History of the Rillo Neri Unit Part I - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore History of the Rillo Neri Unit Part I - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

History of the Rillo Neri Unit Part I




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 history of the unit is provided in aid of its application for official recognition.

Guerrilla Files

[p. 1]


[p. 2]

(a) Hester, Lavasky and Baruel, American employees of the Finance Department of the Quartermaster, whom Col Rillo met before the Japanese invasion in connection with his business with the United States, and by that time were staying with Mr. Nazario in the barrio of San Jose del Monte at the foot of Ipo Mountain;
(b) To American officers, Capt Schelby, Lt Shafer, Lt Moore, and Lt Silhavy who were under the care of Mrs. Gertrudes B. Le Duc, widow of an American.
3. To do some sabotage work and to get and submit intelligence reports to the operatives of the Panay Islands and to Col Nakar in Northern Luzon.

After the meeting, Horacio L Ilagan, one of the ROTC officers disbanded in Manila, with a rank of Major was given the task of bringing to Batangas at all costs the 47 Springfield rifles to the mountains of Batangas and to organize intelligence operatives and a combat company in the area covering the western part of Batangas province.

With thirty ROTC volunteers who were all from Batangas, Major Ilagan was able to bring to Batangas the 47 rifles, by passing thru corn and rice fields, and small trails, crossing the mountains of Mt Batulao to avoid the Japanese soldiers who were then coming to Manila from all directions.

Before the report of the progress of the organization in Batangas by Maj Ilagan could reach Manila, Col Rillo was arrested by the Japanese Military Police on 6 June 1942 in Balintawak, Rizal in his attempt to make the third visit to the Americans in [the] barrio of San Jose del Monte at the foot of Ipo Mountains. Col Rillo was confined in prison until 25 December 1942.

While Col Rillo was in prison, his wife, Mrs. Nazaria R Rillo, continued to get instructions from her husband from time to time. Maj Ilagan was ordered to lay low, but to contact Col Espina of Batangas, thru Col Rillo’s son-in-law Maj Medrano. Maj Ilagan concentrated his work in Batangas where Col Espina made him Liaison Officer to Maj Amador Deguito and Maj Rodolfo Bahia, guerrilla organizers in Balayan, Batangas.

Col Espina was successful in organizing the entire guerrilla units in Batangas. In all municipalities in [the] western part of Batangas sprung guerrillas like mushrooms. Maj Distresa (killed by Japanese spies in Nasugbu) organized the guerrillas in Nasugbu and liquidated all the Japanese spies in the area; Maj Vicente Calingasan organized the guerrillas in Tuy and [was] responsible for subduing the bandits of Cavite; Capt Licopa and Capt Gagalac combined and formed the Glint Guerrilla Unit from the towns of Calaca and Lemery; Col Ilagan organized the guerrillas in Taal; and Maj Diokno organized the guerrillas in San Luis.

Col Rillo was released on 25 December 1942. He renewed his guerrilla works. He contacted Capt Licopa and Capt Gagalac of the Glint Unit, who were ordered to liquidate the Japanese spies in the western part of Batangas. Capt Mariano Cabarrubias of the Japanese Philippine Constabulary was very cooperative, supplying the different units with ammunition and informing all the different units in advance when the Japanese were going to have ZONING of a certain area for the purpose of catching the different wanted guerrilla leaders.

[p. 3]

In the middle of 1943, Maj Bahia and Maj Deguito were caught by the Japanese Military Police. By advice of the Council of 5 Elders of Balayan, the entire guerrillas of Balayan surrendered. Meanwhile, true to their promise to their followers that they would never admit the existence of any guerrilla organization in the town of Balayan, both Maj Deguito and Maj Bahia died heroes’ deaths at the hands of the Japanese Military Police.

Then both Col Espina and Maj Evangelista of Batangas, Batangas were forced to surrender on account of the fact that their respective wives and some relatives were caught by the Japanese Military Police until they surrendered. Both were also killed by the Japanese. Maj Medrano, on the other hand, was lucky because he was assigned to get the job at Malacañan Palace for the purpose of covering up the different puppet officials of the Philippine Republic under the Japanese regime before the Japanese Military Police could lay hands on him.

Again for the second time, Col Rillo was arrested by the Japanese Military Police in Manila on 5 August 1943. He was imprisoned at Fort Santiago and later transferred to Muntinglupa with other political prisoners to serve his sentence of 10 years.

The deaths of the different guerrilla leaders and the imprisonment of the others nearly put a stop to the different guerrilla organizations in the province of Batangas.

On the other hand, Lt Col Jose Manzano Lopez with Major Felipe Zuñiga if the Rillo-Neri Unit were able to keep and guard the different American officers in the hacienda of the Lopez family at Pitogo, Balayan. These officers were guided to the different shores of Batangas and finally were shipped to Mindoro.

