Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cata-al Japanese/U.S. War Museum

There are many out of the way yet very worthwhile attractions to see in and around Dumaguete. One of the most unique and interesting is the Cata-al Japanese/American World War 2 museum in Valencia. The small private museum is proudly run by Porforia Cata-al, an 84 year old World War two veteran. Porforia fought for the U.S. in a division trained by General Douglas MacArthur before the Japanese invaded in 1942. Cata-al is an intensely proud and patriotic man, eager to share his stories and personal history. I will leave the stories for you to hear first hand, only to add that many are highly embellished tales of things as esoteric as Yamashita’s gold, secret bunkers, and spy stories related to Philippine heroism during the conflict. He conducts a personal tour through the museum located in a downstairs room of his house. Unable to walk well, he nevertheless is enthusiastic and very sharp mentally. At one point while showing me some memorabilia from the era, he pushed a small button on a plastic model of Iwo Jima complete with American flag. A tinny rendition of the Star Spangled Banner started to play; Porforia stood at attention and sang every word. It was moving, and although I am not overly patriotic, I joined him for a bar or two. A man with a good sense of humor, he joked about a friend who is dead 60 years and still gets his army pension. Porforia said,” I get none, but I don’t complain, because I am still alive.”
The museum is full of all kinds of relics, many duplicated 40 times over. Mess kits, ordinance, personal effects, grenades, and more. Certain items, such as a gun removed from a crashed Japanese Zero fighter, and three 1000 pound bombs were very impressive.
As our visit was wrapping up we made a donation in the box by the door and were greeted by Porforia’s son who was just returning from work. The Jr. Cata-al, it turns out is the recovery expert and has personally brought down all the relics from the mountain battlefield. He is also a consummate local historian and avid World War 2 enthusiast. Needless to say if you have similar interests you will not have a short visit! He recounted stories of how it took 20 men to drag the 1000 pound unexploded bombs down the mountain. We moved back inside and the Jr. Cata-al showed us his most recent finds. These were the human remains of some 10 Japanese soldiers. It was a little off putting at first, but at the same time interesting. Cata-al explained that as these remains are discovered, they are sent back to Japan for burial, so in a sense he is providing comfort for the families whose long lost relatives were killed here so many years ago. Perhaps they get compensated, but certainly it is deserved, as it is evident they live modestly.
In Valencia, the museum is on the main road from Dumaguete, on the right side just before the first in town cross street. Just shout Hiyo! And you will be beckoned in past the gate.


Benjamin said...

hello there came across your website, pretty interesting with the things going on there over in valencia..just wanna know where is it? in the philipines? hope you could post a reply as i really wanna know.. thanks alot..

-Benjamin Lim

nathalie said...

valencia negros oriental philippines