The Rillo-Neri Unit was a guerrilla organization that was allegedly formed in the town of Balayan, and again allegedly by the authority coming from Col. Hugh Straughn, founder of the Fil-American Irregular Troops. It was supposed to have conducted intelligence work, kept peace and order and helped in the evacuation of the citizens of Balayan, Lemery and Tuy. Its combat team was also said to have participated in combat during the liberation of Batangas. While this guerrilla group failed to obtain full recognition from the United States Army, 130 of its members were recognized as a combat team and another 400 gained recognition with another guerrilla outfit, the Blue Eagle Brigade. In this document1
, a short narrative on the founders of the Rillo-Neri Unit is provided as among the supporting documents of the unit’s application for official recognition.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RILLO-NERI UNIT
FIL-AMERICAN IRREGULAR TROOPS
1. The founders of the Rillo-Neri Unit were Colonel Salvador B. Rillo of Balayan, Batangas and Lieutenant Colonel Father Jaime Sampoerhna Neri, a member of the Society of Jesus. Colonel Rillo began his underground activities just before the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Father Neri started immediately after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and his activities covered the region from the island of Mindanao to Luzon. Their unwavering efforts to form an organized resistance against the Japanese invaders had caused them to be imprisoned in Fort Santiago where they suffered untold tortures at the hands of the Japanese Military Police. Col. Rillo was imprisoned twice – the first time June 6 to December 25, 1942 and the second time, from August 5, 1943 to April 25, 1944. The individual accomplishments of the founders can be described in short as follows:
2. COLONEL SALVADOR B. RILLO: Shortly after the occupation of Manila and just before the fall of Bataan, he contacted his various friends to align them with his underground movements. His first objective was to put key men to cover the activities of prominent Filipinos who showed signs of Japanese leaning. Personally, he was in close contact with Mr. Domingo Lerma and Mr. Narciso Lapus who were then very close to Generals Ricarte and Homma. They were the founders of the “Bagong Pagkaka-isa,” a political association, the object of which was to support General Ricarte to head a dictatorial form of government in the Philippines. Col. Rillo employed prominent women to find out the views of the Filipino leaders. Among those closely watched were the members of the Philippine Commission headed by Chairman Vargas, and later on President Laurel and his cabinet, Mayor Leon Guinto of Manila, Atty. Pio Duran, Benigno Ramos, and many others. The activities of President Laurel and his cabinet were covered up to the time they were flown to Japan. The intelligence operatives were under Major Francisco Medrana, who was aide to President Laurel.
3. The second objective was the search for, and collection of, hidden arms and ammunition. While Col. Rillo was in prison, the excavation of buried arms was done under the personal direction of his wife, Mrs. Nazaria R. Rillo, who sent arms to the mountains, mostly to Col. Hugh S. Straughn’s Headquarters through one Capt. Mendoza who was under the direct command of Col. Marcos V. Agustin. The arms sent to Sierra Madre were transported in most cases by a motor launch belonging to Madrigal & Co. which plied between Manila and Talim Island. This launch was manned entirely by guerrilla members from the officers to the kitchen boy.
4. The third objective of the activities of Col. Rillo and his men was the disseminating [of] propaganda in connection with their other activities. While he was confined in the Meisic detention station by the Airport Studio Military Police from June 6 to Dec. 25, 1942, Col. Rillo used to receive various reports from some hidden receiving sets and from Col. Straughn and Col. Marcos V. Agustin in the Sierra Madre, by runners thru his wife, Mrs. Nazaria R. Rillo, who made daily visits to the prison. He used members of the Metropolitan Police for spreading propaganda news in Manila.
5. Organizing sabotage and trigger squads was Col. Rillo’s fourth objective. Several squads were formed to cover the city of Manila. One squad was headed by Pedro Calbos, who, when caught by the Japanese Military Police, squealed. This caused the arrest of Col. and Mrs. Rillo and eight other guerrilleros, including Atty. Patricio Dionisio, a labor leader and member of the Fil-American Irregular Troops under Col. Straughn. Another squad was headed by Capt. Basilio Basa who committed hair-raising exploits such as sabotaging
trucks and ammunition depots in Balintawak and Camp Murphy; assaulting the Japanese garrison in Escolta and penetrating Camp McKinley where he received a wound in the shoulder blade. Basilio was brave, courageous, daring, and untiring. Another group was headed by Capt. Anatolio Lastra, nicknamed “Tuliong.” Tuliong was responsible for smuggling a good number of arms out of the city to the province, and also for the arrest and execution of the spy who denounced Colonel Rillo in his first imprisonment.
