Perfecto and Gabriela Gabriel discuss their experiences during the Japanese Occupation and the immediate postwar years in the Philippines, focusing on their encounters with the Hukbalahap.
Interview with [G] Mrs. Gabriela Gabriel and [P] Mr. Perfecto Gabriel November 3, 2021. Interview conducted at their home residence, San Rafael, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija.
V: November 2, 2020, my name is Veronica Sison, what is your name grandma?
G: Gregoria Gabriel
V: What about your grandpa what’s your name?
V: Perfecto Gabriel as well?
G: Of course.
V: When was your birth date?
G: November 28, 1934
V: What about you grandpa?
P: November 15, 1933
V: Were you born here?
G: He was born here; they own this lot.
V: Here in San Rafael?
V: Since you were young did you live here?
G: Me? I was born there (at the end of the street)
V: Where did you study?
G: Zaragoza Central School
V: Central school… You too grandpa?
P: Just there.
V: I’d like to ask, during the Japanese Occupation, what do you remember when you were young?
G: We salute from time to time.
G: Whenever we fetch water, we raise the water pail whenever [we see them].
P: Where the gate is.
G There in the school, that’s where we fetch water.
P: When you enter, you can find it down below.
G: There is an artificial well there.
V: Do you bow whenever you enter?
P: Yes, bow.
V: Have you heard of the Hukbalahap?
G: The Hukbo! The Hukbo! We heard about them.
P: We heard about them, they entered this area back then and stole all our carabaos.
V: Oh, the Huks?
V: Did they do that when the Japanese left or when the Japanese disappeared?
G: The Japanese already left
V: The Huks, how do you perceive them?
G: They hid all the time; you can’t see them during the day.
P: They stole all the carabaos here in San Rafael.
V: Who was their leader in Zaragoza? Do you know him/her?
G: Ah we don’t know, who’s that?
G: Who’s the leader?
P: I don’t know…
G: During the Japanese period… it was …. Oh, I forgot. I forgot them already.
V: After the second world war were you still here?
V: How did you return to your normal life? How did you do it?
G: Like this, during the Japanese time, we used to hide there.
P: Next to the pond.
G: Next to the pond, we have a dug-out.
V: I see, yes.
G: We have a tripod where we cook our rice and whenever we hear the planes coming
P: They ran into…
G: We all ran into the dugout. We extinguish the fire, then we hide. We were like that back then. When things get a little peaceful, we slowly returned to our houses.
P: Like that?
G: Lolo Bai, was still small back then.
V: Who liberated this place? Americans or Filipinos?
G: Was it the Americans? When the Japanese left?
P: Yes, we’ve seen tanks in pile, we were watching them in the road.
V: Where were the tanks located?
V: Tanks, American tanks?
V: Ah but the Japanese, where was the headquarter located? Here?
G: There in the school.
V: In Zaragoza Central School? The Kempeitai?
G: Huh? There, their camp is located there.
V: How many Japanese soldiers were here?
G: Ah many Japanese!
V: Were they cruel?
P: Eh our father, they tortured him back then.
V: How was he tortured?
G: His Father Imo, he was imprisoned in the headquarters. Do you know that? They will take the water; they will pour it in your mouth while you’re lying flat on your stomach. Isn’t that what happened with Father Imo?
V: Why was he punished?
G: I don’t know
P: They suspected him… when they suspect that you were a member of Hukbalahap, like that, they will punish you. Anything, even with small things they easily get upset and will punish you. If you’re not lucky enough, maybe you won’t make it.
V: But when the Japanese left and the Americans liberated this place, who was fighting in this area then?
G: No one.
V: Was it peaceful in Zaragoza?
V: No more conflicts here?
G: So long as there were Huks, we hide as much as possible.
P: They might catch us.
V: Ahh the Huks, were there several of them in Zaragoza? Do you remember Luis Taruc?
V: Luis Taruc.
G: Ah, Luis Taruc.
P: Ah, Luis Taruc has good principles. The land of the wealthy landowners was given to the poor. Oh they wouldn’t be able to give it away…. if it wasn’t because of Taruc… we wouldn’t have land.
