By: Demy P. Sonza
(In a privilege speech before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Iloilo on April 3, 2018, Board Member Demy P. Sonza paid honor to Natividad Sanglap Mallari, an unsung patriot from San Joaquin, Iloilo.)
MARCH, the “International Women’s Month,” has passed, but I take the floor to speak about Natividad “Nati” Sanglap Mallari. She was an unsung Ilongga patriot and outstanding lady.
Around this time, 76 years ago, the American-Filipino defense of Bataan was crumbling. Five days later, April 9, 1942, Bataan fell. About 76,000 Filipino and American soldiers who surrendered were forced to go on the “Death March” from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac where they were held in a concentration camp. En route, some 21,000 soldiers died from execution, wounds, disease, dehydration, and starvation.
Among the soldiers who reached Capas were two brothers of Nati—Severo and EusebioSanglap. After the Fall of Bataan, two other brothers of hers—Vicente and Eliseo—who fought in Iloilo, did not surrender to the Japanese. Instead, they joined the Panay guerrillas under Col. Macario Peralta.
Nati Sanglap was from Iloilo where she was born on Sept. 8, 1908. She obtained the Bachelor of Education from the University of the Philippines with double majors in English and Library Science. She married the well-known writer I.V. Mallari, but they separated not long after the birth of their daughter Vita. Since 1932 up to the outbreak of World War II, she worked as librarian at the Legislative Service Office Library.
One day, later in April 1943, Nati received a note from her brother Severo, asking her to support the underground resistance movement. Fired with patriotic fervor, Nati joined the underground group under Col. Emmanuel Baja. She agreed to be the paymaster of some guerilla units. She raised funds, smuggled “genuine” Philippine money, collected supplies, including arms and ammunition for the guerrillas.
Nati’s house on Merced St. in Pasay became the center of a wide network of resistance activities. For some four months, Nati’s work went well. Around September, however, the Japanese became suspicious and put her under surveillance. Finally, on the evening of Sabbath, Oct. 19, 1942, the enemy raided her house and found plenty of “genuine money,” a radio, and incriminating papers, including a list of the names of guerillas.
The Japanese placed Nati under arrest. As the Kempetai was leading her out of the house, her nine-year old Vita called to her, “Mama, I put my trust in God and I do not fear what man can do to me.” It was the memory verse she learned in Sabbath School that morning.
Nati was taken to Fort Santiago, the place where Jose Rizal was incarcerated before his execution. Nati had heard that the Japanese had executed many people inside the fort. Verses from Rizal’s poem, “My Last Farewell” came to her mind:
Pray for all the hapless who have died in the night…
For all who have endured the inscrutable pain…
At Fort Santiago, Nati was held for several weeks and tortured repeatedly. Instead of giving up hope, she took the excruciating experience as God’s way of making her go to Him, and Nati accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior and Master. She fully surrendered herself to God.
While in prison, Nati offered to do some chores, and she was made to do laundry work. One Saturday, when she refused to wash clothes, some Japanese soldiers asked why, and she took the opportunity to explain to them the law of God. That started her ministry among her jailers.
From time to time, Nati’s fellow prisoners were handed down the death sentence and taken out for execution. One day, she, too, was sentenced to die. As she heard the verdict, once again, Rizal’s words came to her mind:
Where I go there are no slaves, executioners or oppressors,
Where faith never kills and God rules supreme.
With her faith unshaken, Nati rejoiced in the prospect of her martyrdom. She prayed to God:
Let me die for my country if that is Your will. I know my death will not be the end. Though they may take my life, they cannot take it forever. In the resurrection morning, when You come in the clouds with myriads of Your angels, I will rise again. I will come forth to go to the land that will always be bright with Your presence, where all will be joy and peace at last. Lord, I am ready. Your will be done.
But God did not will Nati to die. The Japanese did not execute her. Instead, because of her mastery of English and Spanish and sufficient knowledge of Japanese, Nati was made translator of documents for the Japanese.
Nati was released from Fort Santiago in early December and on the first Sabbath after her release, she was baptized into the Seventh Day Adventist Church. She next taught at the Philippine Union College where she also served as registrar.
To make the Philippines a part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of the Empire of Japan, the Japanese Military organized the “Philippine Republic” with Jose P. Laurel as president. One day, Nati Mallari was invited to Malacañang to see President Laurel. The President told her about his program to improve food production in the country and asked her to help. She agreed and so she and Vita went home to San Joaquin, Iloilo, to help in the food production program.
Nati and Vita were in Iloilo when Liberation came. Free, at last, they returned to Manila. On learning that many Japanese were held prisoners in Muntinlupa, she volunteered to minister to them, teaching them about God and His love. She conducted a Bible study class and many Japanese soldiers, including her former torturers, came to know Jesus before they were executed or sent back to Japan.
With the coming of peace, Nati Mallari returned to Philippine Union College. Aside from teaching and serving as librarian, she became the liaison officer for the college, especially with the Bureau of Private Schools. In 1951, she was named liaison officer for the North and South Philippine Missions of the Seventh Day Adventists. Mrs. Mallari was largely responsible for the acquisition of 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) of land in Bukidnon that became the site of the Mountain View College. A good fundraiser, it was she who introduced Dr. A. N. Nelson, the president of Philippine Union College,to TirsoJamandre, Sr. of Iloilo who contributed about 40% of the money used to buy the land.
Interestingly, TirsoJamandre, Jr. became the husband of Nati’s daughter who is now Vita Mallari Jamandre of La Paz, Iloilo City.
Nati Mallari, ever eager to be a good worker in God’s vineyard, got a degree in Religion at age 64, and never ceased to serve all her years. She last served as lay pastor of the Leganes SDA Church in Leganes, Iloilo. The Lord called her home on July 15, 1985.
Long live the memory of Natividad Sanglap Mallari!
To God be the glory.