6. The fifth objective of Col. Rillo’s activities but also of extending relief to families of Filipino soldiers who went to Bataan and left their families unprovided for in the city, the care and relief of soldiers who escaped from the Bataan “Death March” and from the Capas Concentration Camp, and also aid to American internees and war prisoners confined in various camps. He and Mrs. Rillo had to sell out their last wardrobes to bear the expenses of the runners going and coming to the city from the mountains, and financing other activities.
7. When Col. Rillo was arrested on June 6, 1942 by the Airport Military Police, Mrs. Rillo continued the underground activities. She received messages from the other guerrilleros, especially from Col. Straughn and Col. Marcos V. Agustin and delivered them to Col. Rillo in the Meisic Detention Station where he was confined till his first release on December 25, 1942.
8. Captains Zapata and Leaguno, representing Col. Macam’s unit approached Col. Rillo after his release from his first imprisonment and requested him to reorganize the unit in the absence of Col. Macam who went to Iloilo to contact Col. Peralta and Governor Confesor. However, before the complete reorganization of Col. Macam’s Unit was effected, Col. Rillo was arrested for the second time.
9. Handicapped by his confinement, Col. Rillo ordered his two regimental commanders, Maj. Lucas Villacrusis and Maj. Claro Lagdameo together with his S-2 officers, Major B. Pumerada and Capt. Jose R. Macalincag, to contact Capt. Barker, representing Col. Thorpe of the East Central Luzon Guerrillas in order to insure unity of command in the city of Manila. Mrs. Rillo and Capt. Macalincag contacted Capt. Hipolito who brought down to the city Capt. Barker to induct Regimental Commanders Lucas Villacrusis, Claro Lagdameo, Major Pumerada and six other minor officers in the presence of Commander Alejandro Santos of the Nakar Division. Col. Rillo remained with the Fil-American Irregular Troops.
10. With the attachment of two regiments under Col. Rillo to Col. Thorpe’s unit, there was [a] group in Manila which remained under the direct command of Colonel Rillo, to whom he issued orders thru his wife. This group, composed of Manila residents, prominent in social work, helped Col. Rillo in raising funds, collecting foodstuffs, medical supplies and clothing both for the guerrillas irrespective of unit affiliations and American internees and prisoners, besides engaging in intelligence activities. Also, a medical staff under Capt. Alejandro Sancianco, M.D., assisted by Capt. Pastor C. Magbag, M.D. was maintained in Manila all throughout the period of Japanese occupation to care for the wounded guerrillas irrespective of unit affiliations, sick soldiers from Bataan and needy families of soldiers who were missing or reported dead.
11. Mrs. Nazaria R. Rillo, with the rank of Major, was appointed liaison officer who coordinated all works of the various members assigned to various activities in the different places of Manila and provinces at the suggestion and recommendation of Capt. Barker. Mrs. Rillo was ably assisted by Capt. Gertrudes B. Le Duc and 1st Lt. Rosario Coyugan, who coordinated their various activities with the group headed by Miss Maria Martinez in which Maria Y. Orosa and Miss Remedios Filoteo were members, both of whom were arrested and exe-
cuted by the Japanese. Miss Maria Y. Orosa, Head of the Food Utilization Division under the Bureau of Agriculture, used to send to the mountains and to military and war prisoners food preserves, calcium tablets and syrups, soy sauce (toyo) and medical supplies. A supplementary roster is hereby submitted for the Unit’s members operating in Manila covering the period from May 1942 up to the liberation day.
12. After the escape of Col. Rillo from Muntinglupa Prison Camp, instead of returning to Manila, went to Batangas, his home province, to reorganize his unit which he left under the command of Major Balbino Panaligan in the early part of January 1943 before Col. Rillo went to Manila where he was for the second time arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese. The Batangas organization consisted of 3 battalions where most ex-members of the USAFFE were made the nucleus of the organization. The primary objectives of the organization in the early part of the Japanese occupation was to maintain peace and order outside of the towns of Balayan, Tuy, Calaca, and Lian and to keep away as much as possible from falling into the hands of the Japanese food supplies and work animals. As early as November 1, 1944, the original strength of the unit of three battalions was increased to four battalions and mobilized and trained expecting that the American forces that landed in Leyte would land in Batangas. Patrol work had been maintained from November and continued to the time that the Americans landed in Nasugbu. Upon the landing of the American forces in Nasugbu, the Unit was attached to the Guerrilla Headquarters under the supervision of the 11th Airborne Division command, operations of which have been recorded in the combat activities of the unit.