G: I have no idea. I have no… I didn’t care about the Huks, I just kept hiding.
V: Did you vote for … Alejandrino back then? Do you remember Lava? Juan Feleo?
G: Ah no.
V: What about Luis Taruc, do you remember him? How do you perceive Luis Taruc?
P: Ah, what I know about him, he was asking… that the land of the rich shall be distributed to the poor. Then it happened...
G: Oh, I see.
P: Yes. That’s why Taruc had big…
V: But you know that the Americans waged a war against him? Did they capture him?
G: I don’t know.
V: What about you grandpa?
P: What was that?
G: Did the Americans capture Luis Taruc?
P: No, but he was the target.
V: Did he have many followers? Like residents here who followed him?
P: He has Huk followers.
V: Here in Zaragoza?
G: There were Huks but scattered…
P: … “something” [but unable to describe it]
G: Let’s wait, I have no idea.
P: He was the head; he was the head.
V: When were the Huks chased? How did you perceive the soldiers? Did you trust the soldiers?
P: There was a patch in their uniform.
V: Were they army?
V: With the constabulary, were they abusive to the community or so-so?
P: What was that?
G: Were they abusive? No.
G: During the Japanese occupation, every time we evacuate, I always bring my pillow. We used to stay there; I was small back then.
V: How about you lolo, were you already a farmer when the Huk rebellion happened?
P: We cultivated that land next to the river.
V: Were you able to meet the Huks there?
V: The Huks.
G: Have you met Huks? she asked.
P: Not yet.
G: Oh Lalong [name of a certain person they know].
P: Ah yeah!
V: Woman Huk?
V: Was she a native of this place?
P: She was a lady, only that.
G: That Lusing.
V: A woman? Was she fierce? What happened to her? Was she caught by the police?
G: No, she surrendered.
V: When she surrendered, where did they take her?
G: No more, she became a civilian.
V: Became civilian? Did many civilians benefit from the land distribution here?
P: A lot of them. The land of the rich exploded and went to the poor. The one we farmed (as a tenant) back then, it was 600 hectares. They all went to the ordinary farmers.
V: Oh, who owned the land? Whose?
P: What was his name again?
G: Who? The one we’re tilling now?
P: I forgot already.
G: Oh, the Mathias Estate!
G: The Mathias Estate.
G: It was Marcos who gave the land to us.
V: Ah I see, but during Magsaysay they haven’t distributed the lands yet?
P: It wasn’t distributed yet, but it went to us eventually.
V: What was your opinion of Quirino when he was the president?
G: I wasn’t a voter yet at that time
V: Were you still small?
V: I will show you a picture of Luis Taruc.
G: Get my glasses.
V: Anyways, in front of the Zaragoza Central School, I mean Zaragoza Municipal Hall there is a statue for the Huks. Here’s what is written there:
This statue was built to commemorate the living veterans and those who died during the Second World War. The retired Philippine Army, PNP and then the Huk veterans.
They also listed the name of the previous Governor Joson. So my question is, were there many soldiers from Zaragoza? Like Filipino soldiers who joined the Philippine Army or USAFFE?
P: Old man Iban
P: The old man Iban.
G: No he was an… how do you call it?
P: I think a PC.
V: PC, yes yes. The PC grandpa, were they abusive or nice?
P: They were with the Army.
V: Yes, what were they doing back then?
P: Nothing, they were at their camps, the PC was there.
G: They guard, guards!
G: As guards, guards.
P: Just like before, when the clock strikes four in the afternoon.
V: Where was the PC’s headquarters in Zaragoza back then?
G: The what?
V: The PC...constabulary, and Army
G: There in the municipal grounds.
P: They didn’t stay here, there just visit from time to time.
V: Have you heard of the Nenita Unit? No? What about Napoleon Valeriano? No? Well, have you heard of the fighting in San Antonio before?
G: No, I didn’t hear much about that back then.
V: In San Antonio grandpa, was there a fight between them?
P: Hmmm none.
V: Of the Huks, they left. I heard, that beside the Rio Chico, the Huks stayed there.
G: Ah, the mountains.
