Felipa Culala was born to a peasant family in Barrio Mandili, Pampanga. In 1942, she organized a detachment of 35 men, one of the earliest guerrilla forces against the Japanese. As head of a resistance group, she assumed the nom de guerre of Dayang-dayang, in honor of a Muslim princess.
Dayang-dayang led one of the first successful attacks against Japanese forces on March 8, 1942; this victory would later on be memorialized as the Battle of Mandili. The attack was her retaliation against the arrest and detainment of eight of her men at the Japanese garrison in Mandili. During the ambush, her troops were not only successful in killing the enemy forces but also in seizing their ammunition.
Despite having only 30 to 40 men under her command and armed only with weapon they have successfully taken from landlords, they were successful in subduing the enemies and killing 40 of the enemy troops. The Battle of Mandili was a nodal point in the resistance movement against the Japanese military administration.
It was feat for the underground movement insofar as it demonstrated how effective guerrilla strategies can be not only in undermining the enemy’s control but also in eventually defeating them. This victory eventually emboldened others to establish similar guerrilla units which aim to fight against the Japanese authority.
It was Dayang-dayang’s successful leadership which earned her a spot in the Military Committee of the Hukbalahap or the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, a guerrilla army against the Japanese that was formed in March of 1942. She was the only woman to hold a high-ranking spot in the committee whose other members were Casto Alejandrino, Bernardo Poblete, and Luis Taruc, the over-all commander of the Huks.
Felipa Culala was typically described by her comrades in the Hukbalahap as a woman who had a “masculine personality with a commanding demeanor.” It was this very same imposing personality which earned her the ire and spite of other members. Allegations reached other Huk leaders that she was using her position to mandate strict subservience from her subordinates and demand gifts and offerings from the local communities. She was eventually tried by the organization’s court, found guilty of the crimes, and sentenced to death by a firing squad.
Despite the attempts at besmirching her contributions in the resistance movement against the Japanese, Dayang-dayang remains to be a well-loved figure in the annals of Central Luzon’s long history of struggle against the Japanese occupation. Recent discussions on her contributions to the annals of central Luzon’s long history of struggling against the enemy question the validity of the claims against her and the possibility that she might have been a victim of discrimination due to her position in the organization albeit being a woman.
Hega, Mylene D., Veronica C. Alporha, and Meggan S. Evangelista. Feminism and the Women’s Movement in the Philippines: Struggles, Advances, and Challenges. Country Study on Political Feminism in Asia, Pasig: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2018. Accessed 28 April 2020 from https://www.fes-asia.org/news/feminism-and-the-womens-movement-in-the-philippines/
Lanzona, Vina A. “Capturing the Huk Amazons: representing women warriors in the Philippines, 1940s–1950s .” South East Asia Research (Taylor & Francis, Ltd.) 17, no. 2 (July 2009): 133-174. Accessed 27 April 2020 from https://www.jstor.org/stable/23750980
Ms. Marian Kate A. Tenorio