Diary of Felipe Buencamino III

November 16, 1944

I went around the City yesterday to see the effect of the bombing last 13th and 14th. About 14 ships were sunk in the Manila Bay Area aside from the partial destruction of Jap military installations in the City.

Ermita district got the greatest share of civilian casualties, because they are very near the shore. There were many dogfights on top of the Bay and everybody was talking about that lone U.S. fighter that was being chased by two Japs that “suddenly swerved and machinegunned one Jap till it plummeted to earth, chased the other which ran away and then suddenly turned into flames.”

The Apostolic Delegate and the Archbishop’s Palace were partly damaged by the raid and the Japs capitalized on these things, placed them on the front page and squawked about “Anglo-Saxon violation of religious beliefs of Catholic Filipinos.”

The fact is that the Archbishop and Apostolic Delegate left their respective places months ago because the Japs used their residences as ammunition dumps. Several Manila churches were also filled with boxes of ammunition.

Japs have spread their supplies throughout the City under trees, in parks among bushes to minimize destruction from bombing. To really destroy all Jap suppy dumps, the whole City would have to be destroyed because they have used private homes as warehouses.

Yesterday I saw sailors, survivors of sunk ships, lying wearily on the grass under the shade of trees at Taft Avenue. They looked hungry and half-dazed and their clothes were smeared with oil. They were just sitting around looking at nowhere and their faces looked pitiful.

I saw two truckloads of Jap dead passing Taft Avenue and there was a bad odor that made me feel sure that the trucks carried corpses. Due to lack of transportation facilities, carts covered with white sheet were also seen in several Manila streets pulled by Jap soldiers. All Japs had their caps off in respect to dead inside carts.

Meanwhile the Japs are frantically vacating their military establishments. They are commandeering houses of civilians to hide from U.S. bombs. Schoolhouse amid civilian houses in Altura is now Military Police headquarters which was bombed in last Tuesday’s raid.

Manilans are ready to suffer damage to their properties and even death to themselves as long as they get back their freedom. One Manilan said: “Let them bomb my house if that’s going to hurry things up.”

A Jap soldier passing by the house yesterday asked to come in. He was very pale and he said he was shivering with malaria. He asked for quinine. The fellow had a very sad face and then he wanted to know if this was New Guinea.

A friend of mine told me yesterday that there was Jap nurse who burst out in tears when she read the papers announcing American landings in Leyte. The nurse remarked: “I thought we were winning all the time.”

 

October 16 (later)

More details on Ramon Araneta’s death at Fort Santiago. The phone rang at the Araneta home. Corito, the daughter, answered. Jap from Santiago said: “You can take your father now. He is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD…. do you hear me?” There was no answer. Corito fainted. When her mother came to ask “What’s the matter?” she gathered her strength, pretended nothing had happened, said “I couldn’t understand.” Corito is a very courageous girl. Japs wanted to bring her to the fort also but changed their minds when she was dressing up. They said: “O.K., just stay, we are gentlemen, we take you some other time.” Japs suspected she was typing radio broadcasts from San Francisco.

Minister Arsenio Luz, Jose Corominas, Juan Chuidan, and Dr. Antonio Vasquez were the ones who took Araneta’s corpse from Santiago. Japs couldn’t understand why they went there and there was a long time trying to ask for Araneta. Until finally, one Jap who understood a little English brought them to a room. Araneta was there, stiff on the floor, with a dirty sweater. Minister Luz who thought Araneta was well and to be released was shocked and having been slightly inebriated at the time, he lost his head and started to shout and curse in Spanish “Esto no puede!” until Dr. Vasquez silenced him and said “not here, not here.” Corominas, a good friend of Araneta could not speak. With his pal’s corpse prostrate before him, he looked straight at the eye of the Jap who also looked fixedly at him. He used to be afraid of Japs and Fort Santiago having been locked there too in the past. But at that moment, he was no longer afraid. He had ceased to care. Indignation was greater than fear of death. He kept looking at the Japanese, spoke a thousand words by his silence. The Jap took off his glance, showing signs of shame. The four friends carried Araneta’s stiff body to Luz’s car.

News has been spread that Araneta died of a heart attack. Indications are that he died because he was battered in the fort. His body had contusions around the stomach pit. But the doctors who autopsied his body do not want to talk, not until day of liberation.

It appears that Japs suspected Araneta was listening over the radio. When he received a tip that they might pick him up, he transferred his set to his secretary. Japs caught his secretary who unable to withstand torture began to talk. Japs arrested Araneta midnight. They knocked at his door: “Open up! Open up! Military Police!” His wife who was awake put on her lounging gown before opening door. But Japs broke it before they could get the key.

His night watchman was tied. Four Filipino informers investigated the servants and searched first floor of the house. Japs investigated Araneta and wife and children upstairs and inspected rooms. Japs took ₱40,000 from one of Araneta’s drawers, drank his wine and took canned goods. His chickens, turkeys and pigs disappeared too.

Chief Justice Jose Yulo brought this to the attention of Colonel Nagahama, head of Military Police, a friend of the Chief Justice. He immediately sent investigators to Araneta family to find out the truth. Japs recovered part of ₱40,000 and paid rest and returned one can of sardine, apologized, explained: “you see the men were hungry and had not yet eaten.”

Tragic part of story is that the wife thought her husband was going to be released. Mrs. Jose Yulo, sister of Araneta called her up and said, “Coring, come with me because this afternoon Col. Nagahama has invited us for a cocktail.” Nagahama promised to speed up Araneta’s investigation. He explained that it was because they suspected him of listening to short wave broadcasts. It is evident, however, that the colonel did not know what was happening in his own office and it was possible that at the time of the party Araneta was already dead.

Mrs. Araneta believes her husband died because he was very worried about his daughters whom Araneta loved very much. But, she is taking her husband’s death very calmly because she is resigned to her fate.

To make matters worse, Araneta’s home is being taken by the Navy. The family is now packing up and they don’t know where to transfer. They need not worry about having a home, however, because many families are willing to share their homes with them. A bomb also dropped at the Araneta garden during last Tuesday’s raid. Their house was covered partially by earth and their glasses broke. Apparently the American plane was hit and the aviator was looking for a vacant lot in which to dislodge his bombs and then to land. He found the garden which is quite spacious between the Araneta home and the Hernaez residence. He let go his bombs before plummeting to earth.

There were many visitors offering condolences to Araneta family. Mr. Ramon Araneta is a well known social figure in Manila. At present, one of his daughters is in the United States. The mother cries when she thinks of this girl who will return home and find her family without a home and above all —-without her father.

To all this, Japs have said ———-So sorry!