Diary of Lydia C. Gutierrez

Monday, February 12, 1945

We went back to our place and cleaned up the debris and swept inches and inches of ashes which burned our feet. Then we soaked rags in a pail of water and wiped the hot tiles with it and the tiles steamed! Then Frank and Ini guarded the place and the rest of us went home. We met Chito and Chars on our way home.

Suddenly a shell fell on Wright and Remedios sts. Then another fell and broke the wall between our house and the Amadors’. We ran out into the backyard. Nong ran back to call Tony and Toots just in time cause the next shell hit our front porch. We ran under the Bagasan’s house. There were around a hundred refugees there. The next shell fell in the driveway between our houses. We ran out. The smoke and dust in the driveway reached high over our heads and choked us. We wanted to go to the Hemingway’s but their house was burning too. The Japanese saw us from the street and machinegunned us! We ducked and then ran back to our backyard. Nong remembered the wall they had torn down and we all jumped over to the Gonzales’ house. All the refugees from the Bagasan’s followed us.

Under the Gonzales’ house there were many, many people, most of them wounded. The shells and shrapnels and explosions fell without stopping. It was very noisy and explosions, people crying of pain, despairing, praying. We held our medals tight and didn’t stop praying. One shell fell and hit the Amador’s house. We heard voices screaming and shouting hysterically. Then Joseling came to join us saying everyone in his house had died. Then a shell burst so near and I felt hard things hitting my face. I thought I was hit and dying. I couldn’t move. None of us were hit. Then the Japs came again and they machinegunned us! We hugged the ground. Those sitting were hit. Mr. Bagasan got hit in the neck and Nong bandaged him. Baby’s dress was full of blood but she said it was the man beside her who got hit and died.

The houses all burned immediately whenever a shell hit. Our house, the Hemingway’s, Bagasan’s, Amador’s, were all burning now. It was getting hotter and hotter. Then the smoke came under the house as the Gonzales’ house caught fire too. We crawled to the next house on the left. There was a shallow hole and it was soft and sandy soil so we started digging with our hands just so we could lay flat on our stomachs. We found a mattress which we used to cover our bodies. We stuck out our heads and watched the people passing on Wright st. They were dragging their wounded. Then we saw some of the Amadors walking. We found a bottle with brown sugar and gave the children some. The heat became intense. We had to go. When we came out into the street it was very quiet –not a living body, all were dead. We could not turn right to go to Remedios and Florida as the heat from Amadors’ and Montes’ house made the road like an oven. We turned left. We stumbled and walked nervously holding on to each other, afraid of stepping on parts of dead bodies. We reached Vermont and the Vasquez house but they didn’t let us in because it was a Red Cross headquarters and none of us were wounded. We reached Tennessee st. and turned left. At Georgia st. we saw four Japs and they saw us! We ran fast into a building. We hid a while but were afraid there might be Japs in the building. Then Nong peeped and they were gone. Thank God! We turned left on Georgia and came to Vermont and turned right till we reached the corner of Florida st. at last! Two blocks away was our shelter among the ruins but it was too hot to pass. But if we stood there, the Japs might see us. So Nong thought we’d better dash through the hot street. Irasan was burning. We saw many dead bodies. Most of them we knew. We came near the place where we had our shelter. It was very, very quiet, not a soul. There were dead bodies all over the place. When we came to our place what a mess it was! We came nearer and called Frank, nobody answered. Then we called Chars and Ini and Chito but nobody answered. We approached reluctantly. We saw Ini and Frank but we saw blood. We didn’t know who was wounded. It was Chito! We did not expect it to be him. When they saw us they were so surprised! Most of us cried and cried. They said they saw our house being hit directly and then bursting in flames and they were sure we were all dead. They told us that Chito was sitting and a shrapnel went through his leg, took out a piece of his hand and hit the other leg. When Chito heard that his friend Ding-ding died, he cried and cried.

The shells never stopped one after the other and when they burst the smoke and ashes came under the tables and we were all fainting one by one. There was a man with one arm gone and he was delirious and quarreling with another man under a roof nearby. The judge was drinking and he was desperate and crying. He said his wife and all his other children died. He told us to take his daughter if he dies. Chars ran out to look for medicine and came back with a sleeping tablet from Mrs. Kalaw but the Japs almost saw her on her way back. A man just pulled her back as she was beginning to cross the street. Then the Japs came to the street and we had to stop the children from crying and had to remain very quiet. Again all the shells fell in our vicinity and debris, stones and shrapnels were falling all over. The people were screaming and crying around us. We clung to our medals and prayed and prayed. One shell fell right near us and we choked and coughed and most of us were fainting and we could see figures getting out of our shelter.

Maximo went to get water, it tasted like gunpowder and smelled like the dead. We put a few drops of listerine in it and drank one sip each. The shelling never stopped the whole night.

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