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Saved by the Grace of God

GERRY FISCHER AND ERIVERTO SEPEDA


Part 2


Mr. Hernandez Story


From the earliest days of mankind, there have been wars and warfare. As part of the natural division of labor, men did those jobs that had to be done, but could not be done while rearing children. Women did those jobs that needed to be done, but could be done while rearing children. Hunting, fishing, warfare, erecting houses and protecting the band were the province of men. Nursing children, preparing meals, making clothing and domestic duties became the province of women. In war anytime one tribe or band took over another band’s territory, small contingents of men we call guerrillas, formed to make hit and run attacks on the enemy and often times won. And so, it was when an overwhelming Japanese force took the Philippine Islands. As soon as the Americans were defeated, the Philippine men formed guerrilla forces and began ambushing the Japanese patrols and after inflicting great damage they would melt away into the Philippine jungles, referred to by the native word for jungle, “boondocks.” Many people call our rural wooded areas boondocks without knowing it came home with American soldiers who fought in the Philippines.


In guerrilla warfare, one band does not know the names and members of another band. That way if one band or member is captured, under torture he can only give up his band. The head officers in bands may know two other bands head officers, but they can only give up those people. They fight in cooperation with each other, but for mutual security they don’t know each other. This came to haunt my former brother-in-law’s father, and almost cost him his life.


His name was Gani Hernandez. He was a Philippine native and looked different than most Americans. How good it would be if we could just set aside the difference in appearance and just see what’s inside. Gani’s son and I, got along wonderfully, he taught Karate in California, was a pharmaceutical salesman, and loved Hank Williams. He taught me and my neighbor Willie Stover to break rocks with our hands as we listened to country music and broke them on my front porch. Good times.


Mr. Hernandez, Ganis father, was a guerrilla fighter who hated the Japanese. After the war he became an employee of a timber company who sold teak and mahogany to furniture manufacturers and Mr. Hernandez, would estimate the value of forests before they were cut. They sent him here to explore new markets. His son asked dad to tell me his story.


Mr. Hernandez’s Story


It happened in 1942 on Manilla, out in the boondocks. Mr. Hernandez was an 18-year- old guerrilla fighting the Japanese. He was given a mission to leave a message, a note in a “dead drop,” a hollow log various bands, unknown to each other used to communicate about guerrilla actions. Mr. Hernandez, had not met guerrillas other than in his band. Most of whom were teenagers. Dead drops were used by guerrillas to communicate, and still are for spies, and FBI/CIA agents today. Once a drop is made, usually encoded, the mailman making the drop will go to a designated place, maybe a rock outcropping or dead tree beside a trail, and leave a signal at the signpost that mail is delivered. These signs are inconspicuous things not likely noticed by anyone not in the know. They could be two sticks lain in a way, a pattern of rocks, or a limb broken from a tree. Regularly checked, by a person in that band, the sign would be seen and the mail picked up.


Hernandez dutifully, made the drop, left the signal-sign and was on his way back to his guerrilla band, suddenly he was surrounded by six unknown guerrillas. They questioned him, but not knowing their identity, he said nothing. They could have been Japanese decoys. They took him deeper into the jungle. There he was tried, found guilty of spying and ordered to be shot by firing squad. Tied to a tree five men stood in his front aiming their rifles. The Leader called out, “ready,” “aim.” and just as the guns were about to go off, a man stepped out of the jungle and yelled. “What’s going on here?” The squad stood down waiting the order to fire, when the man who called out, identified Hernandez as a friendly. He was saved between the words, aim and fire and like Fernando, he later married and had a family. But for Grace where would they have been?