History and Important Activities of the Dado Destreza Unit - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

History and Important Activities of the Dado Destreza Unit

[TRANSCRIPTION]

The Fil-American Guerrillas, Dado Destreza Unit was organized in Nasugbu in 1942 by one Sisenando “Dado” Destreza. Destreza would be captured and executed by the Japanese and command of the unit was allegedly assumed by the erstwhile executive officer, one Teodulo Botones. Although the unit carries the name “Fil-Americans,” it had no actual affiliation with the large guerrilla organization by that same name which was organized by Col. Hugh Straughn. In this page is a transcription1 of short history of the Dado Destreza Unit as submitted to the US Army with the unit’s application for official recognition.
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FIL-AMERICAN GUERRILLAS
“DADO DESTREZA UNIT”
Southern Luzon Area
Hq., Nasugbu, Batangas

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HISTORY AND IMPORTANT ACTIVITIES OF THE “DADO DESTREZA UNIT”

By TEODULO S. BOTONES
Executive Officer

I – H I S T O R Y :

The first guerrilla unit organized in western Batangas during the enemy occupation was the “DADO DESTREZA UNIT.” The organizer was the late SISENANDO DESTREZA alias “Dado,” of Nasugbu, Batangas. At the outbreak of the war, Dado Destreza was twenty-two years old; a student, and acquired his ROTC training in the FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY in Manila.

Being co-organizer and Executive Officer, I have full knowledge of this guerrilla organization. In January 1942, when the first few Japanese soldiers arrived in Nasugbu, they were welcomed by the Municipal Mayor of that time. The Mayor, knowing that I was the keeper of the maps and subdivision plan of Roxas & Co. of which I was an employee, called me and ordered me to give him a detailed map of the Municipality of Nasugbu, to be given to the Japanese officer. Instead of giving the map, I told them that there was not any copy left in our office, which was occupied by the USAFFE before they retreated in December 1941. When Dado Destreza learned that I kept the maps instead of surrendering them, he confidentially told me to bring them to the hill for he would organize a guerrilla unit and the maps would be of great help to the organization.

In February 1942, when the collaborators were doing their efforts to convince the people to return to their homes in the town, our first conference was being held in a hill near the boundary of Batangas and Cavite provinces. The following four important facts were declared by “DADO DESTREZA” that led to our early activity:

1. That, organizing of guerrillas was very necessary for he believed that the aid from the UNITED STATES would soon arrive with enough arms for the Filipinos to fight against the Japanese.
2. That the western coast of Batangas, formerly guarded by GENERAL VICENTE LIM’S PA Division, was a strategic point for it had the roads nearest to Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
3. That the American landing on this coast was expected, so he wanted to call all willing and able-bodied Filipinos to organize a force that would help the American soldiers. That only those who were determined to fight and die for the cause of our country would be accepted.
4. And, to maintain peace and order; prosecute the lawless elements and those that gave voluntary aid to the enemy.

In the middle part of 1942, DADO DESTREZA was able to contact a FIL-AMERICAN GUERRILLA UNIT in Indang, Cavite whose adviser was an American, the then-Major CHARLES W. FOLSOM, with its headquarters at BUNA, a barrio of Indang. Because we attached and received orders from that command, we then used the name FIL-AMERICAN GUERRILLAS instead of WESTERN BATANGAS GUERRILLAS as we proposed before.

In 1943, we continued our underground movements and doubled our efforts to enlist more members; but the activity of about twenty Filipino spies for the Japanese in this area was on its high tide. They were armed

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and enforced the surrendering of firearms. They guided the Japs in their campaigns. They usually went around in groups and threatened the people. Some people were arrested and tortured by the Japanese because of them.

We then prepared a “trigger squad” to counter the Japs’ spies and collaborators, but for fear that the Japanese soldiers might trouble the townspeople, we avoided eliminating them at first; but when DADO DESTREZA received orders from our headquarters to begin the campaign against the Japs, we did, and succeeded. Some of them escaped and others joined us and promised to change their minds. By October 1943, the Nasugbu area, where the second landing in Luzon was made, was already cleared of notorious Japanese spies.

