February 21, 1945

Weeks have passed since the start of a thorough attack on the south of the Pasig. The battle was bloody and although there were heaps of Japanese fatalities, there were very few prisoners. American casualties were heavy. The front line ran along behind San Luis Street, behind the Casino Español, City Hall up to Quezon Bridge. American artillery is demolishing the palace of the High Commissioner, the Army and Navy Club, the Bayview Hotel and the government buildings east of the Wallace Field. City Hall and the Post Office building also received their share of shells.

The shelling of Intramuros has begun. The Japanese are using the walls as mortar positions and defense walls. They launched a mortar attack on the tower of the UST main building, and another on the Education building.

American firing during the day is incessant, and by night, formidable. They are pulverizing the buildings between Taft Avenue and Burgos Street, and those of the Luneta. The clouds of smoke rise like a black torrent surging from the horizon and enveloping the sky. We are worried about the fate of the residents of Intramuros, trapped within its walls. We can only foresee unspeakable anguish and torture and a bloody agony in the hands of their tormentors.

The number of persons imprisoned is calculated to be around seven thousand, among whom were some forty missionaries, mostly Spanish, and some Filipino and Spanish Sisters.

The High Command, before dealing the final blow in Intramuros, appealed to the Japanese defenders to surrender in order to save so many innocent lives. Not receiving any response, they proposed the alternative of letting the civilians free with the assurance that all firing will cease for four hours. The time specified elapsed and no one went out.

The remaining Japanese troops are incessantly putting to action their plan of murder, suicide and devastation.

What are the Japanese achieving by these killings — of others and of themselves? By this destruction of the city and its landmarks? Instead of saving their faces, Oriental style, they will pass into eternity stigmatized by their barbarism and vandalism, and eternally hated by the Filipino people and nations whose citizens they have massacred.


February 20, 1945

Let us shift our view for a while from this scenario of horrors, and take a look at the Manila of the liberators, as it was narrated to me.

The American High Command has not failed to notice the vandalistic scheme of the Japanese in the attempt to save themselves with the City and with the residents of the Capital, of converting the city into a heap of rubble and killing all the inhabitants, starting with the internees in Santo Tomas.

This was confirmed by some well-meaning Japanese. The program of destruction, murder and suicide, which is being launched in the southern zone is also being planned for the northern section. Written orders to this effect had been found and brought by the guerillas to the headquarters of General MacArthur.

The Japanese did not expect the American advance forces at the approach to Manila until about the 6th or 7th of February, so that on the 3rd, it was supposed that the front line was about fifty kilometers from Balintawak. On the eve of this day, at about 8:00 o’clock, the priests and internees of Santo Tomas heard tanks penetrating through España street. They posted themselves in front of the gate of the University campus. Lights went on and illuminated the buildings. Jubilant shouts and outbursts of joy were heard from the detainees who barely perceived that their liberation was forthcoming. In a few moments, volleys sounded from within and without the campus. The tanks and machine-guns replied. A number of soldiers and guerillas who served as guides fell, among them Manuel Colayco and the young Kierulf who died later. Absolute silence. Total darkness. Then the lead tank barged in through the fence into the campus, followed by seven others and by twenty trucks loaded with troops, the first with lights on, the others without lights. They reached the front of the Main building. Another shout and welcome from the prisoners. A new discharge of fire from the Japanese defenders, and then another sepulchral silence. The monstrous caterpillars kept advancing along the sides of the building until they were positioned one at each alley. Some internees started fraternizing with the liberators and received their first cigarettes, biscuits and canned goods. Other tanks positioned themselves towards the gymnasium and the Education building.

So passed the night.

At daybreak, the capture of the Gymnasium. There were Japanese soldiers there guarding the prisoners. But they fled into the darkness. The Americans scoured the place fearing that the Japanese had hidden themselves in a nearby grassy area. But they could not be found.

Later, the conquest of the Education building. There were some seventy Japanese soldiers dispersed behind the detainees. The Americans appealed to the Japanese to surrender. No response. They were promised to be let free out of the campus. Negative. They were promised to be transported with their arms up to the Japanese lines. The Japanese conceded, and in two trucks they were transported up to the Rotonda.

That was how the campus which had imprisoned some four thousand internees, and, incidentally, occupants of the seminary, was recaptured. But they were so far the only liberated buildings together with those near Malacañang. The rest of the city, during the night of the 3rd and the whole day of the 4th, were still not re-occupied, except in the sense that the liberators were almost in the middle of the capital. But there was only a handful of American troops who had entered the enemy territory. It was a blow which was as bold as it was daring.