13. The Fil-American Irregular Troops in Batangas Province were originally organized by Col. Rillo as early as June 1st 1942. Major Domingo Tuguigui was sent to Batangas to organize guerrillas under the Fil-American Irregular Troops. Maj. Tuguigui’s organization, together with Maj. Medrano’s guerrilla groups in Batangas, were consolidated under Maj. Espina, who was caught and executed by the Japanese during the early part of 1944.
14. The Fil-American Irregular Troops in Batangas Province, because of the confinement of Col. Rillo in Fort Santiago and the arrest and execution of Maj. Espina, broke into several independent units, some remained under separate commands as Fil-American units, some were absorbed by the Hunters or ROTC, and in the latter part of the year 1945, some were absorbed by the Blue Eagle Unit. What remained under Col. Rillo was but a regiment of almost three thousand men.
15. The cause of the second arrest of Col. Rillo was the interception of his letter to Col. Straughn and Col. Marcos V. Agustin stating therein that two guerrilla divisions were being formed in Manila, Cavite and Batangas. During his second confinement, he met Father Jaime S. Neri, S.J., who was arrested at the same time as Col. Rillo. Dumped in the same cell in Fort Santiago for two months, and rejoined in the City Jail (Old Bilibid Prison) for another month and interned in Muntinglupa Bilibid Prison for about eight months and confronted with the same problems of prison life and imbued with the same flame of desire to help the sacred cause of the Fatherland, their close associations, tempered by untold sacrifices, ripened into [such] a bond of comradeship and friendship that the two became the founders of the Rillo-Neri nenewed resistance movement.
16. Lt. Col. FR. JAIME S. NERI, S.J.: Father Jaime Sampoehrna Neri was a member of the Society of Jesus, a religious organization of world renown. It was very fortunate that a man who had demonstrated unselfishness, exceptional courage, mature judgement, endowed with a strict moral and spiritual sense, should be
the co-founder of the Rillo-Neri Guerrilla Unit.
17. A year before the Pacific War broke out, Father Jaime Sampoerhna Neri, S.J., together with Fr. Franklin Ewing, S.J., a Jesuit anthropologist, who had worked in Vienna and Syria, were engaged in an anthropological research in Mindanao and the Visayas. This scientific research was under the auspices of the Society of Jesus and partly subsidized by the National Research Council of the Commonwealth Government.
18. While preparing for the expedition among the Aeta tribe at the foothills and slopes of Mt. Apo, Cotabato-Davao Boundary, the Pacific War broke out. Together with the other Catholic missionaries in Mindanao, among them Fr. Edward Haggerty, S.J., they contributed whatever means they had for the prosecution of the war in the Far East.
19. Major General Sharp commissioned Rev. Father J. Franklin Ewing, S.J. to manufacture quinine from the Bukidnon Cinchona, for the use of the boys in Bataan and Corregidor. Fr. Neri aided Fr. Ewing in the procurement of the necessary materials for the quinine factory which was established in Dansalan, Lanao.
20. After the Battle of Mindanao and the surrender of the USAFFE on May 12th, 1942, Fr. Neri was engaged in relief work among the prisoners of war in [the] Malaybalay camp and in the civilian internees’ camp in Impalatao, Bukidnon, where Major General Sharp and Brig. Gen. Roxas were among those concentrated in [the] Malaybalay Prison Camp.
21. About the middle of July 1942, Fr. Neri left Mindanao for Manila in a sailboat to represent the interests of BISHOP Reyes of Cagayan and the Catholic Missionaries before the Apostolic Delegate and the Japanese Military Administration. In Manila, which he reached after a month of travel on an inter-island sea-craft, Fr. Neri was advised by the Religious Section of the Imperial Japanese Forces to go back to Davao and work there with the local Japanese Forces for the liberation of the Catholic Missionaries. He boarded a Japanese transport and reached Davao on the first week of October, 1942, just a few days before an American submarine torpedoed a Jap transport in Davao Gulf five miles from the city.
