Diary of Antonio de las Alas

August 19, 1945, Sunday

We went to church and heard Mass. I went to confession and received communion for the second time here, the first time only a week and a half ago — the first time since I was married in 1914.

To express graphically our reactions on news pertaining to our release, our hopes, joys and disappointments, we continued to use stock exchange language. We take as par price an imaginary price of stock in London. From this comes the expression “A la par con Londres”, “at par with London.”

The night before it was 95% par. After Mass, undoubtedly sobered by intense meditation in Church, the excitement that had begun when the radiogram was first received, subsided. Instead a calm consideration of the import of the telegram was made. Somebody noticed that the words “Magic White” were used at the beginning of the radiogram. They also recalled that “Magic” is one of the favorite expressions of Moncado. The conclusion was that Moncado had invented or altered the radiogram. There was no way of finding out as he was not in the stockade.

The question arose as to whom the expression “war prisoners” refers. There could be four kinds of prisoners: (1) insular prisoners who were here when the war broke out and who continue to be here; (2) prisoners sentenced and imprisoned here during the Japanese regime; (3) Japanese prisoners whether military or civilian, and (4) us. There are still many here of those falling under the first category, the insular prisoners, but they cannot be considered war prisoners. As to the second, the interpretation could be stretched so as to consider them war prisoners, but it is not known if there are such prisoners here. The third class clearly are war prisoners, but our information is that there are no such prisoners here. As to the fourth — us — in a way we are war prisoners. Only future events will solve this quandary.

Earlier, radical change or movement in the prices of the stocks occurred only about once a week. Later, it became daily. Now it is hourly. The prices become bearish. Radical changes take place every hour. The extremes are quite far apart. The stockade is now a regular stock exchange with the usual huzzle and buzzle, the nervous demeanor of the traders, and the ticking of tickers. Men converge everywhere, asking one another of any new development. Whenever somebody new enters the stockade, he is immediately besieged with questions; even the American guards were submitted to thorough questioning.

Because of the fear that the radiogram might be a Moncado invention, the differences in interpretation and lack of confirmation, stock prices receded and continued going down every hour. Gloom was beginning to reign when suddenly big Cortez, a Chinese-Filipino who was one of those working in the kitchen, came running as if he was sprinting in a one hundred-yard dash. Everybody became excited and immediately surrounded him. After catching his breath, he told us that the Mess Sergeant had congratulated them because we would soon be released. The Sergeant said that in their barracks they discussed to whom the term “war prisoners” referred, and they concluded that it referred to us. The Sergeant said that the work of construction on the new camp had been ordered suspended by Manila. This happened at about 10:50 p.m. When Cortez came the price had reached already the low price of 50% below par. After the news of Cortez, it rose to 95% above par. Some even wished to offer 100% but desisted. A pandemonium was again about to break and much effort had to be employed to stop it. It was not an easy task to calm them down. We were all in high spirits. At 12:00 o’clock, we went to the Mess with much hunger but without any intention to eat as we were so happy in the thought that we will soon be able to join our families; we did not care to eat anymore.

I shall state that when the radiogram was brought to the stockade on the night of Saturday and when Big Cortez made his famous run, the scene was reminiscent of the scene in the New York Stock Exchange and the Manila Crystal Arcade Stock Exchange during the mining boom in the Philippines, Everybody was excited; everybody had their eyes wide open and ears cocked for any change in prices on the board or for any news; everybody was buying or selling to their financial limit.

In the mess hall (Sunday, August 19, 12:15 p.m.), it was noticed that many colonists were entering and leaving the recreation hall with their baggages. We were told that they were the prisoners who were released and were going to Manila on board the Mactan. The conclusion was that the word “prisoners” in the radiogram did not refer to us. Stock went down. Moncado was sought and he denied that he had falsified or altered the radiogram. He was of the opinion that the radiogram referred to us. Stock prices reacted. We found out that Nadres, the Acting Superintendent of the Colony, also received a radiogram similar in tenor as that received by Col. Gilfilan. Nadres has no jurisdiction over us; he only has the Insular prisoners under him, so that the word “prisoners” must refer to Insular prisoners only. It was explained that the Provost Marshall radioed Col. Gilfilan upon the request of Director of Prisons Misa, as the latter has no jurisdiction over Col. Gilfilan. Stock down. It was discovered that there was a difference between the two telegrams in that the one received by Col. Gilfilan referred to “war prisoners” and we are the only war prisoners here. Stock up.

While we were on our way to the mess hall for supper we met Dr. Reyes, the dentist, and he told us that he had been transferred to the General Headquarters in Manila. Since Dr. Reyes came with us and no substitute had been appointed for him, and since we could not possibly be left without a dentist, the conclusion was that we were going. Market became firm. In the mess at supper, Reyes, who brought the sensational radiogram, and Cortez, the sprinter, confirmed and insisted on the news. Upward trend observed.

Another point nobody could understand is the secrecy maintained by the Colonel and the Lieutenant. If there was such an order why should it be kept secret from us? It was suspected that these officers would not divulge the message to us until the time of our departure, otherwise the people would not work. Furthermore, such is the Army practice. I added that necessary precautions need to be taken — it will take time to notify Japanese subjects to surrender.

That afternoon and evening, the market was very variable— bearish. But all agreed that we will have more or less definite news next day. If work in the new stockade is continued there will be no hope; otherwise, our departure for Manila will be assured. Our night sleep was far from perfect.

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