendid body of young men as those who walked past in review. Many of the men looked to me like promising materials for officers and leaders in case of emergency.

General Windle Read, Commander of the Philippine Department, US Army

Allow me to congratulate you once more for your successful parade. It made me thrill with delight.

Senate President Manuel L. Quezon

It was a wonderful sight. The cohesion of movements of the cadet was particularly impressive and speaks well of men responsible for their training. Fine, fine, very fine.

Admiral Shichigoro Saito, Imperial Japanese Navy (December 1, 1933)

I was impressed by the cadets’ perfect execution of the manual of arms.

Admiral Henri Frochot, French Navy

The Japanese Invasion

With the war in China and in Europe, peace was becoming a distant memory. The UP ROTC Corps of Cadets participated in what became the last Commonwealth Day Parade on November 15, 1941. President Manuel L. Quezon, in his speech, exhorted the cadets to be ready to make the supreme sacrifice. The country was soon being mobilized and several units of the Philippine Army were inducted into the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

In the early morning of December 8, 1941, an invasion force from the Empire of Japan launched an attack on the Philippines. Upon hearing of the war, almost to a man, the cadets of the UP ROTC volunteered for military service. Cadet Officers were mobilized and included in divisions of the Philippine Army. The Commandant, Major Armando Dumlao, headed the cadets volunteers in reinforcing Army units. Many joined General Fidel V. Segundo’s 1st Regular Division. Junior cadets were initially marshaled, but due to rapid advances of the Japanese Army, were sent home on December 23 when the Army redeployed to the Bataan Peninsula.

The UP DMST was officially closed for the duration of the war on December 25, 1941 when Manila was declared an Open City.

The Battle of Bataan and Corregidor

Stand up, Say Sir, Salute, and Shoot

Shibboleths of the UP ROTC from 1931-36
Veterans of the Hunters ROTC, a WW2 guerilla group composed of ROTC cadets.

During the war against Japan, the UP ROTC Cadets defended the nation in battles such as Bataan and Corregidor. After the initial retreat of the U.S. forces, the cadets remained and continued to fight as guerillas.

Major Alfredo M. Santos, Class 29, and Captain Adamin Tallow, both UP ROTC graduates, drew first blood of the Japanese invader in the beach defense of Mauba and Atimonan in December 1941. Major Santos, Regimental Commander of the 1st Regular Division, made delaying actions as the Southern Luzon Force withdrew to Bataan. He earned the sobriquet of Hammer of the Division and later became the first 4-star general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 1963.

Captain Ferdinand E. Marcos, Class 37, participated in the defense of Lingayen Gulf and in Bataan. After the fall of Bataan, he later became a leader of guerilla forces with the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines – Northern Luzon (USAFIP (NL)). He was a highly-decorated soldier and eventually became President of the Philippines in 1966.

Major Macario Peralta Jr. was G3 (Operations Staff) of the 6th Infantry Division, 6th Military District in Panay on the outbreak of war. Despite the withdrawal of U.S. forces on May 6, 1942, he continued to fight a guerilla war against Japanese forces on Panay. He rose to the rank of Colonel and later Brigadier General.

Brig. Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, a Professor of English at the University of the Philippines, served as an aide to General MacArthur and was in charge of the Voice of Freedom, a Philippine radio broadcast during the war. He was assisted by Captain Salvador P. Lopez, who later became U.P. President in 1969, and Captain Francisco Isidoro.

Captain Salvador Adcede, Class 36, was leader of the Negros Island resistance fighters. Lt. Col. Salipada Pendatum, Class 36, was the leader of the guerilla movement in Southern Mindanao.

These UP ROTC alumni were just some of the many Vanguards who followed the course of Duty, Honor, and Country during the Battle of the Philippines. While nameless, there are countless others who had served with the same faith and fervor until death.

After the War

DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY

Shibboleths of the UP ROTC since the 1970s

On August 15, 1945, the Empire of Japan had surrendered. Immediate rehabilitation of the University of the Philippines underwent and academic activities continued in the wartorn remnants of the Padre Faura campus.

