“Kumander Liwayway was truly beautiful and made us all wait while she put on makeup and polished her nails." - Commander Simeona Punsalan
Wars are often stories of men in history. However, there were also unsung heroines in war, and this is especially true in the case of the Philippines Resistance. This is a snippet of the Filipino women (pinays) who fought in the Philippines Resistance during the Pacific Asia War.
Kumander Liwayway, a.k.a. Remedios Gomez
Otherwise known as “The Joan of Arc of the Philippines” as a beauty queen of the Philippines. She was the least likely person to be a commander in a war until the Japanese invaded the Philippines and murdered her father in 1942, who was a provincial mayor of the small town, she swore revenge.
She left town to join a guerrilla unit. She was given the code name Liwayway, and was assigned to be a nurse like many women before her. She then rise through the ranks and became a military commander. Not only did she lead her squadron to victory, but she also looked great on the battlefield with lipstick, manicured nails, and her hair done. Besides her look, she was very professional as a commander. Never was perfume and makeup her topic of choice. She often discussed organizational tasks and obstacles to overcome.
As a commander, she took care of her soldiers and was known as the Huk woman leader.
Kumander Dayang Dayang, Felipa Culala
Kumander Dayang Dayang translates to “Princess of the First Degree”. She was one of the four co-founders of the Huks and was the only woman elected to the Hukbalahap Military Committee. One of her claim to fame was in the Battle of Mandili where she staged an ambush to rescue her captured guerrilla soldiers from within the Japanese holding in Mandili. With less than 140 men on her side, she was able to eliminate 40 Japanese officers and 68 police officers, which proved that she was a strategic planner.
Although she was a stellar commander, there were different options about her among the people who worked with her. Some think that she was a strong leader who had a commanding presence while others thought that she was overbearing, haughty, and power-hungry. They thought she was breaching the Huk rules of conduct with her attitude. Eventually, she was put on trial for her behavior and her stealing of the barrio supply. This resulted in her execution by a firing squad.
Maria Rose Henson
Having to just moved to Pampanga to escape the Imperial Japanese Army during the war, Maria was recruited as a message courier for the Huks. Her tasks included gathering supplies from the local villages for the resistance. Maria was arrested by the Japanese soldiers at a checkpoint where she was sent to a “comfort station”. There, she became a comfort woman or a sex slave where she was raped and tortured every day by 10-30 Japanese soldiers. One day during her captivity, she saw an old man walking outside the comfort station behind the fence. She was then able to whisper a message to him. The old man was able to inform the Huks, who later staged a raid at the comfort station, which led to the release of Maria.
Kumander Guerrero, Simeona Punsalan-Tapang
Motivated by justice, Simeona Punsalan-Tapang joined the Huk guerrillas. After learning of the raping and kidnapping of Filipino women, Punsalan spoke with the Huk representatives in her village. She was soon promoted to a major and served as a political advisor and networking courier. She was able to keep villages save by informing them of Japanese encroachment.
Corporal Magdalena Leones
Magdalena resided in the mountains in Northern Luzon when the Imperial Japanese Army invaded in 1942. She was captured and placed into a prison camp. After she was released, she saw the brutal killings of her own people and her country occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army. She then became a guerrilla fighter for the freedom of her own country. She later joined USAFIP-NL (United States Army Forces in the Philippines of Northern Luzon) and her main task was to secure communications and networks between the mountain guerrilla resistance of Northern Luzon and the American command center housing MacArthur in Australia.
After the war, she received the US Silver Star for her service in World War 2. She then chose to immigrant to the United States, get married, and raise children instead of continuing on her service in the military.