On Tuesday of the final week, Father Donato Guimbaiolibot watched with dismay as the occupation transformed from a relatively peaceful one to the abusive and tense situation that now prevailed. Earlier that day he had attempted to talk about it to Connell but was curtly dismissed. Although he didn’t know the details of the meeting that had taken place the day before among the town’s leadership, he knew full well there were rumblings in the town of an attack, and he could hardly blame the townsfolk if that were to be the path they chose. What would his own role be in such an event? Then Pedro Duran approached him and warned him that an attack was coming, and was planned for Saturday.
Later that day, Father Donato left the town in a banca piloted by Fulgencio Campanero on a journey that would eventually take him all the way to Calbayog.
Cassiana Nacionales was sick at heart over the turn of events and knew, with a feeling of utter dread, that something horrible was approaching. She prayed fervently for some kind of divine intervention, even as she found herself being drawn into the plan.
Her brother was among those in the Sibley tents, which meant that she was among the women who were allowed once a day to bring food to the prisoners. It was decided by Abanador and Duran that she would act as the clandestine liaison with the prisoners, passing messages to them through her brother at mealtime.
She resolved to try and warn Betron in a way that would not compromise the plan. For days she awaited an opportunity, and then in the early evening as he was standing near the sari-sari store on the street level of the Belaez house, she caught his eye and willed him to approach her, which he did. Then in simple words from the heart she implored him to do something to stop the mistreatment of the town before there was bloodshed. He listened, then shook his head sadly.
“There’s nothing I can do.”
“You must do something.”
Then, worried that her presence talking to the American would be noticed, she turned and walked down the street in the direction of her family’s home.
That night, final preparations were made at a meeting in Tarusan, north of Balangiga, with Daza. The town presidente Abayan headed the meeting and among those present were Valeriano Abanador, Mariano Valdenor, Vice Mayor Andronico Belaez, Pedro Duran, Juan Salazar, and Evangelista Gabornes. Paul Gacho, the teniente del barrio of Lawaan, the largest barrio town, was also there. Once again, Cassiana Nacionales was the only woman in attendance.
The details of the attack itself were the subject of much intense discussion. Abanador and Daza took the lead. The challenge was considerable. Even though the plan was to attack the Americans while at breakfast when many would be concentrated in the mess area behind the tribunal, at least seven Americans — the guards — would have their weapons in hand, and altogether there were five separate areas that had to be neutralized before any of the other Americans got to their weapons.
Commanders were chosen and put in charge of the various attacking forces.
Pedro Abayan and Eugenio Daza would put in charge of the first company whose role would be to form a defensive perimeter and protect the few non-combatants who would would still be in the town and would gather at a designated location. The second company was put under the leadership of tax collector Benito Canillas and Artemio Belaez. The third company was under Pedro Abite, the teniente del barrio of Giporlos and Bartolome Ayjon. The fourth company was under Lope Angorin and Pelagio Acosta. The fifth company was headed by Pedro Avila and Andres Hilaria, who were both members of the town police force. The sixth company was made up of the men of Lawaan and was headed by Custodio Salazar and Paul Gacho, the barrio chief. And the seventh company would be under command of Valeriano Abanador, and would initiate the attack.
Other details were discussed. Isauro Cabillo, a blacksmith, would provide additional sundangs, the angled Samareno bolo. Each of those in the main attack force were told to carry at least two weapons, a bolo and a knife, to be strapped to their wrists.
As the planning progressed through the night, the enormity of the challenge became apparent. It was a plan with many moving parts and if any aspect of it failed, the entire enterprise could end disastrously. All understood this only too well, but the coalition that had been brought together to mount the attack remained firm and the plans were finalized without demurral.
In Tagalog, there is an axiom: “basta ang Waray, hindi uurong sa away” which means ‘the Waray never back down from a fight.’
The axiom was about to be put to the test.