22. In Davao, Fr. Neri worked in conjunction with Col. Djimbo, Deputy Commander of the Imperial Japanese Forces in Mindanao and Sulu, for the transfer of the Catholic Missionaries from Mindanao to Manila. While negotiation was going on, the Father was engaged in the relief work with social workers in Davao for the civilian internees, the American prisoners of war working in the Japanese abaca plantations. Fr. Neri brought not only food for the body but also for the spirit and the much-awaited food from the “short-wave.”
23. In this Japanese stronghold of the South, Fr. Neri rubbed elbows with General Matsumoto of the Military Administration. Col. Djimbo of the Imperial Japanese Forces, Filipino officials from all parts of Mindanao, and the high officials of the Japanese plantations. Valuable information was gathered regarding the situation in Mindanao which was sent to Manila thru the good graces of the Japanese manager of the Dai Nippon Airways. Articles were smuggled into the American POW camp in the Penal Colony thru the cooperation of a Japanese from the Manila Propaganda Office. Fr. Neri came in contact with this Japanese thru Miss Lulu Reyes of the Chaplain Aid Association, Manila.
24. In his canvass among the common people of the most Japanized city in the Philippines, Fr. Neri found out that they were heart and soul awaiting the day of the liberation even during the peak of the Japanese power in East Asia. The common people were generous to the Allied Civilian Internees and much more to the American and Filipino POWs working in Davao for the Japanese.
25. After several months of negotiations on behalf of the Catholic Missionaries, Fr. Neri succeeded in their transfer, not to Manila, but to the Convento, which was a much better place than the Internee Camp where over two thousand men, women and children were packed in a single house, formerly a cabaret.
26. This refusal of the Military Administration to grant the transfer of the Catholic Missionaries to Manila angered Col. Djimbo who, being a Catholic, had championed the cause of the missionaries. This was the beginning of the rift between the Military Administration and the Army.
27. In May 1943, the Governors and Military Inspectors from all the provinces of Mindanao and Sulu were in a confab in Davao. Jose P. Laurel, Gen. Francisco, Benigno Aquino and Bonifacio were among those who attended the meeting which was convened to find ways and means for the pacification of the guerrillas in Mindanao. A copy of his report was brought to Manila and delivered by a high ranking Constabulary officer, but the original was intercepted by the Japanese Kempei Tai in Davao. Even before this interception of his last report, Fr. Neri had been shadowed by the Jap Military Police.
28. He made his exit from Davao before the Japanese were able to grab him and proceeded to Manila in June 1943 on a motor fishing boat. He barely got to Manila when the Japanese forces commandeered the Ateneo de Manila building. During the hectic withdrawal of the Ateneo possessions, Fr. Neri, with two other Filipino scholastics, acted as front to prevent the occupying Japanese from getting anything but the building and the paint on the walls.
29. Acting on an errand of the charity, Fr. Neri went to Ft. Santiago to find out the whereabouts of Fr. Douglas of Pililla, Rizal, a New Zealand-Columbian missionary, who was taken by the Japanese in that place. The Japanese Military Police in Ft. Santiago, who were already notified by the Military Police of Davao about his activities and because of the report which was intercepted there, the Military Police in Ft. Santiago were hot on his heels. So, they just opened the gate of the cell, thrust him there, never to give any answer about Fr. Douglas.
30. AUGUST 6, 1943 – The birth of the Rillo-Neri Unit.
31. CELL NO. 7: There were six Filipino prisoners in this cell when Fr. Neri was taken into it. Two of the prisoners were just like living skeletons. Two guerrilleros from Pasig, Rizal followed Fr. Neri. In the afternoon after a water cure, Col. Salvador Rillo was added to the group. Rillo’s wife was confined in another cell, together with other women, among whom was the notorious international spy, Madame Panzani. Rillo was one of Col. Straughn’s guerrilla organizers and financiers. This was his second arrest.
32. After the arrest of Fr. Neri, seven other Jesuits were taken in as the Japanese thought that they had at last unearthed the Jesuit International Spy Ring. This idea was along the trend of the Japanese investigations. The Japanese Military Police, however, came to know about the bayonets and sabers hidden in one of the Jesuit houses, which belonged to the Department of Military
Science and Tactics of the ATENEO de Manila. After one whole month of investigation, five Jesuits were sentenced to serve four months of confinement and hard labor in Ft. Santiago, while two were released soon afterwards.
