The Pulahans of Leyte
Cultist Beginnings
Pulahan Origins
Early Skirmishes
Second Phase of the Anti-Pulahan Campaign
Continuing Military Operations
More Encounters

Continuing military operations

IN the meantime, military operations against the pulahanes continued. Capt. Henry Barrett discovered Faustino's mountain stronghold at the back of Ormoc and led his company in an assault upon its walls. But Faustino had planned well. When Barrett charged into the moat surrounding the fort, a cleverly placed cannon swept the moat with a load of slugs. Barrett was killed instantly. Constabulary prestige suffered heavily in this defeat. Additional troops had to be rushed to the island.

When Capt. Winfield S. Grove became provincial commander, in April 1905, he and Capt. Crockett discovered and stormed Faustino's new stronghold, killing 11 pulahanes and capturing three rifles. But Ablen escaped. For over a year, there was no news of him.29

The last days of Borseth as Leyte governor proved uneventful. Small bands of pulahanes appeared in Jaro and Ormoc. One policeman was kidnapped. In the later months of 1905 and January 1906, several pulahanes and their sympathizers were arrested in the towns of Barugo, Carigara, Jaro, Ormoc and Burauen. Apart from these, nothing spectacular happened.30

Burauen attack

Again, five months would pass in a deceptive peace until more trouble would erupt starting June 19, 1906. Before this, a mail carrier between Jaro and Ormoc was attacked, resulting in the suspension of its operations. It resumed after Felipe Tamayo, the brother of Juan Tamayo, surrendered in May 11, 1906 along with 16 men. He turned over 1 Colt revolver and one se?orita. Tamayo would later figure in the Tabontabon encounter as a guide of the Americans.

In May 1906, Capt. Crockett, was still the senior inspector of the constabulary in Leyte and was in charge of operations. At the beginning of June, he was replaced by Capt. Harry L. Beazly. Beazly and Governor Jaime de Veyra were in Ormoc on an inspection tour when news of the pulahan raid of Burauen reached them.

The Burauen attack surprised the authorities, coming as it did a few hours before daybreak. Quickly, the pulahanes took possession of the 14 rifles after killing five policemen and wounding seven others. They destroyed official records but did not touch the money of the town or harm the local inhabitants. Instead, they explained their cause to the people and tried to win recruits to their side. They also asked for rice, black and red clothes, and other necessities. They left the town two hours later.

The attack was blamed by government on Felipe Ydos, a lieutenant of Ablen from Burauen. With the group were Juan Cavero, Victoriano and Esperidion Rota, Mariano Nirja, Mariano Marigoso, Tranquilino Almaden, Margarito Gamba and Lino Cayondong. Gamba and Almaden later surrendered and were imprisoned. Juan Cavero and one of the Rotas were reportedly killed in Julita, a barrio of Burauen then.

This style shown by the pulahanes led some government officials to compare them to the revolutionaries of the 1896 uprising, although there were also suspicions that the pulahanes were behaving this way to "avoid greater penalty of the law or to disguise their true purposes."

"The ideal of the pulahanes is of a politico-religious nature," Gov. Jaime de Veyra said in his report. Yet he had to admit that their motives in raiding Burauen were solely political. He mentioned four motives: to recover a prisoner Maria Lipayon, mother of two pulahanes Juan and Basilio Cabero; revenge an attack of the municipal police of Tambungan; punish the officials of the justice of the peace court and of the municipality; and show their opposition to the land tax and the laws requiring the branding of cattle.

Indeed, these issues may have nothing to do with American intervention. But to the local population, these were the realities confronting them and for which solutions had to be found.31

According to constabulary district director Wallace Taylor, himself a military officer, the success of raid made the pulahanes believe that the time for an uprising had come. "They became bolder and more audacious and sought the support of their adherents. They counted upon their partisans covertly living in the outlying barrios of Burauen, Dagami and Tanauan, who usually went to Burauen to their farms devoted to abaca," Taylor observed. The massive troop formation of the pulahanes appeared to be indications that the pulahanes were indeed preparing themselves for the bigger offensive. Burauen could have been just the initial target.

