September 20, 2019

A Chronology of Guerrilla Activities in Alitagtag, Batangas in WWII

Filipino guerrillas in action against the Japanese in March 1945.  Image source:  United States National Archives.
Filipino guerrillas in action against the Japanese in March 1945.  Image source:  United States National Archives.
From a memorandum1 dated 6 March 1946 written by one 1st Lieutenant Patricio M. Abu, addressed to the Chief of the United States Armed Forces Western Pacific Command, we extract this compelling chronology of guerrilla activity in the town of Alitagtag, Province of Batangas, during World War II.

Abu, who gave as his title 1st Lieutenant of the Infantry, Philippine Army, was also commander during the war of the Alitagtag Town Unit of the Hunters-ROTC guerrilla group. Selected excerpts of his chronology are provided verbatim below, with corrections made here and there for grammar.

First, Abu provided a backgrounder about himself and the fateful days of December 1941 before the Japanese landed their forces in the Philippines.
7 December 1941 –Pearl Harbor was bombed… I was third year in the College of Civil Engineering and at the same time, I was taking ROTC training. I was ordered immediately to report to our assembly point in Intramuros. I, with the other ROTC cadets, was ordered to guard the legislative building. After one week, the ROTC was disbanded for the reason that we lacked ammunitions. Some of my fellow cadets volunteered for service. I proceeded immediately to my hometown, Alitagtag, Batangas.

12 December 1941 – The US Army under the supervision of Captain Bradford, Lt. Evans, and Lt. White were in charge of the construction of a dummy airfield at San Felipe, Cuenca, Batangas. Engineer Pesigan was in charge of the construction. I, together with some of the men of our town, volunteered our services.
Abu then proceeded to describe the day the forces of the Japanese Imperial Army rolled into Alitagtag early in 1942.
22 January 1942 – The Japanese forces entered the town of Alitagtag. I ordered general evacuation. The Japs were harsh and wicked in their dealings with the civilians. The Japanese Propaganda Corps tried every means to win the support of the trusted men of the town. I was one of the persons offered the job of establishing the so-called Peace Committee. Motivated by the strong desire and beliefs that it was only a temporary defeat and burning with hatred towards the invading forces since my boyhood, I tried to make alibis and excuses… Some of the ROTC boys in our town approached me and told me of forming a secret society to harass Japanese activities and to make propaganda and news of the arrival of help from the United States. I rejoiced over the idea; and together we formed the Independent ROTC Guerrillas…

9 April 1942 – News that deafened our ears and made us pale spread like disease in every part of the country. Bataan had fallen… We heard from other sections and other islands of reports of fighting bands… These men had no uniforms. But they were Filipinos fighting for the American flag… Inspired by these news, we continued to contact some more of the boys. We agreed to stay inside the town to detect the activities of the Japanese Imperial Forces.
But by mid-1942, the Peace Committee got word of Abu’s group’s clandestine activities.
7 May 1942 – We continued our sabotage and espionage work. For months, our society had been a secret. But, unaware of the situation, there were some who without our knowledge were able to detect our activities. We were summoned by the members of the Peace Committee. They promised us that they would not talk about this matter if we stopped our activities. The civilians were being threatened by the Jap soldiers. We had to lay down our plans.
Just over a year later, Abu’s men were contacted by and started cooperating with another guerrilla group called FAIT2.
15 May 1943 – An organization called the Fil-American Guerrillas reached our town. It was headed by Major Dominador Reyes… I shifted my men and together, we cooperated with each other. I was designated as second-in-command of a company comprising the interior part of Alitagtag. Our work was securing arms and stopping down spies. We passed propaganda news that the Americans were on the way to the Philippines.
After spending several months in Central Luzon, Abu returned to Alitagtag in 1944.
2 May 1944 – I went back to Alitagtag and joined again the Reyes unit… My unit was mainly assigned to punish Filipino opportunists and securing arms and ammunitions. We continued our activities until, unfortunately, Major Balita was captured by the Japanese Kempeis3.
Several months later, Abu started working with the Hunters-ROTC4 guerrilla group.



