April 19, 1942

Concentration Camp

Capas, Tarlac

Great day. Dr. Escoto of the Red Cross was able to enter our camp. He was called by the Camp Commander because the Jap guard is sick. He passed our quarters, gave medicines for the boys with dysentery and malaria. He left bottles of quinine and sulfa-thiasol to the medical officers. I asked him if he could give a letter for my family. He said make it small and short so I can keep it in my pocket without the guards noticing. They might search me. I wrote: “Dear Mama and Papa: How are you? I love you.” It was a silly letter.

I am not feeling well. I have a fever everyday. There is nothing to do but pray. I pray as many rosaries as I can. It makes me feel better.

Pimentel and Fernando are sure to die, according to a medical officer…

 

(later)

 

Met a fellow whose name I don’t remember now. He said he asked the doctor to see his family for him, but he forgot to give his address.

Col. Alba told us today that one prisoner was shot while trying to escape.


April 18, 1942

Capas, Tarlac

Filipino Concentration Camp

 

 

Heard that two school-mates are dying. They are Fermin Fernando, star basketball forward, and Luis Pimentel, brilliant speaker, great actor, and good friend. No help can be extended to them. Fernando has malaria; Pimentel, dysentery.

Many rumors in camp. It is said that we will be released after the fall of Corregidor. Others believe we will be prisoners till the end of the war in the East. Still others think that we will be made to fight against the Americans in Australia. I think that is impossible, not only because we won’t fight, but because we are in no condition to fight. Some opine that our leaders in Manila are trying to work out some compromise with the Japs to obtain our unconditional release.

 

(later)

 

Heart-breaking sight. Saw seven Americans. They were walking slowly in the narrow road between the Filipino and American concentration camps. Their faces were haggard, beards long, bodies emaciated. Suddenly, one American with an air-corps insignia collapsed on the ground. One of his friends tried to pick him up but the Jap guard motioned him to move away. Then the guard ran his bayonet through the American’s chest. I saw his blood flow to the sand. They were about twenty yards from me. I felt like killing that guard. Then the six remaining Americans were made to pick their dead comrade. The Jap grinned.

 

(later)

 

Evening. The breeze is cool. I can see the blue outline of Mt. Arayat in the distance. Somebody is humming a sad kundiman. The loneliest songs are sad kundimans.

The moonlight is shining softly on the dust-covered, half-naked bodies of the war-prisoners. Most of the boys are sleeping. I wonder how many of them will see the morning. Every day, twenty or thirty die in the night. Last evening, the soldier sleeping beside me died quietly. In the morning, we told him to wake up. “Up!” I shouted, “Roll-call, up!” When I held him, I felt he was already stiff. Rigor mortis had set in. There was a sardonic smile on his lips…


April 17, 1942

Capas, Tarlac, FCC

 

 

There is only one faucet for our regiment. At nine o’clock today, the Japs opened the main water switch. The boys rushed with their canteens. Some boys were badly hurt in the mad dash for the faucet. Then suddenly, the Japs turned it off again.

Col. Alba has organized the water distribution because of this incident. From now on, a large receptacle will be placed directly under the faucet. The water collected will be equally divided among the boys.

Went to the “hospital” to visit my cousin, Tirso Matias. He was lying on the wooden floor like all the hundreds of sick prisoners. His face was pale and his eyes were yellow. He could hardly talk, and he asked in a very weak voice: “Have you got quinine?” I had none.

This hospital was no hospital. It was really a morgue for those about to die. All the sick were made to lie beside each other on the wooden floor. There were no beds, no medicines, no pillows, sheets, nor blankets. Everybody who was sick was sent to that sweathouse rehardless of the kind of illness. There was one soldier groaning because of an acute appendicitis. Another was hollering for water, but there was no water. One had cerebral malaria, and he kept shivering and twisting. An Igorot soldier had dysentery, and the floor around was wet and covered with flies.

(later)

The sun is scorching. My body is covered with dust because every time the wind blows, it sweeps the sand. This is like a desert.

I am very thirsty. I was not able to drink from my canteen cup this morning because I dropped it. The water spilled on the ground.

Can hear the drone of many planes above. Jap bombers. Probably heading for Corregidor. It must be hell in the Rock. How long will it stand?

It is terrible to see the reactions of shell-shocked soldiers. Just now, one of the boys suddenly trembled at the sound of the planes. His eyes dilated. His facial muscles started to shake involuntarily. His face had a queer, lost, nervous expression.

About 200 died today. Many more will die. I am sure it will reach thousands.

