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Remembering Col. Jose T. Tando: Remembering Bataan

Remembering Col. Jose T. Tando: Remembering Bataan

A Tribute to Col. Jose T. Tando—a brief biography including his role in the Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March of World War II.

By Lu Sobredo with Coralou Tando Terencio Tribo


There is nothing I treasure in life more than family and family stories. My blog site  normally features travel abroad that showcases the delightful encounters, at times the trials and obstacles transcended while in transit. This essay is somewhat of a departure, although not entirely. The topic is still about travel, a travel in time to honor the life of a celebrated elder, Col. Jose T. Tando. I am honored to make time for family and close friends who are comforting to be around, even in our thoughts. Their stories feed the soul. 

As I’ve grown much older, I have also grown fond of recanting family stories I've heard in my youth. The whole process brings pure raw joy. It creates a feeling of wholeness and of being grounded just knowing the depth of one's family history. There is a handful of us among cousins and aunts who are self-designated guardians of our ancestral oral history.

I could recall family conversations from when I was little which usually took place over dinner or at special gatherings. Most fascinating were those conversations that revolved around our elders. Too young to understand and appreciate the content or substance, yet I remembered feeling safe and loved as I listened. These days, “I just never know what and when something is going to crawl out of one of the dark crevices of what’s left of my mind.” The clever quip is from a long time friend, Alan Rhinehart, during one of our coffee-get-togethers. I liked it so much that I promised to use it in my writing. He was being funny, but what he said resonated with me. Although, my mind’s crevices are not dark, maybe on occasion slightly dimmed, but seemingly still intact. In fact, I dare say a few bright images and narratives are leaping out from the crevices of the old grey matter. And I happily retrieve while I still can, all that I hold dear from my memory bank. 

These days, my husband, our son and close friends have become my audience of choice whenever I get the urge to recall anecdotes and stories about my elders, a manner of celebrating their lives, perhaps a subconscious desire to affirm the precious gift that they were in our lives. Retelling stories about my elders is self-affirmation, a healing act. So I make no apologies for these acts of affirmation and appreciate all who indulge me.
Col. Jose T. Tando, ©Tando Collection
(Photo: First Lieutenant, 1923) 

One of our treasured family members most often spoken about with reverence by my maternal grandmother Maura Tagle Tando and her older sisters, was their first cousin, Col. Jose T. Tando. I called him Lolo, a Filipino title of respect for a grandfather or granduncle. Lolo Jose is my cousin Coralou’s grandfather. He is my beloved grand uncle.

The month of April is especially noteworthy in our family circle. Col. Tando was born on April 5, 1896. I celebrate his life with a prayer and with this essay. The date of April 9, 1942 was the first day of the Bataan Death March. Not only was Col. Tando part of the Bataan Death March and a survivor of the unspeakable ordeal, he played a critical role during the three-month battle of Bataan that preceded the American surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II. This year, 2017, marks the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March.
How does one give a proper tribute to an elder regarded by our family as grander than life? It is high time I peal the layers of the legend my family created in my mind. Apart from the medals and stories of courage and sacrifice, the nine-year-old-self that I was when I last saw him, remembers a tall, serious and incredibly dignified man. He was caring. He appeared strict yet humble. He was loving with a deep sense of loyalty to family. He was a gentle giant who appeared formal, and yet always expressed concern for our well-being.

I am grateful to cousin Coralou for filling in the details of her grandfather’s life. As a guardian of her grandfather’s story, military medals and memorabilia, Coralou happily shares a brief biography of Col. Jose T. Tando, our Lolo Jose. 

Timeline and Narrative by Coralou

Jose T. Tando was born on April 5, 1896 to Braulio Tando and Paula Torres in a seaside village of Baybay, Makato, Capiz (now Aklan) in the Island of Panay, Western Visayas in the Philippines. He is the second child among five siblings. He completed his primary education at Makato Elementary School from 1906-1910, and his Intermediate School (middle school) in Kalibo, Aklan from 1910-1913. He graduated from Capiz High School from 1918-1919. After graduation from high school he applied for a teaching job in one of the schools in Makato. He taught in the Intermediate School for only one year.

