The Ice Cream Man Who Became an Unlikely Spy

During times of war, there are always heroes who resist foreign invaders and villains who collaborated to betray their own people.


During times of war, there are always heroes who resist foreign invaders and villains who collaborated to betray their own people.

As the war clouds were looming on the horizon, most Filipinos, by then, were looking forward to a festive Christmas season in December 1941. Although preparations were made in case of a Japanese attack, no one knew when it was coming. By the time the bombs fell on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, the invasion was underway. A few months later, Bataan fell and Corregidor surrendered. Soon all Filipino-American forces have surrendered to the invaders, where they all suffered from captivity as many of them died during the dreaded Bataan Death March.

Many who continued to resist, formed guerilla units to fight the Japanese in unconventional warfare. The rest of the general population has to survive under harsh military occupation. However, some choose to collaborate with the enemies to take advantage of a changing political landscape. However, there was a man who became an unlikely spy. His name is Conrado Colina Tudtud Sr.

Early Years

Born on December 25, 1902, Conrado was one of the nine children of Lope Mina Tudtud and Leonora Colina. His first wife was Esperanza Godis, where they had two children Delia and Conrado Jr. His second wife was Segundina Solon, where they had two children Carolina and Edgardo.

As a landowner and businessman, he was known as the owner of "Conrad's Ice Drop" which became a popular refreshment during his time (not the actual photo below). 


Apart from being a businessman, he was also active in politics and became a Cebu councilor. In 1921, he joined the Partido Democrata, where he became part of the core group that created the Mabolo Golden Era along with Vitaliano Colina, Estanislao Macasero, Paulino Sanchez, and Manuel Borgonio.

Japanese Occupation

With the Japanese gaining firm control of the country, many of the guerilla forces went underground and collaborators were placed by the occupiers to ensure total submission of the general population. Those who resist were keen on getting some spies placed in key areas to keep tabs on Japanese troop movements, deployments, and logistics. Moreover, spies were needed to provide valuable intelligence reports to the Americans.

In order to effectively operate a spy operation against the enemy, someone has to get inside undetected so as not to blow the cover. Guerillas are operating radio communications high above the mountains far away from Japanese patrols and reconnaissance aircraft reach.


However, the Japanese also had a counter-espionage campaign that included their own roster of informants and double-agents to send disinformation on the guerillas and their American contacts. Known as the Makapilis, these informants were tasked to infiltrate guerilla units. Any captured guerilla are ruthlessly executed by the dreaded secret police - the Kempei-tai.

Conrado was the perfect man to do the job because not only he knows how the secret police would probably operate, he has the perfect cover to do the job. He can blend in with everyone in plain sight. The popular ice drop that he is selling is the best thing he can leverage to get information from the Japanese and pass crucial intelligence to the guerillas, who will then transmit radio reports back to General Douglas MacArthur's forces back in Australia (who was evacuated prior to the fall of Corregidor).

At that time, the Japanese have transformed Mabolo Elementary School into a garrison. Many of these men were already veterans in various battles in China, Malaya, and French Indochina so getting caught is not an option. Fortunately, he lives near the school and the St. Joseph Church so with his familiarity with the location, he tried to befriend some of the Japanese by posing as a businessman. With his contacts from inside the garrison, he soon learned the true strength, the command structure, deployment orders, and logistical support. All intelligence gathered was crucial as it helped guerilla forces with targeted assassinations and demolition jobs.

Japanese soldiers have set up camp in Mabolo Elementary School

Knowing that the Kempei-tai would eventually suspect his close contacts with some Japanese inside the garrison, he hides under his cover as an innocent ice cream man who enjoys selling his favorite Conrad Ice Drops to the soldiers, who apparently loved it. So his business was spared and they never ever suspect his hidden spy activities again to some degree.

It's not clear as to how valuable the intelligence he gathered to the totality of the entire campaign to liberate the country. But it is possible that it helped the Americans to determine the best strategy to liberate Cebu. And soon they did when they launched their amphibious landings in Talisay that pushed them towards the city by 1945. It is likely that the intelligence may also contain information on those who collaborated with the Japanese. Many were prosecuted at the end of the war while a few were even executed.

After the War

He later became Chief of the Detective Bureau of the Cebu Police Department and rose the ranks to become the Assistant Chief SSD District of the North District of the Cebu Police Office.

He (sitting at the center) continued his public service as a private citizen even after the war

His influence on Mabolo's social development played a big role in changing the barangay's culture as he organized entertainment for his fellow citizens during the Feast of St. Joseph that included free movies at the church plaza. He continued operating Conrad's Ice Drop by providing employment opportunities to locals and one of them later became a boxing legend named Gabriel "Flash" Elorde.

Conrado died on December 6, 1970. A year later, the City Council of Cebu honored him with a street name.

References:
"Conrado C. Tudtud Street, Cebu City," by Clarence Paul Oaminal

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: The Ice Cream Man Who Became an Unlikely Spy
The Ice Cream Man Who Became an Unlikely Spy
During times of war, there are always heroes who resist foreign invaders and villains who collaborated to betray their own people.
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