Pedro Nacional

The soldier from Miag-ao

(left) Pedro M. Nacional as an army private in 1937 (26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts) and (right) as sergeant major (US Army)

(left) Pedro M. Nacional as an army private in 1937 (26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts) and (right) as sergeant major (US Army)

During a private lunch with the visiting Nacional family in Sulu Garden sometime in April 2018, the first statement from Empee (Emperatriz Nacional Abagat) about her uncle Pedro stuck in my mind. She said, “Wherever uncle Pedro was, no matter what continent he might be in, when someone asked where was from, uncle Pedro will always say that he was from Miag-ao.” I think that he missed his hometown, but destiny had other plans for him. Empee entrusted me with the unpublished military memoirs of Pedro Nacional and a photo album, both of which can be viewed electronically at the bottom of this article.

I first took notice of Pedro in the book by Elias N. Failagao and posted his profile in our Facebook group, Historic Miag-ao @ Sulu Garden.  With 42 military medals and having fought in WW II, Korean War and Vietnam War, I was surprised that his name was relatively unknown in Miag-ao except in his own barangay (Brgy. Palaca, derived from the word ‘malaka’ meaning ‘place where the houses are far apart’).

Click image to read the full text

At the age of 17 in 1939 he went to Luzon to enlist in the Philippine Scouts (26th Cavalry).  Less than two years later, he was in the battlefields of Bataan fighting the Japanese.  With the Fall of Bataan in 1942, he was among the thousands who was on the infamous Death March to imprisonment in Capas, Tarlac.  His accounts of the death march in the book below, written by Pedro Nacional on April 9, 1968, is among the many harrowing first person stories of this sad event.

Pedro Nacional is credited as the first soldier to escape Death March on April 14, 1942 by running across the field towards a sugar cane plantation with other soldiers during the changing of the Japanese guards. It seemed that he was the only survivor of that mad dash to freedom.

About this escape, Pedro wrote:

2 escape from Death March

Click image to read the full text

With the help of sympathetic families despite the threat of execution by the Japanese, he made his way back to Manila to join the guerillas under the command of Col. Hugh Straughn, a retired US regular army officer tasked by Gen. MacArthur to start guerilla forces in Luzon.  He took the oath on May 5, 1942 as a 1st lieutenant in charge of Army Intelligence.  By 1943, the price on his head was P 8,000 dead or alive. During the raid to take arms and ammunition in the Japanese garrison in the Old Fort McKinley on January 1, 1944, Pedro was apprehended as a suspected guerilla and taken to Fort Santiago.  There, he was tortured, but finally released.  It took Pedro seven months to recover from the torture in the guerrilla jungle hospital in Zambales province.

On his last day of torture, Pedro wrote in his personal memoir:

3 tortured in Ft Santiago

Click image to read the full text

Upon his recovery, he rejoined the guerillas to clear the minefields off the beaches and kill Japanese soldiers in Zambales to pave the way for the landing of American troops in the re-conquest of Bataan in 1945.  He served many times as aide to Gen. MacArthur during the campaign to liberate the Philippines.  After the war, Philippine Scouts were automatically naturalized as American citizens.  Pedro Nacional was the first of the Philippine Scouts to be sworn in as citizen of the United States and received orders to join another unit in Fort Meade, Maryland (USA) in 1949.  He remained in the army and was in both the Korean war and the Vietnam War.  He retired with great honors as sergeant major.

Though his battle honors and sacrifice for love of country did not happen in his place of birth, Pedro Nacional represented the spirit of Miag-ao wherever fate had taken him.  The procession of San Pedro from Brgy Palaca during Lenten Season was a tradition each year in his honor and as remembrance of the ordeal in Fort Santiago.  Though not included in his memoirs, Pedro’s niece, Empee, related the story from Pedro after the war that every time the Japanese tortured him, Pedro saw images of St. Peter before he passed out from the pain.


—Jonathan R. Matias and Allanah Lorella —


The carriage of San Pedro on its way from Palaca to Miag-ao Church making its way over the Spanish Bridge.

The carriage of San Pedro on its way from Palaca to Miag-ao Church making its way over the Spanish Bridge.


To read his wartime memoirs and surviving pictures of Pedro Nacional please click on the images below:


pedro nacional autobiography-cover

Memoirs of Pedro M. Nacional

pedro nacional photo collection

Photo Album