33. Fr. Neri was kept for another month of investigation. During all this time, he acted in his proper capacity as a religious in keeping up the morale of his fellow prisoners.
34. There was established inside the cell among the prisoners a sort of Christian community whereby all had to abide to the few regulations for the common good guided by the proper Christians spirit of charity. There was a common prayer, as well as private religious instructions for those who defied the invaders for the freedom of their native land. Prayers were always offered for those who were under torture, and all those who had to run the gauntlet had always the assurance of a moral and spiritual support of their fellow prisoners.
35. In this place where no human aid could reach the impounded underground, where man lived alone on the future and died on the present, where the gloom of impending death shrouded the sleepless nights and mantled the darkness of the uncertain days, there was but only one ray of light which penetrated the impenetrable darkness, the HOPE in the All-Just and All-Merciful God!
36. Under these stricken circumstances where men were hemmed in and tortured for a common cause, a bond of union headband them together, nurtured by a common faith and watered by universal suffering. This was the birthplace of a union which was to come to fruition in good time. But this bond was almost broken when Rillo was brought out one night together with fifteen other prisoners to [the] Manila North Cemetery. There, he witnessed the execution, or rather, massacre by the Military Police and their interpreters of twelve of their companions with pistols, rifles and swords. He was among the three who were and was returned to his cell to tell the horrible tale. The Japs had resorted to this extreme means of intimidation to extract whatever information Rillo could give regarding the underground activities. The old man held on and underwent further tortures, but never gave any hint to the Japs about the underground movements. While some of his co-accused were released after three months in the dungeon, Rillo had to stay five months for further investigation and continuous tortures.
37. After a couple of months inside the dungeon, Fr. Neri, together with around fifty other political prisoners, were herded into a rock and brought to the Old Bilibid Prison. An American nurse, who was in Bataan, Mrs. Margaret Folsom, was among this group. She joined the underground movement but must have been betrayed or squealed by a tortured comrade.
38. In Old Bilibid, Fr. Neri had a better chance to minister to his fellow prisoners. Aldo contact, list of all, conversations with others were strictly prohibited, yet he managed to say a few words here and there to keep up the morale of the men. There were six American prisoners in this place and to them, Fr. Neri and his companions now and then smuggled in news about the war brought by recent prison arrivals from the different detention cells in Manila and from the various islands, including Mindanao. Fr. Neri volunteered to be one of the "Banjo Boys" or "Cubeta Boys" in order to cheer up his fellow prisoners, Americans and Filipinos, men and women alike. It was then that Miss Elsa O'Farrel, a member of Manila's higher social circle and a renowned harpist, was taken in. She, too, was in the underground movement.
39. Mr. Rillo and his group were transferred to Bilibid in the middle of December, and once more, the bond was strengthened. Though the two were in separate cells, they were able to communicate with each other while Fr. Neri was on duty as "Banjo Boy" or during a short shower which the jobs allowed the prisoners.
40. Christmas in 1943 was one which all in prison would never forget. The Japs allow them to get out of the cell and pray before the crucified image of Christ. All the Catholics stepped forward and prayed while the rest bowed down their heads. Upon petitioning the officer-in-charge that the prisoners be allowed to sing some Christmas carols, Fr. Neri was allowed to direct the singing. "Silent Night, Holy Night" spontaneously came from sobbing hearts and tearful eyes, from the he-men who defied the ruthless invaders. It was [a] religious experience all its own. The passing of the years may gradually wash away the memories of the tortures and suffering at Ft. Santiago, but every Christmas would henceforth be associated with this unique celebration. For some of the prisoners, this was their last Christmas.
41. The Court Martial sometime early in January 1944 brought many prisoners out to Muntinglupa with varied sentences for their crime of disturbing the peace and tranquility of the Japanese Military Administration. Mr. Rillo was among those who received six years of imprisonment, not counting the months of suffering in the torture chambers of Ft. Santiago. There were others who received their sentence before the firing squad.
