Survivor’s Testimony on Japanese Atrocities at Barrio Sulok, Sto. Tomas, Batangas - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Survivor’s Testimony on Japanese Atrocities at Barrio Sulok, Sto. Tomas, Batangas - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Survivor’s Testimony on Japanese Atrocities at Barrio Sulok, Sto. Tomas, Batangas

The barrio named Sulok in Santo Tomas, Batangas, presently named Santa Cruz, in World War II was the site of a Japanese garrison. The barrio, so called probably because it sits at the southeastern corner of the municipality, is also at its border with the then town of Lipa. Many US Army documents refer to the barrio as “Sulac,” probably written down as heard.

Sulok was also the site of many Japanese atrocities committed in early 1945 as American forces advanced from Nasugbu to liberate Batangas. Some of these atrocities were described in a sworn testimony by one Apolinaria Navarro, who testified at Sabang in Lipa on 1 November 1945 as to the sequence of events to which she was witness.

Her testimony was presumably used in the trials of Japanese personnel charged with various war crimes. Documentary evidence was accumulated by the Judge Advocate Office’s War Crimes Branch, later handled by the same office’s Prosecution Section. The text of Navarro’s testimony is provided in its entirety below. The pagination is as it appeared in the original document for citation purposes.

River in Sulok, Sto Tomas Batangas
Possibly the river where the actual massacre occurred.  Image credit:  United States National Archives.

[p. 21]


APOLINARIA NAVARRO, after having been duly sworn, testified at Sabang, Lipa, Batangas Province, P. I., on 1 November 1945 as follows:

Q: Please state your full name, age, address, and nationality.
A: Apolinaria Navarro, 32 years old, Sabang, Lipa, Batangas Province, P. I., Filipino.

Q: What is your occupation?
A: Housekeeper.

Q: Do you intend to remain at your present address, and if not, how can your whereabouts in the future be ascertained?
A: I intend to stay here for some time.

Q: Where did you reside during the Japanese occupation?
A: We stayed at the barrio of Sulac2, Sto. Tomas, Batangas Province, P. I.

Q: Did you observe any cases of mistreatment to Filipino civilians by the Japanese?
A: Yes.

Q: Will you describe fully what you observed?
A: We were living at that time on the outskirts of the barrio of Sulac. At the end of February 1945, we were ordered by the Barrio Lieutenant to concentrate inside the barrio of Sulac. The reason for this was that all those to be found on the outskirts of the barrio would be killed by the Japanese. Around a thousand of us were concentrated in the center of the barrio, in the shacks we built for our own shelter. As soon as we had been concentrated, all men were gathered and taken on forced labor in the Malarayat Mountains, telling us that they would be returned in a week.

Afterwards, all the people were allowed to go back to their homes, but again, at about the end of the first week of March 1945, we were gathered for the second time in the barrio. About 500 of us, together with a few men, were taken to a school house. Out of these 500 people, 15 families grouping about 200 people, were selected and placed in a different place. I was left behind with the remaining 300 people. Our group was then taken to the front of the house of Primo Quinto, a Jap collaborator. Arriving there, we were separated into families again. Each family was taken by four Japanese soldiers to the Moro River, a part of the Tehero River. I always tried to be in the farthest end of the group, so that we could be the last to be executed. Finally, our turn came, and we were taken and conducted to the river. It was five o’clock in the afternoon when we were led to the river and on my way there, I saw about one hundred Japanese soldiers scattered near the river and I also saw some men with their hands tied at their backs.

As soon as we arrived at the place of execution, I saw a whole family — Maximo Mangubat, aged 60; his wife Maria, aged 50; Aquilina Javier, aged 30, and her two sons, aged 6 and 4, and two daughters, aged 12 and four months, bayoneted to death. I saw it actually with my own eyes and I also saw that the four months baby of Aquilina was thrown up into the air and landed into two bayonets

[p. 22]

plunged savagely by the Japanese. The baby was dead before it reached the ground. I also saw about 500 bodies all scattered around the bank of the river with blood oozing out of them, and they all seemed to be dead. They had not been removed yet but were allowed to stay on the place where they died.

