Luis Taruc

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Luis Taruc
FvfSanLuisPampanga8891 30.JPG
Born June 21, 1913
San Luis, Pampanga, Philippines
Died May 4, 2005(2005-05-04) (aged 91)
Quezon City, Philippines
Other names "Alipato," Pop, "Salvador," Huk Supremo
Occupation tailor, socialist party organizer, Commander in Chief of the HUKBALAHAP, communist insurgent, cooperative organizer, politician
Known for leadership of the Hukbalahap

Luis Taruc (June 21, 1913 - May 4, 2005) was a Filipino political figure and insurgent during the agrarian unrest of the 1930s until the end of the Cold War. He was the leader of the Hukbalahap or Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon group between 1942 and 1954. His involvement with the movement came after his initiation to the problems of agrarian Filipinos when he was a student in the early 1930s. During World War II, Taruc led the Hukbalahap in guerrilla operations against the Japanese occupiers of the Philippines.

He became aware of the unjust situation of tenant farmers and the poor in 1935, and decided to leave his haberdashery business to his wife so he could help, protect and serve the poor, maltreated and suffering peasants. Influenced by his idol socialist Pedro Abad Santos of San Fernando, and inspired by earlier Katipunan revolutionaries such as Felipe Salvador, Taruc joined the "Aguman ding Maldang Tala-pagobra" (AMT, Union of Peasant Workers) and in 1938, the "Partido Socialista." The latter merged with the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas as part of the Common Front strategy, and Taruc assumed the role of Commander-in-Chief of the military wing created to fight the Japanese.

After the war against Japan, the Hukbalahap continued their demands for agrarian reform. Taruc and seven colleagues were elected to the House of Representatives, but the government of Manuel Roxas did not allow them to take their seats in Congress. The Taruc faction opposed the parity rights that the U.S. required from post-independence Philippines as a condition for rehabilitation funding. In the next five years, Taruc would give up on the parliamentary struggle and once more take up arms. At the height of its popularity, the Hukbalahap reached a fighting strength estimated at between 10,000 and 30,000.


Luis Mangalus Taruc was born of peasant stock in the farming town of San Luis, Pampanga. He went to the University of Manila for two years (1932–1934)[1] but returned to his hometown without getting a degree to set up a haberdashery. As a teen he was inspired by the stories of the Katipuneros who had fought for independence and for agrarian reform against Spain. Certain people within his home village and province came to regard him as the incarnation of the prominent Katipunan leader Felipe Salvador.[2] He was influenced by Pedro Abad Santos, a wealthy intellectual, and Juan Feleo, a peasant leader, the two main leaders of the emerging peasant movement in the 1930s. At age 22 in 1935, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which he would devote himself for the next two decades.


In 1938, the socialist and communist parties united. They pledged loyalty to the government's anti-Japanese crusade in 1941. Following the Japanese invasion, Taruc formed the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon or the "People’s Army Against the Japanese” in English), along with Casto Alejandrino and other guerillas, in central Luzon on 29 March 1942, and became its commander-in-chief.[3]:21

He led the roughly 30,000 strong guerrilla group Hukbalahap against the Japanese invaders as Supremo Luis Taruc, or "Lu-Lu" ("the racing one"), then "Alipato" ("the flying spark that spreads a fire"). He served as chairman of the military committee of the united front, then the field commander of the HMB. Taruc's Huks became infamous for their successful raids harassing and attacking the Japanese at every opportunity sometimes defeating forces many times their size.[citation needed] Taruc was credited a good and caring combat leader to his men due to his ideals.[1][better source needed]

In late 1943, during its political expansion, the Huks launched overt operations against the Japanese which brought them into conflict with the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East) sponsored guerrilla units under an American officer Mackenzie who spread vicious rumors[neutrality is disputed] that the Huks were communist bandits.[citation needed] Although there were few documented clashes with these guerilla units, and the Huks received weapons, arms, and gears from American suppliers. Indeed, the Huks publically pledged loyalty to the Commonwealth Government and to the United States. The Huks sometimes helped and took care of American soldiers who were not imprisoned by the Japanese.[1][better source needed][dubious ]

Hukbalahap was the best organized anti-Japanese resistance movements in Asia.[citation needed] Unlike other guerilla units during WWII, Taruc's Huks were better supplied with arms and supplies acquired through their successful raids and from American suppliers.[dubious ] They owned transports, machine guns, arillery, and even established local governments in regions liberated from the Japanese. The Hukbalahap under Taruc became one of the most successful guerilla forces in WWII, liberating vast regions including much of Central Luzon, before the Americans arrived.[4]

Post War[edit]