What are our leaders doing? Why don’t the Filipino officials make strong representations? Thousands of young lives are being lost every hour…


April 16, 1942

Capas, Tarlac

Filipino Concentration Camp

 

Am still alive. Have been here for two days. How long I will stay only God knows. Many are dying here. Right now, somebody just died. He is Teofilo Yldefonso, champion-swimmer, thrice captain of the Philippine swimming team to the world’s Olympics. The wound he sustained in Bataan developed gangrene. few pills of sulfa-thiasol might have saved his life, according to a medical officer. But the Japs do not permit medicine for prisoners. The doctors are now covering Yldefonso’s corpse with newspaper. Later, he will be buried with the other corpses piled high in the adjoining camp.

Right now I can hear someone shouting deliriously: “Water, please, water!” He has stopped shouting. They clubbed him. Now he is unconscious. If the guards had heard him, he would have been bayoneted.

This is not a prison camp. This is a graveyard of living corpses, breathing skeletons…

(later)

Had to stop writing because I was ordered to submit to the Group-head, Gen. Fidel Segundo, the total number of the “living” and “dead” prisoners in our group as of 7:30 this morning. That is my job: to count the living and the dead every morning.

Gen. Segundo gave us a short talk this morning. The General looked thin and haggard, so different from the days in the Tamarao’s polo club when he used to gallop across the field to make a goal. Now he looks aged and infirm, a ghost of his past self. He said: “Boys, our food –you and I– is only one handful of mashed rice and camotes everyday. One canteen-cup of water twice a day. Do not complain. We are prisoners. Such is the fate of the vanquished. Just strengthen your hearts and will to live.”

Mortality today: 300.

(later)

The Japs have made clear that any prisoner who approaches the fence to within a distance of two meters will be shot. The prisoners have been organized into regiments, battalions, companies, and platoons. For every prisoner who escapes, one man in the division will be killed, usually his immediate officer, according to the Japs Camp Commander. Our division head is Gen. Fidel Segundo. Col. Alba is regimental commander. I have been made regimental adjutant.

I understand that there are thousands of people outside the camp, mostly relatives and friends of the prisoners. They are begging the Japs to allow them to send food to the war-prisoners or at least medicine. The Red Cross has made representations to the Japanese High Command to give aid to the war-prisoners in the name of humanity and justice. The Japs have remained firm in their original decision not to permit any help to the war-prisoners. If this state of affairs continues, thousands will die here. This concentration camp will be bleached white with the bones of officers and soldiers whose only “crime” has been to uphold their country’s dignity.

Japs have permitted entrance of the Tribune. I read this editorial which states that Japan is fighting this war “to liberate Filipinos from anglo-saxon oppression.”


April 10, 1942

Morning came, and we were ordered to stack our guns and disarm. The white flag was raised on top of the highest hill. All Filipino troops in Bataan were going to surrender together. It was already nine o’clock… but still there were no Japs. We knew we were completely surrounded, but they were taking their time.

Some of the boys were crying –Teddy Arvisu, for example. Others were happy. They were glad the fighting was over, no matter how it ended. But the boys were mistaken. It was not all over yet.

Some twenty Americans armed themselves with machine-guns and started firing at the disarmed troops of General Lim. “You dirty cowards!” hollered the Americans. There was a big commotion. Then the desperate group of Yanks machinegunned a Jap observation plane that flew very low to verify the white flag. The plane was almost hit. It came back with a squadron of bombers and they rained tons of death on the unarmed troops. Generals de Jesus and Lim gave me an order that I will never forget. “Buencamino,” said Gen. Lim, “go to the Japanese line… and inform them that there are two Filipino generals here… who are surrending their troops.” I was sore. They were making a trial goat out of me. After having lived through the whole war… I was not in a mood to take anymore chances. How was I to know the Japanese were going to respect the white flag? Besides some ignorant Jap… still furious… might take a pot shot at me. Anyway, orders were orders and I proceeded to comply with it. Oscar saw me… and he embraced me. “I’m going with you,” he said.

We went up the first hill… and there below us… we saw hundred of trucks and cars blocking the road. We had to turn around… to find another route. Just then… I saw Pepito Castillo and Nene Gallaga. They were pale… and panting. “What happened?” I inquired. “Gosh,” said Gallaga, “we were carrying white flags and several Jap patrols machine-gunned us.”

I returned to General Lim. I told him: “I cannot comply with your order. As an officer, I have the right to choose between surrender or not. I do not wish to surrender.” Then Gallaga told General Lim what had happened. Lim understood.