V: Yes. Did the soldiers treat you nicely?
G: Me, I hid myself all the time.
G: Always hiding.
P: When we were hiding beside the pond, my father and my auntie who didn’t marry yet, they come and visit this house.
V: During the Huk or Japanese?
V: Huk and Japanese? 19 what year?
P: I don’t remember what year the Japanese were here.
G: I don’t know.
P: I can’t remember the Japanese occupation… which year was it.
V: But the Huk, if you could remember it was in the 1950s.
P: They replaced the Japanese.
V: Were you small? In your understanding, after the traumatic years of Japanese occupation, what do you remember after they left?
G: After that, it was slowly becoming peaceful.
P: I don’t remember.
V: Do you remember Lustre?
G: Lustre! Lustre!
P: Oh, my brother.
P: He was from Carmen.
V: Oh Carmen?
G: He knows him anyways.
V: Who else?
V: Where was the old municipal hall located?
G: Ah the municipal hall, there in the annex.
P: At the back of the church.
G: Behind the church.
P: That’s the municipal hall back in those days.
G: That’s our municipal hall back then.
P: Then they used to call it the “center”
V: Ah so San Vicente was the original center. Until what grade were you during the Japanese…
G: Ah during the Japanese, at what grade! I couldn’t remember which grade when the Japanese left.
P: I can’t remember.
G: I don’t know.
V: It’s okay if you don’t remember them, just small details only. But during the Huks, didn’t you hear anything about the Huks and the military?
V: Here in Zaragoza?
G: Nothing, was there Huks against the military? Fighting each other?
P: Yes, there was.
G: He said yes haha.
V: So how do you remember it?
P: The encounter was in the periphery (outside the center), we were safe here in the center.
V: Who were in the center?
P: The soldiers
V: Yes, the Huks, were they native of Zaragoza?
P: They only stayed outside this area.
V: Which part of this area?
P: There next to the pond, they hid there. What I remember, I heard that they used to live there in the swamp or next to the river.
V: How many Huks? Were there many?
P: They can’t enter this area easily.
V: Why can’t they enter this place, Zaragoza?
P: Well because…
G: I think they were able to enter but secretly.
P: You wouldn’t recognize them.
V: So they were not from here.
V: Were the soldiers from here?
P: Yes, but I don’t know them. If the Huks wanted to enter, they’ll get defeated here.
G: There were many Huks.
V: We're there many soldiers here? Do they increase yearly after the Japanese period?
V: Yes, the Huks. The Huks were fighting the soldiers?
V: Do the number of soldiers increase yearly?
P: Not really, just a few… Just whenever they hear reports
V: Then they come?
P: Army will enter this place (when there are reports concerning the Huks)
V: Did Magsaysay come here or not?
V: Were there American Soldiers here?
P: None. They only passed this place.
V: They only passed by?
P: They only passed.
V: Did you see them?
P: Ah there we watched them during the liberation. We were small.
G: You were also small at that time.
P: We watched them ride the tanks and you'll see the driver with his sunglasses with colors
G: I didn’t know about that.
V: Oh I see.
P: We only watched them.
V: Were there a lot of Americans? Or only a few?
P: A lot of them were passerby
V: Where were they going?
P: To the mountains.
P: They were going to the mountains
V: Which one? Arayat?
P: Just there, in Pangasina, Isabela.
P: They just went there.
P: They only pass here.
V: That was during the occupation?
V: During the Japanese occupation.
V: But during the Japanese occupation, there were many Huks already?
P: The Japanese already left.
V: But the Americans, there were a few of them here.
P: They didn’t stay here, just in Zambales.
V: In Zambales, there in Subic?
G: The Americans owned Subic.
P: In Zambales, yes.
V: But did Luis Taruc visit here?
V: Did he ever visit this place?
P: I can’t remember if that was Luis Taruc in the town. They threw something…
G: Luis Taruc.
V: Was his reputation good? The Huks in general were good or bad?
P: I don’t know anything other than that they were bandits.
G: Why did they call them bandits?
P: When you don’t give them what they want, they kill you.
G: You’ll get robbed.
P: If they rob you, they’re bandits.
