When the Japanese Massacred Bauan’s Male Population in 1945 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore When the Japanese Massacred Bauan’s Male Population in 1945 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

When the Japanese Massacred Bauan’s Male Population in 1945

Bauan, late February 1945. It had been a month since the United States 8th Army had landed virtually unopposed in Nasugbu to support the liberation of Manila and later conduct operations against the Japanese Imperial Army in Southern Luzon, including Batangas.
In a few days’ time, the Americans would push out from Nasugbu southwards to start chasing the Japanese out of Balayan, Calaca, Lemery and Taal. Understandably, troops of the Rising Sun were getting fidgety, agitated as they were not just by the American presence but also by increased guerrilla activities in the province.
They started committing the sort of atrocities that would eventually leave an estimated 25,000 natives dead in Batangas alone. In Bauan, they made a 180º turn from the policies they implemented when they first occupied the municipality in January 1942.
The so-called “historical data” for Poblacion Bauan1 noted that then, the Japanese Imperial Army implemented “attractive policies and measures” aimed at luring back natives who had evacuated the town in fear of the invasion.
Filipino guerrillas
Filipino Guerrillas.
These attractive policies were simply a reflection of the farce of an “independent” Philippine government called the Philippine Executive Commission2 that Japan wanted all and sundry to think it helped to set up after it had “liberated” the country from the United States.
Before long, the real Japanese agenda in the Philippines began to unfold. In Bauan, food started to become scarce because the Japanese insisted that farmlands be planted to cotton. Food produce and farm animals were routinely confiscated without due compensation.
Presumably because guerrilla activities started to increase in the province by mid-1942, the Japanese started to call town meetings on a regular basis “under the heat of the sun,” likely to intimidate the locals and also flush out these guerrillas.
By early 1945, the tide of the war in the Pacific had definitely turned in favor of the Allies; and the Japanese Imperial Army was on the back-foot. From their initial benevolent attitude towards the Filipinos, Japanese soldiers had become decidedly hostile towards the locals.
In Bauan, suspicious as they were of guerrilla activity, the Japanese started taking in the town’s prominent men, presumably for interrogation. While many were subsequently released, there were those who were never seen again and were presumably executed.
On the 28th of February 1945, Bauan’s men were ordered to gather at the church and in the house of a Mr. Severino Bautista, one of the town’s citizens. Meanwhile, the women and children were ordered to assemble inside the grounds of the Bauan Elementary School.
According to the source document, the Japanese “massacred the male population of Bauan.” It also mentioned that they “bombed the church” or, presumably, exploded a bomb to kill the men gathered inside. The description of the massacre at the house of Severino Bautista was more graphic:
“...on February 28, 1945, the Japanese soldiers confined 276 civilian inhabitants of the town under the magnificent home of Mr. Severino Bautista and blasted3 them. 206 were killed and 70 wounded [and] survived by running away after the collapse of the building. Aside from this number who were blasted, there were 34 persons who were bayoneted in the outskirts of the poblacion. Most of these victims were distinguished professionals of the town.”
The town’s women and children, meanwhile, had better fortune. The Japanese, in most likelihood, had intended to massacre them as well. However, because of “the timely intervention of American airplanes flying very low around the Bauan Elementary School, the women and children who were kept in this building were able to escape.”
Not done with the savagery, the Japanese burned the church, the old school building and private residences. Of the estimated thousand houses, only seven were somehow spared by the ensuing conflagration. The arrival of American forces on 9 March4 could not have come soon enough.
Notes and references:
1 Information for this article, unless otherwise annotated, taken from “Historical Data of the Municipality of Bauan,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2Second Philippine Republic,” Wikipedia.
3 “Blasted them” was clarified later in the same document as having a bomb exploded by the Japanese in Severino Bautista’s house.
4 The “historical data” for Bauan Poblacion stated that the town was liberated on 11 March 1945. However, a United States Army document stated that the town was declared “held” on 9 March and “secured” by 12 March. “List of Towns Liberated by the US Army from 17 October 1944 to 11 August 1945,” created 1945 by the Office of the AC/S for Intelligence, G2, United States Army Philippines-Ryukyus Command.
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