CESAR T. BASA
World War II Air Force Hero
The first Filipino fighter pilot killed in action during World War II, Cesar F. Basa was born in Isabela, Negros Occidental on June 21,1915. His parents were Fernando Basa and Rosario Tianko. Basa grew up in his hometown, where he completed his primary education. When his family transferred to Manila, his parents enrolled him at the Ateneo de Manila. Majoring in chemistry, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree with honors in 1939. Afterwards, he attended the Philippine Army Flying School. He graduated there in 1940 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Air Force.
Lieutenant Basa received his first assignment in October 1941. He served under Capt. Jesus Villamor, executive officer of the Batangas Air Field.
Early in December, the Japanese unexpectedly bombed Pearl Harbor in the United States, thus igniting the Pacific War. In no time at all, their air force was pounding all American bases in the country.
On the fateful day of December 12, 1941, about 54 Japanese bombers with an escort of fighter planes rained the Batangas Airfield with bombs. Basa, then returning from a reconnaissance patrol, found himself joining his seven enemy planes engaging him and “with only 15 minutes supply of fuel,” Basa was shot down.
That fatal aerial combat was to enshrine Basa among the First Filipino heroes of World War II. His exploit earned for him, posthumously, the Gold Cross Medal. In 1947, a commemorative stamp was issued in his honor and the Basa Airbase in Floridablanca, Pampanga, was named after him.
Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Historical Commission, 1980.
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume III. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1986.