Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.

May 7, 1945

IT WAS 1,246 days ago today when I started scribbling the first page of this notebook. It has since then become my inseparable companion, my vade mecum since that treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor which started the conflagration in the Pacific. After three years and five months, I am closing it today, bidding it goodbye more with nostalgia than with joy, as a friend who is leaving.

Today, after five years, eight months and six days, Germany surrendered. The war in Europe has ended. Technically, the war in the Philippines has also come to an end. The Imperial Army, destroyed and disunited, is no longer an organized army but scattered groups of desperate people running amuck. The liberating forces are landing without opposition at all important points in this archipelago and are pinning down with their pincers the remaining members of the “invincible” Japanese Army who are nested in caves and crests of the mountain ranges. The mopping up would be a task more or less tiresome but the danger has subsided.

As I look back on the days past—writers commonly preface their work by referring to their achievements as mountain tops and as valleys what they left behind—I had to force myself into fighting the temptation of moralizing, into which many new writers fall.

There is one point I want to emphasize, now that it can be discussed clearly and intelligently. During the Japanese domination, speaking and writing were risky. Spiritually, morally and culturally, we were suppressed. We were separated from the Japanese by an impenetrable, unscalable wall. They never associated with us. We never succeeded in understanding them, being intimate with them, or having an interchange of opinion, sentiments, ideas and ideals. When we chanced upon one of them who seemed to be different, one who seemed to have unveiled for us something of the Japanese mysterious, inscrutable character, we would feel we had made a marvelous discovery, having found a rare breed. We told our friends about it. And these friends skeptically warned us:

“Watch out. Don’t be too sure. There is no telling what that Japanese is up to.”

Or perhaps another would say, “A Japanese said that? I don’t believe it.”

And the wall of separation became taller and thicker.

On the other hand, prudence or caution prevented us from speaking out openly before our neighbors if they were not of our trust. We would rather keep quiet. They could be spies who could denounce us. The shadow of the Kem Pei Tai or the thought of Fort Santiago cast fear even among the most courageous.

I confess I am not among these. I was writing my notes daily or weekly with fear and trembling. Now that I can speak and write in any way I want before the army and civilians, before friends and foes alike, these fears appear ridiculous and unfounded. The fact is that many have started their diaries but never closed them. To start it is an implicit indication of sympathy; to continue with it, a confirmation of pro-Americanism; and to finish it, an open profession of faith.

Several times, I had been at the point of relegating these innocent creatures to the waste can or to the fire. Whenever the curiosity of the police dogs seemed to direct its obstinate sniffings towards my room, the fear of endangering myself and my companions placed me on the verge of making an act of faith. Providence which saved me and my brothers in many occasions from the hands of bloody Herod—from the dungeons of Intramuros and the prison chains of Baguio, among others—also saved these people from a painful and hardly spirited death.

The moral chain which bound my conscience or my subconscience according to the degree of the threat of danger, did not permit me to be as outspoken as I wanted to be. Unconsciously, I tended to tone down my statements, glide along the surface of these rugged events and cloak the interpretation which might seem subversive against the new order which was nothing more than an old disorder.

No matter how hard I tried to assume the stoic position of an independent observer and outwardly tried to play the role of an impartial chronicler, convincing myself of foolhardy thought that this would lessen the danger, actually neither was the risk diminished nor did I succeed in maintaining a balanced and neutral attitude.

Such is the texture of the individual and collective spirit, such is the nature of events and experience, that only a statue can remain indifferent. I was either for the Japanese or against them. There were neutralities which killed. There were positions which were impossible to maintain throughout the three years.

The sphinx-like temperament is reserved for certain people. Neither our western Christian education nor the profession which we pursue permitted us to feel one thing and say another without blushing. The art of cunning or the masked trick of covering a dangerous intention with honeyed or high sounding phrases, are monopolized by certain conquerors who feel an achievement in the conquest of land rather than of the spirit. The noble warrior who has the conscience overflowing with the bounty of his cause and of his resources, manages arms and souls with as much skill as with frankness. Never does he employ deceit and cunning.

During the three years of Japanese occupation, we witnessed innumerable cases of hypocrisy, Machiavellian in some cases, infantile in others. We did not have any direct proofs that the Americans fought like gentlemen and that they played it clean, isolated as we were within the Sphere. But we could sense it. We felt that we had known them well enough not to believe the atrocities and hypocrisies attributed to them by their enemies. During these past three months with them, our intuition had been transformed into a full vision, verified by personal experiences.

Is this a defense? An allegation? It is nothing more than a soliloquy exploding out sentiments suppressed for so long under the Sphere.

We end with the hope that the Philippines get speedily rehabilitated physically, economically, morally, and spiritually.

 

[The diary ends here]