January 25, 2019

Nasugbu in World War II: A Historical Narrative

Filipino guerrillas in Nasugbu, February 1945.  Image source:  United States National Archives.
Filipino guerrillas in Nasugbu, February 1945.  Image source:  United States National Archives.
From the 1953 document entitled “Historical Data of the Municipality of Nasugbu1,” Batangas History presents this historical narrative on the town’s experiences during World War II. The narrative was well-written and will be provided in its entirety below, albeit some paragraphs have been broken up by Batangas History for the reader’s convenience, minor grammatical corrections made and annotations provided in brackets [ x ] to help the reader better understand the story.

All these so-called “historical data” were written by teachers, most of the time transcribing interviews with local town inhabitants with knowledge of their towns’ “historical” events. Therefore, it is understandable that few of the narratives supplied citations.

In the case of this narrative, however, the events and conditions in the town of Nasugbu that were being described were still fresh in the minds of the townspeople, the Second World War having ended just eight years before. The absence of citations, therefore, should not detract from the historical accuracy of the narrative.

World War II [In Nasugbu]
On December 8, 1941, the news of war spread like wildfire in Nasugbu. [The date makes it seem like the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor; and this was because of the international dateline. In fact, the Philippines were also attacked just hours after Hawaii.] All classes in the high school and elementary grades were closed and the people prepared to evacuate to the barrios.

The next day, soldiers of the 42nd Regiment, 41st Division, Philippine Army under General Lim arrived. [The Philippine Army was first organized in 1935 as directed by the National Defense Act. By 1941, some of its components were placed under the command of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East or USAFFE2.] They established their headquarters in the ruins of the old church in “Lumang Bayan.”

Elements of the 45th Philippine Scouts in Fort Stotsenburg [a base of the United States Army in Sapang Bato, Angeles3] also arrived and established their headquarters in the town plaza. The Philippine Scouts recruited some able bodied men in the town. Two of them were Primitivo Sobreviñas and Oyen Cudiamat.



Every day, Japanese Zero fighters and bombers passed but made no bombing (runs) on the town. [Probably on their way to attack Batangas Airfield where the Philippine Army Air Corps maintained warplanes.] At night, total blackout [wartime blackouts were enforced so that enemy “spotter” planes would not be able to identify targets4.] was enforced with members of the Bolo Battalion patrolling the town. [Bolo Battalions were volunteer groups that maintained peace and order in towns during the war5.]

At this time, the Japanese retailer, Yamaoka, the Izumita family and Japanese sympathizers were already rounded up and detained. No untoward incident happened except the looting of the Japanese store.

Christmas of 1941 came and the soldiers were preparing for a midnight Mass in the old church when the order to retreat to Bataan came. [General Douglas McArthur’s order to withdraw to Bataan was to consolidate all Luzon forces in the peninsula against the Japanese offensive6.] All the soldiers of the 41st Infantry Division and the Philippine Scouts left that Christmas Even hurriedly. When the soldiers had left, more people were evacuated to the barrios.

Meanwhile, Manila residents, who were employees of Roxas y Cia [a company founded in 1840 by Don Domingo Roxas7] evacuated to this town. Houses of nipa and bamboo were constructed in the hacienda compound.

New Year, 1942 was ushered in uneventfully here in Nasugbu except for the news that the Japanese had landed in different places and would eventually come. On the first week of January, 1942, the Japanese came. [Japan had actually started landing forces in Luzon the previous month8.]
A sugar central train being prepared to carry ammunition in 1945.  Image source:  United States National Archives.
A sugar central train being prepared to carry ammunition in 1945.  Image source:  United States National Archives.
At first, it was only a platoon that also left; but after a week, a horde of Japanese soldiers arrived. The school and the municipal building were made into garrisons and general headquarters. They also established their own government with Mr. Florencio Oliva as Mayor, Mr. Felipe Oliva as Secretary and Mr. Emilio Limjoco as Treasurer, the incumbent Treasurer Mr. Francisco Alix Sr. having refused to serve the Japanese government.

For almost two months, Nasugbu was used as a stepping stone of Japanese soldiers in their attacks on Corregidor and Bataan. Later on, they moved to Lumbangan, a barrio of Nasugbu, where they stayed until liberation.

At the beginning of Japanese rule, neighborhood organizations were formed. The people of the poblacion were censused [i.e. counted] with a leader in every block (assigned). The people never suffered acute shortage of food as the rice harvest of Nasugbu was enough for all the people.

Rations of rice, soap, lard, cigarettes, matches and other commodities were given. Locally made cigarettes flooded the market. To remedy the hoarding of rice, the BIBA (Bigasang Bayan) was organized with Atty. Pedro Gallardo as Manager. A group of Japanese agriculturists also arrived and converted the sugarcane fields into cotton fields. Hundreds of people, men and women, were employed in the cotton fields.

