The Filipina Guerrilla Leader Who Killed More Than 200 Japanese Soldiers During World War II

Nieves Fernandez is probably a name that you haven’t even heard of. Well, that’s all right because majority of Filipinos don’t know her either. However, she is a character that should be more well-known because she played a very important role in the resistance against the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II. Fernandez organized and led a band of more than 100 guerrillas in Tacloban, Leyte.

The story goes that Fernandez and her group is responsible for the deaths of more than 200 Japanese soldiers. They used long knives (bolos) and customized shotguns in their campaigns against the invading Japanese soldiers.

A former schoolteacher, Fernandez joined the resistance and rose to the rank of Captain. She trained her men in guerrilla warfare and taught them how to build improvised weaponry like shotguns made from pipes. Due to her successful attacks on the enemy, the Japanese Army posted a reward of 10,000 pesos for her capture. She was never captured. She fought in the resistance for two and half years. She was wounded just once as evidenced by a large scar on her right forearm.

Fernandez demonstrating how she and her group of guerrillas killed Japanese soldiers during the war. Photo by Stanley Troutman.
Fernandez and her men had very little firearms, so they had to improvise. After the war, she narrated that her group of more than a hundred guerrillas only had a few American rifles. So they made weapons themselves. At one point, they even started making grenades.

Prior to the war, Fernandez also ran a family business. The invading Japanese soldiers took her business away.

Fernandez lived a long life after the war and died at the ripe age of 91 in 1996 or 1997. She had three sons.