G: But how will they eat if they don’t …
P: Yes, in our case… you see what happened to us back then. We were collecting woods there, where we also dug. I was with my siblings, the eldest, the other one and I… we were three. When it was around lunch time, four people arrived, they were Huks.
G: They were Huks, so they didn’t introduce themselves.
P: What they did to us, he ordered my brother to do something. He immediately ran off really fast to the town market to buy rice. I didn't know what time he would be back. They were trying to get something from us, we said we have nothing, why? What we earn from collecting wood, that's what we use to buy our rice. The Huks, they have money!
G: Did they give you something?
P: No, they gave us rice instead. They gave us one sack of rice.
G: I didn’t know that.
P: That’s why when the rice arrived, it was delivered by someone, my father went along. He didn’t come close, but they ordered someone to buy Pepsi. Four of them drank from the same bottle.
P: It’s true, I’m not kidding,
V: How many were there? Four Huks?
P: Yes, four.
V: How do they look like?
P: They have... a few... just a few. They asked us to eat first. Then they ate our leftovers.
V: They were starving.
G: Just one grain, one grain only.
P: The woods we collected, my eldest brother took the woods with him. I was hiding in the corner; we were lying down. Face to face.
G: Something happened to the corner.
P: I was the only child; I was the youngest… They kept me, maybe they will kick me out, nothing.
V: Did you report them to the police? After they did…
V: Did you report them to the authorities? Did you tell the police?
P: Of course not.
P: I didn’t.
V: Why not?
P: Ah they will only interrogate us “Why did you let them go? “
V: Ahh so …
P: We only sneaked whenever we go there (outside the town center)…
V: Why, what would the police do then? What was the issue with the policemen?
P: It was strictly prohibited (to go the Huk area).
G: You’re not allowed to give them food.
P: You shall not support them with food, [like what happened to] Mama Melong… he couldn’t…
V: Who was he?
P: It was strictly prohibited.
V: Did they punish someone to serve as an example?
P: It was a no-no to the Army.
V: If they discover that you're helping the Huks, what do they do to you?
G: The Army will punish you.
V: What kind of punishment?
P: I’m not sure, I was not punished.
V: But did you hear about those who were punished?
P: Old man Melong, he was taken by the army, I don’t know what happened to him.
G: He was taken.
P: [What he did] was against the law.
V: Were the Army abusive?
P: Yes if you provide the Huk with food.
V: What else didn’t they like back then?
P: Just don’t feed the Huks,
V: Anything else?
P: How will you not provide them food? The Huks will kill you if you don’t provide them food.
P: That's how life was back then.
V: How many armies were based here?
P: They only visit.
V: Don't they have a camp here?
G: They didn't have a camp here.
V: Were the Army natives of this place or from other places?
P: The Army was based in Cabanatuan and there in the current Fort Magsaysay.
V: In San Antonio, were there many armies there?
P: Where was their camp? the Army camp, it was close to the tank, in Cabanatuan. Next to the tank.
V: Who gives them the tip? Who provides them with information that there were Huks in this area?
P: They will not name him/her of course.
G: Have you seen Huks there? They asked.
G: Have you seen Huks there? They asked.
G: Oh, I see.
V: Then they will mention who supported the Huks, like that?
P: No, they will not say it.
G: Just the sympathizers.
P: What I remember, but I didn't witness it, there were fishermen there (next to Rio Chico). The military raided the place, the Army was riding a boat. They didn't get to kill the Huks, they all hid in the pond (not clear who stole what and who).
G: I have no idea.
V: Were there many troops in that operation?
P: Just a few of them, they were riding boats.
P: It was rainy season.
P: When someone alerted the military, it was probably the people who were victimized by the Huks whenever they ask for food. There in the swampy area, they lived there but nobody was killed.
V: But in that pond were there many Huks?
V: There were many Huks in the swamp?
P: Yes, several of them lived there. Their hideout was there in Santa Lucia.
V: Donna’s grandfather was a Huk, she said.
G: Not a Huk.
G: No, something else, he wasn’t a Huk.