By about eleven o’clock… the Japanese troops arrived. We were informed by them that General King had surrendered. We were disarmed completely, and they told us to walk up to Manila. “You are free because you are Filipinos,” they said. I thought: this is too good to be true. There was a catch… and it didn’t take long before we found out.

We walked together: Ramon, Tony Nieva, Ernie, Willie Jacinto, Paeng Estrada, Fred Castro, Johnnie Fabella, and myself. We carried one can of Carnation milk each and two cans of pork beans. We were told that at Orani we would be given trucks to go to Manila… and we believed them… and thanked them. So we walked on… and on… and on.

The sun was very hot. But we didn’t care. We wanted to get home. Ramon walked with a sweater and blanket wrapped around him. I was sustaining him most of the time. He tried his best not to be a “drag.” Chalito was quite the contrary. He was always complaining of the heat. Every five kilometers we would halt. Ernie gave us pep talks. “Carry on,” he said. “In a few days, we will be with our families.”

The main body of the Japanese forces were walking past us. Their tanks, trucks, cannons, cars, horses, troops rumbled by us. We had to run out of the road, because they didn’t give a damn about running over us. Japanese soldiers started taking our watches and money and canned goods. Some boys were stripped of their shirts. We endured all forms of indignities. After all, they were the victors. A Jap came up to Ramon… and he took of his sweater. We didn’t complain. It was best to be discreet. “Endure everything,” counseled Ernie, “that is the fate of the vanquished.” “After all,” said Tony Nieva, “we are getting off pretty easy.”

We trudged on and on that first day for almost fifteen kilometers. We were very thirsty. “I can’t… anymore,” cried Willie… and he dropped on the ground. We stayed around him… gave him pep talks. “I want a drink of water… even just a drop,” he begged. But there was no water. I pitied Willie… as a he lay there on the ground. We rested for half an hour… and then I made him sling his arm over my shoulders… and we walked on…

More Japanese troops passed by us: haughty, mocking. Some of the soldiers belonging to the 41st div. were commandeered by them. Some were made their servants… slaves.

But our little gang was left alone, thank God. When night came, we slept on a hillside. We were hungry and so for dinner we drank our cans of milk. I was so exhaustedI couldn’t take the prok and beans that Ernie thrust into my mouth. “Take it,” he shouted, “don’t be a fool. You’ve got to eat.”

I slept like a dead man that night. I had no bed, no pillow… just a blanket which Ernie shared. Johnnie was complaining of diarrhea… Ramon said he was getting better… but Tony was shivering. We gave him quinine. Willie Jacinto was pooped out… and Chalito Zamora had cramps. Godo Reyes was the strongest among us.

At about midnight, Ernie woke me up. There were strange cries. There was the voice of a woman, crying, pleading. Then there were other cries –female voices, too– and all had the same “spare-me-please” tone. We couldn’t move. I was tense. Then there were hoarse cries… soldiers… then shots that pierced the night… and the dull thud of bodies.

We woke up very early in the morning -before sunrise. We decided to walk… while it was cool. We rolled our blankets… and we moved towards Little Baguio. “Wish we had ham and eggs!” said Ramon jokingly. Nobody answered. We kept on walking… walking… walking. Finally, we reached Little Baguio. There we had our breakfast: water. The brook in Little Baguio was nice as ever. We filled our canteens and we filled ourselves up. We had a short rest… and we walked again.

On the roadside, we saw a lot of dead bodies, unlucky fellows who died just a few days before the end. There was an awful smell. Some corpses showed signs of torture before death. The wrists and ankles were bound, and the mouth gagged. Others had ugly wounds in their bellies, which proved they had hand-to-hand fighting. Most of the bodies were rotting, and there was no one to even give them a decent grave.

The sun was scorchingly hot by now, and I was getting dizzy with the heat. Tony Nieva was trying hard to walk… despite his malaria. Godo Reyes was still going strong… but I noticed that Ernie was weakening.

Noontime came… but we had no lunch. We just sat under a tree… and stared at each other. I saw a 3-year old girl… sitting beside a bush… crying. Her face was dusty. Where was her mother? I looked around… and in a nearby bush… there was an awful smell. There lay a rigid body, and the torn clothes and the bayonet thrusts on the body told the story. I felt like bringing the child with me… she looked sick and so hungry… but I left the child… without help. I can’t forgive myself. I tried to ease my conscience by saying that thousands of soldiers passed that child also… that many more would see it. I tried to tell myself that the Japanese Red Cross (surely, they probably had a Red Cross) would help the kid. As I walked and walked and walked… the child haunted me. But on the way… there were more such children… some asleep from sheer exhaustion… but still breathing. I carried one out of the curve… because a truck might just rumble over her. Again I felt like bringing the child. I already had her in my arms. But I laid her down alone… under a tree.