On November 13, 1943, DADO DESTREZA, our commander, and two of our men were murdered in the town of Nasugbu by the collaborators, or the Mayor and his Police and Special Police Forces. The death of our chief was mourned by the people. As the assailants fled from the town, the undersigned, who assumed command, ordered our men not to make any revenge for the sake of the masses. When the U.S. Army landed in Nasugbu, we filed a complained with the CIC (copy attached). Now, the case is with the Court of First Instance of Batangas pending trial. The assailants, more than twenty of them, are now out on bail, some were confined at the Provincial Jail, while others are still at large.

In the latter part of 1943, before DADO DESTREZA was murdered, the lawless elements in Cavite were rampant and they had better arms than us. Because of these, DADO DESTREZA decided to separate from the Headquarters at Indang, Cavite, and attached our unit to another Fil-American guerrilla [unit] in Lian, Batangas, under JOE PEREZ, whose adviser was Col. Anderson. In the early part of 1944, when Joe Perez did not return from Infanta, Tayabas, when he went there to contact Col. Anderson, it happened that GEORGE [Jorge] ESPINA campaigned for the unification of all the guerrillas in Batangas Province into one unit under FIL-AMERICAN also, so we joined.

By this time, our forces were more than two thousand five hundred, the roster of which with the records of our important activities were just submitted to COL. TUGUEGUE, one of GEORGE ESPINA’S staff members, when they were arrested, tortured and killed by the Japanese. We lost then our records, except the first old list of our about 400 members which was saved by one of our men in Tuy who kept it in a bamboo tube since 1942.

In spite of the incidents against us, we continued our underground activities and waited for the aid. We were all informed by radio receiver [that] we were able to save from being reconditioned, that the liberating forces were already in the southwest Pacific very near the Philippines. By this time, we believed that arms were being unloaded by submarine in the Philippines. In March 1944, when COL EDWIN P. RAMSEY went to and from Mindoro, most of the men who escorted him and his Filipino scouts when they crossed our area were members of our unit. When they returned from Mindoro bound for Central Luzon, new arms and equipment were seen by our men. These made the guerrillas believe that aid was really coming. We were more encouraged with our activities.

In the latter part of 1944, the Japanese scattered in the Nasugbu area preparing for their defenses. Most of the people evacuated to safe places. Some of our men could not be contacted while others were assigned to observe the Japanese movements. By this time, or in September 1944, I was contacted by the commander of the BLUE EAGLE guerrillas, whom I believed had connections with the Southwest Pacific Command. They said that they came here to cooperate with other guerrillas and they expected the landing of the firearms for the Filipinos. I then joined the BLUE EAGLE COMMAND with some of our men who were able to be contacted as we found the traveling from place to place dangerous due to the Japanese pressure.

When the 11th AIRBORNE DIVISION landed in Nasugbu on January 31st, 1945, our men participated in the operations against the enemy, attached to the BLUE EAGLE command and those that were not. As many of our men resided on the highland and hills where the Japanese defenses were, most of them served as guides, laborers and others fought side by side with the Americans during the operations against the enemy in our area.

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As soon as the U.S. liberating forces landed in Nasugbu, the different guerrilla units opened their headquarters in town and began preparing their rosters for submission to the American guerrilla commander, while the battle in our area was already in progress. During the first days, our men, who lived right on the battle front, came out from their hideouts and joined the Americans and volunteered all sorts of help they could give. I, for one, was on the frontline on the second day of the operation, when the American captain asked for my identification papers to prove that I was a guerrilla, I rushed to town and asked for any kind of identification the commander of the Blue Eagle Command could give me and went back to the frontline. Being G-3 (identification attached), I worked with the commanders of the artillery, or with Col. Sue and Capt. Ramsey of the Glamour C.P. as I remember. During those days, I could see our men actively participating, most of them were those that first joined us in 1942 in fulfillment of their pledge to fight when D-Day came. This is the pride of our forgotten men: the first one to organize into a guerrilla unit and the first to fight side by side with the Americans.

After the operations in our sector, when already cleared of the enemy, I was trying to work for our men who were unlucky to be attached to the U.S. Army, because these that were attached were selected from the records or rosters of guerrillas in town and not from those who were in the field on time; but when I learned that the 11th Airborne activated only [a] limited number of guerrillas, I desisted doing so.

