Eulogio Villaflor discusses his childhood encounters with the Hukbalahap and the Armed Forces of the Philippines units deployed to combat them in the 1940s-50s.
Born in 1941, Eulogio Villaflor was only a child during WWII and the early postwar years in the Philippines. Though too young to remember the Japanese Occupation, he recalls seeing Hukbalahap members in his locality of Kalabasa in Jaen. He explains that most of his community were poor farmers, including his own parents. They farmed on land owned by landlords who did not live within the community.
When the Huk Rebellion broke out after the Philippines gained independence, many were evacuated from their hometowns. Those who remained found their freedom of movement restricted and a curfew enforced by the military. He suggests that the government soldiers protected only the wealthy classes, while the Huk forces protected the poor by not looting from them. While he did not personally interact with any Huks, he was aware of their commanders like Juan Gerrero. However, he is not certain that the Huks were communists. In contrast, government soldiers, most notoriously the Nenita Unit (also known as the Skull Squadron), were abusive towards civilians and suspected them of being Huks, which only heightened tensions and civilian support for the rebels. Eulogio even describes it as a form of Martial Law. Families survived on porridge, and made it a practice to maintain a foxhole on their property where all members could hide when the clashes between the soldiers and Huks got intense, to avoid being caught in the crossfire.
Discussing the politics of the era, he explains that there were only the Liberal and Nacionalista parties, which the public believed served only the rich and poor respectively. He suggests that the Huks were merely fighting for their right to be recognized as wartime combatants against the Japanese and be granted veteran benefits. This was denied to them under the Quirino administration of the Liberal Party. However, this changed when Magsaysay took power in 1953. The Huks surrendered when he granted them lands and resources, and returned to their previous lives as civilian farmers. Finally, he also notes that the later Marcos administration ran a similar land distribution program for farmers in the 1960s, and that a successor to the Huks, the New People’s Army, continued to incite conflicts in the 1970s and 1980s.
Interview with Eulogio Villaflor
VS: April 4, 2021, tatay is it ok to know your name?
TE: Eulogio Villaflor. VS: Eulogio Villaflor. Were you born here?
VS: Where was Kalabasa?
TE: It’s in---it’s under Jaen.
VS: It’s under Jaen? But you grew up here in San Francisco?
TE: I turned twenty when we transferred here.
VS: Turning twenty. But do you often visit this place?
TE: Yes, it’s Jaen.
VS: When were you born?
VS: 1941. Ahh.
TE: March 11.
VS: March 11. Your birthday has just passed [laughs]. What---
TE: On my birthday, Mayor Emin was here.
VS: Emin was the mayor of Gapan.
TE: My friend in Sigman.
TE: The mayor of Gapan.
VS: Gapan. My question was---were you able to experience the Huks here back then?
TE: I only saw them, but did not interact.
VS: Do you only see them?
VS: Because the people that I interviewed in Zaragosa really interacted with the Huks.
TE: Those were, as they were called then, HMB. VS: HMB, yes.
TE: There were two types. HMB and NPA.
VS: Yes. HMB came first.
TE: The ones who were not recognized as military in the army were the NPA (HMB).
VS: Recognized. Were there many Huks here back then?
TE: I was still a kid then, there were several here.
VS: How were the Huks here then?
TE: They were the ones who help the poor. Poor people were common back then.
VS: Right here. Were there many people who did not have their own land in Kaysiwan?
TE: Ah yes, they didn’t have their own land but ---the farmers only got their land because of the land reform…because Marcos (60s) took those lands from the landowner and gave it to the farmers.
VS: But your experience while growing up here in Jaen, San Antonio, how was the politics then?
TE: It was fine then as there were only two kinds of candidates, one Nacionalista and another one was, Liberal.
VS: Who did the people of San Antonio and Jaen support in 19---
TE: The Liberal were for the wealthy.
VS: Roxas and his party back then.
TE: The Nacionalista were for the poor.
VS: For the poor.
VS: Did you meet the army back then, in Kaysiwan? When they were chasing the Huks?
TE: We saw them but that’s just it during those times.
VS: How was your relationship with them?
TE: They were quiet, especially Hukbong Makabayan as they have no business with the civilians. They were even the ones who took care of the people. As much as possible, they try to avoid having an encounter with the military, they don’t fight, they don’t shoot.
VS: Is San Luis near---San Julian, was it San Luis, San Julian?
[Mrs Ruby Sison (RS) joined the conversation] RS: It was San Jose, like Panabingan.
TE: San Luis.
RS: Maybe it is currently San Jose.
TE: (inaudible) is it?
RS: It is currently San Jose, right?
VS: San Julian? There was a report in the 1950s that a whole barangay was (attacked) by the military...