The First Cavalry, dismounted but motorized, had left Cabanatuan two days before. As it was left behind forty kilometers from the main body of the advance forces, it opened up a road through Novaliches and Balintawak, Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard, spitting machinegun shells against Japanese troops and trucks they encountered along the way, and penetrating almost into the heart of the city. They were about a thousand men surrounded by Japanese forces bent on defending the city. Their audacity rattle the enemy. If the Japanese had a foreknowledge of the small number of the infiltrating forces, and had they organized a rapid and decisive attack on the Americans, the liberating forces would have been annihilated. They had thirty-six hours to do it and they faltered. Thus were saved the First Cavalry, the American prisoners and the north of Manila.

In the morning of the 5th, when the Japanese initiated a disorganized attack from España street, from Far Eastern University and from Bilibid, the 37th Division had already penetrated the City from the north and from the east, joining the liberators of Santo Tomas, and jointly re-occupying Quezon City and the sector of Manila north of Azcarraga. Malacañan and Bilibid, where some one thousand two hundred seventy war and civil prisoners were detained including those who came from Baguio, were also liberated.

The Japanese began their program of destruction. They placed cans of gasoline and mines in big buildings of the Escolta, and surrounding streets, and destroyed fire engines and equipments. They blew up and burned buildings, and the uncontrollable fires razed the whole of the commercial district from Azcarraga to the Pasig.

On the 6th, the Americans positioned themselves along the Pasig River. The whole northern region was thus liberated, although small groups of Japanese continued burning clusters of houses and forcing the Filipinos under their control to do the same. On the 7th, the battle of the Philippine General Hospital shelled the north of the city, especially the University of Santo Tomas which suffered fifty to sixty hits, mostly on the construction of P. Ruaño, the principal target of the Japanese guns. There was a lamentable number of casualties, some forty dead and three hundred wounded among the recently liberated. In the Education building, five were wounded. In the Seminary, there were only two slight casualties, a priest and a househelp. The attack lasted forty-eight hours.

The Japanese blew up the four bridges across the Pasig. On the 7th, further beyond Malacañan, five battalions of the 37th Division crossed the river in tanks and amphibian trucks and, after fierce fighting, they opened up a path through the cleared areas of Paco and the Gas factory. The Japanese defenders started converting each house and building into a fortress, burning them and killing their occupants when they had to abandon their posts.

In the meantime, the 11th Airborne Division, after a successful landing in Tagaytay, advanced until they joined the first wave at the southern approaches to the capital through Baclaran and Nichols Field. They mopped up these areas, destroying one hundred Japanese fighter planes and capturing seventy-five pieces of artillery and one hundred and twelve machineguns. They then proceeded towards Pasay. The cavalry made a second crossing of the Pasig through Sta. Ana. After a bitter house-to-house fighting, they drove back the Japanese from the hippodrome and from Makati. They then joined the 37th Division near the Paco Railroad station, and the 11th Airborne at the north of the Polo Club.

With these reunited forces, the Japanese defenses in Manila have been isolated and pushed back in Singalong, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Intramuros and the Port Area. American advance is slow. They are not employing the air force and they use the artillery with moderation for the sake of the civilians. The soulless defenders entrench themselves behind houses and concrete buildings, devoting their time more to arson and murder rather than in fighting the liberators. The Americans, in a rapid execution of strategy, were able to save some seven thousand refugees at the General Hospital before the vandals could effect their diabolic plans.


February 18, 1945

The evenings are a nightmare. They bring a rosary of shocks produced by powerful guns which, from New Manila and Grace Park, strike at Ermita and Intramuros, shaking the air, the earth, the doors and the nerves. Projectiles fly over our heads, whistling their funereal song of destruction. We cannot look at them: we can only follow their trajectory with our ears. Mortars from the Far Eastern University and the Osmeña Park batter the eardrums with metallic poundings. Machine guns, crackling like coffee grinders –Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac! rattle in, from behind, at the sides, in search of Japanese snipers. The fires from the Japanese side which reach our vicinity add to the confusion. A mortar hit the tower of the main building where the Americans had set up an observation post, and from which General MacArthur observed enemy lines this morning. Others fell on the Education building and on the intern’s garden. However, there were no casualties.

But more shattering than the dissonant harmony of war engines is the news about the tragedies suffered by survivors who escaped from the southern part of the city. The accounts are so terrifying and so macabre that my spirit was filled with infinite bitterness, and I wept with tears of pain and indignation. From the sadness and sympathy arose an impotent anger against the infernal forces which vented its desperation and hate among the civilian populace. So many families of acquaintances and friends exterminated. So many mutilated. So many who escaped the Japanese hell lost everything but their lives. The hospitals –the few old ones which still remain, and a number of improvised ones– are filled with the wounded, whose hands or feet or body are perforated with bullets or shrapnels. Many are searching desperately for their lost loved ones. Manila is a picture of sadness impossible to describe.