All these times, the Fil-American Units were increasing in their ranks. Maj Pedro Zuñiga organized a battalion in the barrios that surrounded the barrio where the Americans were. Another battalion was being organized by Maj Balbino in Tuy, Batangas, while Maj Rafael Ilagan was concentrating his organization among the guerrillas in [the] town and neighboring barrios.

The Rillo-Neri Unit was formally organized on a military basis on 12 January 1943. Upon Col Rillo’s and Lt Col Fr Neri’s arrival in Batangas after their famous escape from Muntinglupa with the 73 other political prisoners, a reorganization of the unit began and immediately mobilized for training and operation, expecting that the American forces would land in this sector immediately after the Leyte operation. Col Fortunato BORBON, USAFFE, and Maj Basilio Fernando, USAFFE, were appointed the Military Advisers of the Unit.

The school for officers and for training EM was organized. Meanwhile, intelligence reports were sent to Mindoro. Fr. Neri, co-founder of the Unit, was sent to Commander Nicholson in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro as our Liaison Officer.

A Regimental Headquarters Combat Team of 50 men fully armed with the 47 Springfield [rifles] Maj Horacio L Ilagan was able to bring to Batangas in 1942 from Manila, was organized under Capt Gregorio Arcalas to patrol the vicinity of the C.P. at Dao, Balayan, just 1½ kilometers from the Jap garrison in Himalas, Balayan.

[p. 4]

The unit was mainly responsible for the maintenance of peace and order and the evacuation of the civilians away from the Japs who were killing here and there by that time. It was this unit that resisted the banditry rampant in the towns of Tuy, Balayan and Calaca during the entire period of Japanese occupation.


I. ATTACK ORDER – 30 January 1945: Before the landings of the Americans in Nasugbu on 31 January 1945, the Rillo-Neri Unit received the “Attack Orders – 30 Jan 45” from Maj. Jay D. Vanderpool, General Staff Corps, Coordinator of the United States-Philippine Islands Forces, Joint Intelligence Central Luzon. To quote the portion of that order for our Unit:

(j) CABARRUBIA AND BORBON (Military Adviser); Will attack and destroy all enemy forces along the improved roads of Balayan (incl) Lemery (incl). He will be responsible for this road. Patrolling will be done to Tuy. All enemy forces will be attacked when encountered. CABARRUBIA will command the joint action.


The Unit immediately complied with the order. The Regimental Combat Company under Capt Arcalas patrolled the entire area. The Japs were attacked in the towns of Balayan, Tuy and Calaca, thus forcing the Japs to stay in their prepared garrisons in [the] San Piro Mountains and Himalas of Balayan. Tuy was completely liberated before the landing of the Americans in Nasugbu. In Balayan, the Japs could not even go to the town on account of the strong guerrilla resistance.

II – To give the people of San Luis, Taal, Lemery and Calaca a chance to evacuate to Nasugbu, Batangas, Col Rillo ordered Maj Horacio L Ilagan to destroy at all cost the Japs at the foxholes along the Himalas shores of Balayan. Maj Ilagan was able to occupy the foxholes in the shores of Himalas after an encounter for an hour which resulted to the killing of 11 Japs. In order to hold the line so that evacuation of the people could continue, a C.P. was organized at Caybunga, Balayan, Batangas. Thanks to this foresight, the people of San Luis, Taal, Lemery and Calaca were able to evacuate to Nasugbu, Batangas.

III – On 31 Jan 45, the Americans landed in Nasugbu, Batangas. On the same date, we received two orders from Maj Vanderpool, to quote:

Rillo Guerrillas

[p. 5]

1. Order the evacuation of all civilians from around the bases of Batulao;
2. Send as many bancas as you can find to Looc, same to be used in unloading supplies for guerrillas in this area;
3. Let me know the results of bombing attacks and those targets that should be hit; and
4. Keep some couriers and horses ready to spread the word when the order comes to attack.
s/ J. Vanderpool
Major, GSC
31 Jan 45
Attack Instructions
Commanding Officer, Rillo's Guerrillas
1. You will immediately upon receipt of this order direct the efforts of all available men in the performance of the following sabotage missions:
a. Attack and destroy every truck now being used by the enemy.
b. Cut and carry away every telephone line in your sector. Cut the wire into one meter pieces.
c. Burn or destroy all enemy supplies especially gasoline and ammunition.
d. Destroy all means of transportation available to the enemy or hide same so that he will be denied the use thereof.
e. Bridges will not be destroyed without the authority of GHQ SWPA or the undersigned.
f. Attack and destroy small enemy forces now guarding radio transmitter stations.
s/ Jay D. Vanderpool
Major, General Staff Corps, AUS
Guerrilla Coordinator
In compliance with these two orders, the evacuation of the civilians was effected immediately. Bombing did not materialize. To the second order, the following reports were made.