Taylor also dismissed government assumptions that the trouble in Leyte was simply due to its proximity to Samar, notorious as a hotbed of insurrection. He said: "Nothing, however, is farther from the truth. At this writing, Leyte occupies the stage as the most disturbed province owing to the recent uprising against the municipal police and authorities of the interior town of Burauen."

He said it might have appeared peaceful on the surface, but "the smoldering embers of pulahanism have never lost the guard, who at different times during the past four years has fanned them into flame." This guard was, according to Taylor, Faustino Ablen, his domain being the mountains of Ormoc, Albuera and Burauen.

In the assessment of Taylor, the mountainous section between Burauen and Ormoc was considered the "disturbed zone." The detachment of constabulary formerly stationed in Burauen was withdrawn because no officer was available to command.

During the latter part of 1905, the constabulary of Leyte was reduced from 225 to 150, with the intention of relieving the Dolores (Ormoc) company with scouts and placing it in Burauen. The scouts were not furnished and Burauen section was left to the police. It placed itself open to attack.32

Constabulary Director Brig. General Henry T. Allen, who used to be assigned in the island, had a similar assessment of the Leyte situation. He said the movement was "not unlike that which has caused so much disaster in Samar. It represents the accumulated resentment of many years, possibly many generations of the country people against the town people or rather against the municipal officials and the controlling classes. This is the general chief cause of pulahanism."

"The rapidity of the growth of this movement in Leyte was truly astonishing. With it was tangled fanaticism and the usual spirit of plunder. The center of this movement continues to be the section adjacent to Burauen."33

With the Tamayos out of the picture, the authorities thought the only pulahan chieftains remaining were Faustino Ablen and Felipe Ydos. In de Veyra's view, the pulahan fighters at this time numbered no more than 100 and about 1,000 supporters. Accordingly, the pulahanes after the Burauen raid had only 20 rifles, several revolvers, homemade shotguns, lantacas, etc. These estimates were clearly understated.

Ranged against them were the municipal police of the province armed with 205 rifles and 120 revolvers. As for the constabulary, it had three companies (140 men) stationed at Tacloban and Dolores. Besides these were two companies from Cebu, one from Antique and another one from the second district.34

In hot pursuit

After the Burauen raid, more troops were rushed to Leyte. Constabulary district commander Wallace Taylor arrived from Iloilo with 2 companies from
Cebu and Samar under Maj. Harvey Nevill. Taylor remembered the petition of Capt. Grove and Crockett about the need to establish a post in Burauen. But for economic reasons, troops in Leyte had been reduced. It was too late now.

Lt. L.E. Jackson of the constabulary was sent to Burauen with 12 men. Two companies of constabulary troops from Cebu under Maj. Nevill also arrived in Burauen in June 23. Meantime, two companies ordered from Samar were split, with one going to Tunga and the other to Ormoc presumably as blocking forces. But no trace of the pulahanes could be found by the pursuers.

In July 5, however, Nevill discovered a strongly entrenched position in Mantagara, one and half days west from Burauen. As they rushed to the position of the pulahanes, seven of his 36 troops fell into pitfalls filled with spears, severely hurt. The Americans sensed the pulahan position was too strong, so they had to withdraw and wait for further reinforcements.

Reinforcements arrived in July 11, forcing the pulahanes to abandon the area. Constabulary operations continued until the 16th, but they lost their prey and had to return to Burauen.

In July 17, pulahanes were reported to be in barrio Patok between Dagami and Pastrana. This was presumed to be the main body under Felipe Ydos. Capt. Beazley from Dagami followed the group but the trail was lost two days later.

That very same day, another group was reported near and west of Burauen. Lt. Williams pursued this latter band and came upon their rear about five and a half hours west from Burauen. They killed one and seized a considerable quantity of rice and other supplies. It was later learned that this band was from the lowlands on their way to join the pulahanes.

In the morning of July 21, a small party of pulahanes were sighted at a short distance northwest of Burauen in an area called Maabab. Lts. Williams and Worswick and Scout McBride and 34 men of the second company from Cebu went in pursuit of the band and attacked them about two miles west of the road between Burauen and Dagami.

