In 1944, probably in anticipation of the subsequent landing of the United States 8th Army early the following year, the Hunters/ROTC Guerrillas transferred their headquarters from the town of Infanta in Tayabas (present-day Quezon) to Cutad in the mountainous area of Nasugbu in Batangas. The guerrilla group was one of several operating in Batangas gathering intelligence for the US Army, harassing Japanese troops, keeping peace and order in the towns and dealing with collaborators, among others1.
These tasks were mostly performed by men. However, in July of 1944, Major Calixto Gasilao, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion of the Hunters/ROTC’s 49th Regiment, received instructions from one Colonel Ferrer through Lt. Horatio de Leon that he was to “recruit women to help the hard-fighting guerrillas in the mountains.” It is from Gasilao’s narrative that we are able to obtain details about Nasugbu’s Women Civilian Volunteers” who, in Gasilao’s own words, “were never paid a single cent” and “really dedicated themselves” to the task of aiding the guerrillas2.
READ MORE ABOUT THE HUNTERS/ROTC GUERRILLA GROUP: “Operations of the Hunters/ROTC Guerillas in Batangas Prior to the 1945 Nasugbu Landing in WWII”
The instructions came all the way from no less than Lt. Colonel Jacinto del Pilar, who belonged to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1944 (and whose education was, of course, interrupted by the outbreak of the war) and who was, at the time, the Commanding Officer of the 49th Regiment. Del Pilar envisioned that the women “could give first aid and care for the wounded” and “solicit badly needed medicines, clothes and other supplies” which men would not have been able to do without arousing suspicions.
According to Gasilao, to form the women’s group, he first contacted one Fely Samaniego, who upon being convinced about the objectives of the formation of the group, “volunteered to recruit the rest of the women to form the organization.” In all, 40 women were selected from among the “most loyal elements of the town.” Of these, 35 stayed with the group until it was disbanded in August of 1945.
The group first assembled in August of 1944. In this secret meeting, Gasilao, assisted by de Leon, briefed the women on the purposes of the organization and told them that they were “to undergo a period of training.” From the 1st of September to the 14th of the following month, the women received intensive training from one Dr. Agosto Camara – presumably about first aid and patient care – and were also indoctrinated, presumably about the guerrilla organization.
After the training, the women were assigned as a unit to the 1st Battalion of the Hunters/ROTC and were given “respective duty stations.” Most were sent to first-aid huts in the vicinity of the Balitigue Mountains, where “the wounded were given the best available treatment and the sick cared for.” These huts also served as shelters for fatigued guerrillas regardless of the organization they were affiliated with.
According to Gasilao, the women were “not paid a single cent” but “really dedicated themselves” to the tasks given them often at the cost of neglecting their own families. Those assigned to the huts laundered, sewed and mended guerrillas’ clothes. Those in the town solicited “medicines, food, clothing and other supplies for use of the fighting guerrillas in the mountains.”
They also disseminated propaganda and instructions “to the civilian population from Battalion Headquarters.” Because of their “tactfulness and perseverance,” Gasilao wrote, “no suspicion was aroused in the enemy. They were not discovered nor suspected doing such things contrary to the Japs’ doctrines.” Because of their courage, the guerrillas were “inspired to fight until the end or, in other words, till victory was won for the Allies.”
After the US Army landing on the beachheads of Nasugbu on the 31st of January 1945, the women were recalled from the mountains and reassigned to the town hospital which was being supplied by the US Army. The hospital was under the supervision by Drs. Celerino Pascual and Camara, the latter being the same doctor who gave the women their training.
READ MORE ABOUT THE NASUGBU LANDING: “The Nasugbu Landing in WWII and Its Significance to the Liberation of Batangas”
All the things that they learned from their training and experience in the mountains, the women put to good use while assigned at the town hospital. Gasilao described their work:
“They treated and cared for all wounded and sick members of the Allied Forces. They gave first aid treatment, cooked for these unfortunate soldiers. They gave inspiration to these weary and sick soldiers in the hospital. They amused them by reading magazines, by playing some card games or by showing the soldiers pictures which made them forget war and its destructions. They also accommodated sick and wounded men of the U.S. Army.”
The women helped to run the hospital from February to August, with supplies being provided by the United States Army’s 11th Airborne Division. Because of the surrender of Japan, and thus the end of World War II, Colonel Eleuterio Adevoso, overall Commander of the Hunters/ROTC Guerrillas, issued the order formally disbanding the Women Civilian Volunteers on 30 August 1945.
LIST OF WOMEN CIVILIAN VOLUNTEERS (by August 1945)
- Felicitas Samaniego (In-Charge)
- Nieves Sapico (Assistant)
- Gloria Samaniego
- Sofia Sapico
- Julita Samaniego
- Illuminada Alvarez
- Magna Ermita
- Clara Rustia
- Elisa Pascual
- Mercedes Chuidian
- Santas Garcia
- Ofelia Rustia
- Josefina Rustia
- Teresita Albert
- Ignacia Albert
- Adoracion Valladolid
- Lina Zabarte
- Leonarda Alvarez
- Marciana Sapico
- Josefina Mendoza
- Angelina Sapico
- Anita Mesinas
- Mercedes Ugot
- Simplicia Concepcion
- Lagrimas Pascual
- Jovita Rustia
- Marcelina Concepcion
- Fe Samaniego
- Lourdes Samaniego
- Amalia Enriquez
- Filomena Zabarte
- Honorata Mesinas
- Maxima Cabingan
- Antonia Riuvievar
- Ester Sapico
Notes and references:1 “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.
2 Most of the information about the Women’s Civilian Volunteers are taken from “History of the Nasugbu Women Civilian Volunteers,” by Major Calixto Gasilao, published 1947.