5 Unsung Heroes of Philippine History

Someone who’s willing to sacrifice himself, often putting his own life at great risk, for the greater good of others; is usually the hero! Today, we’re not going to talk about heroes who can fly at the speed of light or shoot laser beams, but instead, we’re going to talk about ordinary heroes and unsung heroes like Nieves Fernandez! These are heroes who are on equal footing with such big names as Rizal and Bonifacio, in terms of heroism.

Here are just 5 of the greatest Philippine unsung heroes you’ve probably never heard of:

1. Datu Amai Pakpak (Maranao warrior, anti-Spanish)

Datu Amai Pakpak, better known as Amai Pakpak, was a Maranao military leader. As you may already have guessed, he is a military leader with a fierce heart. He lived and died as a brave hero for the Muslim cause.

He strengthened the fabled Kota Marahui (Marawi) nka Camp Amai Pakpak with earth and stone, cannons and guns, and secured it for four years until his death in 1895. All of this as an effort to look after the whole of Lake Lanao’s freedom from Spanish rule.

Moreover, he led the fight against the Spanish Governor General Valeriano Weyler’s attack in 1891 and against Governor Ramon Blanco’s invasion in 1895. He died and fought about 5,000 heavily armed Spanish armies backed by powerful gunboats.

Lastly, the Lanao General Hospital, was renamed after Amai Pakpak for his role in fighting against Spanish invaders.

2. Panday Pira (First Filipino cannon-maker)

A native of Luzon province, Panday Pira packed for Manila along with his relatives when he was only 20 years old. He then met a Portuguese blacksmith who helped sharpen his skills in making weapons, including the crude form of cannons.

Rajah Sulayman used the cannons made by Panday Pira to defend Manila from the invading Spaniards. However, the fighting ended in favor of the colonizers who confiscated Panday Pira’s cannons for their own advantage.

He is known in history as the very first Filipino cannon-maker, but he is still one of the unsung heroes that’s why he’s on this list.

3. Magdalena Leones (The Spy)

Magdalena Leones was an intelligence agent (spy) and the only Asian woman to garner the Silver Star Medal for her outstanding deeds during World War 2. Before the war broke out, she was a schoolteacher studying to become a nun.

She taught herself how to speak Japanese or Nihongo while being imprisoned for rejecting to surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army. She exchanged vital information through Japanese controlled territories, as well as supplies like radio parts and medical supplies.

4. Faustino Guillermo

Born in 1860 in Sampaloc, Manila, Faustino Guillermo battled alongside Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto in San Juan del Monte. He also directed many armed rebels in northern Rizal, which the Americans labelled as Diliman gang.

He remained in Morong Province after giving himself up to the Americans at Malabon in 1900. However, he soon began recruiting Filipino fighters to carry on the resistance movement against the American government. He was apprehended in 1901, imprisoned for three months, then released and given the position of police informant by Lieutenant Lucien Sweet.

He persisted in his duties as an American resistance fighter before being taken into jail by Inspector Licerio Geronimo of the Philippine Police in San Mateo, Rizal. Then Geronimo asked Guillermo to act as his spy.

Guillermo gathered more troops and turned into a wandering warrior, serving General Luciano San Miguel as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1902 and a Colonel in 1903. He allowed spies into his camp, but stopped them from providing the Americans with information.

While Geronimo and his forces were scouting Diliman, our hero Guillermo, Apolonio Samson, and 25 other people ambushed them. Some of Geronimo’s men were killed, while the PC lieutenant narrowly escaped arrest by wearing only his undershirt. Guillermo then entered a PC post in San Jose, Bulacan while using Geronimo’s disguise, successfully seizing the garrison.

Sadly, in March 1903, Gen. San Miguel was killed when he and Guillermo were encircled by Philippine Scouts in Corral-na-Bato, Marikina. Guillermo managed to flee but was apprehended by the PC in June 1903 and given a death sentence for brigandage.

5. Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas

Captain Jose Cabalfin Calugas (1907-1998), a native of Leon in Iloilo, was the first Filipino hero soldier ever to receive the WWII Medal of Honor.

On March 12, 1942, he initially enlisted with the Philippine Scouts, who were then moved to Camp Perry, New York, to enlist in the 88th Field Artillery Battalion.

On January 6, 1942, Jose’s squad was assisting the 26th Cavalry Philippine Scouts’ defensive line. One cannon was rendered useless by the intense enemy fire when they were concealed behind the Culo River.

With all the courage he could muster, Calugas ran a mile to mend the cannon. The said cannon was then operated by him alone, firing at the approaching Japanese soldiers. Calugas became the first Filipino to be awarded the famous WWII Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Let us always remember and honor the sacrifices of every unsung Filipino heroes who fought for the freedom we enjoy today!

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