We walked on and on till it was dark, and we had no more strength. We found out that hunger does not matter very much… after a while… because your stomach becomes tense. My feet were beginning to hurt me. Ernie had big blisters. Ramon, too. Godo’s feet were bleeding. That night… we slept by a beach.

Before sunrise… we walked again… with nothing but water for breakfast. I saw more suffering. I saw an old man whom we thought dead… trying to say something because his lips were moving. His body was partly covered with mud and flies. His bones were sticking out. There he lay… dying. But we didn’t bother anymore about him. There were too many of them. I also saw a fellow soldier bayoneted by an angry Japanese soldier.He dropped to the ground… and he lay there… looking at us.. begging with his eyes for help… but nobody dared even give him a look of sympathy. I cursed everybody for not helping him… but I should also have cursed myself. I too didn’t dare.

Everywhere victims of catastrophe filled the roadside. Mobs of pitiful figures pleaded for food, begged for water. As we walked on and on and on… I saw more and more desperate-looking faces… smoke-blackened faces… some had bandaged heads and limbs. Then Japanese soldiers would come and start kicking them and having fun at the expense of the wounded soldiers. They would offer water then drop it before them. One man was shot for stealing rice from a parked Jap truck. Thousands slept on the roadside… right in the open… using their little bundles of worldly goods for pillows, and rags and paper for bedding. In every lane, suffering humanity squatted, stood, or lay wherever space was. I thought why don’t Vargas and our leaders do something to help these soldiers? I could not understand. Where were our social workers?

I kept on praying while I walked. More and more of the Japanese troops passed by. We avoided them. More soldiers dropped down out of sheer exhaustion. Ernie and Ramon were going crazy. They had no more water. They kept on looking and looking and asking and asking for water, water, water. They were thirsty, very thirsty. Willie Jacinto was saying “water-water-water” at every step. The routine was breaking my nerves. I shouted at Willie… told him to “Shut up!” He did… and I cried. Then we saw a canal. Instinctively… we all dove into it. there was the dead body of a Negro floating in the stagnant water. But we drank it… and it was good. I took a precaution. I poured a little bit of iodine in my cup. Never did I like my drink more.

Afternoon came… and we rested under a tree. Here, three Americans joined us. One of them –a major– told Ramon: “Say you… move out of there… so I can get the shade.” Ramon didn’t like the way the American said it. The major forgot that the war was over for us at least… and that we were now equal. Ramon got sore, shouted: “I take no orders from American cowards.” The major reddened. “You talk of equality… but when I was in your country… despite my money… I couldn’t dance with your girls.” The American said: “That’s what you give us after fighting for you!” “Whattha hell!” said Tony. “Who’s fighting for whom?” “Why you mutts never even went near the front?”

We left after a few minutes. On the way… I saw Japs kicking Americans sitting on the roadside. The Japanese preferred to hit Americans rather than Filipinos. There were mestizos… who I guess in peace-time… wouldn’t associate with Filipinos… that came to our gang begging to join us… so that they would not be mistaken for Americans. I couldn’t help thinking: “Here were Filipinos, trying to save themselves by the drop of Filipino blood which they were ashamed of all their lives.”

We walked on. Hundreds of thoughts filled my mind. Before Lamao… the fields were full of craters. Hundreds of exposed corpses rotted in the fields. The Japs had concentrated total fire on this area. The fields were sown with unfired grenades, shells, bullets. Here and there were helmets… torn shrapnel… half buried by recent rains that kindly interred the heads to which they were strapped. I saw a Jap stealing the pocketbook of a dead trainee. I saw a Jap officer undress the corpse of an officer in the rain. Walking along, I saw here and there a clenched fist… an arm… a leg.

Lamao… I rested in a shack. Here we found a fellow called De Asis. He told me he was the brother of a friend of mine: Leocadio de Asis. He knew me, but I didn’t know him. He had a wound in his leg. He said he was hit by a grenade. Then we heard the whizzing of shells. More shells mingled with anti-aircraft fire. It was Corregidor. The Japs had started the offensive. “Let’s go,” said Ernie. “Let’s leave Bataan before the Rock shells this place.” So we all stood with one thought in our minds… walk and walk till we get out of Bataan. When we were all ready to start, I noticed De Asis still lying down. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “Never mind,” he said, “I can’t walk anymore. My feet are bleeding.”

