The Battle of Balete Pass
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Towards the end of the pacific theatre of World War II, one of the most iconic points of the conflict happened in the town of Santa Fe. Immediately, to anyone from Nueva Vizcaya, this would be all too familiar; it is none other than Dalton Pass formerly known as Balete Pass. After the liberation of Manila by the allied forces, the commander of the Japanese forces in the Philippines, General Yamashita Tomoyuki, ordered his troops to move north. Not long after, the Japanese army, the Americans, the Filipinos, and the Chinese Overseas Hsuehkan militia engaged in what would be known as the pivot point for the Battle of Luzon.
The conflict began in February and lasted all the way up to May 31 when the allied forces took control of the pass. The battle ultimately took the lives of 7,750 Japanese soldiers, 685 Americans, and 285 Filipino infantrymen. One of the casualties was Brigadier General James Leo Dalton II. He was shot by a Japanese sniper during the fighting; Balete Pass was then to be renamed after him as a testament to his legacy and honour. General Yamashita surrendered on September 2, 1945 in Kiangan, Ifugao the day the Japanese instrument of surrender was signed by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Empire of Japan, Shigemitsu Mamoru.
The tale of the Battle of Balete Pass shows the magnitude of the consequences of war. The relationship between Japan and the Philippines remained strained for more than a decade after the conflict. The two countries did not resume full diplomatic relations until 1956, when the reparations treaty was signed. Even so, the uneasy relationship between Filipinos and Japanese was evident. Just two years prior, the Japanese delegation to the Asian games in Manila, were met with several angry Filipinos.
Nowadays, most Filipinos (~81%) will have a positive view towards Japan. This shows that reconciliation efforts by the Japanese and Filipino governments proved to be effective. One of these diplomatic maneuvers were missions by the Japanese government to locate children in the Philippines born to Japanese soldiers during the war. During one of those delegations, a former military officer and by then, the current mayor of Gonohe, Aomori Prefecture, Kawasaki Yoshio, decided to visit Balete Pass and Bayombong to pay respect to his fallen comrades and to those who have lost their lives during the war. Two decades after his first visit to Bayombong as a civilian, he and his new Filipino friends founded what would be the sister city relationship between Bayombong and Gonohe.
May 10 to 13 is the official commemoration period of the Battle of Balete Pass as per the decree of then President Fidel Ramos. There are three memorials located in the current tourism complex of Dalton Pass: the National Shrine honouring the fallen Filipinos and Americans, the Chinese memorial honouring the fallen Chinese and Chinese-Filipinos, and the Japanese memorial honouring the fallen Japanese.
Moshe, Komata. “1964 Olympic Legacy: Milestone For Reconciliation in Manila.” NHK, 21 February 2021, https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/1514/. Accessed 22 February 2021.
Roque, Anselmo. “Cagayan Valley's Killer Highway is Where Heroes Died Too.” The Philipine Daily Inquirer, 10 May 2017, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/895603/cagayan-valleys-killer-highway-is-where-heroes-died-too. Accessed 22 February 2021.
Stokes, Bruce. “How Asia Pacific Publics See Each Other and Their National Leaders.” Pew Research, Pew Research, 2 September 2015, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2015/09/02/how-asia-pacific-publics-see-each-other-and-their-national-leaders/#:~:text=Japan%20enjoys%20a%20relatively%20positive,a%20favorable%20opinion%20of%20Japan.&text=Just%2012%25%20of%20Chinese%20and,express%20favo. Accessed 22 February 2022.
Battle of Balete Pass: https://49fe30bb3aa7406c16dc-5c968119d095dc32d807923c59347cc2.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/2008.354.431_1.jpg
Surrender of Japan: https://www.stripes.com/polopoly_fs/1.360362.1438765909!/image/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/landscape_804/image.JPG
General Yamashita Tomoyuki: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Yamashita_Tomoyuki.jpg