As a child, one of my cheap thrills was visiting my father's office
the eight floor of the insular Life building in Makati. I would wait
for him to leave the room, then I would climb out the window and walk on
the ledge. I looked down at the cars, which appeared as small as my
toys, on the intersection of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas. When my mother
discovered this recently, she shrieked, "Naku, kung nalaman ko lang
iyoon, gulpi ang inabot mo!" Laughingly, I promptly reminded her of the
irony of the tragedy after I had fallen and splattered my brains on
Ayala Avenue. They only thing she would be able to do was cry. But if
I was discovered safe and sound, why would I be beaten up?
History acts in a similar way when it comes to remembering people.
the attempt of someone to kill a president is successful, then both
names of the victim and the murderer enter our history books; if not
both, both can be forgotten. Who remembers now the historical marker on
Hole 7 of the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club where Laurel was shot,
almost fatally, on June 5, 1943.
Depending on the person telling the story, or the book one is reading,
Laurel sustained two, three, four, or even five shots. For this
column's purposes, I will use what Doy Laurel told Nick Joaquin -- that
"one bullet, caliber .45, had missed his heart by a fraction of an inch.
Another bullet just missed the liver. One bullet hit his clavicle and
broke it and another bullet hit him in the groin just under the balls."
Fortunately, doctors were among his golfing partners, so he was attended
to promptly before he was rushed to PGH where the best Filipino
surgeons, as well as the Chief Military Surgeon of the Japanese Military
Administration, operated on him. Laurel survived to receive letters and
telegram of sympathy. The Japanese premier even sent him a bonsai pine
tree, but this did not lessen the physical pain nor the sorrow the
innocent Wack Wack caddies who were beaten up by the police to extract
information from the. A couple of "suspects" were swiftly, but wrongly,
executed for the crime by the hated "Kempetai." Who was the Whitman?
The late Teodoro A. Agoncillo, in his classic two-volume work on the
Japanese period, The Fateful Years, cites a Tribune news item
identifying the gunman as a certain Capt. Palma Martin who had acted on
instructions of Col. Enrique Arce of the ROTC Guerilla unit. This goes
against Laurel's own admission that the would-be assassin was a
former-boxer-turned-guerilla Felicano Lizardo of Pasig, alias "Little
He was actually presented to the bedridden president for identification,
but Laurel asked that Little Jo be release, feigning that he could not
remember things clearly. When the Japanese told Laurel of Little Jo's
confession, he shrugged and said, "Anyone will admit to anything under
torture." Laurel did not want to add more statistic to the list of
people executed by the kempetai for the failed assassination. Imagine
saving the life of a man who only days before, had almost taken your
Even the reason for the shooting was clouded in gossip. Was it
Laurel was considered pro-Japanese by the guerrillas? Then why not the
more outspoken ones, like Benigno Aquino, Sr., or Jorge Vargas? Perhaps
the assassination was connected to the dismissal of a judge and a jockey
in a rigged -- and lucrative -- San Lazaro horse race? History has not
yet made the motive for the attack clear. You see how arbitrary history
can be when she is not interested in remembering someone or something.
Nevertheless, the interesting twist to this little episode happened
after the war when Laurel was imprisoned in Muntinglupa as a war
criminal. Doy Laurel described Little Jo as being "lean, dark, kinky
haired, like a mestizo-negro." What on earth is a mestizo negro?
Little Jo visited the ex-president and this time, with no kempetai
around, took responsibility for the shooting and asked for forgiveness.
Laurel said, "I had forgiven you long ago."
Moved by utang ng loob, Little Jo served as one of Laurel's bodyguards
from the 1949 Presidential Elections until Laurel's death in 1959.
During the funeral, Little Jo, now forgotten by history cried like a
child who had lost a father
17 March 1993
Ambeth R. Ocampo, "Bonifacio's Bolo," Anvil Publishing Inc., 1995