Badolgio fell, and there are rumors that Italy has withdrawn from the war. There is great rejoicing in Manila, with wine overflowing in the downtown coffee shops, to the disappointment of the Japanese. Rumors are conflicting as people talk about shortwave news from London and San Francisco regarding landings in Italy,and Russian advances and the conquest of cities occupied by the Axis. Listening to our talking about shortwave news is playing with fire and risking detention in Fort Santiago, but people do not seem to care.
The novena of the Holy Rosary, which was celebrated at the new parish of Santo Tomas, this time with greater devotion and less pomp, had just ended. Although the attendance was less than last year’s, the crowd was a big one for the chapel’s capacity, and the difficulty considering transportation.
Public devotion to the Rosary is surprising and encouraging. Seemingly, it has gained momentum during the war, particularly after the image was providentially saved from the bombings of Intramuros. However, the La Naval procession was not held, as all the carriages had been burned.
Last night, Radio San Francisco announced the arrival of President Quezon in that city. And to prove the veracity of such assertion, it also announced that the dead Quezon who was “killed” by Radio Tokyo was going on the air. True enough, Quezon spoke over Radio San Francisco. His voice and energetic diction were unmistakeable. He affirmed that he had established a government in exile in Washington, and that he and his government will work day and night to effect a return to Manila with the help of the American forces. Unfortunately, it was not to be as soon as we were hoping for.
Together with President Quezon were Vice-President Osmeña, General Valdes, Carlos P. Romulo, Don Andres Soriano, Major Nieto, and Doña Aurora Quezon and their three children.
The same radio station announced that the number of officers, soldiers, and marines, who had surrendered in Corregidor amounted to eleven thousand, mostly Americans.
The newspapers headlined in bold letters that President Quezon died in Iloilo, a victim of his old disease. It was however added that the news has not yet been confirmed. Radio Bataan denied it strongly and promised that it would issue its own bulletin. Radio Tokyo nevertheless came back, insisting that President Quezon was assassinated. He allegedly wanted to surrender in order to avoid further shedding of blood, but General MacArthur contradicted him. A violent altercation ensued and General MacArthur shot him. The enemy radio stations repeatedly and vehemently denied the rumor and the ensuing battle of propaganda detonated like explosives. Although the rumors and counter-rumors did not kill anyone, they were demoralized, and these attacks, though unseen, caused fear and shock.
What is it that they are trying to prove, anyway!
Radio Tokyo announced today that President Quezon died, a victim of American brutality. The press is silent about the matter, rendering the veracity of the news suspicious. A few days ago, the same radio station announced the sinking of the Queen Mary, the largest British merchant vessel, south of the Atlantic with ten thousand soldiers aboard. The news was not picked up by either radio or press networks. It was consequently dismissed as a propaganda canard.
Could it be the same about the death of Quezon? We are waiting.
I did not think it prudent to divulge earlier that a few days after the bombing of Letran, through a third person, Mrs. Aurora Quezon sent from her hideout in Corregidor a letter of sympathy to the Father Provincial who never had any means of replying.
The First Lady seemed to be very much worried. It was not surprising if she was. A week before they left, they called up the Father Provincial to come and console the First Lady at their Marikina residence. We were suspecting that during those days, the President and his small retinue were still in Corregidor. There were a lot of rumors about their whereabouts. The President had spoken over the radio twice or thrice last month, according to those who heard him. What would be his fate in case the USAFFE had to surrender Corregidor?
