The BC Academy Classes Opening ceremonies yesterday was brief but informative with a bit of surprise. There is a list of Sec. A & Sec. B dividing our class to two sections. Sec A are mostly the older group of PCA grads ages 30 and above that included Col. Lizardo ’15 the oldest, age 52. Sec. B mostly PMA grads ages 30 and below. In the first formation we had, the BCA Kempeitai Tactical O formed us to two sections and to my surprise, that Tac. O is Lt. Fukushima our captor at Hagonoy Coast during our attempt to escape after the fall of Bataan responsible for our being Malolos POWs. Then he called my name to step forward announcing I will be Sec. A Marcher. Minutes later, after I told him Gomez is also around, he called my ExO, Lt. M. Gomez ’41 announcing he would be Sec. B Marcher. I wonder what my classmates were thinking about our being singled out but apparently, the rapport, friendship and mutual respect we had with Lt. Fukushima counted with him. I told Gomez not to make any comments whatsoever re: our promotion to Marchers as I will take care of it.
Among the VIPs in the ceremony are Gen. Jose delos Reyes ’05 BC Dir. with his staff Col. J. Guido ’20, Int O. & Maj. P. Jaminola, Adm. O. Col. A. Natividad ’16 BCA Comdt. and Kempeitai Supervisors Maj. Suguiyama & Lt. Fukushima. The keynote speaker stressed the importance of peace and order to the prosperity and traquility of our people to return to normal lives.’ It is expected that after our class graduates, all provinces will have their respective constabulary commands as majority of the current students are former PC officers.
The subjects scheduled are mostly concerning police officers duties unlike the varied subjects we took at PMA. Subjects like criminal law, procedure and investigation; Relations with Prov. & Mun. officials; Mess Management; Company Management; Accountability; Recurring Reports; Patrols; will be easy review courses for PMA grads. I do not know how the old fogies will fare.
In compliance with my POW Release Paper, I reported at 1400 today at Torres High School, Gagalangin, Manila. I found this old Manila HS is now designated by the Jap Adm. as the Bureau of Constabulary Academy (BCA). A week ago they have graduated 150 to start the BC idea to help in the peace and order situation. They recruited from among civilian volunteer college graduates with aptitude on security. I understand our group of POWs coming from Camp Dau number 300 and most of them are former Consbulary Os. I know many among those already here. As a matter of fact I already met several PMA classmates like Cabangbang and Tirona. I expect our police Training will be interesting in many respects.
We were processed, issued IDs, Training Schedules and assignment of Quarters. Classes will be from Mon to Fri; weekends we are free and can be with our families. Our Training will last for one month.
I moved my wife, Lucy, and our baby, Cecilia, from our Bulacan home to her parents Calle Tennessee house in Malate, Manila yesterday to enable me to be with them as often as possible. My mom sent along my younger sister, Effie, to help care for Cecilia. Lucy’s Dad (Mr. Richard Johnson) and sister, Helen, both US citizens are interned at UST and only step-mother, Maura, is living alone in Tennessee. Tomorrow will be my 27th anniversary so Lucy prepared a sumptuous lunch to celebrate my birthday before I reported for training today at BCA.
Since my release as a POW last Aug 10, I’ve appreciated my freedom and Jap benevolence, the only tangible among numerous rhetorics. Our people can not forget the plunder and atrocities as slappings of civilians by Jap soldiers continue. Filipinos remain loyal to USA. My thoughts are with our American comrades still POWs in Cabanatuan and elsewhere for a long duration. To date, the Japs have occupied virtually all the western Pacific area up to the approaches of Australia.
I doubt that even with the vaunted industrial might of America if we can be liberated in a year from now — meaning, by Aug. ’43. However, our people are hopeful with all their fate in MacArthur’s promise to return.
Two days ago, the Mayor of Plaridel gave a testimonial lunch for all her USAFFE sons that survived Capas. Gov. Rustia, Judge Roldan, Mrs. Cuenca and the Flor Cruz sisters all from Malolos were there that added sentimentality to the gathering. I cited them for their invaluable assistance when we were POWs in Malolos.
Today is Graduation Day for all POWs that underwent the Rejuvenation Training. After a brief but impressive ceremony at the Camp Dau FA Auditorium, each of us “graduating POWs” were given our “Graduation Papers.” Our Grad. Speaker said we are expected to help the new Phil Gov’t.to be granted her independence by Japan later, in any manner we can, to make her a worthy member of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The most ranking Filipino official present is former Defense Sec. Teofilo Sison.