TE: Maybe there was no San Luis here.
VS: Chased by the soldiers.
TE: In the...
VS: San Luis.
RS: When San Antonio was still under us, that was San Jose...
TE: San Jose only.
VS: San Jose.
RS: It was called San Luis then...
TE: That’s it.
RS: Yes. Where was the way? The way back then was here, right?
VS: In Along-Along.
RS: Yes Along-Along.
VS: Towards what?
TE: To Papaya.
VS: Yes, right there, in Papaya.
TE: If you’re from here, go to the town, the (inaudible) turn left---turn right
RS: Yes correct, Papaya.
VS: In Papaya.
TE: It was bound to Along-Along.
RS: That’s it.
TE: After you cross, that’s San Jose.
RS: It was Papaya when they were talking about the...
TE: When (inaudible) there in Sta. Monica.
RS: It’s Tarlac.
TE: Yes. It’s Concepcion.
RS: Yes, Concepcion.
VS: Sta. Monica.
RS: Back then, they were calling San Jose as San Luis, maybe it has changed.
VS: I am studying about the Huks here in San Antonio and how was the experience of the people with the military.
TE: Some were nice, some people were just bad, for example... Markang Bungo.
VS: Is it Nenita Unit?
TE: Those were the bad ones.
VS: That was, BCT.
TE: When there were encounters, the civilians in field, they’re… yes, the Skull Squadron, they were the soldiers back then.]
VS: How about Neni---Napoleon Voleriano? Do you remember them?
TE: I don’t but when I see the people, because of the crossfire, the people will leave here and go to Tikiw [a barrio close to Población.]
TE: I studied grade one there.
VS: In Tikiw?
VS: Mm [agrees].
TE: San Antonio.
VS: But were there many BCT who patrol here?
TE: Those were soldiers.
VS: The Army?
TE: The Army and the ones called NPA.
VS: [laughs] Isn’t it around the 1980s (pertaining to NPA). But the---did you experience any Huk here? Like De Leon? Did you hear of Luis Taruc?
TE: I only heard this, but I have not interacted with them as I was still a child then.
VS: You were still a child then?
TE: Mmm [agrees].
VS: But what were you doing during the clash of the Huk and the...
TE: The adults were the ones who do the farming.
VS: Only do farming.
TE: They were only farming.
[talking in the background] [laughs]
TE: My grandchild has in-laws in Cama Juan.
VS: In Cama Juan?
TE: Mm. The Mudlong.
VS: Ahh yes, the Mudlong. Our former barangay captain was a Mudlong.
TE: (He was the) uncle of my grandchild.
VS: Mm [agrees].
TE: My grandchild was currently there in (inaudible), married the Garcia.
VS: Garcia. Did you experience the constabulary then? Here in...
TE: I heard it when I was a child. VS: MPC. I saw a report that the father of Lustre, he...
TE: Ahh that was... Dr. Lustre.
VS: Yes. They wrote a resolution that condemns the acts of the MPC, Military Police Command in San Francisco...
TE: MPC here in (inaudible).
VS: Yes. It looks like they abused the civilians. They want to stop the operation of the MPC here.
TE: Those were...because the military then was fierce, the military will torture the captured civilians.
VS: How did they torture them?
TE: They were beaten up.
RS: Were you beaten up as well?
VS: Did you not hear any news of beheading? It was said that most of the beheadings occurred in Sta. Barbara [laughs].
TE: That was common then.
TE: The law was theirs. Definitely many were caught.
VS: There was a lot then.
TE: I always hear that (inaudible).
VS: But during the time of Magsaysay, were there any changes...
TE: Yes. It was quiet then. The HMB surrendered.
VS: Why do you think the HMB surrendered then?
TE: Because of the resources that Magsaysay gave, that’s why they surrendered. It became quiet. (inaudible) Magsaysay.
VS: But when you were growing up here in San Antonio, how do you know the...
TE: It became quiet when I entered around grade four (inaudible) it’s quiet, the people returned to their respective fields then.
VS: The people. What year did they come back to the field?
TE: I don’t know because when we came back, I took grade one there.
VS: In Tikiw?
TE: In Tikiw. My classmates then were the child of (certain politician), he’s (inaudible), those were my classmates when we were still young.
VS: Were there any members of Huks here in San Francisco?
TE: Not anymore.
VS: None---but were many back then?
VS: Mmm [agrees].
TE: The main...is Gerrero...Istaris.
TE: Gerrero’s sons.
TE: I am Captain wastaris then.
VS: But was there USAFFE here back then?
TE: Mm. There were a lot of members of HMB back then.
VS: Why did they join HMB?
TE: They’re the defenders of the poor.
TE: Organization/Community/Brotherhood of the poor.
