Joy! Joy! The Yanks have arrived. They landed on the same place where Magellan set foot on firm land when he discovered these islands which he called St. Lazarus. The news of the landing in Leyte spread like wildfire. We took the news as probable, without reassuring ourselves of its certainty, but the exultant Filipinos believed it without a shadow of doubt. Tokyo had admitted it, although the local press still refuses to put its stamp of approval.
Gen. MacArthur and Pres. Osmeña were heard delivering messages over the radio. MacArthur announced that he had complied with his promise to return and, God willing, he would proceed with the re-conquest of the Islands. Osmeña declared that the legitimate government has been restored in this country. Reports have it that General Valdés, Soriano, Romulo and a nucleus of the exiled Philippine government has also arrived.
No one—not even the sharpest strategists—predicted where the landing was to be made. Some guessed that it would be in Mindanao, or at some gulf in Luzon, or in some island in the Visayas, but not one of them singled out the place where the landing was actually made. After the fact, everybody admitted that the Bay of Leyte, formed by Leyte and Samar, was the least guarded, least defended and most strategic point for the developing operations. Situated almost in the center of the archipelago, it is one leap from Mindanao, from Luzon, and from almost all the islands of the Visayas.
There were two questions over which the amateur strategists were heatedly debating: one was whether the attack would first be directed against Japan, Formosa, or the Philippines. The events settled this controversy. The other was whether the Allies could launch their offensive against any of these three fronts before putting an end to the war in Europe, or whether they would have to liquidate the European end of the Axis in order to bring to the Pacific sufficient transport ships, machines and forces to push through this great undertaking.
Those who held the second view felt that Japan had about half a million men in the Philippines—some had counted about a million—with the facility to reinforce that number anytime needed. America had to transport at least another million and this would mean ten million tons of shipping. This was what Tokyo said two days before the landing. But these are now Byzantine questions. What should concern us are the developments of the war.
There was an alarm today but the raiders did not pass overhead, giving our shattered nerves a respite from the thunderous experiences of the past days. The raiders, at least, had been considerate enough to allow us to sleep and eat in peace, although the mere sound of a car was enough to make us stand on our toes. This was true among us who had experienced the explosion of bombs over our heads. We were perhaps the most affected, or to put it mildly, the most terrified. There were some exceptions—the Fathers who watched the bombings from the tower where they could see but not be seen.
A bomb fell yesterday near the Legazpi-Urdaneta monument, up an enormous crater, burying alive thirty-one persons who died of asphyxiation. They were in a shelter nearby. At the explosion, mounds of earth and a big uprooted tree covered the entrance.
The Luneta was turned into a forest of anti-aircraft guns. There was such a shower of exploded shells and stray bullets that even those who stayed in light houses could not be protected. If anyone was spared by the metallic fragments, it was someting miraculous. A roof of GI sheets and a wooden floor were as easily pierced as if they were made of paper.
We had a double feast today; great activity in the morning and doubly great in the afternoon. Without previous siren warnings the planes attacked at 7:15 a.m. and caught the sleeping guardians of the city by surprise. Before the anti-aircraft guns could be positioned, the enemies had dropped their loads and spun back to the skies beyond the reach of ground fire. There was not one red marked plane in sight the whole day. It’s either that they were not given the chance to take off or they were discarded for good. Anti-aircrafts barkings were fewer. Only the guns near the bombings were fired, unlike before when the air vibrated with activities and the city was draped in smoke. On the whole, the thunder was still terrific, but there were fewer shelling victims. It’s surprising how there could have been less accidents when people were all out in the streets watching and enjoying the fight in the sky.
I found the internees the best indicators of oncoming raids. They were the first to identify American planes. All I did was watch these internees as they pointed to the skies and applauded noiselessly.
From the time the alarm signalled to the time the all clear siren sounded, which sometimes lasted the whole day—the internees stayed closed in their rooms, zealously estimating the movements of the planes. When a bomb exploded, they would rush to their windows, until they were finally warned to hide themselves either by the Japanese loudspeakers or by Japanese guns.