After the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942, guerrilla organizations were secretly organized. The first to start such movements was Sisenando (Dade) Deztreza, a local and youthful man. His organization was a unit of an organization in Cavite. Some of his men were Teodulo Botones, Miguel Cochingco and Lucas Rodriguez. This organization did a remarkable job liquidating spies and Japanese sympathizers up to 1943.
Some veterans from the Hunters/ROTC Guerrilla group. Image credit:  Expatch.org.
Some veterans from the Hunters/ROTC Guerrilla group. Image credit:  Expatch.org.
However, the organizers (of the guerrilla group) met tragic deaths due to intra-mural [probably used figuratively; the word internecine would have been more appropriate] fight with other guerrilla organizations. One night, they were all murdered except Teodolo Botones and Mike Cochingco, who were able to escape. The persons responsible for these murders are still alive [and the time of the document’s writing] and should not, therefore, be mentioned.

Other guerrillas organized themselves like the Fil-American Irregular [a.k.a. FAIT or the Fil-American Irregular Troops or Straughn’s Regiment9], their founder was [Calixto?] Casilao on December 2, 1942 [probably in reference to the formation of the Nasugbu chapter of FAIT] and the ROTC [the guerrilla group’s full name was Hunters/ROTC] under Colonel Terry Magtanggol, with its headquarters in Kutad, (barrio) Looc.

These organizations did remarkable jobs, too. They were able to harbor escaped American soldiers and sent valuable information by radio to Australia. The ROTC unit here often had to rendezvous with U.S. submarines in Kutad cove, a place not far from the poblacion. They were given guns, ammunition, food and cigarettes marked “I Shall Return.”

Due to information sent by these organizations, the poblacion was spared during the landing of the American forces [on 31 January 1945, on the beaches of Nasugbu]. Another guerrilla organization worthy of mention was the Golden Regiment organized in September 1944 by Col. Eduardo Alabastro, the overall commander of Southern Luzon. The local organization [i.e. in Nasugbu] was under Eduardo Villadolid, an ex-USAFFE officer. The Blue Eagle [presumably a moniker for a guerrilla group] counted with a large number of members with most of the prominent citizens holding key positions. All of these guerrilla organizations were under Lt. Colonel J. D. Vanderpool, the guerrilla coordinator. [The United States Army’s General Guerrilla Command was under Colonel Day. D. Vanderpool10.]

Sometime in 1944, two Zero Japanese fighters made a forced landing at the beach. They were hurriedly repaired but were spotted by U.S. airplanes. These Zero fighters were strafed and totally destroyed. During this time, the Japanese were becoming fiercer. People suspected of being anti-Japanese were apprehended and beaten up in their [i.e. the Japanese] garrison in Lumbangan.
Fresh off the Nasugbu Landing in 1945, American soldiers examine a fallen Japanese fighter plane.
Fresh off the Nasugbu Landing in 1945, American soldiers examine a fallen Japanese fighter plane.
At about the second week of January, 1945, the people woke up and one early morning were surrounded by Japanese soldiers. All the people found in houses and streets were herded to the plaza. They were tied, loaded onto trucks and taken to their garrison for questioning.

Some of them were unfortunate as they were found red-handed with evidence of guerrilla activities. After thorough questioning and beating, many were released but eight of them were retained, highly suspected of guerrilla activities. These eight were sentenced to die.

On January 18, 1945, they were taken by the Kenpetai [the military police corps of the Japanese Imperial Army11] to their mountain headquarters in Aga, a barrio of Nasugbu, 25 kilometers away from the poblacion. They were Jose Rustia, a surveyor by profession and father of six girls; Felipe Oliva, the Municipal Secretary and nephew of the Mayor; Fidel Vargas, an ex-USAFFE (soldier); Antonio Alix, son of the chief sacristan of the local parish church and father of many small children; Antonio Zabarte, son of the administrator of one of the haciendas in Nasugbu; Marcelo Sobreviñas, a student; Gelasio Cupo; and Roming, nephew of Jose Rustia.

It was late in the evening when they were taken to the coconut groves and were made to dig their own graves. All of them except Roming, who was able to escape miraculously to tell the tale, were brutally murdered by the vicious and cruel Kenpetai.
A light plane being carried on a truck through a street in Nasugbu, 1945.
A light plane being carried on a truck through a street in Nasugbu, 1945.
On January 31, 1945, the 11th Airborne Division under General (Joseph May) Swing landed on (the beaches of) Nasugbu. The American forces landed without any resistance from the Japanese. Nasugbu became the evacuation center of thousands of people from neighboring towns. Mayor Oliva was arrested for having collaborated with the enemy and a military mayor, Major Basilio Fernando [after whom Fernando Air Base would later be named] was appointed.

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Notes and references:
1Historical Data of the Municipality of Nasugbu,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2History of the Philippine Army,” Wikipedia.
3Fort Stotsenburg,” Wikipedia.
4Blackout (wartime),” Wikipedia.
5Fighting Bolo Battalion Unit,” online at the Philippine Archives Collection.
6Battle of Bataan,” Wikipedia.
7Family Dynasties Rule Business,” by Efren S. Cruz, published 2014, online at the Philippine Star.
8The Empire of Japan & The Invasion of The Philippines In WW2,” by Andrew Knighton, published 2017, online at The War History Online.
9Straughn's Regiment, Fil-American Irregular Troops (FAIT),” online at the Philippine Archives Collection.
10Raid on Los Baños,” Wikipedia.
11Kenpeitai,” Wikipedia.

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