42. It was on the 12th of February 1944, a day after the celebration of [the] Emperor’s birthday, when over fifty political prisoners were court martialed, the last batch to be tried, in the Araullo Court Building in Intramuros. Over thirty in the group belonged to the Hunters Guerrillas and among them was Miss Elsa O’Farrel. Four were given capital punishment. They were Col. Harry Mills of Denver, Colorado, Estanislao Ortega of the Philippine Scouts and Pedro Santiago of Col. Straughn’s Fil-American Guerrillas and one of the Hunters’. A young man named Reyes from Bohol was added to the condemned. He was court-martialed two days before. The five condemned men were brought out on the 13th of February. Fr. Neri had a chance to talk to all of them during their trials. He had helped in preparing these men for the end and had exhorted them to face their executioners with prayers and a trust in the merciful God.
43. The 15th of February, the reunion of Fr. Neri and Col. Rillo in the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinglupa, Rizal. This was the place where all political prisoners of the Japs were to serve their respective sentences from a few months to life imprisonment.
44. THE THIRD HEAVEN: Under the Japs in Ft. Santiago and Old Bilibid, everything was free. There was no water bill, or light bill and the food was free, meager as the starvation diet, and there was a pair of drawers to clothe nature and a piece of cloth for [a] towel. But there was no freedom of speech and locomotion! These alone were enough to differentiate the earthly heaven and the earthly hell!
45. Fr. Neri was assigned as Assistant Chaplain in the prison, and was allowed to make the rounds in the hospital among the sick and dying. With a number of picked men, religious instruction was given to those who were willing and who needed it. The chapel was enlarged and the attendance was increased. With [the] Rillo-Neri combination and other generous souls, prayers were recited from ward to ward in the evening. The choir was revived while religious services [were] enhanced. There was relief among those who were in some need. The Chaplain’s Aid Association sent in articles for the pri-
soners while other generous souls helped in one way or another.
46. Around March of 1944, over five hundred military prisoners, as the political prisoners of the Jap Army were known in Muntinglupa, were sent for slave labor to Davao. Other groups were sent to [the] Santa Mesa Dockyard and to Nichols Field. Few remained in Muntinglupa and among those were Rillo, Manlapus and Neri. Enrique Albert, a young firebrand and a promising attorney, were among those sent to Santa Mesa.
47. THE ESCAPADE: Santa Mesa – Among the military prisoners in Santa Mesa, nine escaped one night in April 1944. Among them were two Americans, Moore and Mills.
48. The Hunters’ Raid. At midnight of June 25th, 1944, a band of Hunters’ Guerrillas, led by a young man “Major Borbon,” creeped thru Muntinglupa reservation and laid low down in the gorge just before the left tower of the desert [deserted?] fort. In this group were two former guards of the prison who were hunted by the Japanese. The raiders had studied the fort inside and out, and they had the layout of the land in their fingertips.
49. When the bell rang at midnight hour, there was a change of guards. As soon as the dopy guards were relieved and the main entrance of the fort cleared, the raiders advanced up to the gate, held his hand up as he worked up from his midnight dopiness.
50. The raiders were in control. Immediately, the ex-guard guerrillas went on their business with precision. One went up to the telephone tower, ripped the Japanese mouthpieces and the in-charge was forced to go down.
51. The prisoners were busy emptying this armory of whatever rifles and ammunition left while another group opened the Military Brigade and called up for the Hunters Military prisoners. Seventeen of the prisoners from the brigade got out. One trusty police tried to stop the prisoners from the brigade only to wake up later with a black eye and a stinging blow in his jaw.
52. A trusted few knew that the Hunters were coming, but decided to stay foot for several considerations. Of the Albert, Manlapus, Rillo and Neri groups, Albert got away that night. The other three decided to bide their time. They preferred to suffer the consequences rather than be the cause of suffering for others. They hesitated to act which might prejudice the safety of their folks and which might put the Director of Prisons and his large patriarchal family in an embarrassing position. The Director and his family had been generous and understanding to the group. They had helped us in every way out.
53. Because of this unopposed raid in the prison compound, “the honor of the Republic was at stake,” so said Jose Laurel, the President. Director Misa was suspended pending investigation while a constabulary officer, Colonel Dioquino, took over his place. He was assisted by a one-time guerrilla who surrendered to the Japs. He is Major Adriano Valdes.
