Diary of Antonio de las Alas

June 8, 1945 Friday

To our surprise, MacArthur came. When rumors were circulating that Gen. MacArthur was coming, I did not pay attention as I thought it was one of the many jokes daily being dished out to us by fun makers. But when the rumor persisted, I thought that perhaps MacArthur would come since the Americans were looking for naval, military and air bases, and it may be that MacArthur would like to see the place himself. I still believed, however, that he was not coming to our prison.

Last Tuesday, June 5, a Captain from Manila arrived. He went all around our compound. Yesterday, he made us line up in front of our barracks. He said that he wanted the premises and our quarters to be thoroughly cleaned. He divided the men in the enlisted class in groups, each group to be under the personal direction and supervision of each member of the officer class. Like others in the officer class, I was placed in charge of a group. Each group was assigned a section of the prison camp. It was just my bad luck to be assigned to the area from the main entrance to the grounds in front of the quarters. It is a very conspicuous place and I suppose they would like to see it properly cleaned. I had 5 persons under me, but actually only 3 worked as one was later assigned to some other work and the other got sick. We worked the whole day. The next day, June 7, we woke up early, ate our breakfast and again worked the whole day. I was very much satisfied with the result. The place is completely transformed. From a dingy place and a sore spot, it is now a clean, attractive place. So were the other sections. The whole camp is clean and beautiful.

Much of the credit should be given to the Captain. He certainly is a hustler. He gave us no rest. The first day he told us nothing about making us work. He evidently remembered the provisions of the Geneva Convention, as he called all the Class A together and explained that we were not compelled to work, but that he would like us to volunteer. When we agreed, he asked us to sign a letter voluntarily agreeing to assist.

Now I am convinced that some big man was coming, otherwise why all the preparation if only secondary high officials are coming? I believe now that MacArthur is coming.

Yesterday afternoon, the 7th, an incident happened. After lunch, we took a break and returned to our quarters. We had just reached our quarters when we were asked to line up immediately to receive instructions. We were not ready and it took us several minutes before we could fall in line. The Captain got very angry and remarked in a loud voice that when we are called for work, we are very slow, but when it is for meals, we lose no time. We all felt insulted. We resented the remark. It was agreed that a formal protest be filed.

Our present conduct, however, is most reprehensible. The Captain came about 6 o’clock bringing clothes and belts. Many of my companions, who were very angry just moments ago, received him with a smile. They were meek and humble. I could not believe that just a few minutes before, when I wanted to ask for bats for our indoor ball games, they reproached me, remarking that we must not ask for anything. I cannot understand this; these men were the first ones to approach when the Captain came. Not only that. They accepted the clothes and belts brought by the Captain. Their demeanor was conspicuously humble. It was disgusting! Are we sincere in our indignation? If so, we should show it. This is precisely why foreigners think poorly of us because our conduct and countenance are not that of men who had been unjustly treated and insulted. How can we command respect if we do not show dignity?

Later that evening, many of us who were still indignant over today’s incident, drafted a strong protest. There were some differences of opinion as to the form, but no disagreement as to the substance of the protest. As it was already late, we decided to make the final draft the next morning.

This morning, we evidently had pondered on the matter during the night. We were no longer so vehement. We heard Mass and when we returned to our quarters we had apparently cooled off. Perhaps this is something to remember: when passions run high, we should take our time; then we are able to consider the matter on its merits. We finally decided not to protest. I am glad such was the decision. I do not feel the incident was important enough to justify such drastic action. Furthermore, any protest now is too late. We should have protested and even staged a hunger strike when we were first detained. We should have protested when we were brought like cattle in a freight boat. We tolerated insult after insult more serious than the present incident. If we base our protest on this incident alone, they will consider us childish.

Based on experience, I generally do not want to join movements of protest. I have in the past joined protests where a group of men seemed ready to sacrifice and go to the limit if not heard. The person against whom the protest is filed, makes an explanation, at times flimsy and meaningless. At the end, the protestors decide to forget the incident entirely. I would therefore advise everyone to be slow in protesting or complaining, unless one intends to follow it through to the end. For my part, once I enter into the fight, I will not withdraw; I am ready to go to the extreme, unless I later become convinced that I am wrong. It is not a shame to withdraw from a fight but only if reason and facts justify such change.