VS: Did you encounter Huks then or you just heard about them?
TE: I see them, but I did not encounter them because I was still a child.
VS: How were they different from the state-soldiers?
TE: They were kind. The soldiers (inaudible) when they see a civilian here on the farm...many were not able to go home, they killed all of them.
VS: Why did they kill them?
TE: Back then, they claim that they were powerful, they don’t want...They used to serve America.
VS: But did they change...
TE: Yes, when Magsaysay… they changed.
TE: Little by little, they changed.
VS: Did you experience casting a vote around that time? Were you able to vote then? During the time of Magsaysay?
TE: Not yet.
VS: Not yet.
[talking in background]
VS: Who was the politician here in the 1950s?
TE: Back then, there were only two kinds of that. A Liberal, a Nacionalista. That’s it. Unlike today, there are so many...
VS: Today, it seems like there was no party. It just depends on who will run. There was no party system.
TE: If they have money, they can...
VS: They can buy (laughs). But back then in Jaen, did you hear the name Tinio? Monolo Tinio?
TE: I don’t (inaudible)
VS: Like the haciendas of Tinio.
TE: I don’t because we stayed in San Antonio. I was born in Kalabasa.
VS: Kalabasa. But, here in San Antonio, who owned the largest land?
TE: I don’t know who owns the land. The owners of the land in Jaen were not from here.
VS: Where were they from?
TE: The tenants used to work for the people from San Isidro.
VS: San Isidro.
TE: They were old---dead already.
VS: An elderly?
TE: (inaudible) This something, the Gallardo, the owner was from Jaen. It’s more than a hundred hectares.
VS: It’s big. [laughs]. TE: He owns the whole hacienda.
TE: (inaudible). He became like a patron.
TE: Became a spinster. The owner back then (inaudible).
VS: Really in Jaen. When you were in grade one, did everyone evacuate from this place?
TE: Mmm. There were no people left here on the farm.
VS: There were none.
VS: How do you fa---how do they farm then?
TE: During that time, they couldn’t farm.
VS: Won’t the people get hungry then?
TE: They go to the town. They couldn’t farm for such a long time.
VS: How about your parents, where did they work?
TE: They were farmers.
VS: Just the same.
TE: Instead of going to town, some evacuated (inaudible).
VS: Were there many soldiers in the Población back then?
TE: There were a lot of soldiers then.
VS: What is your estimate of the number of the soldiers in Poblacion then?
TE: The soldiers were...they acted as if they were kings then.
TE: The recruits were treated like slaves. You’re not allowed to loiter in (inaudible).
VS: Was there a curfew back then?
TE: Yes. You will not be able to go outside at night.
VS: I interviewed someone and he said that he was stationed here back but he’s 97 years old now. He said that they patrolled here in San Antonio and they had cabaret in Poblacion.
TE: Yes. There were cabarets there, in the town.
VS: In the town.
TE: That’s the trend back then.
VS: It was said that the number of soldiers was equal to the number of Huks. So, they were not able to distinguish who the soldier and Huk were then.
TE: Yes. The ones they call Huks were pro-civilians.
TE: (inaudible) Even they have many commanders there.
TE: (inaudible) The highest was Gerrero.
VS: Gerrero. I will look for his name. [laughs]. TE: It’s Juan Gerrero.
VS: It’s Juan Gerrero. Juan Gerrero.
VS: In the...
TE: Those were the HMB.
VS: What did they do there?
TE: That’s it. Back then, they led the community. He’s the head there.
VS: How did he lead the people there?
TE: Just like a... for example, like a teacher, the people were (inaudible). They were not able to enter... the leaders then were kind to them... At the corner of Bulacan Street was the house of the old lady.
VS: In the past?
TE: The grandchild of that HMB member was the captain here.
VS: Became a barangay captain here?
VS: If the Huks were kind back then, why did the soldiers attempt to quell them?
TE: I don’t know. The army implemented Martial Law, they were ruled by the wealthy.
VS: The wealthy. That’s what they also said, Huks were soldiers of the poor, constabulary were soldiers of the wealthy.
TE: The soldiers were agents of... martial law.
VS: Mmm [agrees].
TE: It’s Martial Law.
VS: But do you believe that the Huks, HMB, were communists?
TE: I don’t know. They say communists but he---does not have any target...
TE: You can’t leave others (inaudible) targeted.
VS: Did Luis Taruc come here in San Antonio?
TE: I don’t know.
VS: And De Leon?
TE: I only heard it (inaudible). Those were the heads then---chair of the commanders. Someone who leads a certain place was called commander.
TE: Just like Istaris then, Juan Gerrero.
[talking in the background]
TE: You were trying to research what?
