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These Are The Brave Filipino Heroes You May Not Have Heard Of

Though not as famous, they were just as heroic.
IMAGE PIXABAY
ILLUSTRATOR ROLAND MAE TANGLAO
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August is a very patriotic month. Aside from being the month where we celebrate the more than a hundred languages that comprise our nation, this is also the month when we commemorate our heroes. And the Philippines is a nation of heroes. Big and small, thousands of brave men and women fought and sacrificed their lives for the Philippines.

Beyond the Rizals and Bonifacios, let's take a look at some of the lesser-known heroes you may not have heard of.

Santiago Alvarez Santiago

Photo by Roland Mae Tanglao.
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Virata Alvarez was born to a family of heroes: His father was General Mariano Alvarez and his cousin was Andres Bonifacio’s wife, Lakambini Gregoria de Jesus. Small wonder then that Alvarez was known as the Kidlat Apoy of the Katipunan.

Like most Katipuneros, his path to revolution wasn’t laid out. Born July 25, 1872 in Imus, Cavite, Alvarez's middle-class upbringing led him to teach in Manila, where he met Bonifacio and joined the Katipunan. From then on, his path became decidedly different.

When Revolution broke out in 1896, Alvarez heeded the call and took up arms, leading the forces of Bonifacio’s Magdiwang faction in Cavite. His skill in command allowed him to win a series of hard-fought battles in Noveleta, Naic, Maragondon, Magallanes, Tanza, Alfonso, Silang, Imus, and Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias). His finest hour, however, came in Dalahican.

It was his defense of Dalahican from Spanish assault that allowed the revolutionaries to secure Cavite. The battle lasted for 36 hours and was the bloodiest in the entire Revolution. At the end of the day, Alvarez stood tall. Cavite was liberated from colonial hands.

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American invasion didn’t dim his revolutionary spirit. In 1901, he decided to form the Partido Nacionalista with fellow Katipuneros like Macario Sakay, in an effort to fight the Americans through parliamentary struggle. He continued to fan the flames of revolution, writing his memoirs, before passing away on October 30, 1930 after a bout of paralysis.

Leon Kilat

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Alvarez wasn’t the only “Lightning” of the Revolution, however. Meet Pantaleon Villegas y Soli, the Lightning Lion of Cebu.

Leon was born on June 27, 1873 in Bacong, Negros Oriental and later came to Cebu looking for work. He held jobs in a drug store and a bakery before meeting a circus on its way to Manila. This encounter changed his life, as the owners of the circus were members of the Katipunan. He was recruited and joined the revolutionaries in Luzon.

Leon earned the epithet Kilat in the battles of Cavite, but it was in Cebu where he became a legend. In 1898, amid news of Aguinaldo’s return and plans to restart the Revolution, he went back to Cebu to organize the Katipuneros in the Visayas. Their plan was to launch an attack on Easter Sunday 1898.

The discovery of the plot by the Spaniards meant they had to improvise, and Kilat and his men were forced to attack one week early. They stormed Cebu on April 3 Palm Sunday, and waged a bloody street battle. Kilat showed his bravery and cunning when he and his men, armed with bolos, charged a unit of cazadores that pinned them down just as they were reloading. Kilat himself managed to behead the unit commander, a Lt. Cueto, while slicing another cazador’s shoulder clean off his body.

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Sadly, his success did not last. A Spanish counterattack forced Kilat to retreat from Cebu. By Holy Thursday, Kilat and his men were retreating in nearby Carcar. Some of his men, fearful of Spanish reprisal, betrayed Kilat while he slept. He was stabbed repeatedly and his skull was caved in by the butt of his own rifle. By 5 a.m., as the sun rose on Good Friday morning, Kilat’s body was laid bare in Carcar’s town square. He was dead.

Felipa Culala

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American colonialism only made the old inequalities worse. Peasants in the countryside were ready to take up arms against the colonial oppressor, but December 8, 1941 would shake the country’s foundations once more when the Japanese decided to invade the country.

Just as the Japanese swiftly managed to take over the Philippines, the people didn’t hesitate to defend it. One of them was the Candaba, Pampanga activist Felipa Culala, who was better known by her nom de guerre, Dayang-Dayang.

She was described as a large, imposing figure, with a commanding demeanor. She took her alias from Hadji Dayang Dayang Piandao, the current ruler of Sulu at the time, and herself a woman that commanded respect. Culala herself demanded respect, and she was swiftly able to organize 35 men under her command.

