Meet the Terrifying Moro Warriors and Heroes of WWII

By | 08/04/2015

Much has been mentioned about the centuries-old armed struggle fought by the Moro people, first against Spain, then the United States, then finally against the Republic of the Philippines. However, not exposed as much is the relentless resistance campaign waged by the Moros against the Japanese in World War II—their contribution to the liberation of the country being undoubtedly indispensable and therefore deserving of acknowledgement.

Also Read: 10 Facts About World War II That Never Made It To Your Philippine History Books

As with their counterparts in Luzon and Visayas, the Moro people fought a bloody guerrilla war against the Japanese in Mindanao even after the surrender of the Filipino-American forces in 1942. Among those who led the way were such brave men as Salipada Pendatun, Busran Kalaw, Mohamad Ali Dimaporo, Domocao Alonto, Amer Manalao Mindalano, Naguib Juanday and Gumbay Piang.

Salipada Pendatun

Edward Kuder (seated) with the young Salipada Pendatun, 1927. Courtesy of Phillipines Free Press .

In the inevitable clash between two blade cultures, it was the kris that eventually won out over the katana. Utilizing firearms and bladed weapons, the Moro fighters relegated the Japanese to only a few detachments in Mindanao as any inland intrusions into Moro-held territory would usually result in annihilation for the hapless invaders.

Also Read: The Ancient Mindanao Deities of Philippine Mythology

As before, the ferocity of their attacks—including those of the juramentados—succeeded in instilling fear among the Japanese soldiers. According to accounts, the Japanese who occupied Davao had to retire back to their ships every night to prevent being killed by frequent Moro raids.

Moro warriors

Filipino Moro warriors with their barongs. From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 24, 1933.

Apart from their fellow Christian Filipinos who joined them (Piang and Pendatun’s famed Moro Bolo Battalion consisted of Christian and Muslim militiamen and had the kris and bolo as an insignia), the Moro resistance fighters were also greatly aided by the Chinese who smuggled in firearms and other supplies. Having their homeland also invaded by the Japanese, the Chinese despised the latter and endeavored to expel them out of Mindanao and the Philippines.

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Needless to say, the guerrilla campaign by the Moros was so effective that apart from confining the Japanese to only a few areas, their bravery was also duly acknowledged by the Americans. One US captain expressed so much confidence in the Moros’ fighting ability that he recommended they be included in a plan to recapture an airfield in Lake Lanao because they “would be able to retain the foothold.”

It is even argued that six months before the Americans finally returned to the Philippines in late 1944, the Moros had already driven out the Japanese in their territories in Mindanao, with the latter preferring to surrender to US servicemen than to the Moro rebels for obvious reasons.


About the Author: When he isn’t deploring the sad state of Philippine politics, Marc V. likes to skulk around the Internet for new bits of information which he can weave into a somewhat-average list you might still enjoy. For comments on this article, contact him at: [email protected]


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Youngstown Vindicator,. (1942). Erie Captain Suggests Mindanao for Offense, p. 6. Retrieved from

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