Much against his will, Mariano Castañeda, Sr. was appointed governor of Cavite on May 2, 1944. He had been previously offered choice jobs: labor administrator in the Ministry of Health, Public Welfare and Education in the Laurel government; then chief of the law and order section of the Manila Police Department; still later mayor of Cavite City; and finally the rank of brigadier general in the Philippines Constabulary. All these offers Castañeda had declined of grounds of poor health because he had not yet fully recuperated from months of illness in the concentration camp at Capas, Tarlac, after the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942.
The truth of the matter is that Castañeda was not as ill he had feigned before Japanese authorities. Shortly after his release from Capas on June 29, 1942, he began laying the groundwork of a resistance organization in Cavite. On October 15, four months after his release, he set up the General and Special Staffs of the Fil-American Cavite Guerilla Force (FACGF). This guerilla organization had already organized several regimes throughout the province when the position of governor of Cavite was thrown on to his lap by the Japanese-controlled Laurel government.
With Allied help still many months away, Castañeda had no recourse but to accept the position. In a way the office served as a camouflage. He was governor by the day and guerilla commander by night. But after seven months in office the Japanese got wind of his secret activities, and decided to lay a trap. A man endowed with superior military intelligence, Castañeda was not one to caught napping. He and his close associates escaped. The rest is history.
Born in Imus, Cavite, on December 20, 1892, Castañeda graduates from the Constabulary Academy on November 15, 1915, and from the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S.A., in 1940. He was aide-de-camp to President Quezon in 1940, and fought with the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) in Bataan.
Castañeda was appointed provost marshal general of the Philippine Army on June 1, 1946. Two years later he was promoted to chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
[Sources: 1) Biodata from the Camp Aguinaldo Library released by the Public Information Service, Ministry of National Defense; 2) “A Brief History of the FACGF” by Lt. Col. Primitivo I. Ramirez, Adjutant general of this guerilla organization.]