Diary of Antonio de las Alas

May 22, 1945 Tuesday

Poetry seems to be contagious for today two poems were submitted, one by Minister Quintin Paredes and the other by Governor Sergio Aquino. Copies of each poem are attached hereto. Everybody was surprised about Don Quintin who was well known as a statesman and jurist, but nobody was aware of his talent to write poetry. Aquino was known as a poet. He evidently abandoned poetry to embrace the cause of our country and to serve our people. He became Fiscal and later Governor of Tarlac. His executive ability earned him a promotion to Governor of a district composed of the provinces of Pangasinan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Zambales and Bataan. His poetry shows that he must have been a good poet.

We read in a local bulletin that Osmeña was coming home—back to the Philippines. Accompanying him were the members of two Committees—one composed of Senators and Representatives who are members of the Committees in the U.S. Congress having jurisdiction over the Philippines, including the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Milliard Tydings; the other, a technical committee composed of military men (Army and Navy), and economists. The purpose for the visit of these Committees is not stated. But we fear that a survey will be made by both Committees which may later be used to justify the postponement of independence or the retention of the Philippines as a U.S. colony. Our only consolation is that before we left Manila at the end of April, we read a statement from Osmeña to the effect that independence is a settled issue; in other words, independence will come on July 4, 1946 or sooner. There was an insinuation that the date would be accelerated. But of course the Committee may report that the destruction of the Philippines is such that rehabilitation will constitute a serious problem, and that in order for America to help or to want to help, independence must be postponed. They may even report that it is the wish of the Filipino people to postpone independence.

Already it is rumored that there are agents of imperialism in the U.S. Army and Navy, in the C.I.C., who would attempt to influence us so that we ourselves would petition for the postponement or at least express sentiments in favor of such postponement. There are reasons to believe this rumor. It should be remembered that when we were in the headquarters of the Army operating around Baguio, Colonel Arsey, who seemed to be a member of the General Staff, asked us what we thought of independence. When we answered that we did not want it postponed, he seemed surprised and stated that he had talked to hundreds of Filipinos and 95% of them were for postponement. Similar questions I understand are being asked by some members of the C.I.C. This work of the Imperialists for retention is reported to have the backing of influential Filipinos, like Mr. Carlos Romulo.

Personally, I believe that the Filipino people will vote against retention. No amount of money and influence will swing them from their determination. If the vote in a plebiscite is adverse, fraud must have been exercised. But of course I may be wrong. It is feared that the Congress of the U.S. will revoke or modify the Tydings-McDuffie Act without consulting the Filipino people. We all understand of course that once independence is postponed we will never get our independence or at least its attainment would be attended by great difficulties. But I am sure of one thing: that until independence is actually attained, the agitation for it will never stop. Already Taruc and Alejandrino have organized their United Front, one of the purposes of which is to fight any person, group or party, whether Americans or Filipinos, who will want independence denied or postponed. As events are developing, there may be formed two parties in the Philippines with a clear cut issue on independence—one will be against and in favor of American domination, and the other in favor of immediate and absolute independence. The cleavage may cut along social lines: rich men who believe that only America could protect and preserve their wealth, will line up on one side; and those who sincerely believe that it is the destiny of all peoples to constitute themselves into independent nations, and those who believe that the Philippines by right should be free and independent, will line up on the opposite side. Those against independence may win in the first elections. But each defeat will only encourage those for independence to work harder, and in the long run they will win for their cause is just, right and patriotic. The retentionists will meet the same fate as the “Federal” and “Progressive” parties in the Philippines. The cause of Philippine independence will triumph in the end.

Such a fight will of course be prejudicial and injurious to the Philippines and the Filipinos. We have to admit that there was stagnation in the economic development of our country, due not only to the economic policies of America which favored only the Americans, but also to the fact that the Filipino leaders devoted their whole time to the political issue of independence, thus neglecting to prepare a comprehensive economic program for the development of the Philippines.