On November 13, 1945, the second anniversary of the death of our leader SISENANDO DESTREZA and two others, I managed to have a REQUIEM MASS held at the local Catholic church, for the solemn repose of their souls, attended by many sympathizers. Wreaths were laid on their graves as the priest blessed, and on this occasion, I had a short talk, in which I reminded the crowd [of] the bravery and patriotism of the three who were killed and died gloriously in pursuit of their ideals and for the cause of our country, the highest honor for anyone may achieve. I insisted on recognizing them as heroes, because their deaths suspended threats of the Japanese to the people of Nasugbu and neighboring barrios for they believed that the collaborators during that time never tolerated guerrillas [who] entered the town, proven by the murder of DADO DESTREZ and others.

Just after the commemoration cited above, many of our forgotten men approached me and inspired me to have our former unit, the FIRST ONE TO BE ORGANIZED in this area, seek recognition in behalf of DADO DESTREZA, the organizer, and some of our men who were killed long before the liberation.

Investigating the people of almost every community in western Batangas, especially in remote places, when asked to tell the first organizer of guerrillas in this sector, will surely mention the name “DADO,” the nickname known to many. The Manager of [the] DON PEDRO SUGAR MILL in Nasugbu can never forget that a few days after “DADO” was murdered, the lawless elements with some of the assailants robbed the Manager and the Cashier two times, for they believed that “DADO” was already out of their way; but I who am still alive and always with the law joined the PC and pursued them that followed their arrests and imprisonment.

Upon reading the news last week in the MANILA TIMES, under [the] heading “G-RECOGNITION DEADLINE JAN. 31,” for the sake of our right and to satisfy the clamor of our men, I began preparing the papers. I got the oldest list of about only FOUR HUNDRED members, the only records left, began to write the history and activities and submit a request for recognition, for our services rendered since 1942, at least for the sake of those who died in the course of their guerrilla activities, and it will be our pride to be included in the organization of “GUERRILLA WAR VETERANS” once we are recognized, though small in number.

II – A C T I V I T I E S

1. Served in [as?] the intelligence operative during the BATAAN and CORREGIDOR resistance under the then-Captain JOSE P. RUEDA, now with the MP Command, PA, G-2 Section. During those days, Major JOSE RUEDA was in the mountains of Looc, opposite CORREGIDOR, whose mission was to gather important information

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from the Japanese-occupied area. During those days, with the help of our men newly organized by “DADO DESTREZA,” I was able to render satisfactory services to Major JOSE P. RUEDA until the last hour of his stay in the mainland of Luzon, when Fort Frank received continuous shelling from the Japs’ artillery in Ternate, Cavite.

2. Served as courier to the then-CAPTAIN JOSE RAZON, while with Major Jose P. Rueda in the mountains of Looc, whose mission as to get supplies during the Bataan and Corregidor Resistance. Accompanied by different groups of our men, I was able to travel safely to and from Manila with important messages of Col. RAZON. MR. TELESFORO CHUIDIAN, while in Manila during those days, gathered the letters of relatives of prominent men in Corregidor and Bataan, like Gen. MANUEL ROXAS, Capt. ERNESTO RUFINO, Maj. ANGEL TUAZON and others, and gave these to me for delivery to Col. Razon in Looc. During those days, transportation was very hard and walking along the road was more dangerous, so I managed to hike to and from Manila with my men as companions and guides in dangerous zones. The distance is 102 kilometers. Now, COL. JOSE RAZON is in the United States and was Deputy Chief of Staff of the MP Command before he left. (Copy of Mr. Chuidian’s citation for me in Spanish is hereby attached.) Mr. Telesforo Chuidian now resides in Nasugbu, Batangas.

3. On March 18, 1942, two American soldiers were executed by the Japanese soldiers after having tortured [them] in their garrison. The execution took place in PANAIN CREEK, on a hill between Looc and Nasugbu. On the fourth day, in spite of the danger that could cause my life, I managed to get the dog-tags and kept them until the liberation. On March 17, 1945, I submitted the dog-tags and crucifix to the highest American officer in Nasugbu during that date, or to COL. JOSEPH M. PENSACK, CO, DIVSCOM, of the 11th AIRBORNE DIVISION. (Letters attached.) About a month ago, I was contacted by two officers of the WCID from Canlubang, Laguna, and made me sign an affidavit as witness to said atrocity and would be called in case I was needed in the prosecution of war criminal Gen. Homma. T/5 WILLIAM YATES of Batangas Graves Registration Service called on me some time ago in Nasugbu who went there to collect the bones of the executed American soldiers four years ago. In this connection, he requested me to make a short certification for their records that the bones could not be found anymore. (Copy of the letters and certificates attached.)

