Some details of the massacre were provided by a November 1945 document1 issued by the United States Army Office of the Western Pacific Theater Judge Advocate War Crimes Branch to the Prosection Section of the same office. According to the same document, an official list of victims was prepared by the acting mayor of the town of Cuenca upon the request of the Governor of Batangas Province2.
Some examples of the atrocities committed by the Japanese were provided by the source document as evidence presumably in war crimes proceedings against Japanese Army personnel accused of committing these atrocities. These were:
|CAUTION: Disturbing photo. Victims of Japanese WWII atrocities in Luzon in 1945. Image credit: United States National Archives.|
3 February 1945At about 7:30 in the evening of this day, Japanese soldiers herded some twenty-one males they had accosted to a cave near the barrio of Tanque3. From the cave, the men were ordered out one at a time and then tied together with their hands behind their backs. They were then ushered to an open field and later, in groups of three, led to the edge of a ravine where they were “shot and bayoneted and then rolled into the ravine.” Determined to make sure that all the men were dead, the Japanese sent men down the ravine to inspect each body, and any that displayed signs of being alive was bayoneted yet again. Fortuitously, two of the victims survived and managed to later escape, presumably after the Japanese had gone.
6 February 1945Some one hundred and seventy-five civilian men, women and children were assembled by the Japanese in the house of one Graciano Castillo in the barrio of Mambug3. All the men were taken out in groups of five and never seen again. Later, three women were taken out, but returned shortly saying that the grave that was being dug, presumably for the women of the group, was not yet finished. Screams and groans were reported heard coming from the Castillo house, and although a woman and her child somehow managed to escape, the rest were never again seen.
13 February 1945Approximately fifty-two civilians, of which two were women, were taken by the Japanese soldiers to a house in the sitio of San Juan. A group of about thirty were taken to the house of one Mateo Palma and forced to admit that they were members of the underground guerrilla movement. At 7:00 in the evening that same day, they were taken to a well in groups of three with their hands tied behind their backs and told one by one to step up to the edge of the well. One Japanese held each at the edge of the well while three others did the bayoneting, after which each was thrown into the well. The remaining civilians were herded to another house with a well and never seen again, believed to have suffered the same fate. Only two of the entire group managed to escape, although one of these was wounded.
19 February 1945The family of one Eliza Magpantay, which included eleven men, women and children, were bayoneted to death in their own backyard in the barrio of San Felipe. That same night, the mother and nephew of one Agustin Lunar were also bayoneted to death right inside their own home in the same barrio. Their house was subsequently burned.
20 February 1945The following day, still in the barrio of San Felipe, nine men, women and children belonging to one family were bayoneted to death by Japanese soldiers. Not done, the Japanese moved to another household that same evening and killed a family of eight, their house burned down after the massacre.
Early March 1945One Ireneo Hocena was bayoneted by the Japanese while he was on a trail near the poblacion of the town of Cuenca for no apparent reason.
7 March 1945On this day, eighteen civilian males were brought by the Japanese to the barrio of Dita. Of the eighteen, five were taken from the group while the remaining thirteen were given passes and told to return to their homes. Heading home, however, they were accosted by Japanese sentries and marched to the edge of a ravine with their hands tied behind their backs. They were then bayoneted one by one and their bodies thrown into the ravine. Two of these managed to survive, the but the other eleven were never seen again. The source document did not state what happened to the five whom the Japanese had kept with them.
11 March 1945On this day, the Japanese took nineteen civilian men, women and children from a shelter in the barrio of Sablay4 and imprisoned inside one of the many tunnels that the Japanese had built in the town of Cuenca for a week. Eight days later, on the 19th of the same month, the civilians were ordered out of the tunnel in small groups. As they were filing out of the tunnel, the Japanese went on to bayonet them one by one. To make sure that none would survive, the victims were also shot. One little girl of about five years old tried to run away, but she was bayoneted through her neck and lifted from the ground while still impaled onto the bayonet’s stip. Of this group, six somehow managed to survive. Notes and references:
1 “Massacre of Three Hundred Civilians of Cuenca, Batangas, P.I.,” by the War Crimes Branch, US Army Judge Advocate’s Office, issued November 1945.
2 Regrettably, the list mentioned was not included in the document obtained by Batangas History, Culture & Folklore.
3 Batangas History, Culture & Folklore is at yet unable to determine what the present name is of this supposed barrio named Tanque, if at all it was a barrio.
3 Batangas History, Culture & Folklore is at yet unable to determine what the present name is of this supposed barrio named Mambug, if at all it was a barrio.
3 Batangas History, Culture & Folklore is at yet unable to determine what the present name is of this supposed barrio named Sablay, if at all it was a barrio.