At the bank of the river, the Japanese tried to wrench my two children from me, for I was holding them firmly. I was pregnant six months at that time. Finally, they succeeded in taking them away from me. Ludigario, aged 10, was the first to fall down as soon as he had been bayoneted on his right side. Maria, aged 6, was taken hold of in one arm and was plunged wildly into the air by one Japanese, while two Japanese soldiers thrust her back with their bayonets as soon as she landed on the ground. While watching the scene, I called for help from God and my face was looking up into the sky, when five Japanese soldiers came and bayoneted me at the back. I got five bayonet wounds — one on the upper part of my right arm, another on the upper right of my chest passing through my right side, and another on my left shoulder. Because of the force of the bayonets that passed through my body, I automatically fell on the side of the river, on top of many dead bodies. It was about 6 o’clock in the evening when the Japanese covered us with coconut leaves. After waiting for about an hour, I tried to raise myself when there were no more Japanese around. I could hear many voices of agony crying for help. I tried to crawl near a man, Daniel Reyes, who was calling for help. Over him was a dead body and I tried to push it away from him. As soon as I toppled the dead body from his own, I fell unconscious because of my weakness from loss of blood. After regaining consciousness, Daniel Reyes was still there in the same place, dead. Then, I crawled again and went to the river because I was thirsty. I drank a few draughts of water in the river and then fell unconscious again. Regaining my consciousness, I crawled to the same place where the execution had taken place, because that was the easiest way to go up the river. I went under the bushes and slept for a few moments. It was about 10 o’clock in the evening when I crawled again along the river bank and upon reaching a distance of about 25 meters, I rested again. While I was resting, I looked around and found a naked dead woman, about 18 years old. I assumed that she had been raped and afterwards bayoneted. I crawled back to the barrio of Sulac, and reaching the house of Carlos, a Makapili, I was warned to go away because there were still Japanese soldiers around the place. I was given a bowl of rice but I was still too weak to eat. I crawled to a dugout and rested there. After a short time, I went to the group of fifteen families that were separated from us. I was fed there and again, they warned me to go away. From there, I met an acquaintance, Maria Castillo, who took care of me. Mr. Pamfilo Navarro came and treated me. I stayed in the house of Maria Castillo till I came to Lipa on the 25th of April, 1945. Even though I was mistreated so inhumanely while I was pregnant, my baby was born in one piece.

[p. 23]

Q: Did you recognize any of the dead bodies what you have mentioned?
A: Besides my two children and the Mangubat family that I have mentioned, the other dead bodies that I can remember are the following: my sister-in-law Maria Rucafor3, aged 30; her daughter, Conchita Hernandez, aged 6, and her son, Antonio Hernandez, aged 3; My sister-in-law Juliana Rucafor Magsino, aged 50; my nephew and nieces, Proferio Magsino, aged 25, Presento Magsino, aged 30, Conchita Magsino, aged 13, Aurelia Magsino, aged 6; my brother Agaton Navarro, aged 33, his wife Maria Villanueva, aged 28; my cousin Bibensio Navarro, aged 50; my sister-in-law Cresenciana Rucafor, aged 40; my nephew, Lazaro Navarro, aged 12; Mena Navarro, aged 10; Alejandro Navarro, aged 4; Jose Navarro, aged 2; Juana Navarro, aged 30; Tamasa de Leon, aged 60; Sixto Kamintano; Eulogia Rucafor, aged 26; Benjamin Rucafor, aged 4; Carolito Dimafeles4; Pastor Rucafor, aged 30.

Q: Do you know any of the Japanese?
A: I only know of Yamashita. It was [a] common rumor in our town then that the Japanese General, Yamashita, had ordered the killing of all Filipinos in the Philippines.

Q: What happened to your husband?
A: My husband, Maximo Rucafor, 50 years old, was one of those men who were taken by the Japanese on forced labor in the Malarayat Mountain. He was taken by 2 Japanese soldiers and 2 Makapili members — Primo Quintos and Dalmacio Bueno, in the morning and allowed to return at about 6 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day. His job was to carry boxes of ammunition from the church where the Japanese had previously stored them to the foot of Malarayat Mountain. This went on for almost two weeks. At the end of the second week, the same members of the Makapilis informed my husband to take the following day as a day of rest. But early the next morning, the Makapilis returned and took my husband with them. Since then, my husband never returned and I never heard news of him. Anxious to learn the whereabouts of my husband, I inquired from Mr. Quintos. He told me that my husband had some work to finish and will return soon. But after 3 days, Mr. Quintos told me to pray for him because he will never return.

Q: Can you tell us the number of Japanese soldiers present at the time of the execution?
A: There were 20 officers and 100 soldiers.

Q: Can you describe any of them?
A: No Sir, but I can tell you that the officers wore leather leggings and carried sabers, while the soldiers wore short-sleeved khaki uniforms and carried rifles and bayonets.

Q: Do you know to what unit the Japanese soldiers belonged?
A: No Sir, I do not know to what unit the Japanese belonged. We never talked with the Japanese soldiers as we were afraid of them. We always tried to stay away from them when we see them.

[p. 24]

Q: I hand you Exhibit G, will you describe it to me?
It is a picture of myself showing the bayonet wounds I received on my back.

Q: I now hand you Exhibit G-1, will you describe it to me?
A: It is a picture of myself showing four bayonet wounds I received on the right side of my body.

Q: Do you have anything further to add to your statement?
A: No sir, that is all.

/s/ Apolinaria Navarro

Notes and references:
1 “Testimony of Apolinaria Navarro,” Document 2720, compiled by the War Crimes Branch, US Army Judge Advocate’s Office, Western Pacific Theater, November 1945.
2 Presently called Barangay Santa Cruz, Santo Tomas, Batangas.
3 The transcription was possibly done by US Army enlisted men. It is possible that “Rucafor” was in reality “Rocafort.”
4 Possibly Dimapilis.
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