[Donna, their granddaughter from Sta Lucia Old, joined the conversation]
P: Who are you referring to? Was she [Donna] the replacement of the male?
G: Please take off your mask , Donna so Grandma can see you.
P: I didn’t recognize her
G: Daughter of Boho.
P: I didn’t recognize her
V: The soldiers, were they nice or cruel?
P: They were nice if you didn’t anything against the “law.”
V: Have you heard of abusive soldiers?
P: Not much, they just visit from time to time so long as you didn’t do anything against them.
G: The Huks. [Laughs]
V: [Laughing] Grandma, why is it hard for you to remember the Huks?
G: I was very young back then, things like that don’t matter to me. We only evacuated and I always followed whatever my parents tell me.
V: Did you enter the school after the Japanese left?
G: I think, not yet.
V: But back then, have you seen soldiers?
G: No. We were always kept inside and hid by our mothers.
V: Because you’re female? Grandpa had a lot of encounters with the Huks.
G: There was a time when my father was taken by the Huks. They were leaving and en route to Guevarra. His ankles were tied like a guide. We thought he wouldn't be able to come back alive. They passed the pretil in hacienda, the old pretil.
V: Why did they call that place, hacienda?
G: The hacienda was really huge, but it's called Mathias estate now.
P: It was 600 hectares.
P: 600 hectares.
V: Who owned it?
G: Hermohena Romero.
V: Hermohena Romero? Was she rich? Where was she from?
P: Very rich.
G: She was the [ incomplete statement]... of Mathias
V: So she is H. Romero.
G: Yes, she’s Hermohena Romero, the teacher.
V: Where was she from?
G: When I hadn’t learned how to read, we used to go to her house in hacienda, they said that was the house of maestra Hermohena.
V: A Castillian?
G: I am not sure.
V: Why did she have so much land?
G: That I don’t remember why, she has a lot; look at Hache Romero.
G: She was a teacher; she used her brain.
V: She titled the lands?
P: My Uncle Eko, he tried bringing me there… I couldn’t remember, I was very small then.
G: I had no awareness back then.
V: What was-? [interrupted]
P: She had long hair, she lived in that house, in that house.
V: Was she a Huk?
G: She’s a teacher. I couldn’t remember because when she arrived in Sta. Lucia, she hid in the house.
V: Were the Huks called communists back then?
G: She asked if they’re communists.
P: Yes, they were called communists.
V: I thought there were bandits, then communists… to what.
P: Eh look at the situation, they go to the barrio when they’re hungry. When they’re hungry, we cook for them and will send them packed foods. Like that, we prepare foods they could take with them.
V: Why were they called communists if they were bandits?
G: Yes, what is a communist anyways? Why are they called communists? Because they were nice.
P: The way I understood communist, it means Huk.
V: Who called them communists?
P: The only thing I know is they Huks were called communists.
V: Even during the Japanese period, did the Huks acted as soldiers?
G: I’m not sure.
V: The female Huk, where was she from?
G: What we know is she’s a Kapampangan.
V: Kapampangan… Were there Huks of La Paz too?
G: The mother of Filemon, but you don’t know that. It’s really warm.
V: Do you want to add more grandpa? If you want to add more feel free to talk, even about the Huks or soldiers, or Magsaysay or Taruc.
G: Was there a time the soldiers were friends with the Huks?
P: Not possible!
V: Why not?
P: Because the Huks were not legalized.
G: They are really different.
P: Yes, they are really different.
G: They have separate paths.
P: There, Old man Pedring, he fought in Jaen when my brother died.
V: Was he a Huk or a soldier?
P: Yes (soldier), he was killed by the Huks
V: Why were they killed by the Huks?
P: They were hiding in the mango trees, they were spotted, very obvious from where they were hiding.
G: Oh, like that?
V: Climbing the mango trees? I read something about the Huk hideout in Mayamot.
G: Probably Mayamot.
P: Because it was like...
G: I have lived my life here in Zaragoza, but I’ve never been to Mayamot.
V: How? Where?
P: Lambakan was part of the Manaol. There in Manaol.
V: Manaol? Where was Manaol again? Ah there were Huks there? Right, in between Papaya, San Francisco.
