May 21, 2018

The Hukbalahap in Batangas in the Immediate Post-WWII Years

Image source:  For Filipinos in Europe (FFE).  Colorized courtesy of Algorithmia.
Image source:  For Filipinos in Europe (FFE).  Colorized courtesy of Algorithmia.
[Keywords: Huk, Mateo del Castillo, Partidang Komunista ng Pilipinas, Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan, Peasant Revolt in the Philippines, Communism in the Philippines, Tanauan Batangas, Jose P. Laurel]
In the National Library of the Philippines document entitled “History and Cultural Life of Tanauan, Batangas1,” there is a brief item stating operations of the Hukbalahap (which we shall from this point on refer to as “Huk”) in the then-town of Tanauan.
“Raid and burning of the entire market and surrounding residential houses inflicted by a strong Huk force on March 29, 19502, a date which marks the anniversary of Communism. The total damage caused by this conflagration amounted to about 2 million pesos.”
Doing follow-up research on the item above ultimately turns out to be an utter waste of time, because a Google search will simply yield mostly unrelated snippets of information on Huk activity in Batangas in the immediate post-war years. Not that this is even a curiosity because the Huk movement’s stronghold was really Central Luzon.

There is simply a dearth of information on the subject over the Internet that writing a cohesive article is next to impossible. What this article hopes to do, therefore, is simply to collate the snippets of information with the intent of adding to the existing literature, which as already mentioned at the moment is very scarce.

For the benefit of younger readers, the Hukbalahap was originally formed in 1942 to function as an armed group that would resist Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Hence, its name, which was a shortened version of “Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon” (National Resistance Against the Japanese). The Partidang Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) in 1950 changed the group’s purpose into that of a revolutionary army and gave it the new name “Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan” (Liberation Army of the Country)3. Hence, many documents referred to the Huks henceforth as the HMB.

Among the Huks’ members with Batangueño connections was Mateo del Castillo, who was among the highest ranking members of the PKP and, in 1945, named president of the “Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid” (National Union of Peasants)4.

About del Castillo, Benedict J. Kerkvliet in his 1977 book5 wrote:
“Born the son of a Spanish landowner in the Southern Luzon province of Batangas, del Castillo was educated and rather well-to-do. After selling land inherited from his father, he invested in a restaurant, rooming houses, and other real estate in Manila… Partly through his own study and partly through the influence of boarders in his rooming houses who were active in labor unions in the 1930s, del Castillo became increasingly involved with labor organizations and the peasant movement. Soon, his political life overshadowed everything else… This left his family in a poor financial state.”
Although the Huks’ stronghold was initially in Central Luzon and Manila, recruit in Batangas they did:
“The commander from Macabebe, Eugenio Santos served under Fernando Poblete’s Banal Regiment. Kumander Kislap was put in a group that included Lino Dizon and Domindaro Yabut and Mariano de Joya, charged with recruiting new Huk members, going as far as the southern provinces, like Batangas to look for prospective recruits6.”
Two declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents also provide snippets of Huk recruitment in Batangas. The first one was dated 22 May 1950 and gave information about where members were being recruited:
“Approximately three hundred young men have recently been recruited as members of the HMB in Batangas. They have been recruited from Barrio Duhatan, Lipa, and from Barrio Sintorisan, Cuenca, by Timoteo Limbo, a high school student of San Jose, Batangas7.”
The second CIA document, dated 19 June 1950, reported on the HMB leaders in Batangas who were both Americans:
“Leader of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) is a white American named Williams. Second in command is an unidentified American Negro. [Struck out] reported that HMB Field Command Three is led by a Commander William. Other reports have referred to the activities of an HMB unit led by a Commander Williams8.”
The recruitment was apparently all part of a plan to expand operations in Batangas and Cavite and was being coordinated from the so-called RECO-10, RECO being “Regional Command:”
“ In addition to these RECOs, the Huks also activated a RECO 10 for further expansion into Batangas and Cavite provinces in southwestern Luzon9.”
Ultimately, however, support in Batangas for the Huk movement would never really reach the same level as that which the group enjoyed in Central Luzon. Kerkvliet explained why:
“The situation for Huks in Southern Luzon – principally Laguna and Batangas – was worse. Huks there never enjoyed the strong village support they knew in Central Luzon… Another example was that some recruits were loyal to Jose Laurel, the presidential candidate defeated in the 1949 election. As Batangas was Laurel’s home province, some of his followers joined the Huks in order to strike back at Quirino’s administration, which they believed had stolen the election. After Laurel made his peace with the Quirino government, his supporters abandoned the Huks10.”
Notes and references:
1History and Cultural Life of Tanauan, Batangas,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 This date has to be taken with a grain of salt. The anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia is 7 November (Washington Post); the foundation of the Communist Party of China is 23 July (Wikipedia); the establishment of the Partidang Komunista ng Pilipinas was 7 November in 1930 (Wikipedia); and its splinter group the Communist Party of the Philippines was founded 26 December 1968 (Wikipedia).
3Hukbalahap,” Wikipedia.
4Communism in the Philippines,” Wikipedia.
5The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines,” by Benedict J. Kerkvliet, published in California, USA in 1977.
6Notable Huk Kumanders,” online at The Kapampangan Historian.
7 “HMB Recruiting in Batangas,” dated 22 May 1950, declassified CIA file.
8 “Leaders of the HMB in Batangas Province,” dated 19 June 1950, declassified CIA file.
9The Huks And The New People's Army: Comparing Two Postwar Filipino Insurgencies,” by Major Rodney S. Azama, published April 1985, online at Global Security.
10 Kerkvliet, op cit.

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