The UP DMST was reorganized and reactivated on August 1, 1946 with Major Marcelo U. Castillo, CAC, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, as commandant. In 1948, he was replaced by Major Vicente Ancheta. The UP ROTC training included not only infantry and artillery, but also tanks, armored infantry and self-propelled artillery such as 105mm howitzers.

In 1949, Major Feliciano U. Castillo, FA, took over as commandant. Upon the transfer of the University administration from Manila to Diliman, the site for military training was shifted to the new Diliman Campus as well. During this time, several deserving ROTC graduates were sent to the Officers Candidate School in the United States. Cadets even took their summer cadre training with the Philippine Ground Forces (PGF) at Camp Floridablanca, Pampanga. Huk Insurgency and the Korean War.. In 1964, the Philippines participated in the Vietnam War and Captains Agrifino R de Guzman and Benjamin R Vallejo earned the Gallantry Cross (Silver Star) and the Medal of Honor (1st Class) for civic action duty in Vietnam. Captains Jose P Magno Jr, Constante Quiaoit and Ricardo Octaviano were awarded the RVN Medal of Honor (1st Class).

Dedication to Democracy

U.P. ROTC Commandant Colonel Virgilio T. Almeda, along with his assistant Captain Benjamin R. Vallejo, conducted a small unit maneuver in November 1967 and showcased the cadets’ receptiveness to training on ranger and unconventional warfare lines. This gave birth to the U.P. Sunday Soldiers.

The 1970s were a turbulent era with the height of student activism. A particular target of such activism was the ROTC, especially during their demonstrations against parades such as the presentation of Corps of Sponsors in 1970 and 1971. Despite this, UP ROTC remained steadfast in its dedication to democracy and continued training new cadets. Cadet Lieutenant Danilo Delfin was mercilessly shot down and was paralyzed by subversive elements near Vinzons Hall during the infamous Diliman Commune in February 1971.

To police elections throughout the country, the UP Sunday Soldiers and UP Cadet Officers participated as security forces. In November 1970, they policed the elections for Constitutional Delegates in Ilocos. In September 1970, when a typhoon struck the country, a team under Sunday Soldier Duffy Osental cleared the Pacific Avenue area of debris and conducted rescues. In November 1971, an outfit under Lt. Col. Benjamin R. Vallejo formed the Liberator Battalion and policed the elections in Lanao. During its 3-week stint of peacekeeping in Lanao, 9 citations for bravery were earned by cadets of the battalion. One of them, Cadet Captain Mariano Angeles, was cited for bravery against Islamic extremists in the mountain fastness of Butig, Lanao del Sur on November 9, 1971 and was selected most outstanding cadet of that year. Ranger John Fortes (70) and Cadet Captain Eustaquio Granadillos also earned citations of bravery at Pualac and Malabang respectively. During the floods and disasters in July-August, 1972, men of the UP ROTC again proved their mettle in the crisis.

After the declaration of Martial Law on September 22, 1972, Colonel Rodolfo Villarica continued to lead the UP ROTC as Commandant and insured the new UP DMST complex after the burning of the old barracks in March 1970. The new complex, including the new Vanguard Building and UP DMST Officers’ Barracks, was inaugurated on December 17, 1972 during the 50th Golden Anniversary of the UP DMST and UP Vanguard.

To The Future

Nearing a hundred years of service, the UP ROTC continues to uphold its long-lasting legacy of service, leadership, and excellence. It has created both warriors who defended the nation from foreign invaders and leaders who lead the nation through many struggles and has left a mark in our country’s history. The University of the Philippines is embedded in the development of the entire nation and the UP ROTC is one of its many hands in providing contributions to the betterment of the people.

DUTY, HONOR, and COUNTRY will forever continue to guide all cadets and alumni of UP ROTC. So was it in 1912; so is it today; so will it be in all years to come.


References

  1. UP Vanguard Inc. (1974, March 24). The UP ROTC Story. Retrieved from https://www.upvanguard.org/
  2. ADROTH Project (2009). Modern ROTC Begins. Retrieved from http://adroth.ph/
  3. Raposas, A. (2017, February 20). Reserving the nation: ROTC in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://history-ph.blogspot.com/2017/02/rotc.html

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