It broke my heart to leave him. He tried to make it easy for us. “Go ahead,” he said, “if I were in your shoes… I’d leave you guys, too.” I looked back… when we were nearing the bend… and he was at the window… and he waved at us… and my tears just rolled down. It was every man for himself. What had war done to us?

We walked on and on. A Japanese officer met us. He was kind. He said: “Firipino, Manira; American, imprison.” We were happy. We would be free –at last. We walked on and on… with the thought that each step brought us nearer home.

Finally, we arrived in Orani. This is the neck of the peninsula of Bataan. Here there were many Japanese guards… and we were all concentrated. We were counted, searched. Then we were brought to Balanga –five kilometers away– in a hell of a concentration camp. We were not given food nor water. The men were doing their necessities all over the place. Johnnie laid his blanket on somebody’s manure. It was a hell of a place… but they told us once again: “You will go to Manila.” That was enough for me. I could and would endure anything as long as they brought me home where I can see mama and papa again. I think the same thought kept all of us alive. Maybe if I didn’t have a nice home… I wouldn’t have been able to walk on.

Morning came. Japanese guards woke us up with the butt of their rifles. I slept soundly. When you are tired, you can sleep anywhere, anyway… even in a mud-hole. Others who were too lazy to get up, never got up again. They were bayoneted to death. I have to give thanks that, up to then… not a single Jap ever laid hands on me. I was not robbed of a single cent, altho’ some of my companions were stripped of their watches, fountain pens and money.

We were told to walk again. Lubao was our next destination. Nobody talked of breakfast. It was better not to think of the things you couldn’t have. It only tortured you. Our sentry was kind. He allowed us to fill our canteens with water. We were fresh again. You can’t imagine the refreshing value of water. I felt like I could wak up to Manila. But after three or four kilometers… I was already tired. A few more minutes… and I was dragging my feet. My only consolation was that all my companions were also dragging their feet.

Car after car with Japanese passengers passed by us. Some of the cards belonged to my friends. Ernie shouted: “There’s my Buick!” I asked myself: “Is this Japan’s New Order?” I couldn’t help thinking: there we were –walking, crawling; there they were: riding, smoking. Is this what they called a co-prosperity sphere?

To the right and left of me… I could see fellow soldiers gradually losing strength. Now and then, older soldiers would drop down. Too exhausted. As we approached Pampanga… my heart skipped. At last, we were nearer Manila, nearer home. But that joy lasted only for a moment. I was thirsty… but I was not allowed to drink. A captain who drank anyway was killed. Was it a crime to drink?

We walked and walked… from sunrise to sunset and then till midnight… till dawn… without food, without water. Many dropped. Others dead. Some were killed. It was the survival of the fittest. Some sentries were kind. They would permit us ten minutes rest. Sometimes twenty. They realized that even an animal… a machine… has to rest. Then I would just lie down on the cement roads of Pampanga… and fall asleep because of sheer exhaustion.

Then finally I saw Bacolor. “My hometown,” said Ernie. But the houses were filled with naked men, bald-headed men… men in G-strings. They had even taken the houses. We passed by the church. It was full of boxes, of canned goods. It was transformed into a warehouse. Many men –Filipinos– walked with Japanese flags on their breasts. Houses were flying Jap flags. I thought: only yesterday, these men were waving the American and Filipino flags.

I noticed also that the people were afraid to even greet us…. as if we didn’t go through all this hell because we wanted to fight for them. But that is the irony of life. When you win, you are cheered. But when you are defeated…

But there were also some who dared cry. I do not like tears… but somehow I was happy to see eyes that were swollen and red. But then I hoped there would be no more tears. A woman was bayoneted for crying. But could she help it? Her son was among the group.

Then… in a nipa shack… we saw the family of Ernie. His mother was crying. They gave us bread and eggs. But I was too tired. I couldn’t eat it. The Jap sentry kicked Willie Gonzales out of the way… for handing us food. Ramon asked: is it a crime to eat?

We passed by the Pasudeco. The Japs also occupied it. Ernie said: “I own part of that central… but I can’t even eat a sugarcane.”