Taruc was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives in 1946 as a member of the Democratic Alliance (the party led by Sergio Osmena). He and five other elected Democratic Alliance candidates opposed the constitutional amendment that would give American businessmen parity rights with Filipinos in exchange for US rehabilitation funding. To secure the majority necessarily to pass the amendment President Manuel Roxas arranged for Taruc and the other oppositional Democratic Alliance members ejected from office by the Commission on Elections on ground that they had committing election fraud and terrorism.[5]

Taruc went underground in late 1946 following failed negotiations with President Roxas. Subsequent negotiations with President Elpidio Quirino in June and August 1948 also failed, so the Huks formally reorganized as the HMB ("Hukbo Magpalaya ng Bayan" or "Army to Liberate the People"). By the presidential elections of 1949, the Huks had abandoned electoral politics in favor of armed insurgency. The Huks controlled most of central Luzon, the “rice basket” of the Philippines, including two provincial capitals, by 1950. President Quirino assigned Ramon Magsaysay, minister of national defense, to combat the Huk insurgency. Magsaysay's attracted peasant support by reforming the Army and Constabulary. In early 1954, Benigno Aquino, Jr., then a news reporter, was appointed by president Ramon Magsaysay to act as personal emissary to Luis Taruc.[1] After four months of negotiations, Taruc surrendered unconditionally to the government on 17 May 1954,[6] effectively ending the Huk rebellion. In 1985, Taruc would tell F. Sionil Jose that one of the reasons for the failure of the insurgency was that dissenters were killed. He also said that dogmatic fundamentalism scared away many potential allies.[5] The Huk movement commanded an estimated 170,000 armed troops with a base of two million civilian supporters at the apex of their power in 1952.[7] In 2003 he explained to historian Keith Thor Carlson that he attributed the revolution's failure to the dogmatism of members of the politburo's Russian-trained elite, in particular Jose and Jesus Lava—an accusation that runs contrary to the views of the Lava's and William Pomeroy who counter that Taruc suffered from a cult of personality.[8]

Taruc was tried for terrorism and sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. His petition to President Diosdado Macapagal for executive clemency and amnesty to political prisoners in exchange for support for the President's social welfare program was ignored. Taruc was pardoned by President Ferdinand Marcos on September 11, 1968, and Marcos gained the former Huk leader’s support.[9] After his release, he continued to work for Agrarian reforms. His struggle on behalf of the poor farmers persuaded local and national leaders to strengthen the legal rights of farm workers and led to a more equitable distribution of farm land. In his later year's Taruc claimed to have never been a real communist, but rather always a socialist; he supported land reform strengthening the rights of local, small farmers over corporations and hereditary feudal elite.[10]

Taruc dictated Born of the People (1953) to American Communist and ghost writer William Pomeroy; and then later while in prison Taruc composed He Who Rides the Tiger (1967). Luis Taruc used Alipato, meaning “spark that spreads a fire,” as his pseudonym.[11] “Born of the People” was Nelson Mandela's reference on peasant resistance and guerrilla warfare when he was the commander in chief of the Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).[12]

Several Huk veterans organizations dispute the credit heaped on Taruc for organizing the Hukbalahap during World War II. They contend that Taruc only joined the movement when several prominent Huk leaders were captured and executed by the Japanese. Some critics assert that Taruc was not among the Huk brigades operating in concert, under Castro Alejandrino, Eusebio Aquino and Mariano Franco among others.[7]


On May 4, 2005, Luis Taruc died of a heart attack in St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City at the age of 91. Many political figures went to Luis Taruc's wake to pay respect and give support to his family.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d Luis Taruc (Filipino political leader) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  2. ^ “Born Again of the People: Luis Taruc and Peasant Ideology in Philippine Revolutionary Politics,” Histoire Sociale / Social History. Vol. XLI, No. 82, Nov 2008, 417-458.
  3. ^ Lapham, R., and Norling, B., 1996, Lapham's Raiders, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 0813119499
  4. ^ F. Sionil Jose: Our Murdered Peasants « Land Watch-Philippines
  5. ^ a b Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Luis Taruc
  6. ^ Farewell to a life-long advocate of social change: Luis Taruc, May 9, 2005, Manila Bulletin.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Jesus Lava, Memoir of a Communist (Anvil Press, 2003)
  9. ^ Jay Taylor (1976). China and Southeast Asia: Peking's relations with revolutionary movements. Praeger. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-275-56830-6. 
  10. ^ He Who Rides the Tiger (1967)
  11. ^ Aliases -, Philippine News for Filipinos
  12. ^ American socialist in the Philippines -, Philippine News for Filipinos
  13. ^ "Honors set for Hukbalahap Supremo’s 100th birth anniv". Sun*Star Pampanga. June 4, 2013. 

See Also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Zaide, Sonia M. (1999). The Philippines: A Unique Nation. All Nations Publishing.