The American committees, however, may not consider any political issue. As the Philippines has shown loyalty to America and the Filipinos have not only sacrificed their homes and property but even their lives side by side with the U.S. forces, America may wish to help in the rehabilitation of the Philippines. The Committees may want to have first hand knowledge of the economic problems in order that they may be in a better position to assist the Philippines. In that case, we should be very thankful and very grateful.

My conversations within the compound have not been limited to the so-called big shots. I have also talked to the lowliest of us here in the colony. Some of them cannot even read nor write. I came across three men—Catalino Capasi, Almadover and Caramay—who all hail from the town of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where I have many friends. They said that they were arrested, charged with being “Sakdal” or “Kapili”. They swore that they had never joined any of these organizations. One of them, Caramay, says that he was a “cochero” (rig driver), and it is possible that Sakdals and Kapilis had used his vehicle. They said that Sakdals and the Kapilis left with the Japanese. But one common feature during their interrogation was that they were compelled by the Americans to admit their guilt. They were beaten up by their American interrogators, slapped and boxed whenever they denied their guilt. At first, I just could not believe it. But they insisted that they were telling the truth and I am now inclined to believe them. But they also know of many cases where the arrested or suspected persons were threatened with bodily harm, but no actual force was used; where they were promised release or immunity if they would admit their guilt or sign affidavits against other persons. In other words, all means short of the use of force were employed in order to obtain a confession or admission on the part of the arrested person. Governors Aquino and Urquico told us that no such cases were reported to them. As a matter of fact, they were glad that they fell into the hands of the Americans because other suspects who were taken by the guerrillas—a good many of them—were put to death. According to the two Governors, a woman was burnt to death in the public plaza. I am just wondering whether cruelty is an Oriental trait. The Japanese have shown themselves to be unnecessarily cruel. The Chinese are also known for their cruelty. Are we Filipinos the same?

Although receiving gifts from the outside is prohibited unless the gifts go through the office, they continue to come. Gifts of food are not given to the addressee but divided among all of us. Many donors are anonymous. A Mr. V. Macasaet has sent me many things but I do not remember him nor do I know why he gives me anything. Do we really need the protective custody?

We were given a ration of shoes and clothing which are all second hand, having already been used by the American soldiers. With the exception of the shoes and underwear, we do not wear them. It is because they are all marked “X”. Why they are thus marked we do not know. The “X” probably serves to indicate that the articles now belong to the prisoners. We are not required to wear them. So, I have been wearing the clothes donated by charitable persons.

We try to make our lives less monotonous if possible. We want to forget our situation so that we would not be worrying too much and we would not continue expressing our indignation. Chief Justice Yulo does not seem to be able to do this. Instead of gaining like the rest of us, he is the only one who has lost weight. How do we pass the time then? We wake up early and immediately prepare for the outdoor group calisthenics. This lasts from ten to twenty minutes, and is obligatory. The exercises are quite scientifically prepared, involving all parts of the body. It is amusing to see overweight people, like Mr. Madrigal, perform the difficult movements in our exercises. After exercises, we proceed to the mess hall for breakfast. After breakfast, those of us detailed for the day’s work, clean the compound. When not on duty, I spend my time reading and writing. At noon, after lunch, we take a little nap. Afterwards, we either play a little poker or I continue reading and writing. Suppertime is early—as early as five o’clock. After supper we engage in personal conversations.

The most interesting part of the day is after 8 o’clock in the evening. A musical program is staged every night. We certainly have elements for the program. One of them, a Mr. Sotto, son of Don Vicente Sotto, is a very good singer. There are many other good singers. Then there is dancing choreographed by Dr. Hilario C. Moncado. The program is very amusing and we enjoy ourselves very much. Some of the American guards—the good ones, especially one by the name of Johnny—also take part in the program. A half past nine, the program ends and we then go to bed. I never forget to pray before going to bed. I pray to God to give health and comfort to my family. I pray for the salvation of our people.

We never miss hearing Mass on Sundays.

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