The President Quezon’s Own Guerrillas (PQOG) was a guerrilla organization which fought the Japanese in World War II. The guerrilla outfit was among those that operated in Southern Luzon, including Batangas. It had many units in the province, one of which was in the eastern Batangas town of San Juan. In this undated document1, one Atty. Jose Contreras, presumably with the San Juan PQOG, wrote a condensed history of the guerrilla outfit, likely prepared as one of the documents needed for the outfit’s application for recognition by the United States Army.
CONDENSED HISTORY OF THE SAN JUAN UNIT OF THE
As early as the latter part of 1942, the people of San Juan, Batangas, became “guerrilla conscious.” The seed of public interest in the guerrilla organization was then beginning to germinate. The early formation consisted of various different groups which were actually welded into a compact mass and which finally formed the nucleus of the present San Juan Unit.
During the early formative period, Juanito Acosta, a young man with a very attractive personality, was able to gather about him a united group, and under his leadership, efforts were exerted particularly in the maintenance of peace and order, especially the prevention, if not the total elimination, of crimes which under those troublous circumstances would have been rampant. This group, although more or less equipped, had as its policy the avoidance of an open encounter with the Japanese for fear of the terrible reprisals that might be meted out by the Japs to the population of San Juan. Unfortunately, however, events finally came to a head when Acosta was forced to surrender to the enemy and nothing more was heard of him. Deprived of his leadership, his group finally dwindled away and his men joined other groups which in the meantime were being organized.
As stated above, the early groups were distinct from and independent of each other. However, it was early recognized that some sort of unity was essential, and recognized leaders were placed in command. Dr. Emilio Bolaños, having demonstrated from the beginning his great interest and devotion to the formation of an effective guerrilla organization, became the acknowledged leader. He took efficient and effective charge of the organization under the known name of Miller. At the start, he assumed leadership as Maj. Miller, later as Lt. Col. Miller. Under him, he had a staff of intelligent young officers who were devoted to the cause. Among these were Capt. Fernando de Villa, later Maj. Paraiso; Capt. Cesar Bolaños, later Maj. Lee; Capt. Roman Quejada, later Maj. Bataan; Judge Arsenio Lopez, later Maj. Arlo; and Dr. Vicente Castillo, known as Maj. Bonave, and a score of others.
As its first step, this organization made contacts with the then recognized guerrilla organization known as the “Marking’s.” Finally, however, the San Juan Unit attached itself to Pres. Quezon’s Own Guerrillas otherwise known as PQOG. In the meantime, overtures came from Col. Espina of the Fil-Americans for the purpose of inviting the San Juan Unit to join his organization. As to the result of those overtures, nothing definite is known.
The activities of the San Juan Unit were varied and numerous. It was essentially an organization designed to fight the enemy, and to carry out this aim, it was found to secure arms and munitions. Persons known to possess firearms were requested to surrender the same to the organization, and in this way, time came when the combat section was created. This difficult task of collecting arms became more difficult as the Japanese were then forcing the people to surrender their arms to them. And as an effective measure, the Japanese concentrated the population of San Juan for the double purpose of forcing the surrender arms and also to discover the leaders and members of the guerrilla organization. It was also at this period that Judge Arsenio Lopez, then Major Arlo, and others were tortured by the Japanese in order to force them to reveal the secrets of the guerrillas. Despite the untold tortures inflicted upon Maj. Arlo and his companions, and despite the sufferings of the people in the concentration camp, very few surrendered their firearms, and no person revealed the existence of the guerrillas in San Juan. There were some who lost their lives due to the punishment that they received from the Japanese.
One Domingo Capili and a score of others paid the supreme sacrifice. After the release from the concentration camp, the guerrilla activities continued, and ways and means were devised for the purpose of securing equipment to fight the enemy. Machinations were made to induce constabulary men to surrender their arms to the guerrilla members. Once equipped, though inadequately, steps were taken to engage the Japanese soldiers in combat, always, however, careful to stage the fights in places far from the poblacion in order not to cause panic to the inhabitants.
A very valuable acquisition was made sometime in September 1944, when Judge Francisco Hernandez, known as Lt. Col. Razul, joined the organization. Due to his educational training, being a lawyer and judge, as well as his military knowledge, having been an officer of the USAFFE and having nobly participated in the battle of Bataan, he joined the San Juan Unit as its commanding officer. Records show that while temporarily stationed in Salao, Rosario, Batangas, Lt. Col. Razul and his men engaged the Japanese soldiers in an encounter where the enemy suffered great losses, five dead and many wounded. As an officer of the San Juan Unit, Lt. Col. Razul was instrumental in the safe evacuation of many families from San Juan to American-occupied places. Under his personal direction, these families which were forced to leave San Juan due to the very critical and serious conditions, were safely escorted through mountain passes and finally reached their safe destinations.
The most memorable incident of this period was the fight that took place on the night of December 24, 1944 between a group of Japanese soldiers on patrol and the Chief of Staff of the San Juan Unit, Lt. Col. Miller himself. As the activities of the latter were then becoming very well known to the Japanese, the colonel was “wanted.” When he was accosted by the Japs on the night in question, instead of peacefully submitting himself to questioning and to his final capture, he fought the soldiers who stopped, and in this encounter, he killed three Japs, one officer and two soldiers. The colonel himself was severely wounded with a gunshot wound, the bullet passing thru his body. Due to the determined stand of the colonel, the remaining Japanese ran away, thus leaving him. Immediately, the colonel’s men arrived and carried him to a safe place where he was confined to recover from his wound. Although in bed, he continued to direct the operations and activities of the San Juan Unit.
Having learned from his intelligence men that a group of Japanese soldiers was on patrol in Bantilan, San Juan, Batangas, two men of the San Juan Unit attacked the Japs and captured their arms. They successfully killed three Japs and captured two rifles and one light machine gun. Again, three men of the San Juan Unit captured arms from the Japanese soldiers who were stationed in the barrio of Quipot, San Juan. They succeeded in killing one enemy soldier and capturing one rifle.
Under the leadership of Lt. Col. Razul and Lt. Col. Miller, their men continued to harass the enemy in various other incidents where the mettle and bravery of the members of the San Juan Unit were exhibited and proved.
In recognition of the activities of the San Juan Unit under the leadership of Lt. Col. Razul and Lt. Col. Miller, 1st Lieutenant Daniel J. Scelsi, Inf., an American officer of the 11th Airborne Div., U. S. Army, wrote a letter on April 8, 1945, instructing Lt. Col Razul to take charge of San Juan for the safety and welfare of the municipality. Since that time, the San Juan Unit worked under the 11th Airborne Division, U. S. Army, up to the present time.
It should be recalled that on April 3, 1945, Lt. Col Razul and his men reported to the American Liberation Forces at Puri, Tiaong, Tayabas, and thirty (30) men under his command joined and 11th Airborne Division and helped in the mopping up operations against the Japs. Those men, thirty in number, were commanded by one of his of-
ficers, now 1st Lt. Luis R. Bicol of the Philippine Army.
Prepared by Atty. Jose N. Contreras at San Juan, Batangas.