5 Great Philippine Heroes Nobody Remembers

Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio , and Melchora Aquino.

These are the names that have populated our history textbooks from primary school even up to college.

They are so familiar that many of us think there’s nothing left in history that is worth exploring. Heck, some witty students can even retell Rizal’s biography with eyes closed.

But for every familiar name we encounter in Philippine history, there is an unsung and forgotten hero who forever stays in oblivion. Unless, of course, if we take the time to rediscover them.

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

1. Gliceria Marella-Villavicencio

Gliceria Marella-Villavicencio

Who is she? Gliceria Marella-Villavicencio (1852-1929) was an ilustrado who didn’t think twice in supporting the Revolutionary movement. Along with her husband Eulalio Villavicencio, she helped disseminate pamphlets and several copies of La Solidaridad to inspire people to take action.

For their involvement in the Revolution, the Guardia Civil ransacked their house and eventually imprisoned Eulalio for sedition charges. After his husband died due to failing health, Gliceria continued to support the army and even donated her residence and her ship, Bulusan, to General Emilio Aguinaldo.

“Hero” moments: Gliceria was tempted by the Spaniards to disclose details about the Katipunan in exchange of her husband’s freedom. She refused to gave in and said that even though she loves her husband very much, she “would consider it insanity to carry his surname if I should obtain his liberty by betraying him and his cause.” 

Interesting fact: Bulusanthe ship donated by Gliceria to the Philippine army, was the first warship of the Revolutionaries. Apart from distributing revolutionary literature, Gliceria and her husband also donated P18,000 to Rizal in 1892 to support the movement.

For her heroic role in the Revolution, she was given the title Madrina-General de las Fuerzas Revolucionarios (Matriarch-General of the Revolutionary Forces) on June 12, 1898.

2. Panday Pira

Panday Pira

Who is he? A native of Luzon province, Panday Pira (1488 – 1576) came to Manila along with his relatives when he was only 20 years old. There, he met a Portuguese blacksmith who helped hone his skills in making weapons, including the crude form of cannons.

“Hero” moments: The hand-made cannons of Panday Pira was said to be used by Rajah Sulayman to defend Manila from invading Spaniards led by Martin de Goiti. The Filipino warriors were eventually defeated and the cannons were confiscated by the Spaniards for their own use.

Interesting fact: A street in Tondo was named after Panday Pira in honor of his contributions. He is known in history as the very first Filipino cannon-maker.

3. Gen. Simeón Ola y Arboleda

Simeón Ola y Arboleda

Who is he? Born in Guinobatan, Albay, Simeon Arboleda Ola was just a Philosophy student at the University of Nueva Caceres when he joined the provincial branch of Katipunan.

Known for his strong, “never say die” personality, Ola led the Filipino soldiers in the battle against the American Forces and recruited more men to join his group including the town prisoners.

He was promoted Captain by General Vito Belarmino and later conferred the rank of Major after leading a successful ambush mission against the Americans.

“Hero” moments: After his cousin, Jose Arboleda, died in the war, Ola was overwhelmed by sorrow. However, this tragedy didn’t stop him from winning his own battle.

Together with his men, Ola attacked the town of Oas, Albay as well as an enemy detachment at Macabugos, Ligao, leaving Americans with no option but to negotiate for Ola’s surrender.

Interesting fact: Simeon Arboleda Ola is known in history as the last Filipino general to surrender to the American Forces. After a negotiation, Ola finally surrendered to Governor Bette and Colonel Bandholtz on September 25, 1903.

4. Gen. Jose Ignacio Paua

Jose Ignacio Paua

Who is he? Jose Ignacio Paua (1872 – 1926), also known in his Chinese name Hou Yabao, was only 18 when he and his uncle migrated to the Philippines from Fujian province in China. He later apprenticed as a blacksmith in Binondo where he became known for producing weapons and repairing ammunition.

Paua was introduced to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo by his friend, Gen. Pantaleon Garcia. As part of the Katipunan, Paua helped set up the official arsenal of the revolutionary group.

He also fought the Spanish Forces during the Battle of Binakayan and subsequently promoted Captain two days later. He became a general on September 26, 1898.

“Hero” moments: With the help of his Chinese friends, Paua was able to raise funds for the revolutionary army. He also set up the Katipunan arsenal with the efforts of other Chinese blacksmiths. In this place, Paua and his group refilled bullet cartridges, repaired arms, and ammunition as well as produced bamboo cannons for the army.

Interesting fact: Gen. Jose Ignacio Paua was the only pure-blooded Chinese general who supported Aguinaldo’s army in their fight against Spanish and American Forces. He is also known for his trademark pigtails, which he later removed after the declaration of Philippine Independence in 1898.