San Fernando was in ruins. The big church in the plaza was also converted into a bodega. What was left of the houses, were occupied by Japs. We were all dumped in San Fernando’s cockpit –about 6,000 of us– jammed in that “sabungan” with a capacity for 900. You can imagine how we slept. I was half-seated, half-standing. That’s how I stayed the whole night. Here –at last– I was able to get a glass of water, thanks to Marcial Lichauco. He came over to visit us. Jorge de Leon was with him. I asked Jorge to tell Papa that I was alive and kicking.

Then I succumbed to fever. My temperature was probably around 40… but I felt like I had 50. But I was determined to carry on. In cases like this, one must steel himself and muster his fighting spirit. I could remember Papa’s lecture when I was a high school swimmer in La Salle: “Never give up. Fight to the last lap.”

Early morning, we were told to get up with kicks and butt strokes. We were made to walk to the railway station. There we were dumped in baggage cars. Imagine about 80 dirty, sickly, sweating men… locked in one of those iron baggage cars. There we were… struggling and groping for air. Many fainted. Some were moaning. Others suffocated. Some were trying to break the floors. Others said they were dying. The train chugged on… and on… and on… Oh, why did it travel so slowly? There I was… with two mutts on my stomach… and my head cramped between Godo Reyes’ legs. But I didn’t mind… because there was a little hole… and I could get a whiff of air. I couldn’t help thinking: there are many wonderful things on earth -like the air we breathe- that we take for granted. That was the first time I realized its importance.

At last we arrived in Capas, Tarlac. The door of the baggage car was opened. You ought to have seen the boys breathing in the first whiff of fresh air. You would have thought that was the last time they would breathe!

We marched in fours… to O’Donnell… the concentration camp… where most of us were destined to die. There were thousands of Tarlaqueños at the station. They lined the roadside. They were crying… many of them… men, women, children. They threw bread, rice, sugar, panocha… and everything they could get a hold of. I couldn’t help crying. Every 200 meters they placed cans of water. Here was real Filipino patriotism and kindness. The Japs couldn’t stop them. They shouted: “Heroes! Mabuhay!” Some were looking for their brothers, sons, fathers. A woman asked: “Si Mr. Julian?” When they told her… they didn’t know.. she gave out the food she prepared for him. I couldn’t hold my tears anymore. I just let them roll down my cheeks. Our fight was, after all, not in vain, I thought. At least, here were people that appreciated it. But I tried to control my tears… Because I didn’t want my friends to see me crying. But when I dared look at them… I saw that they were also wiping their eyes. The Japanese guards then gave up the attempt to drive the people away. What they did was to help the civilians give us food. A Japanese guard handed a panocha to me… and he pointed at a pretty girl who took pity on me. For the first time, I realized the truth of Rizal’s words: “No hay verdugos donde no hay esclavos.”

We finally reached O’Donnell.

In a field… facing the headquarters of the American commander… we were made to stand at attention. I was dizzy standing there in the heat… with my fever. Many others were at the point of dropping down… we tried our best to stand straight. General Francisco stood before us… and explained: “the head of this camp will talk to you. Be sure to stay at attention, or you will be shot.”

The Japanese commander arrived. He stood on the platform with an air of arrogance. He said: “I am Capt. Shineyosi. I am head of this camp. If you have no behave, you will be killed. Why you fight Japan? She is your friend. She wants to free the suffering people of Asia. The Asiatics have long been oppressed by the Whites. Now the whiles will be made to suffer…” And at this point, he made a dramatic gesture and pointed at the American prisoners on the other side of the fence. There were the Americans, bent. They were carrying pails of water… fixing the road… building fences. They were being kicked, butt-struck, bayoneted. I saw an old American being carried by two young bearded aviators. I saw many falling down out of sheer exhaustion. I saw Japanese faces laughing at them… kicking and hitting them. I couldn’t help but pity them… although my heart was bitter at the way Americans discriminated racially against Filipinos. These men were not entirely to blame. They were brought up in a stupid atmosphere that made them believe they were superior to the brown man. But there they were –kicked, hit by brown men. It was a picture of racial vindication… but it was also a picture of the heartlessness of war. Why should these few men… be the ones to endure the stupidities of centuries?

I was assigned to Group II and made regimental adjutant in the concentration camp. Col. Abla was our group commander. He gave us a talk: “You have to behave. Only yesterday, three boys were shot for disrespectfulness towards Japanese soldiers.”

Life in the concentration camp was quite hard. Food was scarce. All we had was a ball of rice… as big as your fist, and salt. There was hardly any water. We had to get it from the river. One could take only two cups a day… and it was boiled mud water.

