WW2 hero succumbs to COVID-19 in Tarlac

John Mark Guda, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 07:15 PM | Updated as of Mar 31 2020 07:44 PM

Pablo Santos Jr., a World War 2 veteran and local hero of Bamban town, Tarlac, succumbed to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Courtesy of the Bamban Museum of History

BAMBAN, Tarlac – A World War 2 veteran and local hero of this town succumbed to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), his relatives confirmed Tuesday.

Pablo Santos, Jr., 93, died on March 29 at 12:45 p.m., a day after he tested positive for COVID-19, his grandson John Andrew Cura told ABS-CBN News.

"We are saddened and heartbroken with the demise of our dad, but we are happy that he is now reunited with our mom, and he is with the loving hands of our Creator," Santos' family said in a statement. 

Before his death, Santos would frequent the St. Raphael Foundation and Medical Center in Mabalacat City, Pampanga due to emphysema. 

He was rushed to the hospital on March 17 after experiencing breathing difficulty. He was then transferred to the intensive care unit, where he died.

Santos, born on December 7, 1926, was the youngest guerilla fighter who enlisted to be part of the resistance movement during the Japanese Occupation in 1941, according to Rhonie Dela Cruz, curator of the Bamban Museum of History.

He was part of Company A of the Bamban Batallion attached to the 185th Infantry of the 86th Division of the United States Army Forces in the Far East that was stationed in Tarlac to fight Japanese invaders.

In 1944, Pablo’s detached team penetrated the Bamban Airfield, which was considered to be one of the largest Japanese Airfields in the Pacific. They entered the gasoline depot and rolled out drums of fuel, burning the depot and escaping into the fields without being detected by Japanese Guards.

After the war, Santos went on to serve in the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP). He also became chief of the PC-INP in Bamban for about 36 years.

Cura said he would miss how his grandfather would tell stories on how they would take rifles from the Japanese Army so they could use them in battle. He said he would miss his grandpa's warm demeanor the most.

Santos’ remains were immediately cremated in Tarlac City, following government protocol for COVID-19 fatalities.

His relatives who were exposed to him before he died were placed under home quarantine.

The family extended their appreciation to all who condoled with them.

"We hope that our fellowmen remember our dad on how he lived his life and not the way he passed away. Our dad's love for our country is unfathomable. He risked his life as a Bruce Guerilla for our freedom, he selflessly served our people and our country as a chief of police for almost 40 years with passion and dedication," the family said.