Around August of 1943, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army stationed in the Philippines in World War II started to conduct a severe anti-guerilla campaign to stem the tide of Filipino resistance to Japanese occupation. If anything, however, guerilla organizations continued to grow.
One of these was the Hunters/ROTC guerilla group of which I had already written about in a previous article. The group was formed in San Juan early in 1942 and would conduct operations in the provinces of what is now the CALABARZON including, of course, Batangas.
To spare its officers from being caught at the height of the anti-guerilla campaign in August of 1943, the Hunters/ROTC group sent some of them out to other provinces to recruit and organize resistance there all the while with the hope that the heat would die down in Rizal and Laguna.
To Batangas were sent Lt. Col. Tereso “Villa” Pia, accompanied by Lt. Florencio Sanchez. The two were instructed to lay down “the cornerstone for the 49th Hunters Regiment of Batangas1.” This regiment would become the umbrella command in charge of all Hunters/ROTC guerilla forces operating in the province of Batangas.
Also sent was one Lt. Juanito N. Ferrer, erstwhile a classmate of would-be Hunters/ROTC Commander Col. Eleuterio Adevoso at the Philippine Military Academy. Ferrer described his recruitment activities in Batangas during a claims hearing conducted in 19492.
Late in 1942, Adevoso initially requested Ferrer to organize resistance to Japanese occupation in his hometown of Parañaque because he considered it “the crossroad from Batangas, Tayabas to Manila.” At first reluctant, Ferrer subsequently did, although initially, the Parañaque group’s activities were limited mostly to intelligence work, particularly monitoring what the Japanese were up to at the nearby Nichols Airfield (presently Villamor Air Base).
In May of 1943, Ferrer first ventured into Batangas to test the waters for organizing resistance to Japanese rule. He visited Lipa and spoke to somebody named Recio and two other people, although he did not stay long. He merely gave them background information about the Hunters/ROTC group along with a model for organizing resistance locally.
Ferrer returned to Parañaque but in July or August, he traveled to Nasugbu at the western end of Batangas to organize resistance there. He stayed for about three weeks, and the guerilla group he organized was initially called the Nasugbu Town Unit. The town or barrio guerilla units were part of what in the Hunters/ROTC organization was called the Home Guard.
Ferrer went back to Parañaque and stayed there for about a month, after which he went back to Nasugbu to complete the organization of the guerilla unit there. He started spending more time in Nasugbu and made the town the headquarters of his growing resistance group. By January of 1944, the Nasugbu Town Unit would come to be known as the 1st Battalion of what would eventually become the 49th Regiment operating in Batangas.
The growth of guerilla resistance in the province was not down to Ferrer alone. Adevoso had instructed him to contact some of their Philippine Military Academy classmates who lived in Batangas, and these would have organized in their respective hometowns as well.
Over time, Hunters/ROTC Home Guard units would also be formed in Tuy, Balayan, Calaca, Talisay, Lian, Mabini, the then-town of Batangas, Lobo, Mataasnakahoy, Malvar, Calatagan, San Juan, Santo Tomas and Lipa. The last (Lipa), with a volunteer force totaling 600, had the largest town unit of all3.
Ferrer described how the growing resistance movement in Batangas would be organized into battalions, each with its own designated geographic sector for operations. The 1st Battalion, apart from Nasugbu, operated as well in what Ferrer described as Palatagaran (Calatagan?), Balan (Balayan?) and Tuwi (Tuy).”
Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion operated in Taal, Lemery, Alitagtag, Mabini, Batangas Town and Bawan (Bauan). Finally, according to Ferrer, the 3rd Battalion operated in Lipa, Santo Tomas and Tanauan4 (See Notes and references below).
The guerillas conducted daring operations such as the capture of arms from Japanese arsenals and the ambush and harassment of Japanese troops in the province. They also weeded out spies and informants from among the townsfolk. Crucially, as Allied forces prepared for the invasion of Luzon to liberate the island from Japanese control, they cut off enemy communication lines and provided intelligence to American forces that would be vital to the landing of troops in Nasugbu early in 1945.
Notes and references:1 The 49th Regiment was the arm of the Hunters/ROTC Guerilla Group that supervised all the group’s activities in Batangas. The excerpt in this annotation along with other bits of information in this article are from “Evolution of the Hunters-ROTC Guerillas,” written 1 July 1946 by Lt. Col. Eleuterio Adevoso.
2 Most of the details of the Hunters/ROTC recruitment in Batangas from a document entitled “Record of Hearing before Contract Claims Commission No. 57 Held at the Claims Service Office, on the 13th day of January 1949 in the Matter of the Claim of Enrique T. Bautista, G-4-160, 610. The witness, Juanito N. Ferrer, has been Sworn to Tell the Truth by Captain Richard C. Ashby, JAGD.”
3 Along with other bits of information contained in this article, from “Data on the Hunters or ROTC Guerillas,” a declassified memorandum addressed to the GHQ Liaison Officer, written on 1 December 1944 by Col. Eleuterio L. Adevoso.
4 The battalion assignments given by Ferrer were slightly different from those given by Adevoso in his reports to the United States Army after the World War II.