There was an average of about 400 deaths a day. Many soldiers were suffering from malaria, dysentery, and deficiency diseases. The Japs, however, prohibited the Red Cross from helping the sick. If you got appendicitis, for example, it was your tough luck.

There was a hospital, but only in name. It had –to begin with– no facilities: no cotton, no medicine… and not even water. I know because I have seen that many of those who became insane in that hospital could have been saved, if they could have been given just one glass of water. I never saw such a hospital in my life. It was really a morgue… a waiting room where all the sick are piled… there to die and then to be buried.

I got sicker still in camp. Not having had a bath… for almost three weeks… I walked around with a shirt. My shirt was hard with dried sweat and I couldn’t stand my own smell. One morning… when I woke up… I noticed that I had a fever, and I was coughing. Carlos Vergel de Dios, a fellow prisoner, took care of me. He gave me a sponge bath. My fever went down. There I was lying on the floor, with wood for a pillow. I missed mama and my soft bed.

Then the next day… my fever went down to 39 degrees.

Write on Japan and the Japanese… how gradually my mind has changed… asia for the asiatics… banzai!


April 8, 1942 (April 8-9)

Morning

After the general heard my report, I took the field telephone and asked for Bat 108 –Manny’s code name in Corregidor. “What’s up, Primo?” he asked. I said: “the line in the east sector won’t hold. By tonight, the Japs will be here. Tell Leonie to stay there.” Manny didn’t believe me, but I was in no mood to argue… so I said: “So long, Primo… If I get home first… I’ll tell the folks you’re O.K.” Ten minutes later, the field phone rang again. I thought it was Leonie… but I was wrong. It was Oscar. “Say, Phil,” he said… “this is the end. I’m in Kilometer 165.5 with all my troops. Where shall I go?” Oscar sounded serious… in fact, nervous. I knew what had happened. The Japs had already broken through and there was general disorganization. The reserve lines had also probably been captured. It was as Oscar said “the end.” I told Oscar to retreat to kilometer 182.2 near Mariveles… because all Filipino troops were going there. “We better stick together,” I explained, “because the Japs might give us better treatment.” Oscar didn’t answer immediately… then he said, “O.K. kid… I’ll bring my men there. Good luck… and if you see Ramon… tell the old fellow not to be nervous.” That was just like Oscar… joking at a serious moment. For all his carefree, devil-may-care attitude… we needed more men like him in Bataan. To begin with… he had no business volunteering. But he did. General Valdes told him he would be a fool to leave his wife and two-day-old baby. But he did… and he told me one evening: “Phil… if I don’t ever get home… tell my kid why I fought. Tell him… I wanted him to be able to tell the other boys… ‘My father fought for his country.'”

At 6 p.m. –sunset– the phone rang again. “It’s me… Oscar… waiting for you in 182.2.” His retreat was a success.

That night, I burned all my papers, all records… including my diary. It pained me to see that diary go. It helped me a lot. Sometimes when I was very depressed… I wrote all my feelings on its pages…. and I felt better afterwards. But orders were orders. “Burn everything” said the General (De Jesus) nervously… and so everything was burnt.

I slept at Kilometer 182.2 that night, besides Ramon Pamintuan. Gatas Santos was also there. We didn’t know that later in the evening we would have a reunion. Ramon was pale and yellow… shivering with malaria. Gatas was looking fine but he was worried about his white skin. “They might take me for an American,” he said. Later in the evening, Johnny arrived. He was thin, exhausted… but not to exhausted to tell us all about his narrow escapes and the way his car ceased to be a car because of a bomb. Then Godofredo Reyes showed up. I didn’t recognize him in the dark, because I had not seen him for a long time and he had a beard. Then came Hector Unson, who I thought was isolated by Jap patrols in Batangas on Dec. 29. He said he heard I died in Corregidor. It turned out we were praying for each other’s soul. At about eleven o’clock Ernie Es. popped in. He had come from guard duty and he was cursing because it was not his turn to guard. Then Tony Nieva arrived. He was fagged out, sunburnt, and very thin. We gave him the little food we had, because he said he had not eaten for two days. He explained that his men were almost surrounded by the advance patrols of the Japanese, because the Americans ran away without notifying him. It was a reunion alright… but a sad one. We thought we would meet each other in Manila in some victory banquet… not on the night of defeat. But as things turned out… there we were… gathering on the dry bed of a stream… not knowing what the morning had in store for us. Would the Japanese kill us? Would they imprison us? Would they free us? We were discussing those questions throughout the night, I was thinking of escaping, thru the mountains of Bagac via Zambales. But they said… ‘Let’s stick together… till the end.’ We talked of our happy days in Manila… the way we used to run around town… Jai Alai… Casa Mañana… Manila Hotel… drinking, dancing, feasting…I also thought of Nini. It was her birthday –April 9.

