|Antonio M. Bautista|
Antonio Bautista circa 1964
|Born||September 17, 1937|
|Died||January 11, 1974|
|Years of service||1960s-1974|
|Unit||Philippine Air Force|
|Commands held||9th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 5th Fighter Wing|
|Awards||Distinguished Conduct Star|
Lieutenant Colonel Antonio "Tony" Marfori Bautista (serial nos 0-4457) was a combat pilot of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Tony Bautista was a former aviation cadet of PAF-FS Class of 1958. He fought during the 1970s insurgency operations. A prominent aerobatic pilot, he was a member of the Blue Diamonds Aerial demonstration Team from 1964 to 1966 (with the 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron), the team leader of the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron Aerobatic team "Golden Sabres" in 1972, and the team leader of the "Sabres", the combined 7th TFS "Red Aces" and 9th TFS "Golden Sabres" aerobatic teams in 1973. His skills and sheer audacity with the F-86 Sabre jets, delighted fans and audiences anywhere his group put up an air show.
Antonio Bautista graduated from The University of the Philippines Los Baños in 1957 with a degree in Agriculture. He joined the Air Force by signing up with the Philippine Air Force Flying School in Fernando Air Base, Lipa, Batangas. After graduating in 1958, Bautista's was sent to the 5th Fighter Wing stationed at Basa Air Base, Floridablanca, Pampanga. His first Assignment was with the 8th Fighter Squadron, Nicknamed "Scorpions". He flew the prop driven North American P-51 Mustangs. At about the same time the PAF was in the process of transitioning to Jets, so in 1960, he was sent to the USA to take the Jet Qualification Course at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. After which he continued to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for aerial gunnery and combat training.
When Bautista returned from the overseas training he was sent back to Basa Air Base but reassigned to the 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron flying the North American F-86 Sabre Jets. in 1962, His mastery of aerial maneuvers earned him a slot with the PAF Aerobatic Team, the Blue Diamonds, while in 1963, his mastery of combat skills earned him a membership with the Philippine Air Force's elite Weapons Group, which participated in the 1963 Flying Brothers Pacific Weapons Conference, competing against other Pacific allied nations in the area of aerial gunnery, precision bombing and strafing. In 1968 he was transferred to the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron stationed at Ebuen Air Force Base, Mactan, Cebu. A qualified jet trainer he was also an instructor with the 105th Combat Crew Training Squadron. In 1971, he assumed command of the 9th Tactical Fighter "Limbas" Squadron.
Having been assigned to the 105th, 6th TFS, 7th TFS, 8th FS and 9th TFS, Antonio Bautista is perhaps the only Combat pilot who was rotated to all the Fighter Squadrons of the 5th Fighter Wing.
Antonio Bautista is best remembered for his final combat mission against a rebel uprising on January 11, 1974, in Parang, Jolo, Sulu.  As commander of the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 5th Fighter Wing, he had already flown over 200 successful combat missions for the Air Force when his squadron was ordered to provide close air support to government ground forces engaged in anti-insurgent operations in Jolo. As he had so often done before, he personally led a fighter strike mission against a thousand armed insurgents, who had launched a fanatical attack against besieged government forces in Parang, Jolo. He took off from Edwin Andrews Air Force Base, Zamboanga with his wingman, Lt Roger Crudo, and flew his fully loaded F-86 Sabre Jet across 200 km of ocean to get to the Island of Jolo.
In order to effectively break the spearhead of the rebel assault, Bautista had to fly his plane as close to the ground as possible to execute accurate and effective strafing attacks. He knew he risked being targeted by high-powered assault rifles, but with clinical precision, he began his attack runs. With each pass, he flew his F-86 Sabre Jet through a fusillade of hot lead bullets. Ignoring the increasing number of warning lights blinking steadily on his instrument panel, Bautista continued his assault, sustaining more and more damage with each pass. Only after two effective bombing runs and five successful strafing passes had depleted his ammunition, did he break off and try to save himself, turning his crippled plane towards home.
Lt Roger Crudo informed him that his plane was on fire and would not make the 200-kilometer flight back to Zamboanga. Bautista's first attempt was to try and land his Fighter in the short Jolo air strip but his nose wheel would not go down and lock in place. Realizing he wouldn't be able to land, he flew away from populated areas, radioed in his last position to the command base, and finally ejected over a contingent of government troops before his plane exploded in midair. However, strong winds pushed his parachute back over enemy-controlled territory. Air Force search and rescue units led by Colonel Louie Diano were dispatched from the nearby Jolo airbase in a frenetic rescue effort. Bautista's last radio transmissions from the field reported that rebel forces had marked his area and were preparing to attack and overrun his position. Despite being outnumbered, he defiantly held his ground against the rebel troops in a valiant gunfight. Due to hostile ground fire, the rescue helicopter was forced to land on the edge of the Jolo runway roughly a kilometer away from him. Bautista launched flares to mark his position but was killed by rebel gunfire before the rescue party could reach him. Philippine Air Force Tsgt Nonito Calizo (serial nos 547945) and Airman Benjamin Lojo (serial nos 594257) were first to arrive on the scene and secured Bautista's body. On December 12, 1975, under General Order 422, Both Calizo and Lojo were Awarded the Gold Cross for braving the line of fire in the process of retrieving the body of Lt Col Bautista.
For his uncommon bravery and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, the Armed Forces of the Philippines under General Order 519, posthumously awarded Bautista the Distinguished Conduct Star on April 29, 1974. His widow, Alice Jane Rigor received the awards on behalf of her husband from then Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos. For his gallantry, the PAF airbase at Puerto Princesa, Palawan (island) was named after him: Antonio Bautista Air Base, when it opened on 21 March 1975. It is now home for the Air Force's 570th Composite Tactical Wing.
"Soldier Heroes, A handbook on the winners of the Major Medals Awarded By the Philipine Constabulary and the Armed Forces since 1902-1980", (circa 1981), National Media Production Center, Manila, Pages 110, 143