54. Fr. Neri was more intimate to Dioquino that with Misa when the latter was Director. Dioquino had mentioned to Fr. Neri his travel in Japan and to the best of Fr. Neri’s knowledge, he never mentioned any sympathy for the Japs, but just [a] plain observer of the Japanese customs and institutions. Dioquino’s wife was anxiously waiting for the coming of Allied liberation, and was a bit worried where to go should the invasion come. Dioquino handed Fr. Neri from time to time notes and packages coming from outside
sympathizers contrary to the rules for any political prisoner.
55. Fr. Neri’s personal experience with Valdez was otherwise. Valdez was trying to impose Japanese military discipline upon all the prisoners inside the compound. He was ably assisted by a fellow political prisoner, Carbajosa, who like Valdez surrendered to the Japs. Such was the strictness these two men had imposed upon the prisoners that several actually died due to extreme exposure and starvation. There was no distinction between the weak and the strong, the dying and the living! [The] Japanese custom of bowing to officials was introduced by Valdez not only to the prisoners but among the prison officials themselves, and with rigidity.
56. Fr. Neri brought the matter of such Japanization to the attention of Valdez. In the preparatory conversation, Valdez was mild and was condescending. Fr. Neri explained that it was rather difficult for the men to undergo the rigid Japanese discipline for they were civilians, unaccustomed to military rigidness. Besides, they were weak to undergo such exertion, having been starved and reduced to skin and bones. But when the Padre mentioned the principal point that these men were unwilling to undergo such Japanization, and because they were prisoners who did not want to submit, Valdez was in fury. His face was transformed into a violent expression and out came from his mouth in torrents of passion: “If they still would not submit, why should they not go up to the scaffold and let their heads be chopped off?”
57. Misa and his family left the prison compound on the 22nd of August 1944. The investigating committee exculpated former Director Misa, but there had to be a scapegoat, otherwise, the “honor of the Republic would be at stake.” Laurel had to sacrifice Misa and his subordinates to save the “face of the Republic.”
58. With sympathy of Misa gone with him and with the authority of the Prison Bureau under the hands of men with uncertain allegiance and heartless brutes and unbearably so under Valdez, the time for the final showdown was at hand.
59. THE COUNCIL OF WAR: August 22, 1944 – Ex-Director Misa and his family left Muntinglupa Prison Compound in mid-morning for Marinduque via Lucena, Tayabas. Immediately after, a “council of war” was called by Rillo to sound off the ideas of the different trustworthy guerrilla leaders in the Prison Compound. Among those present in [a] closed room were Raul Manlapus of Manila Counter-Propaganda, Ladislao Joya of Cavite Guerrillas, Guillermo Monfort were in favor of a forced escapade, i.e., guerrillas attacking the prison fort to liberate the military prisoners. Fr. Neri counseled absolute secrecy of the proposed jailbreak. However, on that day, nothing definite was reached.
60. AUGUST 23rd: Alfonso de la Concepcion of Col. Straughn’s Guerrillas, approached by Fr. Neri about a proposed plan The break had to be done in three days. The plan was plausible and connections were made with Joya’s Guerrillas of Cavite. De la Concepcion and Manuel Fruto of Manila Counter-Propaganda were making arrangements with underground prison officials and the Cavite Guerrillas while Quintin Gellidon and Fr. Neri planned the details of the inside work. This jailbreak was to be totally an inside work with the guerrillas acting as rear guard outside the compound once the prisoners were out.
61. August 25th: 8:30 P.M. Fr. Neri called the “choir” for practice in the prison chapel. This was the only means for many to get out of the barred barracks after 6:00 P.M. Many attended the “choir” practice, some had seen the inside of the chapel for the first time. From the chapel, the men went to the hospital kitchen where Manuel Fruto gave the last instructions.
62. The total secret of the detailed plan was known only to de la Concepcion, Fruto, Gellidon and Father Neri.
63. The inside details of the plan were carried out with clockwork precision in conjunction with the guards at the side gate and the military prisoners at the power house. Under cover of darkness, all escaped out of the compound at 8:30 P.M. and managed to get into the open country bound for Cavite. The guerrillas arrived later and drowned the “alarm signal” by firing several salvoes. The guards who were not in the know opened fire at the escaping prisoners, with no casualty, however.
64. After a few days, a group managed to reach Quintana, Tanza, Cavite and were royally welcomed by Joya’s men there.
65. Rillo, Neri and Manlapus and other military prisoners were received with open arms by the guerrillas around Dasmariñas. Col. Castañeda, the Governor of Cavite, sent a special message to his guerrillas to take good care of the escaped military prisoners. Col. Rillo and Father Neri had several conferences with Col. Castañeda in the Governor’s Office in Imus, Cavite.