The Japanese plan of attack against the defenseless Manilans is as diabolic as it is organized. Its defense strategy consists in positioning themselves behind the civilian residents, and as the conquerors advance within a dangerous distance, they flee or burn the buildings and retreat a few blocks backwards. They machinegun the residents who attempt to put out the fire or run for their lives. The only way to save themselves is to jump into a ditch and stay there. Anyone who raises his head is fired at. They stay for four to eight days without eating or drinking, tortured by a rabid thirst. I was told of cases where persons, dying of thirst, drank human blood mixed with mud.

In many cases, the soldiers would approach the ditches and kill the occupants with bayonets. That was how they killed the De La Salle Brothers –Irish and Germans–, the Padres Paules of San Marcelino among whom were Fr. Visitator Tejada and Fr. José Fernández, and Irish Fathers of Malate, together with the evacuees in their buildings. The same fate fell on fifty others, almost all of whom were Spanish, who took shelter in the Spanish consulate. Aside from being attacked with bayonets, they were also attacked with hand grenades. Only a little girl escaped alive.

Another way of liquidating the people is by herding them into a house and setting fire to it, at the same time hurling hand grenades inside. Anyone who attempts to escape is shot.

There were frequent cases where soldiers threw hand grenades into the ditches or air raid shelters, and those who attempted to escape were hunted like animals. In order to economize on bullets, the assassins usually would tie entire families to post or pillars and kill them with bayonets. It was not rare that a hundred or more persons were lined up and machinegunned.

In the shelter at the German Club, some four hundred persons of different nationalities were attacked and massacred by drunken soldiers. Only about half a dozen escaped. The young Enrique Miranda, son of Telesforo Miranda Sampedro, told me that his mother and five brothers were taken by the Japanese. He did not know what happened to them. We learned later that their bodies were found mangled –those of his two brothers, in the street. Enrique said that he was made to kneel down and they hit him on his neck. He lost consciousness. He came to his senses when a soldier was prickling him with the point of his bayonet to find out if he was already dead. He tried to bear the pain and feigned death. The soldier covered him with earth. He was able to bore a hole through which he breathed. Later, he squeezed himself out and, bleeding all over, he hid among the stones until he was found by the Americans.

In Singalong, the Japanese marines gathered the men to send them on forced labor. The men were made to line up and were herded on groups of ten into houses where their heads were cut off. As those who were in the streets could not hear anything, they entered the houses confidently, believing they were only to register their names. A son of Mr. Ynchausti, among others, escaped, but was badly wounded.

It was providential that in almost all cases, someone among the victims was able to escape and was able to relate the fate of his companions.

The Japanese installed machineguns on the towers of the Paco and Singalong churches, not to counterattack the approaching Americans but to mow down the residents –men, women and children– who might attempt to flee. The Remedios Hospital and the San Andres agricultural school, where thousands of escapees had taken shelter, were shelled with mortars and even Japanese anti- aircraft guns. Many, however, were also killed by American bombs.

Very few persons escaped unscathed from the southern xone. There were countless wounded and it was almost impossible to attend to them all in spite of the fact that the doctors and nurses, both Americans and Filipinos, worked beyond their limits. The suicidal and homicidal plan of the Japanese, according to superior orders, was to exterminate the whole population and annihilate themselves. Survivors attributed their survival to a miracle and to a special favor of Providence. Many promises and vows were made and each escapee had his heartrending tragedy to tell.

The savagery displayed by the Imperial Army is as brutal as it was unexpected or, better still, it is doubly brutal for being unexpected. There were fears, and it was expected, that the Japanese would not hand over the city on a silver platter, but we could not believe that their ferocity would reach such a point of diabolic savagery.

The phantom of hunger not only hovers over the people. It holds the people captive in their claws. There is nothing to buy in stores and marketplaces. And where there are goods, there is no money with which to buy them. The occupation money has been reduced to what it is –scratch paper. The new Victory bills which the U.S. Army brought along, are still hardly in circulation. Those fortunate ones who live in the liberated zone have exhausted the supplies of rice and mongo. Parents and friends of escapees from the Japanese hell who were given refuge by those in the north are creating problems of food supply.