Col. Tando’s military career started when he successfully passed the entrance exam for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City in Northern Philippines. The timeline of his military career is as follows:

1919—took the exam for the cadet corps at the PMA (at the time known as Philippine Constabulary Academy in 1901-1935) in Baguio, and passed the exams. Thus, his journey for service to country began.

1923— commissioned as First Lieutenant (1st Lt.) upon graduating from the PMA. He was assigned in Lanao, a province in Mindanao in southern Philippines. During his assignment in Lanao he fought, subdued and later negotiated for the surrender of the rebel groups, the Pulahan Moros under Datu Santiago. For his victory against this rebel group he was awarded three (3) medals: two for military Merit and one for Gallantry in Action. 

1923—married my grandmother Esperanza Zapanta, only daughter of Capt. Escolastico Zapanta and Tomasa Servillas of Pampanga. At that time, Capt. Zapanta was also assigned in Mindanao. He later became the governor of Surigao in southern Philippines. The couple was blessed with five (5) children, all girls: Josefina, Hilda (my mother), Carmen, Lourdes and Cecilia. Unfortunately Lourdes died at a young age.

1929—promoted to the rank of Captain and was appointed Provincial Commander of Cebu, Eastern Visayas.

1932—appointed Deputy Governor of Sulu in southern Philippines. 

1934—appointed as Provincial Commander of Albay, central Luzon. During his term as provincial commander of Albay once again he subdued the revolting Sacdalistas. And for this he was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Conduct.

1936—appointed Provincial Commander of Surigao, southern Philippines. 

1937—appointed Chief of Police of Iloilo, Western Visayas.

1939-1940—appointed Customs Police Chief.

1941—called to active service under the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) when war broke out in December 8, 1941. World War II was looming not only in Europe but in the Pacific region.

1942—appointed as Battalion (BN) Commander of the 1st BN, 1ST PC Regiment, American forces with our Philippine forces which retreated to Bataan. With this new role came a promotion to the rank of Major. In the first opening salvo of the bloody combat on the hills of Bataan, my grandfather was wounded in action, therefore, his superior concerned for his safety ordered him to return to base for treatment. And on January 24, 1942 he was awarded the Purple Heart.

On February 1942 he returned to action in the hills of Bataan. It was this second wave of a bloody battle with the Japanese troops that almost cut the size of his battalion due to machine gun fire.  It was then when Jose Tando made a decision to end this impasse. Otherwise, he would lose more of his men. Jose Tando personally crawled his way until he reached the enemy’s bunker and threw a hand grenade that directly killed the Japanese machine gunner. The battle ended with our forces winning against the enemy. This battle which came to be known as “The Battle of the Points,” was among the fiercest one to be lodged in the annals of Philippine military history.

For Jose Tando’s heroic acts, on the recommendation of the USAFFE), Commander Gen. Douglas McArthur, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in the field, and later the Service Cross. He was also promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel.

1944 to 1945—assigned as BN Commander of USAFFE with its mission to pursue the fleeing Japanese Forces in Luzon under Gen. Yamashita, during the last waning days of the war in the Pacific. 

1946 to 1949--After the war ended, my grandfather began a new chapter in his life. On July 4, 1946, the Americans granted the Philippines its independence with Manuel A. Roxas as the first president of the Republic of the Philippines. Col. Tando was assigned as the BN Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion. Now known as the Presidential Security Group (PSG), its main task is to protect the President of the Republic of the Philippines. By this time, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and he also passed the Philippine Bar Exam.

1950—retired from military service.

1951—was a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party of the Philippines. 

1952 to 1964--was a President of the Philippine Army Retirees Association. Its membership consisted of Retired Army Officers, up to the rank of General. He also practiced law at this time period.

1965-1970—appointed Board of Director of the Philippine Veterans Bank.

1974—joined his Creator on February 07, 1974. 

On orders by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Col. Tando was given full military honors in Camp Aguinaldo—headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at MalacaƱang Palace—official residence and workplace of the President of the Philippines; and at his funeral in his hometown Makato, Aklan. 

To me, my grandfather’s life is like a fairy tale: an ordinary man with a simple dream to serve his country became a hero. 