4. Maintained peace and order in the towns of Nasugbu, Tuy, Balayan, Lian and Calatagan and campaigned against the lawless elements during the occupation. Mr. VICENTE CALINGASAN, now Mayor of Tuy; Mr. JOSE MANZANO, of Balayan; Lt. PETRONILO SAPICO of Nasugbu now with the PA; Mr. CONRADO LIMJUCO of Lian and Mr. JOCSON of Calatagan can be contacted to prove our activities against the lawless elements.

5. Elimination of the Japanese spies. During the occupation, the people of western Batangas feared much the activities of the Japanese spies, who served the enemy garrisoned at Nasugbu. They governed the municipality at that time, so many people bowed to their authority. Words are not enough to express the many abuses made by the group of spies of the Japanese, that cannot be forgotten by the people. Our campaign against them terminated on October 20, 1943, when we got their chief, Alberto Nanales, at the town of Tuy, Batangas. When the people learned that Alberto Nanales was eliminated, they rejoiced though they feared much the Japs’ revenge.

6. In November 1944, made a map of Nasugbu showing the whereabouts of the Japanese hideouts and defenses, tank traps and etc., which was sent to Leyte by couriers via San Pablo, Laguna and the Bicol Region, for the information of the U.S. Task Force.

7. Investigation of the disappearance of Mr. BUCK, an American old-timer in the Philippines, residing at his estate in Tagaytay, during the zero hour. Discovered tactics of Japanese civilian and Filipino spies from Manila who disguised as guerrillas to detect and pick up those that had connections with the underground activities. Col. JOSE RAZON, who was in Nasugbu with other evacuees from Manila, was warned in time.

8. The BAYUDBUD BRIDGE, one of the most important and largest on [the] way to Tagaytay, was guarded by our men who resided nearby during the landing.

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9. In July 1942, I contacted Capt. Conrado T. Mata, Capts. Benjamin T. Mata, C. E., Mariano Talag, C.E., 1st Lts. G. Yambao, C.E., Manuel Francisco, C.E. and 2nd Lts. Alejandro Deleña, C.E. and Jesus B. Laureola, C.E. in Manila to act as my secret agents in and around the city. All of these people are Bataan veterans. They gave me various sketches of Jap installations, depots, troop movements and a weekly sheet of the latest San Francisco broadcast. From July 1942 up to 19th December 1944, my last trip to Manila, these veterans proved their worth and loyalty to our country and America. They not only furnished me military information but also food and lodging while my men and myself went to Manila. They accomplished their mission to my greatest satisfaction.

10. Fought the enemy along with the Americans in our sector and rendered all means of help during the operations, regardless of monetary reward, recognition from the authorities, etc. As we were familiar with most of the Japanese concentrations and installations in that sector, we helped a lot the Americans in their operations. There is no doubt that before the 11th Airborne accepted officially attachments from different guerrilla units, the U.S. Army was already at the southern gate of Manila and our sector previously cleared. That is how and where our men served the U.S. Army.

11. We participated in the mopping up operations, fought and killed stragglers every time they showed up at our place.

12. In the latter part of 1942, four American stragglers appeared in Barrio Caylaway and we escorted them to the hideouts of the Gagalac guerrillas near Lake Taal, after feeding them.

13. When Col. Edwin P. RAMSEY used to go to Mindoro and back in March 1944, our men used to escort him.

14. On February 3rd 1945, on P-38 crashed at Caylaway. The pilot was burned. While the Japanese were trying to capture the pilot, my men attacked the Japanese and killed them, but the American pilot was already dead. However, my men were able to recover from the plane two machine guns which were turned over to the Americans when they arrived at Caylaway the next day.

15. When the Moreno and Gagalac Guerrillas, attached to the U.S. Army, were stationed in Caylaway sector, my men guided them while on patrol and fought side by side with them during any Japanese encounter in the hills of Mt. Batulao.

Respectfully submitted,

[Sgd.] TEODULO S. BOTONES
Lt. Colonel, Infantry
Battalion Commander

Nasugbu, Batangas
January 29, 1946

Notes and references:
1 “Dado Destreza Unit FAIT,” File No. 110-24, online at the United States National Archives.

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