Darlan Palencia Barcelon
A Tale of Female Courage and HeroismAt 83 years old, Mrs. Maria Lareza Uy-Abitria is still blessed with a wonderful gift – a vivid and sharp memory. This article is culled from her reminiscences.
Hidden in the obscure annals of our local history and unknown to the present generation, the province of Sorsogon has its own dignified contribution to our glorious past. During the dark days of the Japanese occupation, this province has its share of shining moments.
More often than not, women’s role during wartime – though indispensable – remained untold and undocumented.
Courageous deeds are made and borne-out of sheer courage and nationalism. History is replete of women power there were a number of unknown women during the past three wars against the Spanish, Americans and Japanese occupiers — a testament to their important role in the revolution and resistance efforts against colonial powers.
Their tales of courage and heroism deserve to be retold again and again so that the present leaders of Sorsogon can glean lessons from their own history. As local and national historians shun from their role of documenting the true accounts of past hostilities, we lose an important link to our past thereby losing our identities as a people and collectively, as a province.
Through the almost six decades that have passed, we are lucky to have found people who provide us with the threads to the dim past, two unsung heroines of Sorsogon. They are Ms. Paz Caguia of Barangay [village] Salog, Sorsogon City and Mrs. Maria Lareza Uy-Abitria of Sulucan also of this City. They are both in the middle eighties. According to the accounts of Mrs. Abitria, and the recollection of Tia Paz Caguia, they worked clandistinely during the Japanese occupation as members of Daughters of Tandang Sora.
The D.O.T.S’ as they were called then, was an underground women’s organization which provided financial support to the local guerilla front fighting the Japanese Army.
Ms. Paz Caguia served as their President. Members of DOTS were Caguia, Ezperanza Dañgalan, Modesta Pancho, Rosario Sicad Peña, Maria Lareza Uy Abitria and Engr. Soledad Uy-Boco, a retired government employee.
They sold foods by day and stayed home at night to avoid detection from the enemies. Whatever proceeds they earned went to the funds of local guerrilla unit.
According to Mrs. Abitria, their group set their base in Bgy. Basud and they used to sell food in the village. there was an instance when she secretly traveled to Sitio Suhi in Kilometro Katorse (kilometer 14) via Gimaloto to deliver money. Travel to that place before was only by boat.
The DOTS worked under the command of Major Licerio Lapuz, then the Provincial Commander of the Philippine Constabulary in Sorsogon. In 1941, Lapuz organized the resistance movement in the entire province of Sorsogon and put up a training camp in the slopes of Bulusan Volcano. The forest of Inang Maharang mountain range in Manito, Albay used to be the main camp of Lapuz’s guerrilla faction.
The guerrilla factions in Sorsogon during the Japanese occupation were divided into three factions. These were the units of Salvador C. Escudero,Sr., Licerio Lapuz and Gregorio Espinas of Guinlajon, Sorsogon City.
During the height of the resistance movement, several encounters between the guerrillas and the Japanese troops resulted to the untold sufferings, torture and death among the civilians.
Still more tragic was the split of the resistance organization into two: the Escudero group and the Lapuz faction. while they had one common enemy – the Japanese – these two units were constantly at odds with each other. These hostilities brought adverse consequences to the Sorsoganons. The poor civilians had to fight on two fronts: the guerrillas and the Japanese. Many guerrillas and innocent civilians lost their lives.
When the American forces landed in Leyte in 1945, all guerrilla units in the country including those in Sorsogon were deployed in mopping-up operations against the Japanese. With the end of the war in sight, normalcy returned and public schools in Sorsogon opened in July 1945, three months before the Japanese formally surrendered.
After the liberation, rehabilitation efforts began but Sorsogon received scant share of the War Damage funds. Worse, Filipino guerrilla who fought side by side with Americans soldiers did not received just compensations.
In Sorsogon alone, many deserving surviving guerrillas specially those under Major Licerio Lapuz were never honored because of political patronage.
These valiant heroines of Sorsogon were never recognized as deserving guerrillas they are the unsung Daughters of Tandang Sora. Forgotten but not down, they provide us with a link into the war that was.