Soon after the Japanese attack on the United States naval facility in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941, “able-bodied citizens and reservists” of the small western Batangas town of Lian along the shores of what is now called the West Philippine Sea “rallied to the frontlines of democracy1.”
What this meant was these men, along with countless others around the Philippines, enlisted into the Philippine Commonwealth Army, which earlier had been absorbed into what was then known as the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur2.
|The commemorative marker for the 48 martyrs in Lian, Batangas. Image source: Municipality of Lian Official Web Site.|
Among the immediate tasks for these men was to install beachhead defenses in the town, considered strategic in a military sense because of its proximity to the West Philippine Sea. “They installed barbed wire trenches from the shores of Nasugbu to the shores of Lian, including its outlying barrios facing the sea.”
As things happened, the Japanese would land their forces elsewhere. The men who enlisted would then relocate to Bataan, where MacArthur planned to consolidate his defenses into a holding position3, to join other USAFFE forces. Lian, meanwhile, would subsequently be occupied by forces of the Japanese Imperial Army.
In May of 1942, Gen. Jonathan Wainright, left in charge of USAFFE forces after the recall of MacArthur to Australia, surrendered to the Japanese4. Not all soldiers, whether Americans or Filipinos, heeded Wainright’s order to surrender. Among those who refused to do so were some men who enlisted from Lian who “defied such an order and instead, beyond our expectation came home with experience of battle wrought in their faces.”
These very men would then rally behind the growing underground or guerrilla resistance movement. The “historical data” for the town of Lian (poblacion), from which most information about the town in World War II has been taken, gives insight about the underground work of its citizens.
“The men under him extended voluntary intelligent activities not only in Lian but also along the coast of Batangas province which at that time was being fortified by the enemy. The strength and frontier of the Japanese forces, their arms and supplies were meticulously plotted on maps and relayed to General Headquarters.”
Particularly late in the war, as the Allied forces tried to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese, information from guerrilla movements, including those in Lian, was invaluable. Late in 1944, American warplanes started strafing Japanese positions along the seacoast likely on information provided by these guerrillas.
Regrettably, as the Japanese intensified their efforts against underground resistance movements, many of these men were discovered and arrested. At the Japanese garrison, the captured men were “subjected to all forms of inhuman punishments that only men with the convictions to see their country free could withstand.”
On 16 January 1945, a mere two weeks before the landing in Nasugbu of the United States 8th Army, the entire town of Lian was forced by Japanese soldiers to be concentrated in what was then known as the “Hacienda” (presently St. Claire Academy)5.
It was during this short period of concentration in Lian that 48 men who were known to the Japanese as active participants of the underground guerrilla movement were brutally executed. This savagery, as all readers of Batangas History know, was of course replicated in many other places around the country, but most especially in Batangas where an estimated 25,000 Batangueños were massacred by the Japanese.
In appreciation of the sacrifice of their lives, the 48 “martyrs” of Lian have been honored with a commemorative monument in the town, and their exploits to assist the returning American forces in 1945 are annually remembered in the town’s Liberation Day.
The “historical” data for poblacion Lian appropriately sums up the contribution of these 48 martyrs: “The 48 men were killed just two weeks before the Americans landed but they did not die in vain; the town was liberated by the Americans on January 31, 1945.”
We include below the contents of the monument’s marker, including the names of those whom the Japanese executed:
THE MEMORY OF THEIR MARTYRS WHO
WERE EXECUTED BY THE JAPANESE ON
JANUARY 16, 1945
THEIR ONLY CRIME WAS LOYALTY TO
THE ALLIED CAUSE
|ABELLAR, EUFEMIO||LIMJOCO, JOVENCIO|
|ADRIAS, JOSE||LIRA, ESTEBAN|
|AQUINO, PEDRO||LOOC, FELIX|
|ATIENZA, MIGUEL||LUIS, JUANITIO DE|
|BAVIERA, ROMUALDO||MACALAGUIM, CAYETANO|
|CARAIG, AMANDO||MAGAHIS, FLORENTINO|
|FACTOR, FORTUNATO||MAGNO, MARIANO|
|FAGARA, SEVERINO||MAGTAAS, LORETO|
|GARCES, JOSE||MASIPAG, CRISPIN|
|GUTIERREZ, RUFINO||MASIPAG, POLICARPIO|
|ILAGAN, AGATON||MASUSI, GELACIO|
|JONSON, ALEJANDRO||MEDRANO, MARCIAL|
|JONSON, AMBROSIO||MEDRANO, TEODULO|
|JONSON, GREGORIO S.||MERCADO, JOSE|
|JONSON, GREGORIO V.||NEBREJA, REMIGIO|
|JONSON, MANUEL||REYES, ARSENIO|
|LAGRISOLA, VALENDIN||RUIZ, NARCISO|
|LAGUARDIA, ALFONSO||SANCHEZ, BUENAVENTURA|
|LAGUERTA, GUILLERMO||SANCHEZ, VIVENCIO|
|LAGUS, PIO||SEMENIANO, APOLONIO|
|LEJANO, FRANCISCO||SEMENIANO, SINFOROSO|
|LEJANO, GUILLERMO||TAN, ZOILO|
|LEON, CORNELIO DE||VERGARA, LIBRADO|
|LIMJOCO, CESAR||VERGARA, LORENZO|
Notes and references:1 Most of the World War II information about Lian contained in this article has been taken from the “History and Cultural Life of the Town of Lian,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 “Military history of the Philippines during World War II,” Wikipedia.
3 “Philippines campaign (1941–1942),” Wikipedia.
4 “Jonathan M. Wainwright (General),” Wikipedia.
5 “Lian, Batangas Info,” online at the Municipality of Lian Officiate Web Site.