66. During their stay in Cavite, they were busy helping the other escaped guerrillas. In the conference with the other escaped guerrilla leaders, it was agreed that the men should rejoin their units in their respective places and serve the cause to the utmost of their ability.
67. Quinto Gellidon represented represented Col. Straughn’s Fil-Americans and went over to Sierra Madre. The Hunters rejoined their group. Rillo and Neri went to West Batangas to cover that sector where scanty intelligence reports reached SWPA except thru Mindoro at long intervals.
68. This decision of Rillo and Neri came about after Fr. Neri had made contact with a Filipino intelligence outfit around the early part of September somewhere near Kupang, Muntinglupa. This outfit just came over from Australia and bivouacked to Col. Anderson’s camp in Sierra Madre.
69. Rillo and Neri, together with some Hunters guerrillas, left Imus for Marigondon, Cavite, in a constabulary car, with constabulary officers at [the] instructions of Col. Castañeda.
70. From Marigondon to Nasugbu, Rillo and Neri were boarded on a small boat passing the Jap controlled island of Carabao.
71. BATANGAS PRE-LANDING ACTIVITIES: West Batangas had its guerrilla organization but since the capture of their leaders and their execution, the organization suffered a temporary setback. However, upon the return of Col. Rillo and Lt. Col. Neri, the organization was given new impetus.
72. Immediately upon the arrival of their leaders in this region, a general headquarters was established in the barrio of Dao, municipality of Balayan, province of Batangas. Several outposts were established along the road, a kilometer’s perimeter from the Japanese garrison at Himalas, Balayan, Batangas. Training of of-
ficers and enlisted men was immediately begun. They were lectured by USAFFE officers, were given to see a day including the teaching of manipulation of firearms and other combat drills.
73. Since Col. Rillo was too well-known in Batangas that he would surely be recognized and his presence known to the Japs, it fell into the hands of Fr. Neri to cover the whole district. Fr. Neri traveled from barrio to barrio, from town to town, penetrating Japanese lines, peeping into the Japanese installations, and noting all enemy movements. With technical assistance, he prepared accurate maps of all enemy installations in Western Batangas, including Nasugbu, Lian, Calatagan, Tuy and Balayan. All these reports he brought himself to North Mindoro on Dec. 5th, 1944 by batel and were submitted to Lt. Commander George F. Rowe (Maj. Nicholson) of the SWPA Advance Intelligence Unit at Abra de Ilog. From that time, he became the Liaison Officer of the unit to Mindoro.
74. Intelligence reports were sent to him in Mindoro periodically, and the unit was kept informed of the important developments of the war from Commander Rowe’s headquarters.
75. On New Year’s Eve of 1944, Father Neri sent Col. Rillo from Mindoro gifts from the American Red Cross, consisting of American cigarettes, chewing gums, toothbrushes, toilet soaps, towels, shaving cream, tooth creams and other American articles. These were distributed to the people of the towns of Lemery, Calaca, Balayan, Tuy, Nasugbu, Lian and Calatagan. This helped to keep up the morale of the people. Some old men and women who received the gifts had tears in their eyes for joy, because these gifts were a sign of the approaching liberation.
76. While with the SWPA Advance Intelligence Unit in North Mindoro, Fr. Neri contacted Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. The latter was brought by one of the many pilots who dropped in Manila Bay on Cavite to Mindoro by guerrilleros of the Rillo-Neri Unit, passing through the unit’s sector line of West Batangas.
77. From North Mindoro, Fr. Neri proceeded to San Jose, South Mindoro, with Gen. Dunkel, Commander of the Task Force in that area. Thence, Fr. Neri proceeded to Leyte and, from there, he came back to Manila via Lingayen by plane and was active in the burial squad of the Catholic Welfare Organization. Two weeks after the Allied forces crossed the River Pasig, Fr. Neri came in contact again with Col. Rillo sometime in March 1945 in Manila.
a. With regards to the activities of the organization, it is related under “Organization and Activities” which form part of the history of the Rillo-Neri Unit.
[Sgd.] SALVADOR B. RILLO
Notes and references:
“Rillo-Neri (Lipa Guerrilla Headquarters Combat Team),” File No. 110-9, online at PVAO.