I went to Calamba for a week of rest, taking advantage of the trips which the administrator of Hacienda Real had to make with his car back and forth to Manila. On our way to Calamba, we were behind a luxurious car displaying a Philippine flag. It was the car of General Artemio Ricarte, self-exile in Japan during these past year, in protest to American sovereignty. The newspapers made no mention of his arrival. A number of persons informed me that the Japanese brought him back to make a pro-Japanese campaign. From the news I gathered from various sources, the regions between Manila and Calamba about 56 km. from the capital are the least damaged by the looting and destructive forces of the invaders. Calamba was bombed for being a center of communications but the damage negligible. About five or six bridges on the way to Calamba were blown up by the USAFFE in its retreat, as well as the bridges to Batangas and Tayabas. Meanwhile, the price of sugar has soared due to heavy demand. One could see a long procession of caretelas going to the Central to purchase sugar. Within a few days the stock was sold out. The Real of Calamba is presently the most fortunate of all sugar centrals in Luzon. It stores more than 11,000 sacks. Moreover, it has resumed milling activities. The other centrals were either damaged by the war, looted, or sealed by the Army. If ever they could mill, they cannot sell their sugar since the Japanese Army takes it all, paying what they could pay. American and British-owned centrals, on the other hand, have been confiscated. Don Benito Razón, former president of the Letran Alumni Association, and who had been managing the Canlubang Sugar Central since half a year ago, invited me to dinner. As in other places, the people in this town have fled to the mountains, even if no significant destructions have occurred here. Now that the “milling” season has started, the workers are returning to their work, although milling operations are only at half capacity. The bridges are destroyed and transport to have sugar cane is lacking. Besides, all the sugar produced goes to the Japanese. Due to the good relationships existing between the plantation administrator and the military commander of Calamba, the administrator was able to secure all the permits he needed for the use of cars and wagons to operate the central and sell sugar without restrictions. He was even allowed to reconstruct a broken wooden bridge needed for the hauling of sugar cane and for public use. He is being assisted by an old Japanese employee who has remained faithful to him, preferring to return to the hacienda after being released by the Army rather than taking advantage of the New Order to further his own interests.
Only three newspapers of the TVT are in circulation: one in English, one in Spanish, and one in Tagalog. They are the most insipid papers ever published, with nothing of truth in them. Everybody knows that only what the Japanese approve of goes into print. The size of the paper has been maintained but the pages are reduced in half. It carries only three kinds of news: the press releases from Domei, the official news agency of Tokyo, which treat of the Japanese victories in the Pacific; the proclamations and orders of the new Military Command, which imposes new rules everyday, changing former decrees; and some overflowingly lyrical compositions whose note of optimism dwarfs that of Cervantes in alluding to the way the New Order is ushering in a golden age.
A spokesman of the new regime had the effrontery to announce that whereas before the Philippines was a paradise for the Americans, how the Japanese are converting it into a paradise for the Filipinos. A metaphor without foundation in reality!
The claim that everything has returned to normal is turning into an annoying refrain. When we see that the majority of the people are jobless, without income and nothing at all to eat, when eyewitnesses pour in accounts of big towns being razed, houses plundered and burned, people fleeing to the mountains or hiding in the barrios, unable to work either because they do not like to, or afraid to, or are prevented from working, then, harping on the return to normalcy and converting the country into a paradise is a farce which is not only tragic but irritating.
*probably erroneously published as January 18, 1942 in the printed version
According to the information I gathered, the condition of the internees has greatly improved. The whole length of the fence has been covered with sawali to protect them from curious passers-by. They have organized themselves into groups, according to their professions or vocations, to work as electricians, mechanics, clerks, actors, couturiers, accountants, etc. Others do kitchen chores, police work, digging pits or the garbage, cutting grass, etc.
They also organized a football league with eight teams, composed of British and Spanish internees, and another for basketball, composed mostly of women. The favorite seems to be indoor baseball, in which many Americans participate.
Those who have no one to receive provisions from –and they constitute the majority– are being fed by the American Red Cross. A large gas kitchen was installed for this purpose. I was told that some $4,000 a day are being spent on this. The Japanese, however, do not spend a single centavo for the internees. They alleged that this was the penalty for what the American Army did in burning supplies, notwithstanding the fact that those who did it are now in Bataan and Corregidor, fighting.
The internees also published a mimeographed newsletter three times a week –previously censored– with news about the prisoners. Of course, they are not allowed to use the telephone or the radio, nor communicate outside.