15 September 1944 – By the middle of September, a certain man named Rodriguez came to our town. He contacted Lt. Ernesto Kasala (USAFFE). The Hunters Intelligence Unit was beginning to take action in Alitagtag. I attached my men to Lt. Kasala and we were assigned mainly to intelligence work. We drew maps of different places where there were Japanese garrisons. We recorded their activities. On October 5, 1944, Major Reyes was captured by the Japanese Kempeis. On October 20, 1944, Lt. Kasala, with some of the prominent supporters of the resistance movement, were picked up by the Kempeis…
The capture of key guerrilla officers did not hinder the patriotic activities.
30 October 1944 – After the capture of Lt. Ernesto Kasala, his brother Simeon Kasala was designated as his successor. We hehld our first conference at the church convent. We formed the Town Intelligence and Combat Unit. I was designated as the Town Commander of Alitagtag, and Julio Gutierrez for the town of Cuenca with commissions as first lieutenant. As chief of all the intelligence activities, I sent operatives to the different places such as Cuenca, Dita, San Luis, Mainaga, Bauan and other strategic places. We drew maps of places where there were Japanese garrisons and putting them clear on the maps. We submitted these reports to the Battalion Headquarters, Camp Kuomintang, San Nicolas, Taal. Besides mapping, I assigned road spotters at different street junctions. The number of trucks, the loads, the signs of the flags. These were known as periodic reports…
By December 1944, the United States’ 8th Army was already in Mindoro, waiting for an opportune time to make the landing at Nasugbu.
…I was ordered by the Battalion Headquarters to recruit more men. I recruited men from Bauan, Cuenca and other places. I established a CP (command post) in Colet, two kilometers from the garrison. I trained the men in the knowledge of combat principles, scouting, military courtesy, and discipline. After two weeks of training, I moved my CP to Camp Balagbag to avoid detection… Men volunteered for service to work in Mt. Macolot to watch and observe the enemy activities…
By late January, the US Army had landed on the shores of Nasugbu. The liberation of Batangas would not commence immediately because first, American troops were to support the liberation of Manila. Still, guerrilla activities started to intensify, as Abu wrote in his memo.
14 February 1945 – A squad under the leadership of. Lt. A. Rodriguez was sent by the regimental headquarters to patrol the Alitagtag-Taal area. With the help of my men, I took charge of the feeding and I posted guards around the vicinity. At 7 o’clock, the squad placed themselves along the road camouflaged by the bamboo trees. At 8 o’clock P.M., a Japanese jitney was observed coming from San Luis going to Cuenca. As the jitney passed, the boys fired. The next morning, I received the report that the Japanese soldiers inside the jitney were killed and some were mortally wounded… At 12 o’clock noon, one hundred Japanese soldiers stationed themselves at Mozon (Muzon). They burned the town and killed some of the innocent civilians. I ordered mass evacuation. The Japs were very furious about the incident.

25 January 1945 – The Japs buried land mines in the middle of the road from Mozon (Muzon) to Cuenca…

7 March 1945 – I received notification that the 158 RCT5 was in Lemery and is moving towards Alitagtag. I ordered my men to destroy the telephone wires connecting different enemy stations… At 4 o’clock PM, the 158 RCT entered the town. Together with my men, I met the advance patrol. The commanding officer was Major Conway D. Kneeling. I attached my men to the unit and submitted all ours maps and intelligence reports… The next morning, more troops arrived… At 10 o’clock, the troops advanced to Cuenca. I assigned different guides… At Pinagkurusan junction, we encountered twenty-four Japs. The fight lasted for an hour. After the encounter, we were able to kill six of them and wounded four. The others escaped to Mount Macolot… When we were about to reach Cuenca, we were detected by the Japs and they began to fire their artillery guns at us…

8 March 1945 – …Early in the morning, we encountered fifty Japs. Together with Col. Pasia’s men, we fought the Japanese. Two Japs were killed, three wounded and on our part, two were killed and four wounded.

10 March 1945 – I established my CP, the counterintelligence service unit… We ordered mass evacuation. The Japanese artillery fired towards our town.

15 March 1945 – The 147th F.A. (field artillery) requested our services. I assigned men to get reports from Cuenca. This guided the artillery men in their calculations. As we were attached to the 147th F.A. Bn. (battalion), we were also working with the 994the CIC.

5 April 1945 – The 158 RCT beach-landed at Legaspi. We were left unattached. I sent my men to the battalion headquarters in Taal. Intelligence activities were continued. Routes taken by the Japanese stragglers were noted. We were assigned to patrol the Alitagtag-Cuenca area. The battalion we were attached to was the 187th Paraglider Infantry, 11th Airborne Division…
By May of 1945, the Japanese occupation of Batangas had for all intents and purposes ceased, but the mopping up operations continued. Abu’s group continued to operate, as he concluded in his memorandum.
6 June 1945 – The battalion we were attached to was processed to the PA (likely Philippine Army) and some of my men were processed but majority of the men were left behind. Although we were left behind, we did not stop our work. We continued our mopping operations till to the last day, the Japs gave themselves up to the US Army soldiers.

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Notes and references:
1 “Alitagtag Town Unit (HUNTERS-ROTC),” a memorandum sent by 1st Lt. Patricio M. Abu to the Chief of AFWESPAC, 6 March 1946.
2 FAIT was the Fil-American Irregular Troops, founded by the retired US Army Colonel Hugh Straughn. The group was one of many guerrilla outfits that operated in Batangas in WWII. “List of American guerrillas in the Philippines,” Wikipedia.
3 Abu was likely referring to the Japanese military police called “Kenpeitai,” referred to in many local World War II documents as “Kempetai.” “Kenpeitai,” Wikipedia.
4 The Hunters/ROTC Guerrilla Group was founded by former Philippine Military Academy cadet Terry Adevoso and became among the most renowned groups operating in Batangas in WWII. “Hunters ROTC,” Wikipedia.
5 The 158 RCT was actually the 158th Regimental Combat Team. For more on the combat group’s role in the liberation of Batangas, please read, “The Role of the US Army 158th RCT in the Liberation of Batangas in 1945.”

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