The Philippines yesterday celebrated the first anniversary of its independence in peace, thanks to the resounding defeat of the invading Americans in the Taiwan waters. We could be sure that the punishment was such that the Americans were forced to abandon their idea of proceeding to the Philippines to cut short our independence celebration. We knew very well that the American aircraft carriers were sunk or damaged and the Americans were being driven in flight by the Japanese Air Force.
I was reading this dogmatic editorial when the air raid signal no. 1 sounded, and within a few minutes, anti-aircraft shells were exploding above the clouds. The Japanese fighter planes, emboldened by the editorial, were flying confidently overhead when the American bombers came without having learned about the sinking of their aircraft carrier. Bombs exploded so loudly from Nichols that they could be heard in Balintawak, as a giant umbrella rose from the airfield.
Eighteen out of sixty American planes were downed according to Japanese propaganda. Tokyo found the figure too low and increased it to thirty. Both agencies are giving a decisive importance, and as we supposed, a very inflated one at that, to the battle being waged at the east of Formosa. Tokyo radio arrived at fifty-three American ships sunk or damaged, twenty-thousand Americans killed, and one thousand planes shot down. The Manila news agency was more conservative, scattering flying leaflets in the streets and sending out a van through the city with streamers announcing the resounding victory.
Today is the first anniversary of the Republic. Due to existing conditions—Formosa is under air attack—the celebrations were limited to some ceremonies at Malacañan. The projected parade before the legislative building was suspended. The suspension was attributed to the lack of transportation for the students and employees who were supposed to attend. Only the President’s family and some Japanese officials were invited to Malacañan. The public had never attended such ceremonies, nor is it interested in the welfare of the Republic, which they consider to be moribund and liable to collapse anytime, either violently or by natural death.
From the speech of the President we could read some points which seem to have been intentionally inserted but which the Japanese failed to censor. One such insinuation referred to the unnecessary restrictions or unwarranted inferences, or interventions from friendly foreign nations. It was not necessary to point out which nation he was referring to. In another part, speaking of the guerrillas and of their uselessness for purposes of the military or for purpose of deciding the result of the war, he concluded: “In these days of mechanized war, the decisive factors are the forces of industrial production and natural resources. The Japanese have recognized the great productivity of their enemies, and their only hope of victory is the heroism and bravery of their suicide squadron.
The terrified soldiers are in a scamper, moving their things from place to place. There are piles of boxes whose contents we could only guess at. Gasoline containers are stored under trees, in culverts, among bushes. Churches, cemeteries and schools have already been converted into warehouses. At the UST compound, we could see big boxes sheltered under the denuded acacia trees in front of the Main Building. During these past nights, the silence of the night has been broken by the unloading of steel bars, steel sheets and machineries which would probably be used to put up an electric plant or a radio transmitting tower.
The soldiers came without seeking anybody’s permission, not even of the commander of the concentration camp. Our superior wanted to protest, but the Camp Commander advised him that it would be better not to antagonize them, lest we be thrown out of the only building left to us. We however notified Fr. Rector and President Laurel of this violation of International Law. All they could do was to unleash their pent up anger in strong and acerbic terms against the atrocities perpetrated by the military authorities, their arbitrary incursions, and the impotence of the Philippine government to put an end to these abuses.
The rate of confiscation of private houses is reaching dangerous and frightful proportions. In some cases, the ejected residents are transferred to houses near military installations; in other cases, they do not allow the occupants to leave their dwellings, and the soldiers live together with them in a separate portion of the house. This forced company is more terrifying than ejection. Obviously, the Japanese are resorting to the tactic of intermingling with the civilian population for strategic purposes. This incurs greater displeasure among the people.