Later in the morning, it was clear that something was going to happen. Big shots were evidently coming. Early this morning our guards arrived in full regalia uniform. The Captain and the Lieutenant came to give instructions to them. At 10 o’clock, the Superintendent, Col. Forbes, conducted a ground inspection. As a matter of fact, for the last two days there were three inspections daily. Many remarked that it was “vajacion injusta”. We were told to get ready to fall in line at 11 o’clock. I forgot to mention that earlier, we saw our friend Johnny and other guards all dolled up. They were given special instructions on how to salute.

At exactly 11 o’clock, there was a great commotion. As we looked towards the gate we saw a very long line of jeeps and automobiles. Those in the first automobile alighted, and I immediately recognized Gen. MacArthur. He was accompanied by many high officials, by newspapermen and photographers. I did not recognize anybody else, but afterwards I learned that my friend, Don Andres Soriano, was the third man behind the General when the General entered our barracks.

The General lost no time. He immediately proceeded to the quarters accompanied by the officer class. I noticed that the General is much heavier than when I last saw him about four years ago. The General walked through our barracks quite fast, as if in a hurry. On one side of the corridor were lined up Messrs. Yulo, F. Zulueta, Alunan, Abello, Recto, Madrigal, Sabido, Sebastian, and Sanvictores; on the other side, Messrs. Paredes, de la Rama, Sison, Alas, Gen. Francisco, Bayan, Paez, Urquico, and Gov. Aquino. I saw the General glance around briefly and then look ahead. He has many friends among us, some very intimate. Evidently, the General avoided being face to face with his friends. It really would have been embarrassing for him and for us. Under the circumstances, he could not possibly show any familiarity. If he had looked at us and did not show cordiality, we would undoubtedly have resented it. On the other hand, under the circumstances, we too could not show any indication of friendship with him. We learned afterwards that he said that he did not want to see much of us as it would have pained him.

When he walked just passed Recto and Francisco, he abruptly stopped and somewhat hesitated. He looked towards the bed of Francisco and immediately asked Col. Forbes whether we had mattresses. The answer was ambiguous, insinuating that some of us had. The truth is that none of us have a mattress. The General instructed the Colonel to provide us with mattresses. The General asked whether we receive mail. The Colonel answered yes, but not regularly. Only two of us have received letters. The rest of us have not heard from our family since we left Manila. This has caused us to shed copious tears. I am sure my wife had sent me many letters. While I was in the United States I used to receive a letter from her once a week. Something is the matter with our mail. It is torture to us—a cruelty. I hope the authorities concerned would be more understanding and human. We suffer enough and our suffering is aggravated by not knowing the fate of our dear ones. The General gave the Colonel instructions to facilitate the delivery of our mail. He inquired about some more details. Before moving on, he instructed the Colonel to do everything so that we would be comfortable. We deeply appreciate the concern for us shown by the General.

When the General saw Don Vicente Madrigal, one of his many friends, he stopped and told Mr. Madrigal that he saw Don Vicente’s son just the day before, that he is sending his father his love. The scene was touching. Don Vicente bowed many times and could hardly mutter the words of thanks. Tears began to stream down Don Vicente’s face. When the General left, he wept and wept. I approached him to ask for more news, but I could not speak because I also started shedding tears. Don Vicente remarked that he would have preferred not to have received the news. No words can adequately describe the feelings of a man separated from his loved ones.

The General proceeded with his inspection and left immediately after going through all the quarters.

There were varied comments and speculations after the departure of the General. All were agreed that contrary to previous beliefs, his trip had nothing to do with us. He evidently came to look over certain military matters. But there were a few who insisted that the trip to Iwahig had something to do with us. It will be remembered that we sent him a petition sometime ago. It is said that he came to know more about our case; that by his visit, he wished to placate somewhat the bitter feelings he heard we harbored against Americans; and that he wished to show his interest and deep concern for us. We hoped that MacArthur will immediately consider our case, and that his action would be favorable. Gen. MacArthur undoubtedly would do justice. He knows many of us intimately. He knows the instructions given us by President Quezon before he left us, on what our attitude should be towards the Japanese. And above all, he has the welfare of the Filipino people at heart and he knows that we who are here can help greatly in that connection.

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