Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.

December 7, 1941

There was the traditional First Communion Mass at Letran. The Father Provincial should have celebrated it, but the boat “Cetus” which was to bring him from Batanes this morning was delayed, so Father Peregrín de la Fuente, Prior of Santo Domingo substituted for him.

The affair turned out well, although the atmosphere was somewhat gloomy, and the talk among the relatives of the first communicants, as they gathered over the communion breakfast, carried undertones of pessimism.

These past weeks, a whirl of speculation passes through the public mind. There are those who cling to unbelief over the possibility of an impending dispute in the Far East; and others—the majority—who hold on to the certainty that the imminent tempest is inevitable.

Meanwhile, public opinion dances to the beat of radio messages carrying vague reports on the talks ensuing between US President Roosevelt and Japanese Ambassador Saburo Kurusu. Indications: war “cyclone”.

We are trying to keep an attitude of optimism, but our self-injected dose of self-confidence is too little to calm down the nerves. Now it is the heart rather than the head rationalizing, hoping instead of believing in immunity from the contamination of war. But our frail hopes stand like a deck of cards ready to flip before the gusty winds of our pessimistic convictions.

The studentry clamors for action. Protests run high against pro-American loyalty, and the youth challenge the Americans to hasten their Filipinization and demonstrate their Filipino interests. Many aliens have lately expressed their desire of becoming Filipino citizens; however, they have not taken the final step because of widespread sarcastic comments of their being fake citizens and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

This provoked the Marxists in the Spanish community. Availing themselves of their rights under democracy, they showed their true color, chanting in resounding off-tunes, their hymns and praises for the Soviet land. How times have changed! Only a few months ago, they would have sounded like heresies worthy of the stake.

The United States have been storing up on war supplies for about a year now. She is arming all her warships, erecting fortresses, constructing air strips and calling all her reserves to active duty. But how is it possible to mobilize an army capable of confronting such a war-thirsty power as Japan?

The Philippines shares Washington’s apprehension on the yellow threat. The government is intensifying the military training of college and university students. The Armed Forces have been integrated into the American Army under General Douglas MacArthur. Agencies for civil defense are being organized and there are black-out drills for the eventuality of air raids, and practices on how to extinguish incendiary bombs and how to escape from demolition explosives.

However, there are no air defenses to support these preparations. A little over a week ago, President Quezon himself said that the civilian population is completely defenseless in case of war, and he expressed his fears of the possible loss of lives and property that an air attack could occasion.

In the meantime, Japan is stepping up her armament program in utmost secrecy. Furthermore, she has tightened her policies against the few remaining aliens in her territory—especially against the Anglo-Americans—virtually driving them out of her shores. In Formosa, she forced the Spanish Dominican missionaries, the only aliens in that neighboring island, to leave all mission areas. She imposes a rigorous restriction on correspondence with other countries. All these are positive indications that Japan is preparing a campaign far superior in scope to her war in China four years ago.

The Americans continue trying to create the impression that the samurai sword has become blunt after Japan’s interminable feudal wars in the recent past. They believe that Japan is incapable of sustaining a war on a grand scale. But we know that American propaganda is painting the international scene in two very different shapes: the rosy hues to express American might, and the dark tints to dim the perspective of her enemies.

The fact is that it is impossible to determine the power of Japan. She is working out her enigmatic plans with a sphinx-like political and military diplomacy which operates silently but feverishly, not with the tongue, but with the eyes and ears.

Both sides keep flinging mutual threats and denunciations. The United States was saying that she could no longer tolerate Japanese incursions in the Far East. Japan complained against the homicidal mania which had taken hold of the Anglo-Americans and wanted to wipe out their Caucasian arrogance. The Americans responded that the East Indies and the occupation of Siam and part of China were not illusions but real facts. Japan threatened that she would destroy not only the ABCD bloc but everything else she might find necessary to destroy in order to set herself free from the noose of American tyranny.

The Mikado immediately sent a messenger pigeon of peace: Kurusu, one of Japan’s most able diplomats, flew from Manila to Washington to negotiate a peaceful solution. The question perhaps is: can he find a third alternative solution to the dilemma of expansion and retrocession with which his country is faced?

Roosevelt announced the categorical, severe and humiliating conditions under which he was willing to re-establish normal and friendly relations with Japan. Will Japan accept such conditions? Will Japan offer counter-proposals? Will an intermediate and satisfactory solution be found due to the demands of both sides?

Perhaps the most perplexing issue is whether Kurusu was sent to negotiate with a sincere desire to resolve the conflict in the Pacific, or whether his mission was a mere dilatory tactic to give Japan the necessary time to complete her plan and necessary preparations for an attack, so that, like a crouched lion, she could deal the mortal blow.

The people is speculating about all these questions: will there be a war between America and Japan? Paradoxical but true. The question has been asked and formulated on so often that many are taking it lightly.

The other day, President Quezon told some 2,000 cadets and government officials assembled at the State University campus: “Any moment now, the bombs may fall in your midst. Where are the shelters? Where are the military defenses?” The “learned” crowd roared with laughter. It was a very surprising and jocose reaction.

The President was not only surprised, he was terribly irked and added with more resolve: “Yes, gentlemen, we might, at any moment, now, hear the whizzing of bullets and the bursting of bombs.”

The assembly continued laughing. It seemed that everybody is crying “Wolf! Wolf!” but nobody cares. The wolf will come when we least expect it. Are we going to be caught unaware?

 

 

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