Interview With Moises Tan Querol

Moises Tan Querol discusses his experiences during World War II, his term as a Prisoner of War, the suppression of the Hukbalahap, his service in the armed forces in Luzon and in the Korean War, and his career in the Philippine Packing Corporation after leaving the military.

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Born in 1919 in the Bohol Municipality to a Filipino father and Chinese mother, Moises begins by recounting how his parents were forced to separate when he was 11 by his maternal grandparents. His father then moved his children to Cabadbaran Agusan Del Norte, where he bought some land to farm. However, as the land could only produce low profit crops like coconuts and bananas, he leased a more fertile plot from a wealthy family, where he could plant rice and corn while paying them half the yield as rent. He became a leader amongst the farmers, providing advice to others on how to manage their crops.

    In 1937, Moises joined the USAFFE and was trained in the medical corps. But his unit was defeated in his first combat engagement with the Japanese, and taken prisoner. They were held for 8 months as prisoners of war in Bukidnon, before American soldiers rescued them. Moises was obedient towards the Japanese guards, understanding that they were merely following orders from above; and the Japanese treated him fairly in return. When he was questioned about his imprisonment by the US Army, he did not speak ill of his Japanese captors. He was then sent back to Manila to be promoted, and re-deployed in Cagayan de Oro City, where he was again detained by the Japanese. Once again, he remained obedient to the guards, unlike a defiant peer who was killed by a guard. Moises secured an early release from the concentration camp by befriending a senior officer.

    After the war, the new Philippine government formed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to suppress the Huk Rebellion. Moises was based in Cagayan de Oro City, where he met his wife, but his unit was deployed to Luzon in Cavinti City to suppress some Huks who had stolen ammunition. His unit traced the rebels to a cave before surrounding it and opening fire, neutralizing the enemy without any casualties. The city mayor then gave the officers the recovered weapons and collected the corpses of the rebels, after which the unit was relieved of duty. Moises returned to Cagayan de Oro to his wife, and promoted to District Commander. After some time, he requested to retire from military service, but was denied and made to wait another 3 years before he insisted on leaving and quit the service. He then worked for the Philippine Packing Corporation before retiring in 1979. Now a centenarian, he still awaits his additional pension from the US for his time in prison.

Interviewee: Moises Tan Querol               Interpreter: Dominique Lucagbo & Marjorie Tsuchiya

Born: November 15, 1919

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya                              Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo

Date: March 8, 2020

Location: Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City

Language: Bisaya and English


My name is Moises Tan Querol, I was born on November 15, 1919 at the Municipality of Bohol. My father was a farmer. My mother was a pure-blooded Chinese. But, she was raised in Bohol so there were no language barriers. My mother’s parents did not approve of the relationship between my mother and father so at the age of 11 we got separated from my mother. We went to Cabadbaran Agusan Del Norte together with my 3 other siblings and continued my studies there. My father used the money that we had during our time in Bohol to buy a piece of land that we could use to farm. But, we could not plant rice and corn on it because the land formation was not suitable for planting rice and corn. So, instead we planted coconut and banana trees. But, my father did not want to rely on coconuts and bananas because it wasn’t very profitable at the time. So he asked to have a piece of land from a wealthy family where he could plant corn and rice. Half of the profits would be ours and half would be theirs. I enjoyed life there the wealthy family was kind enough to give us 2 farm animals one for me and one for my father and the people went to my father for advice on how to handle their crops. He was the head of the farmers. I played a lot of games with my friends in school specially volleyball and they also helped me in my farm duties. Although I was only able to finish 1st year Highschool.

When I was 18, I was enlisted in the US army under the United Stated Armed Forces in the Far East. I was sent to Manila for infantry, medical and artillery training for 6 months in Camp Murphy. I felt that I was trained to protect my country. When I was deployed, I was assigned in the medical service. We had an encounter with the Japanese forces. They were too strong and we were forced to surrender and I was taken in as a prisoner in Casisang Malaybalay  Bukidnon concentration camp. I was held there for 8 months until the Americans came and freed us. During my time in prison I was obedient to the guards. I knew that if I did something to offend them they would punish me. I believe that the Japanese soldiers were only doing their job and treated everyone in the concentration camp fairly. If you were obedient and did what you were told to do then they would treat you in a good way. If you were causing them trouble then they would punish you. 

I remember the time when we were tasked to load heavy bags of food in the truck. I did what I was supposed to do. But the other prisoner was hard headed and refused to obey. Because of that, the Japanese hit him in the head with gun and that caused him to have a seizure and die. If he had just followed the instruction, he would’ve lived. After the Americans came and we were freed they instructed us to go to Lanao to report to the American headquarters. They asked me how the Japanese treated me. I didn’t badmouth the Japanese because I believed that I was treated fairly according to my actions. After that the Americans sent me back to Manila so that I would have the chance to be promoted to technical sergeant. After my promotion I was assigned to Cagayan de Oro City where I was imprisoned by the Japanese once again. But this time, it was different because I managed to befriend a high ranking officer. He saw that I was obedient. So he decided to help me. He gave me a badge and freed me. I didn’t know what the badge meant. But it seemed that the Japanese respected me and gave importance to me. It was also here in Cagayan de Oro City that I met my wife.

After the war the Government formed the Philippine National Police to combat the rebels that were causing trouble. I left Cagayan de Oro City to go to Luzon in Cavinti Laguna together with the 5th division to take down the Hukubalahap. I was a platoon leader there. The Mayor of Cavinti was infuriated because the Hukubalahap stole weapons and ammunition form an American warehouse. He tasked us to go and seize the weapons. After a scout reported that they were staying in a cave we decided to take action. When we arrived in the area we spilt up one half covering the front of the cave and the other climbing up. We peeked at the cave and saw about 20 rebels with the guns and ammunition. They were clearly unprepared because most of them were shirtless and was at ease. No one was on guard. I took the first action and bombed the cave with a hand grenade. They scattered. Then, we opened fire. When the battle was over we suffered no consequences while the enemy had 6 casualties. Most of them got away at a back route but left the guns behind. The mayor came to the scene and congratulated us with the success. He gave us some of the guns as a token and carried the dead bodies in a truck. After this we were relieved from our duties and sent back to our homes. I went back to Cagayan de Oro City and met with my wife. I was then assigned to be a District Commander of the Philippine National Police in Cagayan de Oro City and handled 6 posts.

After a while I sent a request for retirement in the military. But I got denied because they said there was too much going on and they were too busy to handle my retirement. So I had to wait another 3 years. After waiting another 3 years I once again made a request for retirement, but they denied again. But this time I didn’t let it slide and stood up for my rights. They finally accepted my retirement in the military. After that, I applied for a job in the Philippine Packing Corporation, I worked there until I was 60 years old and once again, I retired from that job.

Right now, after all the things that I went through I can’t believe that I survived to be 100 years old. I received a lot of blessing in life I received a service award for serving the military and I’m going to receive a centennial award for living up to a 100 years old. I’m still waiting to receive the rest of the money that America owes me from my imprisonment when I was enlisted under the Unites States of America. Apart from that I am happy and I have no regrets in life.

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya

Interviewee: Moises Tan Querol

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Transcript Notes

  1. USAFFE is the United States Army Forces in the Far East, deployed in the Philippines from 1941-1946.

  1. What does the continuities and changes in Moises’ career, going from the US Army to the Philippine National Police suggest about the evolution of the Philippines’ security environment after independence?

  2. Consider the degree of agency they had in shaping their experiences in the postwar Philippines?