Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

17th January 1945

The Japanese financial adviser in Manila has given us a few graphic flashes of the last days of the Laurel regime in that city. Its government, he said, had ceased to exist for all practical purposes. It could not collect one centavo in taxes; the collector of internal revenue had himself fled to the provinces on the excuse of bad health; the government was living on 50 million yen borrowed from the Nampo (Southern Development) bank against the 200 million credit granted last year by the Bank of Japan. Nor could the government exert its authority outside the city borders of the capital. Orders to provincial governors could be delivered only through the Japanese army. The governors of Bulacan, Rizal, and Pampanga, summoned to Manila to receive instructions, had disappeared on the way back to their posts.

The people were starving; about 200 died of hunger every day. Rice was so scarce that when the Japanese garrisons went out to wash their messkits at roadside faucets, hundreds of Filipinos would gather around them, shouting “service” (one useful English word the Japanese had picked up), and waving thick wads of military notes for which they wanted only the pathetic privilege of washing the mess-kits and scraping together the few grains of rice left in them.

The Japanese, of course, know nothing of the horror they have wrought. They believe their newspapers which picture the Filipinos as grateful to the Japanese and ready in this hour of trial to fight at their side. They themselves, poor devils, are not better off. It is just as difficult to blame them as to pity them.

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