AGELESS. Centenarian Dr. Jose Javier before the ivory Christ: Javier reaches out to kiss the Rector’s hand as he receives a special medallion;  Javier’s wife, Filomena, gives him a warm peck on the cheek. Photos by JAIME T. CAMPOS and JILSON SECKLER C. TIu

THE OLDEST living Thomasian is more than a century old. At 102, Dr. Jose Javier is a living witness to one of the darkest moments in Philippine history, the Fall of Bataan in the Pacific War and the ensuing “Death March.”

Born in Laoag, Ilocos Norte in February 1911, Lolo Jose took his pre-medicine course in Letran and pursued medicine in UST back when it was still in Intramuros.

He became a full-fledged doctor in 1934, specializing in general medicine and minor surgery. Following this, he immediately applied for a six-week military training for active duty at Camp Murphy.

While on duty in Cotabato, he was among the commanding officers of the newly established medical cadres.

He was released from active duty after three years. However, he and his colleagues were recalled soon after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Lolo Jose was among those deployed to the Lingayen Gulf where a bomb reportedly exploded.

The bridges were burning, the smell of coal hung in the air, the silence became deafening, and everything was pitch-dark, save for the candle light quivering in a church not so far way. Lolo Jose and his troop had to move to Bataan where all United States Army Forces Far East units converged, as they had to conform to a strategy against the invaders.

Bataan was then described as a place where an enemy could not escape. They were confident enough to withhold the enemies until reinforcement arrived from the US.

But soon enough, their defense weakened. Lolo Jose and his men began to lose hope. At one point, they were out of food and had to eat horses that died in combat.

The Quadricentennial Pavilion

The artillery emplacement, which they used to deter the Japanese from advancing, was discovered by enemy planes, and it was then that Bataan met its downfall.

Death March

They were held captive and forced to walk from Bataan to Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac without any food or water. Thousands of war prisoners, both Americans and Filipinos, either died of starvation or were killed by bayonet stabs in this infamous incident that would be dubbed the “Death March.”

“All of [my credentials] did not matter during the war,” he said. “The Japanese did not care if I was a doctor. I was still just someone from the enemy line.”

Despite the struggle, Lolo Jose successfully endured such attrition because of his faith and strong desire to see his family again. After making it to Camp O’Donnel, he was released in August 1942.

Two years after working as a military doctor for the US army in Okinawa, Japan, he was discharged from the military for good.

Family man

Upon his return to the Philippines, Lolo Jose married his sweetheart, Filomena Javier, a Fine Arts alumna in UST, and they had nine children. Three of the kids followed in his footsteps and also took up medicine at UST.

With everything he has gone through, Lolo Jose shares that the secrets to his long existence are his faith and family.

“[My secret to a long life is] praying. By the time that my wife gave birth to our last child, I was already 60. Because of this, I kept on praying for twenty more years just so I can see all of my children grow up,” he said. “God has been good to me. He gave me even more than what I asked for.” Brylle B. Tabora and Marnee A. Gamboa


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