Paua became a mayor of Manito, Albay after the war and later died of cancer on May 24, 1926. Two monuments–one in Albay and another in Silang, Cavite–were built in his honor.

5. Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas

Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas

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

He first joined the Philippine Scouts on March 12, 1942, and were eventually sent to Camp Perry, New York to enter the 88th Field Artillery Battalion.

“Hero” moments: On January 6, 1942, Jose’s unit was supporting the defensive line of the 26th Cavalry Philippine Scouts. They were behind the Culo River when one gun was put out of commission by the heavy enemy fire.

Mustering all the courage he had, Calugas ran a thousand yards to fix the gun. He then manned the cannon by himself to fire the advancing Japanese soldiers. This heroic act gave Calugas the WWII Medal of Honor, making him the first Filipino to receive such prestigious award.

Interesting fact: Calugas died in 1999 and the medal was donated to a museum in Texas for safekeeping and display.

Learn more about little-known Philippine heroes:

5 Young Pinoy Heroes Who Did Amazing Things Nobody Talks About

5 Awesome Philippine Heroes Who Are Not Filipinos

The 10 Most Incredible Filipina Warriors of WWII

14 Amazing Filipina Heroines You Don’t Know But Should

6 Badass Filipina Warriors You’ve Never Heard Of


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15 thoughts on “5 Great Philippine Heroes Nobody Remembers

  1. fransisco dagohoy, his battle against the spaniards lasted about 85 years. he was not caught. couldve been a real ninja.

  2. FYI! si paua ang sumaksak sa lalamunan ni bonifacio habang inaawat ang kaguluhang sinimulan ng grupo ni aguinaldo. higit sa lahat, isa din si paua nakinabang sa perang nakuha sa pact of biak na bato.

  3. does anyone have to be involved in a war to be a hero? i certainly do not agree with this. you don’t have to be a soldier to be a hero!! jose rizal was not one and he is not the only one for sure.

  4. you should include those enshrined in the ateneo de manila hall of heroes like oscar c. coscolluela and alfonso torre

  5. I want to add my father Col. Salusstiano (Lazaro) T. Robledo, AUS. Also known as “DR. SAROB” He was a spy under the 14th Infantry Division of the US Army. He pinpointed defenses of the Japanese Imperial Army in Manila later to be bombarded by sea and air by US forces, its just one of his military stories.Unfortunately he never received any commemoration of his achievements due to non-enlistment of his name in the present military archive.

  6. Captain Jose Calugas was the first Filipino to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, but two other Filipinos were awarded the Medal of Honor before World War II. They are Jose Nisperos and Telesforo Trinidad.

  7. i might want to add PFC Narcisco Ortilano on the list. He was the first Filipino to be awarded with the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Battle of Bataan. He single-handedly eliminated a whole squad of Japanese infantry charging towards in a night of hand-to-hand fighting.

  8. This is truly one sided. There are so many heroes not known to the public. Like Amay Pakpak, Abinal, and Ali Dimaporo.

    Amay Pakpak led moro warriors against Spanish invaders. Defended several towns successfully.
    Abinal – A.K.A. the blind assassin, was blinded by the Americans after he was caught. He reportedly killed almost 1 soldier a day for 1 year that included those in the ranks thus successfully defended several towns from American infiltration.

    Ali Dimaporo – He led a group of rebels to defend the Lanao people from the abuses during the Martial Law. He was the only person who was able to point a gun at Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator during the Martial Law.

    There are many more others, their campaigns were even mostly successful.

    1. @DJ Z

      A list of 5 surely is not enough to cover all unknown heroes you’re talking about.

      This is why I encouraged readers at the end of the article to share what they know, for the benefit of others who want to learn more about Philippine history.

      Again, this list is a work in progress so saying that it is “truly one sided” is just unfair.

      Nonetheless, I really appreciate your comment and the additional knowledge you’ve shared. If you have any other suggestions/constructive criticism, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

      All the best!

      -FilipiKnow Editor and Founder.

    2. Could you please tell me more about this “Abinal”? Seems like an interesting old chap.

  9. The heroes of August 31,1896..”Unang Patak ng Himagsikan” at Tribunal Of Noveleta headed by General Mariano Alvarez

  10. Heneral Ola was the last republicano general to surrender but not the last general to relinquish resistance against the Americans. Heneral Macario Sakay, an original Katipunero, surrendered to the Americans during the year 1906 after being promised general amnesty for him and his men. Unfortunately, he got duped by the gringos and was sent to the gallows to be hanged in 1907.

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