It was here at Caunayan Bay that the U.S. Navy forged a bond of friendship with guerrilla fighters and “Bolomen.” The latter were ordinary citizen who resisted occupation forces through their assistance to the guerrillas. Bolomen were so named because their only weapons were bolos (a type of machete) and pointed bamboo lances. It is here that in 2007, a group comprised of the STINGRAY Friendship Foundation, the National Historical Institute, and the Departments of Tourism and Education placed a memorial to that bond. Known as the “STINGRAY Memorial,” it commemorates the 20-some U.S. submarines that supplied the resistance fighters of Northern Luzon and performed other “classified” missions.
The memorial itself (named after USS STINGRAY) is constructed of marble, stone and pebble. A 500-kilo anchor sits atop it, signifying the anchor “cut loose” by the crew of USS STINGRAY (and eight other anchors similarly cut loose by their submarines) on one of their last missions. This emergency action allowed USS STINGRAY (and the other eight submarines) to avoid detection and evade approaching Japanese vessels via a “quick get away.”
The memorial pays tribute to the guerrillas and Bolomen, and crews of the U.S. submarines who delivered arms, ammunition, medicine and supplies. An example is the above-mentioned mission of USS STINGRAY. It offloaded six tons of arms and supplies and a 15-man Fil-Am commando team just six weeks prior to the “return” invasion at Leyte. A Filipino veteran recalls that without those arms and supplies, they would not have been able to liberate Northern Luzon.
Getting to the memorial (a site that also is good for diving and surfing, conditions permitting) is a scenic trip in itself. The memorial sits in a 10-hectare coconut grove, along the white sand beach. Reaching the coconut grove requires a drive (or serious hike) from the National Highway on a semi-paved provincial road. The drive goes through a valley and over a “short” mountain heading toward the beach. There was no signage when we visited – just the road and the adventure of following it to its end at the coconut grove. The beach and the coconut grove are similarly scenic. Pristine waters lap the white-sanded shores. Ten hectares of coconut trees provide wonderful shade from the heat of the sun as well as fresh coconuts.
Along the drive are beautiful vistas, and agricultural villages and fields. Carabao serve as tractor, truck and sports car here – they easily glide around some of the tighter curves in the road.
Additional pictures finish this article but not the story. More can be learned from the Bolomen website.