Capisnon guerrilla officer gets US Congress gold medal

Last August 30, I was invited as a resource person in a webinar held by the Provincial Government of Antique which was initiated by Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Errol Santillan.

I discussed the heroism, bravery and exploits of Lt. Col. Valentin V. Grasparil, a native of Sibalom, Antique and the former regimental commanding officer of the 66th Infantry Combat Team, 6th Military District (Free Panay).

Among the abled men under Grasparil’s command was Captain Jose Gardose Falco. He was born on July 22, 1916 in Candelaria, Tapaz, Capiz.

When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, Falco was a USAFFE in Negros and was reassigned in Mindanao in January 1942.

After the 61st regiment had surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army after a bitter campaign, he returned to his hometown.

In June 1942, Lt. Col. Peralta who was in Tapaz ordered then 3rd Lt. Falco, an unsurrendered USAFFEE officer, to organize the remaining unsurrendered forces.

By the first week of July, he had a number of fully armed soldiers more than the strength of a rifle company. He and his men had undergone training in combat tactics and target practice,

On September 19, 1942, he led his force and ambushed Japanese soldiers riding on a truck coming from Dao town at Barrio Angub, Cuartero, Capiz, which was a railroad station.

In the said encounter, several enemies were killed except for the two who were seriously wounded. They hid behind the concrete water tank of the railroad station.

Only the arrival of the Japanese reinforcements saved the remaining wounded men from total annihilation.

For the successful operation, Peralta promoted Falco to 1st Lieutenant. When Peralta stayed with Gov. Artuz of the Panay non-Christian tribes in the mountains of Tapaz, Lt. Falco’s company was made as security of Peralta’s Command Post. Moreover, Falco’s ambush was the first blow against the enemy in Capiz.

He was also one of the Company Officers who raided Capiz, now Roxas City, on October 5-7, 1942 and they liberated the Japanese appointed Governor Gabriel K. Hernandez.

He led the K Company, 66th Infantry Combat Team during the final assault of Capiz (Roxas City) from November to December 1944. He was tasked to occupy the Capiz Municipal Hall and the community Hall. On December 20, 1944, he was able to repulse the general attack. The K Company, on the right center of the defensive line, was hard hit. But Falco and his men held their ground and repulsed the enemy.

After Capiz was cleared of the Japanese by early January 1945, the 66th Infantry Combat Team was reassigned to Iloilo to help the other Infantry Combat Team to flush out the enemy. The Battle of Balantang was known to be the bloodiest and the 66th Combat Team was known as the “Fight 66th” for its deadly attrition to the enemies. Falco was the Company Commander of K Company and he led his team and fought valiantly.

On September 8, 2018, seven decades after the war, Falco was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal; his family received the medal on his behalf at the Philippine Consulate, New York City.

The Congressional Gold Medal is an award conferred by the United States Congress. It is Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. The congressional practice of issuing gold medals to occasionally honor recipients from the military began during the American Revolution.

Among the famous recipients of the award are Mother Teresa (1997), Pope John Paul (2000), Navajo Code Talkers (2000), Thomas A. Edison (1928), Walt Disney (1968) among others.

Falco’s heroism is one of the many unheralded exploits and stories that is worthy to be written to remind our young Capisnons of our culture and heritage as freedom-loving people.*