I guess we were all changed men… and we all agreed that we didn’t regret our experience. I don’t think any of us were the worse for the hardships we endured. They had made men out of us… and above all… it put our country on the map. It was not all in vain. That’s what I was thinking of… when the ground began to shake and the stones in the stream started to roll. It was an earthquake. Was God going to rescue us in the final hour? My heart beat fast… I was sure something would happen… to turn the tide of defeat… but nothing did…and I waited and waited till I fell asleep.


April 8, 1942

Bataan

Saw a big rat eating what looked like the arm of a soldier strewn near a stream in H.P.D.

Saw more troops –hollow-eyed, wasted, exhausted, lips parched with thirst, eyes wild with starvation.

Saw corpses of brave men, courageous men being buried by friends, comrades-in-arms.

All troops are moving to Mariveles, the southernmost tip of Bataan. After that is the sea –Beyond is Corregidor, still flying the flag.

Saw the staff car of Gen. Lim. He was riding fast to Mariveles. He looked thin, worried, and his hair was white.

Prayed, prayed, prayed. Prayed for victory. Prayed for myself. For the dying and DEAD.

Will pray some more. In the hour of defeat, there is only prayer.

(later)

Staff-meeting. Very sad, pathetic, gloomy, funeral-like. There were tears in all our eyes. “We are in the saddest moment in our nation’s history,” said the General.

All around us were fires, supply dumps burning, hospitals afire, cars, trucks hit by incendiaries. Great columns of smoke everywhere.

The telephone rang again. It was Oscar Arellano. He talked to me and he said: “Where shall I go with my troops?” He asked: “Are there any orders?” I said: “Go to Mariveles.”

The General said: “Our unit is disbanded. We cannot surrender as members of the Intelligence Service. Let us say that we belong to the 41st Division or any unit you please. The Japs will torture us if they know we have been engaged in espionage work. The general could speak no more.

Fred arrived. He said he went to the coast to look for bancas to row up to Corregidor but there were none.

Officers were conjecturing: “What will the Japs do to us? Will they shoot on sight? Will they torture us? Will they imprison us? Shall we die fighting? Shall we keep a bullet for ourselves? Shall we swim to Corregidor? What about the sharks? What shall we do? Oh Lord what shall we do?

More and more troops retreating to Mariveles. We are also packing up and moving to Mariveles. Took one last look in the direction of the front: it was one phantasmagoria of swirling clouds of red dust, roaring tanks moving men and dust-caked units, crawling on blood-red earth….

8 p.m.

Can feel earth shaking. Terrific explosions. The Americans are blowing up all ammunition dumps.

The General has ordered us to “Burn all papers.”

I don’t have the heart to burn this. I’ll tell my sergeant to do it for me.

(later — 10:10 p.m.)

Fred is crying. He said he saw troops carrying — white flags.


April 6, 1942

HQ, Bataan

 

 

More men retreating, more stragglers, the rear area has become the front. Japs keep on following their gains, bombing, shelling, blasting, burning, shooting, bayoneting. They have been waiting for this hour. Blood is flowing freely…

Evacuee area is a most pitiful sight. Saw women and children gathered around the cinders of their former dwellings, begging for food, bewildered by the terrific advance of the Japanese.

From morning to sunset, the hillsides and shell-burnt roads have been brown with bleeding men –the remnants of the Filipino-American forces. These are the men who have electrified the world with their glorious stand.

Saw troops of the 41st lying on the ground near Mariveles. Most of them were thin, emaciated, yellow with malaria. Many were dying. Others were blind to due to vitamin deficiencies. Some did not have even strength to drive the flies crawling on their bodies. When planes hovered above, they did not move, they did not care to move. Death would be a welcome respite.

Japs advancing fiercely, killing mercilessly, bayoneting with unleashed fury.

Already the flies, the hawks and the pariah dogs have found the dying & dead. Saw a big rat bite off a dead man’s eye.

Still no order to surrender. Fight must continue. Bleeding must continue. Dying must continue. Can hear roar of machine-guns. More & more boys dying, by the minute.

 

(later)

 

Received a phone-call from Manny de Leon from Corregidor. He said “Leonie is very ill.” I gave him my regards and farewell. I told him the lines had broken. After that our telephone went dead.