The American Red Cross, the PCAU and the soldiers themselves try to assist the hungry people, but there are so many of them and here is just not enough supply for all. I met a number of friends whom I hardly remembered, especially those who escaped from the claws of the Japanese and who had been reduced to skin and bones. There were also those who had been wounded or mutilated. The liberating troops, as they advance step by step, house by house, perform the dual function of combatants and Samaritan, gathering the survivors, assisting them with their own rations and transporting them to the rearguard. The wounded are transported by the Red Cross, the officers of the chaplains to improvised hospitals at the north of the Pasig. The able bodied travel in the way they could, searching for the members of their families who were separated in fleeing from Japanese fire and vandalism. Hungry and thirsty, they roam the streets as souls in agony, broken and ragged, pale and sweating under the heat of the sun, looking for people they know, and recounting their own horrors and those of others.


Manila, February 15, 1945

A provost official –one of the many new friends with whom we had been fraternizing– offered me a trip to Manila in his jeep. I accepted willingly, in order to have a personal knowledge of what is happening in the Capital.

We left at 7:00 in the evening and we were at Balintawak by midnight. It was a very fast trip by the standards of these times. All the bridges had been blown up by the Japanese and had been replaced by pontoon bridges constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The way these soldiers are working is admirable.

We did not attempt to enter the city. Shelling was very intense. We spent the night in the jeep, parked in the middle of thick grasses. I did not sleep a wink as I watched the shrubs and grasses move, not by the wind but by some snipers. I heard the thundering booms of the guns and the whistling flight of shells as they rent the air over our heads, while in the city, vast columns of smoke were rising and big fires were raging.

At the break of day I entered the main gate of the University for the first time in three years. I found the Seminary filled with refugees. Most of them came from this northern sector of Manila where several blocks of houses had been burned by fire caused by Japanese, or started by Filipinos who had been paid or forced to burn them. The Education building has been converted to a hospital for civilian casualties who came from the south in uncontrollable influx.

The internees are still living in the main building in other smaller ones. They were huddled in rooms and corridors, but free, happy, well fed and properly clothed. Many of them are gradually recovering from their skeletal countenance and their cadaveric paleness due to starvation under the Japanese regime.

During these past months, some eight to twelve internees were dying daily; the others are so weak they cannot stand on their feet. The beehive activities on the campus, with the incessant buzzing produced by the movements, the coming and going of soldiers, internees, refugees and vehicles are in contrast with the sepulchral silence of this place.


February 10, 1945

We received some evacuees who passed through fields which were not yet liberated. They told us that there are thousands of them in Alacan, a barrio of San Fabian where they are attended to by the Red Cross and the PCAU. They were fleeing from the Japanese soldiers who devoted themselves to pillage, rape and murder of people who fell into their hands. The people are fleeing to the mountains, looking for occasions to cross the line of fire.

We also had under our shelter seven Belgian Sisters from Tubao, with two missionary priests. They were picked up by the Red Cross and brought to this Sanctuary. Thousands of others are being assisted and transported to places behind the lines. We know nothing about those who are at the other side of the battlefield, and we are expecting the worst.


February 4, 1945

The advance troops of the liberators entered Manila last night after thirty-seven long months since the remaining troops of the USAFFE retreated to Bataan. We cannot tell how many districts of Manila are already liberated. News dispatches are a little confused. All we are sure of is that the first place recaptured is the University of Santo Tomas with all its residents, priests and internees. We were told that the rest of the city had been turned into a battlefield, won not amidst psalms and cheers but amidst firings and shellings “…that this city and all its people might be protected…”

The conquest of the Central Plain of Luzon was a successful one. The 210 kilometers between the Gulf of Lingayen and the City of Manila were negotiated in 27 hours instead of 27 days. Except in Bamban and Stotsenberg where the enemy had attacked from the nearby hills, the Yankee war machinery rolled through the wide open fields without opposition.

The enemy had lost the battle of Luzon when it allowed the gigantic invading equipment to land unopposed. In the open fields, the Japanese could not put up a fight. They preferred to retreat in disarray, dispersed like scared rabbits as the mechanized columns of the invaders rolled by. Yamashita’s strategy was to convert the mountain ranges of Caraballo and Zambales into another Bataan, in the manner of MacArthur’s defense three years ago. The Imperial Army was entrenched in the rugged mountains without roads and almost without any footpaths, turning each mountain into a fortress, each hill into a machinegun nest and each cliff into a trench. They dug a complex of tunnels of communications through the mountain where they hid and installed their artillery. They fired from the mouths of the tunnel to avoid being localized by the American Air Force and artillery. The Americans had to destroy these subterranean hideouts one by one. Not only did they blow up these artillery nests. They chased those who manned the guns and flushed the others out of the caves and tunnels who defended themselves like corralled beasts.

