Columns Gems of History

Massacre in Paco

The late Co Tec Tai (許澤台), legal name Ong Yong, father of Tulay columnist Dr. Willie Ong, shared a true story about an incident he witnessed during the Japanese occupation of Manila during World War II. He narrated the story in an article he wrote in 1994 in memory of his uncle Co Liong Peng (許良楓), his father’s cousin and his leader in the anti-Japanese movement.
Co lived and worked in Paco, Manila. During the three-year Japanese occupation, he joined the underground anti-Japanese movement. He was still in his teens.
One day, in 1945, the Japanese bandits informed all the Chinese to go to the theater beside Paco Market for a meeting. Co and his companion thought nothing good would happen, so they did not attend. At the same time, they advised their compatriots to avoid going if possible. They went to a remote area and hid there.
That afternoon, they heard several big explosions coming from the theater. Without knowing what happened, they already sensed the gravity of the situation. Afterward, they realized the Japanese had buried bombs inside the theater and deceived the Chinese into entering the theater. When all the doors were closed, the bombs ignited, killings hundreds of Chinese who were trapped inside.
After the bombing, the Japanese aggressors and their Taiwanese mercenaries used bayonets and bamboo spears to poke each body. They shot dead those who were still alive.
Later on, when the American army landed in Central Luzon, the Japanese bandits burned down all the houses in Paco before they retreated. Japanese invaders committed many atrocities in their three years of Philippine occupation. Unfortunately, this massacre of hundreds of Chinese in Paco is seldom mentioned and unknown to many.
Co Tec Tai was 16 when he came to the Philippines in 1940. He was 87 when he passed away in 2009. (Source: Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 28, no. 18 (February 16-29, 2016): 5.)