Fil-Am. Irregular Troops
Southwest Pacific Area

1 Feb 45
In the Field

[p. 6]

: Reports of Compliance to ATTACK ORDERS 31 Jan 45
: Maj. Jay D. Vanderpool
Chief Liaison Officer
The following were accomplished by this Unit since 800 31 January:
1. One abandoned truck fully loaded with palay confiscated by the Japanese from the people of Balayan was seized by members of this Unit. The palay will be used for the consumption of the members and the truck will be for our use.
2. Telephone lines in our sector were cut.
Col. Phil. Army
Co. 83rd Inf. PA (USAFFE)
Commanding Officer

Fil-Am. Irregular Troops
Southwest Pacific Area

4 Feb 45

Maj. Jay D. Vanderpool
Guerrilla Hq., Nasugbu, Bat.

My dear Maj. Vanderpool:

I am sending you one wounded prisoner who needs medical assistance. Besides this prisoner, we have killed three (3) Japanese by bolos in the barrio of Taktak, Balayan, presumably part of the party that fled from Malibu, Tuy which was attacked by Lt. Cabarrubia. The tags of the three dead Japanese will be sent to you later as soon as they are received by our HQ.
Very respectfully,
s/ S. B. RILLO
t/ S. B. RILLO
Unit Commander
IV. The Command of the Guerrilla HQ was transferred to Capt C. Schommer with Headquarters in Tagaytay City. The Intelligence Report of the Unit continued to be received by the Hq Guerrilla Forces, Tagaytay City. For the fine and good Intelligence Reports of the Unit, the following letter was received:
5 Feb 45

COL. RILLO – Your Intelligence Report of Feb. 3-4 is very good. It verifies

[p. 7]

and gives us valuable information that we badly needed. Both Maj. Vanderpool and I appreciate it much. Good work like that will bring sure victory so much sooner.

Maj. Vanderpool awaits word on what rice you can sell to us (₱7.30) per sack too. Send your answer to me at Guerrilla Hq.

Your courier tells me they captured a Jap saber you now have, that you may have a family seal and unit identity on it. Could I see the saber for intelligence information? It may give me good information on what troops are left still fighting us.

Keep up the good work and intelligence reports.

s/ Capt. C. Schommer
U. S. Task Force

(NOTE: This letter was written in long hand.)

V. Besides the Intelligence Reports of the Unit, the accomplishment of the Combat Patrols of the Unit was sent. A tabulated report of the Japs killed up to Mar. 19, 1945 is hereby quoted:

Fil-American Irregular Troops
Southwest Pacific Area

10 Feb. 45
In the Field
The following is a tabulation of the list of Japanese Casualties in chronological order:
1 (prisoner)
66 Total Killed
Feb. 2
Feb. 3
Feb. 4
Feb. 5
Feb. 7
Feb. 7
Feb. 7
Feb. 12
Feb. 13
Feb. 17
Feb. 26
Mar. 17
Mar. 19
Dao, Tuy
Taktak, Balayan
Magabe, Balayan
Taktak, Balayan
Balocbaloc, Balayan
Sampaga, Balayan
Kaybunga, Balayan
Balocbaloc, Balayan
Pook, Balayan
Balocbaloc, Balayan
Pitogo, Tuy
Makukak, Balayan
Dao, Balayan
Lukban, Balayan

[p. 8]

VI. HIMALAS GARRISON ATTACK – The attack of this Unit on the Himalas Garrison in Balayan, Batangas with 5 Americans resulted to a misunderstanding with the Guerrilla Hq. On 27 Feb 45, the Rillo-Neri Unit attacked the Himalas Garrison with 5 American soldiers. Before we submitted our reports, we received a letter asking us to send us the five (5) American soldiers with us, to quote:
27 Feb 45

Mr. Rillo:

You are directed to see that the five American soldiers who were with you in Makukak, 26 Feb 45, report to me immediately.

I have their names and organization and their failure to report here without delay, will result in severe disciplinary action.

s/ Carl L. Rogers
1st Lt., CAC
152 A/B Div. Guer. Hq.

This incident is being related here because these five Americans were the best witnesses of the operation made by this Unit. The capture of Makukak was a military accomplishment, only it happened that the area was not within our sphere of operation. A work well done, but…

The five Americans confirmed our accomplishment and for their punishment, they were demoted in ranks for the punishment of the Unit, the Guerrilla Hq wrote us this letter:

Tagaytay City


To Rillo-Neri Unit:

1. You will immediately cease all offensive action East of Balayan.
2. No offensive action will be taken unless especially ordered by this Hq. and then only in assigned sectors.
3. Violation of these orders will result in immediate withdrawal of recognition, causing loss of arms, post-war compensations, and material support.
4. An authorized representative of the Rillo-Neri Unit will report to this headquarters for orders upon receipt of this letter.
Capt. U.S. Task Force
Guer. Hqs. Commanding
(Note: This letter was written in long hand.)


Notes and references:
1 “Rillo-Neri (Lipa Guerrilla Headquarters Combat Team),” File No. 110-9, online at PVAO.
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