Under this mode of defense, it was not necessary to launch big battles nor heavy attacks nor fighting on a grand scale, nor mechanized campaigns. It was a work of mopping up, a fight of a group of hunters against a group of game animals. The air force, the tanks and armoured cars were hardly of any use. Only the rifles, flame throwers and hand grenades were effectively utilized. It was a slow, tedious, lousy and bloody fight.


January 31, 1945

There is no Foreign Legion in the American Army. But there is one particular group composed of daring characters who court death and who are sent on missions behind enemy lines. These are the “Rangers”. When sent on missions they do not wear the military uniform in order not to be detected by the enemy, but a special one by which they will not be mistaken for spies.

Two of these rangers, one of whom is a Mexican friend of ours, came last night from a humanitarian assignment. They narrated that there are a hundred of them, guided by 200 guerrillas who have penetrated the enemy lines sixty kilometers towards Cabanatuan where some 500 American war prisoners are being detained. After a brief battle all the Japanese soldiers were killed. They had a hard time convincing the prisoners that they had come to liberate, not to kill them. The prisoners could not believe them. Many of the prisoners had to be carried because of their weakness. Two of the rangers and twenty guerrillas were killed in the operations. The liberated prisoners were brought to hospitals in various towns of Pangasinan until they could be transported to their country.

No one can explain why there are hardly 500 prisoners in Cabanatuan when there were an estimated 10,000 of them in 1942. How many had died of hunger, sickness or torture, or brought out of the Philippines or died in Japanese boats sunk by American submarines or planes? We doubt if any satisfactory explanation could be made on this. All we have now was a cold fact, as sad as it was eloquent.

In September of last year, after the first American air attack on Manila, some 1,500 American prisoners were loaded in a boat for Formosa. The boat was sunk by American planes and only 600 were rescued. Such is the cruel and ironic tragedy of war.


January 27, 1945

We would frequently meet soldiers who say, “I am Spanish.” Curious as to how there could be Zamorans in the U.S. Army we asked one of them:

“From what province are you?”

“From California”. And he explained, “My father was Spanish and my mother Mexican, and I am an American citizen. We’ve just arrived and we feel like talking in Spanish. Tomorrow we might be dumped into another place where there are Japanese still remaining.”

They took pride in talking about their countrymen, and we enjoyed listening to their sweet accent and diction, their picturesque expression and their language interspersed with hispanized English words.

We came across some authentic Spanish who told us he was from Sevilla or from León or from Valencia. There was even one who insisted in referring to himself as an “Asturian from Texas”.

“In the Army” one officer told us, “there are no socialists nor communists as there are no Democrats or Republicans.” Among the Mexicans with whom we chatted, there are no partisans — Toledans or pro-Tolstoy or pro-Stalin. They are all good Catholics.

Also with the expeditionary forces were thousands of Filipinos who were connected with the auxiliary services. Fighting in the first lines were the locally enlisted Filipinos, especially the guerrillas who served as links to the American forces. They are excellent combatants. Unfortunately, though, many dissident elements in Tarlac and Pampanga would pass as guerrillas and they would attack the Americans. The Army, unable to distinguish the grain from the thistle, had to dissolve all groups — Sakdalistas and genuine guerrillas alike, confiscating all arms until they could clear the area and pick out the marauders from the same elements. The communist threat is real and is transcendental.

As long as the Army is in control, they will be able to keep the different dissident groups in check. But the day the politicians return to power, the political leaders of Moscow and Tokyo will be back to fish in the confused river of politics. We know who’s winning in war. But who’s going to win in peace?

Wars can be won by force of arms; peace can be gained only by justice — justice tempered with charity. To win in the grand final battle there is a need for men, organization, equipment and supplies. To win the peace, all these are needed, directed by the powers of the spirit. The course and recourse of these faculties is charity. I do not know of any other antidote to hatred than love, nor any other antidote to avarice, pride and ambition than charity!

If hatred is to win the war, what kind of peace shall we expect? Were the millions of lives lost sacrificed to this end?

“I don’t mind losing my life”, an officer told me a few days ago, “but I would certainly want to lose it for a noble cause.”

What these soldiers have to contend with is not Germany or Japan, both of which have already been defeated, but Russia or, if we might personify, Stalin.


Manaoag, January 25, 1945

When I passed by Mangaldan two days ago, I did not see anything special. On my way back, I saw several hundreds of planes in a very wide field. The technology brought along by these Americans can convert a rice field into an airfield within a few hours.