The Archbishop was among those who had to leave his palace when an anti-aircraft battery was installed in front of it. He had to take refuge at the UST Seminary. Intramuros is reduced to a ghost town. Most of the streets are deserted and almost all buildings are occupied by soldiers who block any street they chose to occupy.
According to authoritative sources, President Laurel has declared a state of war (this phrase was always used instead of “declared war”) under pressure from Japan. Since last year, when he was invited to Tokyo before the establishment of the Republic, this pressure has become increasingly stronger, and when the bombings started, it reached an extent where the President dare not go against it for fear of reprisals from the army. President Laurel insisted that he did nothing more than declare a state of war started by the attackers. Whether or not these premises exempt him from all responsibility would be up to history to decide, assuming that future historians could agree on the present responsibilities. They would first have to tone down the passion of today, so that the critics could judge the actuations of the President and his government impartially.
Reliable sources also revealed that the bombing ten days ago had rattled the Japanese military authorities. They never expected such a plan of attack so well conceived, well executed and so nerve-shattering that it sowed panic among the high military officials. The military leaders are blaming one another for the failure of their defense and the great destruction they have suffered. The sudden turn of events has also aggravated the old enmities existing between the two arms of the Imperial Forces—the army and the navy—which traditionally pulled each other’s hair each claiming credit for the victories of war and throwing the blame for the failures. General Kuroda is the victim of this tug-of-war, and was sent back to Tokyo.
In the meantime, the Imperial Forces are continuously looking for new places to set up their anti-aircraft guns. They are placing them in residential zones, at the same time occupying private houses and mixing among the civilian populace. Of the 300 Spanish families in Manila, more than half have already been ejected from their homes.
One week has passed since the raid over the city, and the people are still talking about it, relating numerous surprises of that spectacle which had convinced even the most incredulous that the Americans were indeed coming and winning.
The intrepidity of the American pilots was convincing, as they dived through the curtain of anti-aircraft shells. We thought that they would stay up beyond the reach of anti-aircraft fire and from there drop their bombs as did the Japanese bombers three years ago. We were surprised to see how they attacked almost overhead. Those who used to underestimate the Americans because of the little fighting they did at the beginning of the war are seeing that these Yankees also knew how to risk their lives.
The American pilots exhibited accuracy, hitting their targets with surprising precision. They dived straight towards the target and dropped their bombs right where they wanted them to fall. The anti-aircraft battery installed at the constabulary building was bombed and blown to pieces, killing the nine Japanese and three Filipinos who manned it, and also causing a big fire in Binondo. These proved that the rumor claiming that the Americans dropped their bombs at random are empty words and the Japanese dare not disseminate such propaganda in Manila although Tokyo continued to do so.
During the raids, the Imperial air force was conspicuously absent. Dog fights were very rare. There was one during the first day when some Japanese planes were in the air not knowing what was above the clouds and would therefore be caught unaware. All through, the invaders dominated the air. The savage eagles of the Empire stayed on the ground where they were roasted like sleeping ants.
Because of these experiences, the Manilans have lost their fear of air raids and they no longer tremble at the thought that they would be repeated. Rather, they look forward to them as preludes to an early liberation. They fear the anti-aircraft shells more than they do the bombs. And where it not for the Japanese anti-aircraft shells, the people would have been out in the streets to enjoy the sight.
In a radio speech yesterday, President Laurel categorically pointed out that the Republic has only one path to pursue, and that is, to extend all assistance and cooperation to the Japanese imperial government. He made this statement rather emphatically, and people tend to believe that it was motivated by the exodus of many young Filipinos to the mountains for fear of being called to active duty in the Japanese Army. They prefer to join the guerillas rather than fight for Japan.
To forestall this possibility, the Military Police, five days before the bombing, “zoned” the towns of Navotas and Malabon, and herded all the men in churches and churchyards. For three days they were kept without food and drink, while houses were searched and suspicious characters were interrogated. According to the press, thousands of guerrilla members were arrested and a great quantity of small arms, ammunitions, dynamites and short wave radio sets were confiscated.