VS: The what, Huks here? I am looking at how the people remember the Huk Rebellion. Other people write about the Huk Rebellion, but it’s about the experience of the politicians, those who were in seats of power.
There hasn’t been any written work on how the normal folks remember, what really happened during that time. The Huks, their branding of the Huks like the plague of society.
TE: No, no, they were not.
VS: That’s just it. We have different---
TE: The ones who were really vile to the civilians were the army.
VS: The Army.
TE: The Markang Bungo/Skull Squadron.
VS: Did the Markang Bungo kill a lot of people here?
TE: People talk about it, and I heard it when I was a child (inaudible).
VS: Were you able to witness it?
VS: The MP---
TE: Called as MP.
VS: The military police.
TE: Civilians couldn't go to the fields.
VS: But those MPs were from here or---
TE: They were from different places just like the military today.
TE: From different towns. The people have two choices. They will choose what side to favor. If you’re poor, you will stay there to support the Huks; the wealthy hold the soldiers.
VS: Who were the wealthy then? Who used to handle the MP?
TE: They were not from here, the ones who used to control them became the president of the country.
VS: Example was Roxas then? Like Quirino?
TE: Quirino. [inaudible]
VS: That’s just it---what was the plan of Quirino then?
TE: It’s really quiet (inaudible) during Marcos, during Magsaysay.
VS: But during Quirino it was chaotic?
TE: Mmm [agrees].
VS: What do you think did Magsaysay do to the soldiers to make the country peaceful?
TE: I don’t know but the Huks became quiet then. Maybe he gave them land... he’s kind. That’s why people favored him (inaudible).
VS: But do you hear a family was massacred then, was it planned or random killings?
TE: Examples were those [soldiers] who acted like kings here and when they caught you in the fields (since majority of the civilians evacuated) they would kill you right away.
VS: They accused them of being Huks.
TE: Mm [agrees].
VS: But were there a lot of Huks who were killed here back then?
TE: There were a lot of MPs. (inaudible) there were many people back then. If the MP would catch you, then there (inaudible).
VS: The Nenita---did the Markang Bungo stay in the Población then?
TE: Yes, Markang Bungo were the kind of soldiers that when you hear their names, you will definitely hide.
TE: It became a trend then that each family has a foxhole.
VS: A foxhole.
TE: Sleeping quarters when it’s evening. When the crossfire starts, we hid there [inaudible].
VS: Did you use that during the Japanese Occupation or that time [during the rebellion] only?
TE: I did not see the Japanese. Army---the civilians in the Philippines (inaudible) they were still fighting. Every family, every house has their own foxhole (inaudible).
VS: How many can fit there?
TE: A whole family for example.
VS: It’s deep [laughs]. TE: The house back then was (inaudible).
VS: It mostly has---
TE: Posts only.
VS: Posts only.
TE: And it has a basement.
VS: Do you still remember something?
TE: I only heard it---saw it then. It did not occur to me that much...
TE: I didn’t experience (inaudible).
[talking in the background]
VS: In the Poblacion here in San Antonio, were there still many people who are around 90s?
TE: There may only be a few.
VS: You’re right.
TE: The life of a human varies.
VS: Especially now because of COVID.
TE: That COVID... it was just flu back then.
TE: In the past, the flu will affect your whole family, and as long as everyone did not get it, it will not leave the house. (inaudible) can’t wake up. Fever and coughing (inaudible).
VS: When you were studying in Tikiw then? What were the teachings of your teacher?
TE: Every teacher was different; the teachers were kind.
VS: Do they also hate soldiers or like the Huks?
TE: The army was angry at the civilians during my time. When they caught you, you were very lucky if you can go home alive.
VS: That’s what the people of Zaragosa said. But the teachers---the people back then, were they favoring the HMB then?
TE: Yes. If there was nothing to be wary about the outsiders.
VS: Did the HMB protect the...
TE: They also protect civilians.
VS: How did they protect them?
TE: That means, they will not hurt civilians. They would protect them (inaudible). The people were very poor back then. The life we have was really different right now.
VS: Is today more comfortable?
TE: In the past, we only had rice porridge. Including the food. You won’t hear any complaints.
VS: Do you wish to add more?
TE: Ehh [inaudible].
VS: Ok I will...
Interviewer: Veronica Sison
Interviewee: Eulogio Villaflor
How does Eulogio Villaflor’s reflections on the motivations of the Huks challenge the traditional understandings of the Cold War in Asia and globally?
In light of Villaflor’s testimony, consider the extent to which the Huk Rebellion should be understood as a local conflict, and/or part of the global Cold War.
What does Villaflor’s testimony reveal about generational differences in the lived experiences of the Cold War in the Philippines? How useful is “childhood” as a category of analysis for Asian social histories of the Cold War?