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They are so familiar that many of us think there’s nothing left in history that is worth exploring. Heck, some witty students can even retell Rizal’s biography with eyes closed.
But for every familiar name we encounter in Philippine history, there is an unsung and forgotten hero who forever stays in oblivion. Unless, of course, if we take time to rediscover them.
Here are just 5 of the greatest Philippine heroes you never heard of:
1. Gliceria Marella-Villavicencio
Who is she? Gliceria Marella-Villavicencio (1852-1929) was an ilustrado who didn’t think twice in supporting the Revolutionary movement. Along with her husband Eulalio Villavicencio, she helped disseminate pamphlets and several copies of La Solidaridad to inspire people to take action.
For their involvement in the Revolution, the Guardia Civil ransacked their house and eventually imprisoned Eulalio for sedition charges. After his husband died due to failing health, Gliceria continued to support the army and even donated her residence and her ship, Bulusan, to General Emilio Aguinaldo.
“Hero” moments: Gliceria was tempted by the Spaniards to disclose details about the Katipunan in exchange of her husband’s freedom. She refused to gave in and said that even though she loves her husband very much, she “would consider it insanity to carry his surname if I should obtain his liberty by betraying him and his cause.” (Paz Mendes thesis).
Interesting fact: Bulusan, the ship donated by Gliceria to the Philippine army, was the first warship of the Revolutionaries. Apart from distributing revolutionary literature, Gliceria and her husband also donated P18,000 to Rizal in 1892 to support the movement.
For her heroic role in the Revolution, she was conferred the title Madrina-General de las Fuerzas Revolucionarios (Matriarch-General of the Revolutionary Forces) on June 12, 1898.
2. Panday Pira
Who is he? A native of Luzon province, Panday Pira (1488 – 1576) came in Manila along with his relatives when he was only 20 years old. There, he met a Portuguese blacksmith who helped hone his skills in making weapons, including the crude form of cannons.
“Hero” moments: The hand-made cannons of Panday Pira was allegedly used by Rajah Sulayman to defend Manila from invading Spaniards led by Martin de Goiti. The Filipino warriors were eventually defeated and the cannons were confiscated by the Spaniards for their own use.
Interesting fact: A street in Tondo was named after Panday Pira in honor of his contributions. He is known in history as the very first Filipino cannon-maker.
3. Gen. Simeón Ola y Arboleda
Who is he? Born in Guinobatan, Albay, Simeon Arboleda Ola was just a Philosophy student at the University of Nueva Caceres when he joined the provincial branch of Katipunan.
Known for his strong, “never say die” personality, Ola led the Filipino soldiers in the battle against the American Forces, and recruited more men to join his group including the town prisoners.
He was promoted Captain by General Vito Belarmino and later conferred the rank of Major after leading a successful ambush mission against the Americans.
“Hero” moments: After his cousin Jose Arboleda died in the war, Ola was overwhelmed by sorrow. However, this tragedy didn’t stop him from winning his own battle.
Together with his men, Ola attacked the town of Oas, Albay as well as an enemy detachment at Macabugos, Ligao, leaving Americans with no option but to negotiate for Ola’s surrender.
Interesting fact: Simeon Arboleda Ola is known in history as the last Filipino general to surrender to the American Forces. After a negotiation, Ola finally surrendered to Governor Bette and Colonel Bandholtz on September 25, 1903.
4. Gen. Jose Ignacio Paua
Who is he? Jose Ignacio Paua (1872 – 1926), also known in his Chinese name Hou Yabao, was only 18 when he and his uncle migrated to the Philippines from Fujian province in China. He later apprenticed as a blacksmith in Binondo where he became known for producing weapons and repairing ammunition.
Paua was introduced to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo by his friend, Gen. Pantaleon Garcia. As part of the Katipunan, Paua helped set up the official arsenal of the revolutionary group. He also fought the Spanish Forces during the Battle of Binakayan and subsequently promoted Captain two days later. He became a general on September 26, 1898.
“Hero” moments: With the help of his Chinese friends, Paua was able to raise funds for the revolutionary army. He also set up the Katipunan arsenal with the efforts of other Chinese blacksmiths. In this place, Paua and his group refilled bullet cartridges, repaired arms and ammunition as well as produced bamboo cannons for the army.
Interesting fact: Gen. Jose Ignacio Paua was the only pure-blooded Chinese general who supported Aguinaldo’s army in their fight against Spanish and American Forces. He is also known for his trademark pigtails, which he later removed after the declaration of Philippine Independence in 1898.
Paua became a mayor of Manito, Albay after the war and later died of cancer on May 24, 1926. Two monuments–one in Albay and another in Silang, Cavite–were built in his honor.
5. Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas
Who is he? Captain Jose Cabalfin Calugas (1907-1998), a native of Leon in Iloilo, was the first Filipino soldier to have received the WW II Medal of Honor.
He first joined the Philippine Scouts on March 12, 1942 and were eventually sent to Camp Perry, New York to enter the 88th Field Artillery Battalion.
“Hero” moments: On January 6, 1942, Jose’s unit was supporting the defensive line of the 26th Cavalry Philippine Scouts. They were behind the Culo River when one gun was put out of commission by the heavy enemy fire.
Mustering all the courage he had, Calugas ran a thousand yards to fix the gun. He then manned the cannon by himself to fire the advancing Japanese soldiers. This heroic act gave Calugas the WW II Medal of Honor, making him the first Filipino to receive such prestigious award.
Interesting fact: Calugas died in 1999 and the medal was donated to a museum in Texas for safekeeping and display. [Image source: Hawaii Reporter]