G: They have a lot of Huk hideouts there.
P: Several hideouts everywhere.
V: But here in Zaragoza, just there in the swampy area.
P: There I used to hide in the pond.
V: But where did they hide here?
G: No, they only come here.
V: They only come during rainy season?
G: We only hide there. How could they hide here? Back in those days, there was only one structure erected here. In that lot, none, it was bright and clear. Whichever place they feel like hiding. There was no house there [*pointing at the other side of the road*].
V: How do you perceive a communist?
G: I don’t know what is a communist.
P: Me neither.
V: Eh why did they call the Huks as communists?
P: Yeah, why?
V: Don’t you have any clue why they were called communists? For you the Huks were bandits, right?
G: I wonder why. They were receiving pension, right? the Huks. They were processing papers? If bandits… that’s a mistake.
V: Their members who kidnapped you? Were they young or old? How do they look? the one who ordered your brother to buy rice.
P: I didn’t recognize them.
G: The ones who ordered. Did they sport long hair?
V: Did they cover their faces?
P: No, they didn’t have long hair.
G: What about Torio?
P: Not like Torio, he was killed there.
V: Was killed?
P: There were only few of them there.
G: He was with grandpa.
V: How do they looked like? Long beards?
P: No, others didn't have long hair.
V: Wearing a soldier's uniform? With a gun?
G: With a hidden gun.
V: How would you know, if they are Huks and different from others?
P: You will recognize the Huks, the Army had uniform, the Huks don't. We were surprised when we saw them. I thought they would kill us. Kuya Pedring took the woods, Kuya Patseng went home, I was brought to the corner… They were indoctrinating me, I was listening.
G: They were just recruiting you.
V: What was the lesson about? About what?
P: I was with one fellow, the other two were outside, there were four of them, they said do it discreetly, not so loud… there were many people passing by the area, “don’t be so loud” … But if it happened that someone went up. Disaster!
They will kill us eventually; we will be pointed.
V: Please think about what they were preaching...
P: It’s about their…. Union [labor organization],
G: About Union, about good principles.
P: We were lying down. We were next to each other.
V: Grandpa, please try to remember.
P: They were teaching me, preaching about something. They were really good speakers, though I can't understand them.
G: They were organizers!
V: How good, what was it about?
G: Trying to recruit you?
P: No, they just want to spread the word...
V: What was the message about? Just one word, please...
P: Their principles, I can’t remember. it was really long.
V: Was it about land ownership?
P: That’s why when they about to leave, they said, okay the leader told us, “if you want to collect woods there, just tell them, (what was the name of that son of a bitch…), the Blind (Bulag), tell them Bulag gave you the access and they won’t touch you. We bought them rice, and they let us collect the woods (granted us access to that Huk area).
V: They’re pretty nice.
G: Were they really nice? He’s blind anyways.
P: Told us, you can collect wood there. The blinded one, with one eye, I think he’s the leader.
V: What else did they tell you? Did they mention the term Imperialism? What was the face of communism for you?
P: I can’t remember… All I remember is that they are called communists. I do not know the meaning of communism.
V: How they defined communism back then was very much associated with the Russians and Chinese, then their governments wanted to distribute the wealth from the rich to the poor. But if they called you communist, the Americans would be your enemy. So why were they calling the Huks communists if they were not, Russians or Chinese?
G: Isn’t that what he said earlier. Maybe the senior Huks had dealings with them [Russians and Chinese].
V: What do you hear about the soldiers? Who was more cruel, the Huk or the soldiers?
P: The Huks, remember that time when they found us.
V: Didn’t they let you collect the woods there?
P: That’s how they treated us just because they wanted something in return (we did them the favor). In my opinion, if we didn’t deliver the rice on time at 5pm, they probably would have shot us.
P: They set the time, if we didn’t … they could have killed us. After they let my brother go, when he passed the swamp, he immediately ran!
V: Do you have Castilian blood? You have a pointed nose.
G: Right, he has a pointy nose. I don’t! [recalling their ancestors from Malolos, Bulacan.]
V: Thank you very much, I’ll stop the recording first.