The liberation of the province by the Americans, however, would not commence until March, since troops were landed on Nasugbu initially to support the United States Sixth Army’s campaign in Manila from its landing point in Lingayen. For the Japanese, meanwhile, who were incurring massive losses in Central Luzon and Manila, February was a time to consolidate defenses in Southern Luzon, including Batangas.
|A captured Japanese soldier is interviewed in Lipa by the 11th Airborne. Image credit: US National Archives.|
By February, in anticipation of an eventual American advance into Batangas, the Japanese in Lipa and neighboring towns had started consolidating defenses in what the Hunters-ROTC guerrillas referred to as the “Japanese Military Area.”
This military area was primarily in the vicinity of Malarayat Hill extending to other areas of the Malepunyo Mountain Range2. To protect this area, a defensive line was established by the Japanese from Sabang in Lipa up to the town of Malvar in the west and eastward to the foot of Mt. Malepunyo.
An estimated 20,000 Japanese troops were reported by guerrilla intelligence operatives to have passed through the then-town of Santo Tomas on their way to the military area. The center of this military area was in the barrio of Suloc3 in the town of Santo Tomas. An estimated 3,000 Japanese troops were deployed in the barrio.
Apart from Suloc, other barrios in Santo Tomas that were part of the military area were Santa Clara, San Joaquin and San Luis. There were an estimated 1,000 troops deployed in Santa Clara while the Japanese Army’s medical corps was based in San Joaquin.
In Lipa, meanwhile, the barrios included in the military area were Lumbang, which is right next to Suloc; Dagatan, Talisay, Sapac, Bubuyan4 and Guinting5. Other places in the military area but which had not yet been occupied by Japanese military forces at the time the report was filed were San Francisco6, San Lucas, Bungliw7, Bugtong, Inosluban, Marauoy and Balagbag.
All the above-mentioned barrios, the intelligence report stated, had been fully evacuated by Filipino civilians. The evacuation was probably mandated by the Japanese themselves because once the military area was established, Filipinos – likely excepting collaborators – were not allowed inside it. It had also become a necessity because by February 1945, the Japanese were committing an increasing number of atrocities against the civilian population.
They also continued to maintain a presence in the barrios of Sabang, Latag, Anilao, Antipolo and Tibig, although these places were not part of the military area. Troops withdrawn from Cuenca started arriving in Lipa and were quartered in evacuated residences in Sabang.
Only an estimated 100 infantry soldiers armed with rifles and machine guns were deployed in the Lipa town proper; but there were more on the outskirts. Near the Rose Packing Company on the way to Rosario, there were an estimated 200 soldiers; 80 in Anilao and Antipolo; 200 in Sabang; 80 in Latag; 400 in Sapac and Bubuyan; 100 in Dagatan; 300 in Talisay; and 30 in Bulacnin.
Barbed wires were installed from the Lipa Public Market to a blown-up bridge in Balintawak. Because of the increasing raids of land- and carrier-based American planes, anti-aircraft guns were installed in the barrios of Tibig, Sapac, Bubuyan, Talisay, at the Lipa Airfield8 near Mataasnakahoy and several other locations near the Cathedral of San Sebastian.
As mentioned, the Japanese were also committing what the intelligence report called “the most cruel methods of torture and killing.” They raided houses in “Lodlod, Tambo, Pangao, Pinagcawitan, Banaybanay, Inosloban, San Lucas, Payapa, Makina, Dagatan, Balagbag and Bugton,” committing “murder, robbery and rape9” and burning the houses of their hapless victims.
In other towns close to Lipa, by February 1945, the Japanese had already withdrawn their troops from Mataasnakahoy. At the nearby Lipa Airfield, however, the Japanese still kept approximately 40 men armed with rifles and machine guns to guard the supplies that had as yet not been relocated.
In Rosario, there were no Japanese troops in the barrios although a garrison of some 40 soldiers armed with rifles and machine guns was maintained in the town proper. It must be pointed out, however, that Lipa was not very far away, and troops could quickly be transported to Rosario if needed.
Finally in San Juan, there were also no Japanese troops in the barrio. A small number of soldiers, however, was kept in the town proper to guard communication lines.
Notes and references:
1 These reports are from the folder “Intell Unit, 3rd Bn, 49th Regt, 47th Div, Hunters-ROTC,” file number 307-42, online at the United States National Archives.
2 The intel report erroneously called the range Malarayat. In truth, Malarayat is but a hill on a mountain range called Mount Malepunyo.
3 Suloc is the barrio of Santa Cruz in the then-town of Santo Tomas on the border with barrio Lumbang in what is now Lipa City.
4 Bubuyan used to be a sitio of barrio Sapak which was separated in 1939 and organized into an independent barrio and given the name Santo Niño. “Executive Order No. 180, s. 1939,” signed by Manuel L. Quezon, online at the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.
5 Batangas History, Culture and Folklore is unable to find any references that will point at then-barrio Guinting’s present status or name. 6 There is a barrio named San Francisco and Lipa, and both are close to the Malepunyo Mountain Range.
7 Batangas History, Culture and Folklore is unable to find sources that will confirm Bungliw as a barrio or sitio belonging to any town in 1945, although there is a sitio of the same name presently part of the town of Ulango in the city of Tanauan. This place is reasonably far from Mt. Malepunyo to have been part of the military area.
8 Lipa Airfield is what would eventually developed into the present day Basilio Fernando Air Base.
9 These quoted reports of Japanese atrocities were from a report filed by one Alex Isagani of the 3rd Battalion’s Intelligence Group, Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas.