COL MELCHOR FORMOCA DELA CRUZ

Biography of Colonel Melchor Famorca dela Cruz

 

Colonel Melchor Famorca dela Cruz was born on January 6, 1939 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Upon his graduation from the Philippine Military Academy in 1953, he was assigned as junior officer of the 8th BCT then later 10th BCT that confronted the HUKBALAHAPS in Central Luzon. His unit was eventually transferred to Isabela  where he met his wife, Zenaida Capellan of Naguilian.

Colonel dela Cruz gained prominence as a combat officer with his successful exploits against the HUKBALAHAPS. To further improve his combat prowess he was sent for training with the Scout Rangers in 1954. He was again sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for a special Warfare Course in 1963, where he also earned his training in High Altitude Low Opening (sky diving) Course.

In 1965, Colonel dela Cruz was sent as member of Philippine contingent to Vietnam. It is here where he made the whole nation proud when he was awarded the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the highest award given to a foreign contingent member in Vietnam, when he penetrated a Vietcong mass base in Boi Loi and caused the surrender of 2,181 insurgent sympathizers and the rescue of 4000 villagers.

Upon his return, he was given the rare opportunity to command the army Special Forces Group (airborne) at the rank of captain, just when the Armed Forces Special Forces unit was marred with a controversy brought about by the infamous Jabidah massacre. His stewardship catapulted the army elite unit into greater heights having become a world class army unit that participated in various exercises with the United States and other allied countries.

When insurgency broke-out in Luzon, he was again given the difficult task of confronting the insurgents in their stronghold-Isabela. He was assigned as Deputy Commander of the task force “Lawin” then was made a Battalion Commander of the 10th Infantry Battalion in concurrent capacity. It is at this point when he met his unfortunate fate in a helicopter crash  during a reconnaissance mission in the insurgents lair in San Mariano Isabela. The helicopter tail rotor was found to have been riddle with bullets that caused the crash.

The exemplary service of Colonel dela Cruz was not left unrecognized by the whole nation as his body was ordered to be laid in Malacanang for a heros honor. He was also posthumously awarded the prestigious Cavalier Award by the Philippine Military Academy and outstanding alumnus award of the command and General Staff College.

At the age of 39, a fullfledge Colonel and was about to wear his star rank in two months time, he would have made it to the gallery of the top men of the armed forces of the Philippines.

It is a tribute to this officer and a gentleman that the 5th Infantry (Star) Division was named after him in 1993 and prior to that, the former Northeast Command Headquarters in Soyung, Echague, Isabela, a street at the headquarters of the Special Forces Group (ABN) now SOCOM, and a school building at the Naguilian Elementary School were all named in his honor.

Colonel Melchor Famorca dela Cruz attended military courses both here and abroad. He finished the following courses in Army Training Institutions in the country:

  • Scout Ranger Course, 1954
  • Armor Officer Course, 1955
  • Supporting Arms Course, 1958
  • Artillery Officer Course, 1958
  • High Altitude Low Opening Course, 1963
  • Jumpmaster Course, 1970
  • Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus Course, 1970
  • Command and General Staff Course, 1971
  • Special Warfare Courses CTW (Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA, 1963) 

Col Dela Cruz occupied various positions of responsibility during his stint in the Armed Forces. Some of the significant assignment he held were:

• CO, “C” Company, 10th BCT
• Battery Comdr, “B” Battery, IID
• Bn Comdr, 2FABn Gen Sup, (Composite) IID
• Psy-War and Civac Officer, Philcon I, Vietnam Deputy G3, IID
• Grp Comdr, Special Forces Grp (Airborne) PA
• Commanding Officer, 10th IB
• Deputy Comdr, Task Force “Lawin”

On his prime and at the zenith of is career as a professional soldier, he made a meteoric rise in the service distinguishing himself in both local and foreign schools and in various positions of responsibility that he was assigned to for creditable and exemplary performance of duties and responsibility, Col dela Cruz earned various awards and decorations among which were:

• Anti-dissidence Campaign Ribbon
• Presidential Unit Citation
• Military Merit Medal
• Military Merit Medal with 1BAL
• Military Merit Medal with 2BAL
• Military Merit Medial with 3BAL
• Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star
• South Vietnam Medal
• Basic Parachutist Badge
• Senior Parachutist Badge
• Master Parachutist Badge
• US Master Parachutist Badge
• Vietnam Parachutist Badge
• Rifle Marksmanship Badge (Sharpshooter)

Col Dela Cruz paid the extreme sacrifice in the service of his country and people in the finest tradition of the Filipino soldiery. He had given his life so that other may live in reace, freedom and prosperity.

 

Special Forces

He was given the rare opportunity to command the army Special Forces Group (airborne) at the rank of captain, just when the Armed Forces Special Forces unit was marred with a controversy brought about by the infamous Jabidah massacre. His stewardship catapulted the army elite unit into greater heights having become a world class army unit that participated in various exercises with the United States and other allied countries.

 

Sky Diving High Altitude Low Opening (HALO)

Colonel dela Cruz gained prominence as a combat officer with his successful exploits against the HUKBALAHAPS. To further improve his combat prowess he was sent for training with the Scout Rangers in 1954. He was again sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for a special Warfare Course in 1963, where he also earned his training in High Altitude Low Opening (sky diving) Course.

 

Big Guns

Colonel dela Cruz also had a stint in armor and artillery units. He was also posthumously awarded the prestigious Cavalier Award by the Philippine Military Academy and outstanding alumnus award of the command and General Staff College.

 

Contingent to Vietnam

In 1965, Colonel dela Cruz was sent as member of Philippine contingent to Vietnam. It is here where he made the whole nation proud when he was awarded the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the highest award given to a foreign contingent member in Vietnam, when he penetrated a Vietcong mass base in Boi Loi and caused the surrender of 2,181 insurgent sympathizers and the rescue of 4000 villagers.

 

Scuba Diving

He is also a seasoned scuba diver which specialize in open circuit and closed circuit SCUBA diving and other amphibious infiltration / ex-filtration methods.

 

Deputy Commander

When insurgency broke-out in Luzon, he was again given the difficult task of confronting the insurgents in their stronghold-Isabela. He was assigned as Deputy Commander of the task force “Lawin” then was made a Battalion Commander of the 10th Infantry Battalion in concurrent capacity.

 

Boi loi Villagers

Colonel dela Cruz with one of the rescued villagers in boi loi doing the many facets PHILCONV assignment.

Dream Catcher

In later years, he was designated as the Battalion Commander of the 10th Infantry Battalion. It is at this point when he met his unfortunate fate in a helicopter crash  during a reconnaissance mission in the insurgents lair in San Mariano, Isabela. The helicopter tail rotor was found to have been riddle with bullets that caused the crash.

 

Col Melchor Dela Cruz CO of the Home Defense Forces Group, Welcomes the former Jabidah trainees to the unit.

OPERATION MERDEKA

The codename for the destabilization plan was Operation Merdeka (Operation Freedom, merdeka meaning “freedom” in Malay). The plan involved the recruitment of nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and their training in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. Simunul was where the first Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 14th century. The recruits felt giddy about the promise not only of a monthly allowance, but also over the prospect of eventually becoming a member of an elite unit in the Philippine Armed Forces. That meant, among other benefits, guns, which Muslims regard as very precious possessions. So from August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the the commando unit: Jabidah.

On December 30 that year, from 135 to 180 recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor in Luzon for “specialized training.”

This second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission. It struck the recruits that the plan would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Additionally, the recruits had already begun to feel disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised P50 monthly allowance. The recruits then demanded to be returned home.

For the Jabidah planners, it seemed that there was only one choice.

This second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission. It struck the recruits that the plan would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Additionally, the recruits had already begun to feel disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised monthly stipend. The recruits then demanded to be returned home.