The heroism of boy scout Oscar M. Alcaraz

MANILAAs the nation marked National Heroes' Day last Monday, I recalled an old story I wrote about the tragic but very heroic death of a brave 17-year-boy scout at the La Mesa Dam in Novaliches, Quezon City in August 1970.

That boy scout was Oscar M. Alcaraz, then a student of the Eulogio Rodriguez Jr. High School (ERJHS) in La Loma District, Quezon City.

The Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP), the National Reforestation Administration (NRA), the Department of Education and Culture (DEC) and the Philippine National Bank (PNB) were then undertaking a reforestation project at the vast Novaliches reservoir, which was being administered by the former National Waterworks and Sewerage Administration (NWSA), the predecessor of the present Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System or MWSS.

Alcaraz, born on May 4, 1953, was a member of the ERJHS Drum and Bugle Corps and among the participants in the reforestation project.

On Aug. 30, 1970 (Sunday and National Heroes' Day), the young Alcaraz was with a group of 22 boy scouts, led by Scouter Temistocles E. Amper, then assistant camp director and activities officer of the La Mesa Dam Reforestation Project, on assignment to inspect newly-planted tree seedlings when the tragedy occurred. The tree seedlings were submerged in water due to a recent typhoon that hit Luzon, including Metro Manila, that last week of August.

According to the very first police report I got at the then Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) Precinct 6 based at Novaliches town proper, as the group hiked on the trail along the dam going back to their campsite, Amper, who was ahead, accidentally stepped on the edge of the embankment and fell into the deep water.

Upon seeing this, Alcaraz rushed to the scene. He immediately jumped into the water and successfully pushed Amper toward the bank; but, had in the process thrown himself into the deeper portion of the dam.

Aware of the danger he was in, Alcaraz shouted to warn his companions: Do not jump; it's too deep in this part.

The other scouts tried to reach him by forming a human chain but to no avail until Alcaraz finally sank. They tried to seek help from the La Mesa Dam workers and divers, but they too were not able to locate him. His body was eventually recovered by Philippine Navy frogmen the next day.

Alcaraz, who would have been 66 years this year, lost his life in saving his scout master on National Heroes' Day, but he did not die in vain. In recognition of his gallantry and heroism, he was conferred the Gold Medal of Honor by the BSP and the Presidential Medal of Merit posthumously by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos in a solemn ceremony in MalacaAang on Sept. 11, 1970.

In addition, by virtue of an Administrative Order, his remains were ordered transferred from the Manila North Cemetery to the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery) in Fort Bonifacio on Oct. 31, 1970. He became the first civilian and the youngest to be buried there at that time.

Also, the Quezon City Council enacted an ordinance renaming in his memory Morong St. in the city's first district as Sct. Oscar M. Alcaraz Street.

The beginning of this street, stretching from A. Bonifacio Ave. until Talayan Village, is located near the corner street of his alma mater, Eulogio Rodriguez Jr. High School.

At present, Sct. Oscar M. Alcaraz St. is one of about two dozen thoroughfares in QC, which have been renamed after boy scout heroes. The others were renamed in honor of 24 boy scouts and scout leaders who died in a plane crash at the Indian Ocean, while on their way to represent the Philippines at the 11th World Scouts Jamboree in Athens, Greece on July 28, 1963.

The memories of these scouters have also been immortalized by a monument for them along Tomas Morato Ave. In Quezon City. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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