Our beloved Lolo Jose lived honorably. When my husband James and I attended a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, we did so, knowing full well our participation was personal. Col. Tando, our Lolo Jose, was very much on our minds. Held on April 8, 2017 at the Presidio in San Francisco, the event was a grand tribute to Filipino and American heroes. I was filled with much affection and pride during the ceremony. After all I was representing my elders who are now in heaven, and my Tando family in the Philippines, the U.S. and other parts of the world who couldn’t be there. Keenly aware that so many suffered and lost their lives, I couldn’t hold back the tears while watching a short film that I believe was an actual footage from the war. Our Lolo Jose suffered during the Bataan March and fortunately for us, he came back from the war, wounded but alive. Thousands were not so fortunate. J. Harr of the Associated Press wrote: “More than 80 percent who were forced to march were Filipino.”

It was most fitting that the 75th Anniversary was held at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, the military training grounds and the last stop for soldiers before their deployment to the Pacific theater in World War II. Cold downpour on a rainy and windy Sunday did not dampen the celebration for our heroes. Present at the event were: four surviving veterans who marched in Bataan and are now in the U.S., many descendants of veterans who also marched in Bataan, the Consul General from the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, Assemblyman Rob Bonta--first Filipino American in the California Legislature, and several civilian and military dignitaries among whom were three U.S. Generals. It was no small feat to pull off such an event in grand scale. The commemoration was organized by the impassioned and dedicated effort of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. Led by Cecilia Gaerlan, executive director of the Berkeley-based organization, she too, is a descendant of a Filipino soldier in the Bataan Death March.

I truly admire the Bataan Legacy Historical Society and its goals: “To include this seminal part of World War II history in the history/social sciences curriculum in high schools throughout the United States. To document the stories of WWII veterans and survivors in the Philippines.” My husband Dr. James Sobredo, a professor in California, is a member of this all important non-profit organization. His commitment to the Bataan Legacy project is a family commitment made personal because of my grand uncle Col. Jose T. Tando. We feel much love and pride for Lolo Jose. We feel much gratitude for his sacrifices and service to his country. We miss him so very much.

Family, friends and readers have an opportunity to support the Bataan Legacy Historical Society through involvement and donation. I hope that many would agree that it's time to help bring the Bataan Legacy goals to fruition. I invite one and all to visit their Facebook page, @Bataan Legacy, and website:

The Bataan Death March in the Philippines during WWII is part of U. S. History. It must be told and taught as such. I know that Coralou and I will continue to tell the stories of heroism by our elders whose voices are no longer around. Their voices must be heard through us, their descendants.

Medals and Awards


Harr, J. (2017, April April 8). Filipino Bataan Death March Survivors Marks 75 Anniversary. The Associated Press. Retrieved from

©Essay by Lu Sobredo. Guest Co-Writer: Corazon Lourdes Tando Terencio Tribo.

©Photos of some of Col. Tando's Medals and Awards are from the personal collection of Coralou Tando Terencio Tribo.

Guest Co-Editor: Adrian Sobredo 

Photos and Bio: 
Published with permission granted by Coralou Tando Terencio Tribo. 


  1. Some of my family members said, they tried posting a comment but couldn't. Here is one of the comments from my cousin who co-wrote this essay, Coralou Terencio Tribo: "Manang thank you for this beautiful blog."

  2. Thank you for posting this. Col. Tando is one of the most be-medalled soldiers in World War 2. It is high time that his story be told.
    My special area of interest has been the pre-war Phil. Constabulary and the medals awarded..His name cropped up as an awardee of the prestigious PC Distinguished Service Star while still a lieutenant. That is unusual as only higher ranked officers usually receive such honor.
    I was wondering if his old PC medals are still in your possession. The medals you posted are all for his heroic actiins in Bataan.

    1. Hello Dr. Bermudez: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. My granduncle Col Tando's story is important for me to share. I have also encouraged his only granddaughter to write about his life and I am inspired to help her turn it into a book. We both don't know much about the details of our elder's role in WW II except for what little has been written. The medals in the blog are to accompany the remembrance of the Battle of Bataan and Bataan March. As far as I know my cousin is the guardian of the rest of the possessions. Thank you for your deep interest.


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