Simeona Punsalan-Tapang, the last female commander of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), died on Tuesday at 92.
“Lola Mameng’s life had exemplified not only love for country in her wartime military service against the Japanese but also her able leadership in their organization, a testament that women rise to the occasion of defending our country,” said Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), as he announced Tapang’s passing on Thursday.
“She was an epitome of service and love for her fellow Filipinos, especially for her comrades who joined the guerrilla resistance movement and who are in need of government’s attention and support,” Carolina added.
The Hukbalahap–popularly known as “Huk”–was a communist guerrilla movement formed by farmers of Central Luzon after the Second World War.
It members or Huks who originally battled Japanese occupation forces extended their fight to a rebellion against the Philippine government in 1946.
The uprising was finally put down through a series of reforms and military victories by President Ramon Magsaysay, according to the book “No Way Out (States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991)” by Jeff Goodman.
Tapang was known as Kumander Guerrero who participated in the successful Battle of Mandili in Candaba, Pampanga, against the Japanese in 1944.
She also led several encounters against enemy forces in Arayat, Pampanga.
Her death came one day after the demise of Fernando Perez Javier, the oldest Filipino World War II veteran, at age 107.
According to PVAO, Javier died of an illness in Baguio City on Monday morning. His remains were cremated in the afternoon.
Born on December 22, 1907 in Ilocos Norte, Javier was among the survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March who trekked about 100 kilometers from Mariveles, Bataan, to San Fernando, Pampanga, in 1942.
Ronald Tapang Gajudo said his grandmother died of old age and complications from various illnesses such as pneumonia that resulted in hypertensive stroke.
“The men and women of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office and the entire Filipino veterans community convey our sincerest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to veteran Simeona Tapang’s family,” Carolina said in a statement.
Tapang started as an officer of Squadron No. 104 with the rank of captain from November 1942 to December 1943 and was eventually promoted to major in 1944 under the 1st Regiment, Second Battalion Staff, Regional Command No. 7.
As an officer of the Hukbalahap, she was once described by Huk supremo Luis Taruc as “a big-bodied woman with a man’s strength, fond of wearing a man’s clothes, adept at handling an automatic rifle, and would command on the firing line.”