Contrary to what they saw earlier, the pulahanes proved to be several hundreds. A larger portion swung around and rushed the constabulary from the flank. At the same time, a rush was made from the front, hopelessly overwhelming the constabulary.

Williams tried to rally, and he was partially successful. But the constabulary were forced back after the pulahanes killed Lt. Worswick, scout McBride and 12 enlisted men and captured 13 rifles and two revolvers.

In the meantime, Williams with 14 survivors tried to manuever towards Burauen but pulahanes blocked his way. Instead, he headed for Dagami, got reinforcements and returned at once to the battle site. Eight other survivors who were unable to join Williams were able to slip to Burauen.

The pulahan band passed close to Burauen and proceeded to barrio San Victor north of Tabontabon where they spent the night. Conditions continued to worsen, and many times the military was called upon to aid civilian authorities who were afraid for their lives.

In the morning of July 22, a platoon under Capt. George H. McMaster's company of the 24th infantry arrived in Burauen. The other under Lt. Silcox arrived in Tabontabon. Also that morning, spies told them that the pulahanes spent the night in San Victor. At 6:00 that night, Maj. Neville with 50 constabulary troops and Capt. McMaster with an entire company arrived in Tabontabon, where they were told that that the pulahanes left barrio San Vicente and were moving towards the southeast of Tabontabon, in order to attack Burauen again.

Nevill and McMasters immediately manuevered their troops to Burauen, hoping to head them off. They arrived at 3:00 early morning of the 23rd. Their movement caused the pulahanes to move to Dulag.

In the meantime, Capt. Jones with a small detachment of the constabulary and a detachment of 24th infantry from Tacloban arrived in Dulag in time to deter pulahanes from attacking that place. Then they proceeded in the direction of Tolosa after being told of the pulahanes about 3 miles out of the town on the night of the 23rd. According to constabulary director Henry Allen, the arrival of their troops were timely. Had they not arrived, other towns would have been overwhelmed by the pulahanes.

Other troops were also waiting in Cebu in case there was a request for more from Taylor who was personally supervising the operations.35

In Burauen, Major Neville and Capt. McMaster were informed that the battle at Tabontabon the pulahanes were near Tolosa. So they left at 7:30 in the morning of the 24th for Tabontabon. With them were Lts. Jeancon and Williams, Sub-inspector Yasay with 50 constabulary men, 26 men of company F, 24th infantry, and Felipe Tamayo who was in charge of the 25 voluntarios armed with bolos. They acted as scouts and spies.

Tamayo arrived first at the river near Tabon and at once reported the presence of pulahanes. McMaster, who was in the advance party, pushed ahead with six of his men and four constabulary, starting the firefight. It was half an hour past 11:00. Maj. Nevill and the main column were closing up as rapidly as possible. After crossing the river, Nevill observed the pulahanes breaking up in front of McMaster and doubling back on both flanks. He thereupon called the main body.

The rally was scarcely completed when two flanking columns of pulahanes united in the rear and charged in a body. The pulahanes made three distinct charges but were unable to withstand the fire. Some fell dead within a few feet of the rally.

McMaster, with his small detachment about 25 yards distant fighting off the pulahanes, retreated to the main body. His little party was at one time in a critical situation and had to engage in hand-to-hand fighting using clubbed guns. Two guns were broken as a result.

The engagement lasted about half an hour. After that, 49 dead pulahanes were found in the field, and five or six wounded lying in the brush. Many wounded were also seen in the various towns. Two Springfields, a Winchester shotgun and 2 old guns were captured.

On the government side, a first sergeant of the constabulary was wounded in the leg, and three constabulary men were killed. Three others who were in charge of the cargadores, unable to join the rally, were also killed while on their way to Burauen. They also lost three carbines. From the government report, the fight appeared one-sided. With so many of the pulahanes killed, the yield in firearms could have been greater.

Passing through the town on the 25th, the teniente (barangay captain) reported to the government troops that up to that time he had buried 55, one of them being Mariano Narja, the chief second in command.36