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.
“No man is great in the eyes of his valet.” They said that Napoleon used to say this. But the driver of General MacArthur thinks otherwise. This driver was assigned to me when I had a hard time looking for a vehicle to bring three Fathers to Lingayen. He told me that everyday, except today, he drove the General to the front line, but never did they take the same route twice. I asked him how he was able to memorize the complicated network of streets in so short a time, but he replied that it was not he, but the General, who knew the roads as well as the driver knew his hometown roads. The General was using a jeep which was no different from the thousands of others which the Army brought along. He narrated to me that once they had to cross a river across a pair of unstable wood plunks. He asked the General to get off while he drove the jeep across lest the General fell off and drown. But the General said, “If I fall, you also fall.” And he refused to get off.
The preceding night was the first time one in which the thunderous boom of 12-inch guns was heard at a distance. But a stray shell shook the house and the nerves of its occupants. Inch by inch the Americans hunted the Japanese, flushing them out of their mountain nests, some of which were settled, about 20 kilometers from Manaoag, along the length of San Manuel through Sison, Camp One, Rosario, Damortis. The sad part of it is that the Japanese are using guns which they had pulled out of Bataan and Corregidor, killing Yankees with Yankee guns.
In Manaoag, the shellings, bombings and mortar fire make us feel and live the war anew. Here in Lingayen the air force prevents us from forgetting the war. Like bees around the hive, at every hour of the day, these giant bees keep buzzing around the air field. To make matters worse, the howling of engines reached our place as the planes took off or landed. They flew so low we felt we could reach them with our hands.
One day the American troops were delayed in arriving at Manaoag in recapturing the fifteen kilometers which separated it from San Fabian. It took them one week to advance eleven kilometers to Pozorrubio. The cause was the Pugaros. The troops that landed in Lingayen went directly to Manila in forced marches which were not really forced. They could have advanced and come within a few days in an unprecedented blitzkrieg. But the Japanese had retreated to the eastern and western mountain ranges, and the liberators feared flank attacks which would isolate their vanguard from the main body of the Army. In spite of having slowed down their march, their provisions hardly caught up with them. The High Command had estimated that they could enter Manila by the end of March. Now they expected to make it on the first week of February.
There was another surprise for us since we sang hossana in praise of those who came in the name of the Lord. We feared that the Japanese air force would not give a moment of respite to the fleet and the landed troops, with successive bombings by suicide squads. At least this was what the Japanese radio and press reported every time a landing was made. The Americans just laughed off the reports of Radio Tokyo about the damage suffered by the American convoys and forces, with hundreds of ships sunk and entire divisions annihilated.
Almost every night, the air raid signal rang out, but it was seldom that a Japanese plane penetrated through, coming in a suicide attempt as it was caught between anti-aircraft fire and the clutches of some night fighters which patrolled the occupied areas. It was seldom that a desperate Japanese plane succeeded in dropping a bomb among the innumerable ships anchored on the Gulf. What happened to the zero fighters and the Wild Eagles whose exploits were so much praised by the Tokyo radio? In Lingayen, the Japanese left behind more than fifty planes, and more than 300 in Clark Field.
The artillery keep on thundering in the vicinity of Manaoag. I am having some remorse of conscience for my subordinates who are suffering from the nocturnal gunfires which shake the ruined roofs and walls. I decided to move the group to the boundary of the foot of the Pugaros where the doughboys are pulverizing one by one the underground tunnels and fortifications — a true Siegfried line in miniature — of the Japanese.
Transportation these days is fast and economical. All you have to do is put your thumb up and shout at the passing vehicle. “Can you give me a ride?” For greater effectiveness, you could approach an MP and ask him to stop the first jeep or duck or truck that comes along. In both cases, the soldier driver is very willing to accommodate.
We never ran short of shocks. Last night an American patrol ordered us to abandon the house of Mr. Sipin in the town’s outskirts and take refuge among the ruins of the town. We were being threatened by a group of Japanese who were reconnoitering the vicinity and we could be the victim of a nocturnal attack. There were Japanese stragglers on the forests whom the Americans had to track down and exterminate like dangerous animals and, who, instead of surrendering, attacked isolated posts and defenseless civilians under cover of darkness.