When the Japanese came to Candaba and arrested some of her men, Dayang-Dayang didn’t hesitate to attack the jail and free them. The Japanese, wanting to punish the town, sent a detachment of soldiers and Filipino policemen, but Dayang-Dayang was ready. Her forces, now numbering 130, successfully ambushed the enemy before they could reach Candaba. They managed to kill 39 or 40 soldiers and 68 Filipino collaborators.

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News spread quickly of the first successful ambush against the Japanese and the “Amazon” who led it, inspiring others to take up arms, as well. She even became a founding member of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, the HUKBALAHAP guerrillas.

However, as the war dragged on, reports began to emerge of Dayang-Dayang’s excesses. She didn’t care for taking orders and demanded to be called Generala. Some reports even went as far as saying she acted like a Queen, demanding a feast of pork and chicken every time she entered a barrio. Eventually, the reports became too much and she was tried, found guilty, and executed by the Huks she helped found and inspire.

Victor Corpus

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It’s December 29, 1970, and everybody in Baguio’s PMA arsenal was home for the holidays, or asleep and waiting for New Year’s. Everybody, except for 1st Lieutenant Victor Corpus, who spent the night cleaning out the armory. His deed done, he got on a waiting motorcycle and disappeared into the night. Lt. Corpus was gone; Ka Eming joined the New People’s Army.

Corpus was a brilliant instructor of the Philippine Military Academy. He joined the army in the belief that he could serve the people through it, not realizing what it really was: a tool for the rich to advance their interests. Corpus couldn’t stomach the corruption and abuse in the army. Once, he was ordered to assassinate a local official but instead informed the target of the plot against him.

He wasn’t alone in his disillusionment. The First Quarter Storm had student organizations like Kabataang Makabayan staging protests left and right in urban centers. In the countryside, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army was gathering strength after the success of their “Great Rectification Movement.” Corpus saw this and decided to cast his lot with the communists, defecting on December 29, 1970.

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His defection made him an instant celebrity. Corpus, now Ka Eming, showed that armed revolution was a viable solution to the grave discontent felt by Filipinos at the time. As a member of the NPA, he taught the cadres tactics while also directing offensives himself. He fanned the flames of revolution against the Marcos dictatorship until 1976, when he had another change of heart.

Lingering doubts about the revolution caused Corpus to defect once again, this time back to the military. He was jailed for 10 years and almost executed. In 1986, Cory Aquino pardoned him and reintegrated him into the army he despised as a younger man. 

Edgar Jopson

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Not everybody believed in armed revolution, however. A large section of moderates also opposed the Marcos regime and believed that reforms are the key to attacking the forming dictatorship. The reformists were led by one of the greatest student activists of his generation, Edgar Jopson. As president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, Jopson led the movement in demanding accountability from Marcos, even going as far as meeting with him in person.

Sadly, there was no space for reformists in the dictatorship. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the declaration of Martial Law led Jopson to realize that it was impossible to fight the government from within. He became radicalized and eventually went underground as a member of the CPP.

Jopson embraced the revolutionary struggle, living among farmers and peasants and supporting the revolutionary movement to topple the Marcos regime. He became an influential labor leader, leading the La Todeña strike in 1974, the first strike during Martial Law. 

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He was eventually arrested in 1979 at his home in Las Piñas. It did not take long for Jopson to use his skills in negotiating to pretend to agree to be an informant, before managing to escape. Fear of arrest didn’t weigh him down and he continued to work underground against the Marcos dictatorship until September 21, 1982, when he was shot and captured in Davao. He was tortured, interrogated, and eventually executed for “refusing to cooperate.” Jopson had a P180,000 bounty on his head when he died. He was 34 years old.

Edgar Jopson was no ordinary student. As president of NUSP, he stood his ground against a dictator. As a revolutionary, he poured his life for the Filipino people in everything that he did. As a Filipino, he was, undoubtedly, a hero.

Sources:

Agoncillo, T. History of the Filipino People, 8th ed. Garotech Publishing.

Lanzona, V. Amazons of the Huk Rebellion. Ateneo de Manila University Press.

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Martial Law Files. Victor Corpus.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani. Edgar Jopson.

Ateneo de Manila University. Remembering Edjop.

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About The Author
Justin Umali
Justin is left-handed, left-leaning, and best left in a cool, damp place. He listens to Vampire Weekend when he's down and Car Seat Headrest when he's not. He usually writes about Philippine history and politics, and believes that you cannot change the world without understanding it first.
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