The Japanese Occupation
On July 7, 1937 the Sino-Japanese War broke out in China with the infamous Lu Kou Chiao (Marco Polo Bridge) incident. The Chinese in the Philippines sympathized with war efforts in China and the entire community was mobilized to send aid to China and boycott Japanese goods. Community organizations moved as one to support China’s resistance to Japanese occupation.
Because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, war was brought to the Philippines, an American territory. On the first day of war, all the Japanese in the Philippines were sent to internment camps.
As the Japanese took over businesses, factories became idle and the economy was subjected to severe financial strain. Many Chinese migrated to rural areas where Filipinos helped protect and conceal them in their own homes. When found out, however, these Chinese barrio residents were massacred.
The most infamous of these massacres was carried out on February 24, 1945 in San Pablo, Laguna. Around 6,000 Filipino and Chinese males between 15 and 50 were gathered, and the Chinese, 650 in all, were picked out. All were bayoneted and thrown into trenches that they themselves had dug. Several wounded survivors were taken to a local hospital, only to be killed the following day. Some of the badly wounded crawled to their homes with the help of Filipinos. In Los Baños, all the Chinese found in town were executed because of increased guerrilla activities in Laguna and the liberation of American war prisoners from the Los Baños internment camp.
Most anti-Japanese elements went underground to carry on the resistance movement. Many either cooperated with Filipinos and Americans or operated independently against Japanese forces. Some of the guerrilla units also helped in the orderly and peaceful evacuation of the residents whenever news of Japanese army roundups was received.
Among the most prominent underground guerrilla groups were the Chinese Overseas Wartime Hsuehkan Militia (COWHM 華僑戰時血幹團), the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Guerilla Force (Wha Chi 菲律濱華僑抗日支隊), the Philippine Chinese Youth Wartime Special Services Corps (菲律濱華僑青年戰時特別工作總隊), the Philippine Chinese Volunteers (CVP 菲律濱華僑義勇軍), the United States-Chinese Volunteers in the Philippines (USCVP 美國-菲律濱華僑義勇, the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese and Anti-Puppets League (Kang Fan 菲律濱華僑抗日鋤奸義勇隊), and the Pek-kek 399th Squadron. With the exception of the pro-communist Wha Chi and Kang Fan guerrillas, the four other units were of Kuomintang political persuasion.
Like their Filipino counterparts, Chinese guerrillas conducted liquidation missions, sabotage, gathered military intelligence, and helped prisoners escape. They published several propaganda materials on the war efforts, gave information on the actual war situation, and exploited news on Japanese atrocities to promote patriotism. They earned the respect and gratitude of the Filipinos when they showed their readiness to sacrifice their lives to be freed from Japanese rule.