The events are developing kaleidoscopically. The Philippine government, reduced to the bare minimum, that is, to the members of the Cabinet—the multitude of government employees are without work to do, just idling—has been moved to Baguio by General Yamashita. As we are only few, we will have a grand time of it. They are coming as political detainees so as to be nearer to Formosa. At least so they believe. The official force is being sugar-coated by the phrase “preventive protection”, which does not, however, succeed in deceiving even the unsuspecting. More than a month ago, two guards were placed at each of the houses of the ministers in the guise of Japanese police. Only Speaker Aquino had the guts to dispose of them. Angrily and firmly he told them to leave the house or he would leave them, together with all the responsibilities on their shoulders. He hit the cord at its strongest point and the guardians left. The President, with his Filipino guard, settled down at the Mansion House. Yamashita, likewise, installed his headquarters in this mountain retreat.
Manila has lost to Baguio as the capital of the Philippines. Could it be that they intend to declare this an open city as General MacArthur did three years ago today? This is the speculation of the optimists, with no other basis than their valid imagination. Or could it be that they shall convert this dead end alley into another Bataan? This is what some Japanese, who showed us proof that Baguio is being reinforced with 150,000 soldiers, are circulating. Could they be planning a semblance of defense, and if it turns out bad, they would escape to the north and, if they could do it which surely they couldn’t—they would make a run for it across the channel separating us from Formosa? This seems to be the more sensible opinion, or so it sounds, although what sounds in the meantime, are the cannons, the bombs, the mortars and all the heavy hammers of war.
For seven days now we are without radio, and consequently, without news. The press is ashamed to circulate outside the capital, out of respect for the guerrillas of the air raid siren sounds—at most for ten hours. Its week-long silence means that the bombing of Manila must have been uninterrupted.
We learned from the people who escaped from that hell that from 4:00 in the morning of the 14th to 6:00 in the morning of the 17th, there was a continuous wave of bombers with only a six-hour respite. During this dark night, the Americans landed in Palawan, and in Mindoro, the latter being less than two hundred kilometers from the Mecca of their aspirations.
To give us an idea of the hunger and terror reigning in the capital, we were told that a member of the Cabinet was having only a meal a day, consisting of porridge.
Deaths from bombs and from hunger plague the streets and many houses. Caravans of rugged and hungry people are abandoning the city on foot, carrying the few belongings they can load on their shoulders. All sorts of locomotion, including carts, have been confiscated by the Imperial Army. Manila is suffering more than the most punished Sodom of this war. May God cut short the rain of fire and sulphur, if only in consideration of the many who are just.
The alarm sounded yesterday, but the skies of Manila were clear of planes. The raids were made over Clark Field and Legazpi. However, we were kept alert by the raid today from 8:00 in the morning to 5:30 in the afternoon. In the morning a plane was shot down and the pilot parachuted down. A short raid was made in the afternoon over Manila Bay. Official sources said that Clark Field was raided anew, simultaneously with Aparri, Cebu and Leyte, although the press reported very light damage.
A new reporter wrote: “Our first impulse upon learning about the destructive attacks of the immense enemy forces was to be thankful we are spared from the air attack. At least for this year.” But we knew that the American Fleet was still afloat and continues to inch in, entering by the Lingayen Gulf from where it pounds on the coastal defenses.
A few days ago, our Chief of Police surprised us with a strange action. He posted his officers at all intersections of Session Road—the Escolta of that locality—during rush hours, calling upon all the males to be present the following morning at the market place, equipped with tools for a day’s voluntary service. Their residence certificate were confiscated to insure against escaping. The following day, everybody—the rich, the poor, Filipinos, Igorots, Chinese, Spanish—in a democratic conglomeration was hauled to the streets to do repair work. On the return trip, an escort truck which was travelling behind fell when the bridge collapsed. All the passengers drowned in the river below.
Having learned this lesson without violent protests from the community, the army herded groups of men, women and children everyday and made them work in unloading very heavy cases of ammunitions, in the construction of fortifications in these mountains and in opening army roads. They are installing cannons in all fountains of this basin—such is indeed the orthography of Baguio. Endless convoys in nocturnal trips move under a dead moon for fear of American birds of prey. They pass with the noise of tin cans, carrying troops and war supplies which they had taken from the civilian populace. We who have taken refuge in this city which is open by topography and closed by strategy, and who have believed it to be defenseless and indefensible, are in for a big disappointment.
In the republic of “volunteer workers” the only compensation you receive is a blow with a stick or a detention in prison if you do not cooperate freely or do not manifest genuine interest in the cause of Asianism and its Sphere. Poor Sphere. At the rate it is being abused, it is losing its image and its name. Even its progenitors seem to have forgotten what it is called.
Pearl Harbor is now three years old, and its memories are being revived by the tropical developments. Can the Sphere resist the onslaughts of the forthcoming summer? The cold waves of Manchuria and of North China may delay its collapse till next winter, but in the tropics it will melt very easily.