TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY – 15 July 1942: Wenceslao Vinzons, Filipino politician and one of the leaders of the armed resistance against the Japanese invasion and occupation of Filipinas during World War II, was bayoneted to death by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) for refusing to cooperate with them. Executed together with him was his father Gabino, his wife Liwayway, his sister Milagros, and children Aurora and Alexander (both of which were below 10 years of age).
Vinzons was born in the town of Indán, Camarines Norte on 28 September 1910. He took up law at the University of the Philippines College of Law and placed third in the bar examinations of 1933. While in UP, he became a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest Greek-letter organization and fraternity in Asia. He became president of the student council and editor-in-chief as well of the Philippine Collegian.
After graduation, Vinzons, along with Narciso J. Alegre and Arturo M. Tolentino (future senator and Vice President to strongman Ferdinand Marcos) founded the Young Philippines Party, a political party which actively campaigned for the independence of Filipinas against U.S. occupation. In 1934, after the passage of the Tydings–McDuffie Act which laid the groundwork for independence, Vinzons successfully sought election as a delegate representing his home province to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. At 24, he was the youngest delegate as well as the youngest signer of the 1935 Constitution.
In 1940, he was elected governor of his province. The following year, he successfully ran for election to the National Assembly (forerunner of today’s House of Representatives), representing the lone district of Camarines Norte. His service in the legislature, however, was short-lived due to the Japanese invasion of Filipinas in December 1941.
He founded and led the Vinzons Guerrillas, the first resistance group to fight the Japanese invaders. Their first battle with the enemy happened in Barrio Lanitón in nearby Basud, Camarines Norte. At its peak, this group’s membership ballooned to almost 3,000 which included Aetas who used poisoned arrows in their skirmishes against the IJA. This group was even able to liberate the provincial capital of Dáet from the Japanese. During the early months of the war, the Vinzons Guerrillas were able to kill around 3,000 IJA troops, prompting the enemy to make him one of their primary targets.
After the fall of Bataán and Corregidor, more IJA troops poured in into the country, compelling Vinzons to disperse his troops into smaller guerrilla units using the forest mountains of the Bícol region for their hideout. Vinzons was eventually captured by the enemy on 8 July 1942. He was brought to Daét where he was killed with family members after refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese flag. According to reports, Major Tsuneoka Noburo stabbed Vinzon’s belly with a bayonet while Corporal Kuzumi Taiku hit him hard with a rifle butt at the back of the head. He was only 31 years of age, a very young martyr.
Vinzons Hall in UP Dilimán was named after him. The name of his hometown was also changed from Indán to Vinzons (now a 3rd class municipality) to honor his memory. In 2016, on the occasion of his 106th birth anniversary, the 17th Congress of the Philippines passed a resolution to extol his heroism and virtues during World War II.