The Schoolmarm And Her Shotgun

When the Japanese Empire invaded the Philippines, they were pleased with their progress and emboldened by their victories. They became far less bold and were much less pleased after running afoul of a spectacled, 35-year-old schoolteacher named Nieves Fernandez. She had heard about the slaughter, torture and beatings of her people, and when soldiers approached her school on Leyte, she hid the kiddies, opened up on the invaders with a homemade shotgun, and then melted into the forest.

She found several men hiding out there, but they were disorganized, poorly armed and threw away their lives blindly attacking Japanese strong points. They became her new students, and her organizational skills, inventiveness and sheer courage quickly made her their leader. Starting with a handful of men and three American rifles, she taught them how to make shotguns—called “latongs” or “paltiks”—using blocks of wood, wire and salvaged lengths of gas pipe.