Gruesome Tales of Massacres in Lipa and Santo Tomas as Told by Survivors - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Gruesome Tales of Massacres in Lipa and Santo Tomas as Told by Survivors - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Gruesome Tales of Massacres in Lipa and Santo Tomas as Told by Survivors

By February 1945, Allied forces led by the United States Army were already well on their way to liberating the island of Luzon from Japanese occupation. Forces of the Japanese Imperial Army, which just three years earlier seemed unstoppable in their expansion across the Pacific, were now in retreat and facing inevitable defeat.

In Batangas, Nasugbu was already purged of the Japanese presence. In Balayan, the mopping up of the remaining Japanese troops was ongoing.

The 11th Airborne, the arm of the United States Army that had landed in Nasugbu on the 31st of January, were at this time supporting the invasion of Manila by US Army forces which had landed in Lingayen, Pangasinan on the 9th of the same month.

In the towns of Batangas, Japanese troops were edgy and desperate to capture Filipino guerrillas whom they suspected to be living among the civilian population. This led to wanton massacres of civilians in many towns across the province. US Army documents estimate the total number of BatangueƱos killed to range from 18,000 to 25,000 — possibly more.

Some victims, fortuitously, somehow survived to tell their tales. Of these, we feature two for the sheer incredibility of their treatment at the hands of the Japanese and subsequent escape from the killing fields. One, a woman, was Felicidad Austria of the town of Santo Tomas. The other, a man, was Eusebio Linatoc of what is now the City of Lipa.

Here are their stories:

War Crimes Trial in Manila
Photo taken during the war crimes trials in Manila.  Image credit:  U.S. National Archives.

Felicidad Austria of Santo Tomas1

On the 11th of February 1945, Felicidad Austria, was one of some 50 persons rounded up by the Japanese and forced to assemble in the house of one Anselma Macalaman in a neighborhood in Santo Tomas. In this group was just three men; the rest were women and children.

After checking each person for firearms or any other weapons, the Japanese then tied everyone and led them in groups into an open field some 100 meters from the house. There were already dead bodies strewn around the field. As Felicidad’s group neared the field, she had to suffer the utter horror of seeing her own sister being stabbed by a Japanese soldier.

Once at the killing field, Felicidad and her group of five were told to stand in a line, and each was stabbed in the back with a bayonet. In all, Felicidad was stabbed no less than twelve times by the Japanese soldier behind her. As they fell onto the ground, more of the civilians rounded up were given the same treatment, and Felicidad recalled many other bodies falling onto hers.

Gasoline was then poured on the pile of bodies — as well as on furniture taken from a nearby house — which was set afire. When she started to feel the heat scorch her own body, Felicidad tried desperately to escape from beneath the pile of bodies — and found to her relief that there were no more Japanese soldiers around.

Felicidad’s sister was still alive, but as she exhorted the latter to try to get up, she was too weak from her own bayonet wounds to do so. Felicidad, herself badly wounded, was also very weak and in no position to help her up. So, Felicidad followed other women who were trying to escape, and at the sight of more Japanese soldiers who had come from other fields, they laid down on the ground and pretended to be dead.

The soldiers stabbed them again to make sure that they were dead. Afterwards, the soldiers left. One returned with a spade and started to dig a hole in the ground. Once the hole was large enough, Felicidad and the others were dumped into it and covered with earth.

Somehow still conscious, she managed to claw her way from out of the hole, and stumble across the field to a nearby barrio where she knew there was a doctor.

Felicidad would somehow survive her numerous bayonet wounds and live to tell her story to a war crimes tribunal, the transcription of which was the source of this story.

Eusebio Linatoc of Lipa2

Meanwhile in the then-town of Lipa, on the 27th of February in the barrio of Antipolo south of the poblacion, one Eusebio Linatoc, along with other men of the barrio, were rounded up by the Japanese and told to go to “town,” meaning the poblacion.

Along with the men from Antipolo, some 700 men from the nearby barrio of Anilao were also rounded up and told to do the same. First, the men were taken to the site of the minor seminary. There, they were given numbers. Number 406 was assigned to Eusebio.

Then, the men were grouped by twenties and even issued cigarettes by the Japanese. Soon, the Japanese started taking groups of men away from the cemetery. By about 11 o’clock in the morning, it was the turn of Eusebio’s group.

Instead of being herded on to the poblacion, they were taken to an empty house, which was then locked. The Japanese soldiers then started tying each of them up with ropes and taken to the bank of the nearby brook some 800 meters from the seminary, where they were asked to kneel down.

All their valuables were confiscated. Then, they were forced in two’s to move closer to the brook where there were twelve Japanese armed soldiers waiting. The soldiers took turns bayonetting the men. Eusebio himself was stabbed in the back, in the arms, legs and neck. In all, he was stabbed fifteen times in the back alone.

Severely wounded, he fell and rolled down the bank to the brook, where he said there were “so many dead people... maybe a thousand.” All that time, he never lost consciousness. From the hundreds rounded up in his barrio of Antipolo, only three would survive.

Later, Eusebio, barely able to speak because of his bayonet wound through the throat, would relate his experience to a war crimes tribunal. In the now-City of Lipa, this whole incident is remembered to this day as the “Pamintahan Massacre.”

Notes and references:
1 “Excerpts from the Testimony of Felicidad Austria in U.S.A. v Tomoyuki Yamashita,” part of the U.S. Military Commission compilation of war crimes documentation, online at the Internet Archive.
2 “Excerpts from the Testimony of Eusebio Linatoc in U.S.A. v Tomoyuki Yamashita,” part of the U.S. Military Commission compilation of war crimes documentation, online at the Internet Archive.
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