How the Red Tide Swept the Philippine Shores,
and the founding of Hukbalahap
By Apolinario Villalobos
During the American regime, the “freedom” that was introduced, developed political consciousness among the learned but poor Filipinos – city dwellers and sons of peasants. They joined hands and welded together the laborers of the city and peasants of the provinces, resulting to the sprouting of labor unions. The consciousness was further fanned by inspirations that came in the form of literary works such as novels and dramas.
1922 saw the organization of “Confederacion de Aparceros y Obreros Agricolas de Filipinas (Philippine Confederation of Tenants and Agricultural Workers), by Jacinto Manahan. It was renamed Katipunang Pambansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (National Peasants Union of the Philippines), two years later. The union joined forces with the already organized Philippine Labor Congress to become the formidable tool of the working class during the time.
Leaders of the Philippine Labor Congress (PLC) attended a trade conference in 1928, in Canton, China which was sponsored by the communists. When they returned, they formed the Labor Party, at the same time affiliating the “mother organization”, Philippine Labor Congress with the Red International of Labor Unions. This move transformed the PLC into a communist-oriented union.
In 1929, disagreements ensued within the PLC on policy matters which led to the departure of Crisanto Evangelista who founded the Katipunan ng mga Anak-pawis ng Pilipinas (Congress of Philippine Workingmen). The other leaders, Ruperto S. Cristobal and Antonio Paguia remained with the PLC. Evangelista moved further on by founding Partido Comunista (Communist Party) with Jacinto Manahan, using the Russian ideology as their model. The Communist Party assumed a tolerable image until 1932, during which the Supreme Court declared it to be an illegal association. This did not deter the party from working with the peasants and laborers discreetly. The members were eventually imprisoned.
Meanwhile, on the same year of 1929, Pedro Abad Santos, who belonged to the cultured and learned class of Pampanga, founded the Socialist Party, together with the “Aguman Ding Maldang Talapagobra” (Workers’ and Peasants’ Union) or AMT. The Socialist Party was used by the AMT as its political arm which did not gain fame until after 1932. It operated openly as it was sanctioned by the government, unlike the Communist Party whose illegality led to the imprisonment of its members.
In 1932, when the imprisoned members of the Communist Party were released, it merged with the Socialist Party. The merging led to the impression that even the non-communist members of the Socialist Party, were also communists. Nonetheless, from then on, the group developed to become a sophisticated working class in Central Luzon, aside from becoming more militant.
When war broke out in the Pacific in December 8, 1941, the Philippines was dragged into it. Later on, the retreat of the combined US and Philippine forces to Corregidor and eventual defeat, throw the whole country into confusion. By instinct, the peasants of Pampanga organized a “militia” to protect themselves against the occupying Japanese forces.
The peasant leaders met in February 1942 at barrio Bakwit, Cabiao, Nuevea Ecija. It was attended by Luis Taruc, Juan Feleo, Casto Alejandrino, Matelo del Castillo, F. Sampanga, Jose de Leon, Lino Dizon, Eusebio Aquino, and Mariano Franco. They decided on a “united front” against the aggressors, with the battlecry “Anti-Japanese Above All”. They laid down their three-pronged policy, as: economic (development of all means of providing the people with sustenance and at the same time to sabotage Japanese effort to loot the country); political (discredit the “puppet regime” and destroy its influence); and, military (harass the Japanese).
The peasant leaders met again in a forest between Tarlac, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija in March 29, 1942, to finalize their organization which assumed tha name, “HUKBO NG BAYAN LABAN SA HAPON” or HUKBALAHAP. Its Military Committee was composed of Luis Taruc, Banal (Bernardo Poblete), Casto Alejandrino, and Felipa Culala (Dayang-dayang). Taruc was elected as the chairman with Alejandrino as his deputy.
Unfortunately, Hukbalahap which was originally meant to fight the Japanese aggressors was discredited due to politics and insecurities of the landlords, pushed to the corner, until it finally went underground to fight the unfair policies of the government. The abused peasants with the grain of communistic idealism already planted in their consciousness had no choice but lean on the support that propped them up since before the onset of the WWII. The events that followed were more than expected…