Among my “Grad Papers” is one saying I am paroled to the Bureau of Constabulary where I am “ordered” to report at Torres High School, Gagalangin, Manila to commence Police Training on August 30,1942. It turned out this is our day of liberation, we are now free to go home and see our family. I have my release papers with conditions.
In my Malolos Group, I and M. Gomez ’41, my ExO are both to report for police training but the others (Lts. E. Baltazar, C. Oanes & R. Corbilla) all artillery officers are paroled to the AA Command. My Malolos Group bade goodspeed. I do not know how our assignments are determined but those assigned to police work are former constabulary Os like Cols. Lizardo, Domaoal, Javalera, Diano, etc and they all welcomed it. They claimed we are lucky not to be with the AA Command.
Another vital insight I got of our training is that if the Philippines wants to be great as an indepedent maritime nation, it is to follow the example of Japan by fully developing her maritime and sea power potentials.
After the ceremony, most of us proceeded to Mabalacat railway station where I boarded the noon train for Manila, debarking from Malolos station at 2:00 PM, then proceeding home to Plaridel to the pleasant surprise of my family. I found my wife, Lucy, so beautiful, happily waiting with our lovely first born daughter, Cecilia (born Aug 3rd) in her arms. It was a most happy coming home to my beloved mother, brothers and sisters all taking care of my new family. All my sufferings and heartaches as a POW suddenly disappeared.
When the 1,400 POW names were posted in the Camp O’Donnell BB last Jul. 16, it was announced that they are comparatively the healthy survivors remaining in Capas. The sick started being released last June 30. This healthy group are now about to complete Rejuvenation Training in Camp Dau. Let me talk about this group as every passing day I came to know many of them for the first time…
When we first assembled at Capas Main Gate to leave for Camp Dau last Jul. 17, everyone was on his feet marching with their bags but did not look as strong as our Malolos POW Group. As the facilities and food at Dau was better than Capas, we all improved physically. There were no deaths in Dau.
Our group represented a cross section of surviving USAFEE soldiery, all ages, cultures, military education, experiences, etc. From among senior PCA grads are Cols. Claro Lizardo ’15; Tomas Domaoal ’17; Manuel Turingan ’17; Lamberto Javalera ’18: Leoncio Tan ’28; Jesus Vargas ’29 to contemporaries like Pelagio Cruz, Done Ojeda, P. Q. Molina. Early pioneers of ROSS like Alfredo Santos, S. Villa, C. Barbero, L. Villareal; Friedlander; fellow alumni of PMA Cl ’40; 41; 42 & 43; and the unforgettable young group of Ateneo ROTC volunteers like Sgts Fred X. Burgos, Ramon Pamintuan and Bagatsing under Capt. E. G. Lara of Angono, Rizal. From Baban of the Ibaloi tribe to Sulu’s Pulong Arpa. Then we have this Maj. E. Batongmalaque ’31 whose tales of experiences in Mindanao seem endless specially about his weirdo CO, the legendary Lt. Canuto better known as King Canuto.
I was also able to have an idea of the intellectual capabilities of each group. Early PCA grads had the equivalent of high school education with knowledge of criminal procedures and law to bring cases before the court. They were basically police officers but are very proficient in verbal and written communication. Those with baccalaureate degrees like from PMA or ROSS have better intellectual capacities to analyze problem situations. It is here I understood what Gen. Vicente Lim once said, “I will only be happy when the Chief of Staff is a PMA graduate.”
Nevertheless, I am very proud to be a part of this roll of USAFFE officers’ — all tough survivors from the crucible of Bataan, Death March and POW Camp O’Donnell.
Our morale remains high and our Camaraderie is much stronger. We can only hope and pray for happy future.
The subjects discussed during the Rejuvenation Training Seminar type of lectures were varied, relevant, interesting to me although dismissed by most as “brain washers.” I wish I was able to keep records but the Japanese are so logistically poor to provide us even bare pencils and paper. So far, so many prominent Japanese and Phil officials had spoken to us, among them were Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel. Hilario Moncado and wife, Diana Toy also came to entertain us. I noted Japanese speakers were careful not to offend the POWs even referring to us as excellent examples of Malayan soldiery the manner we fought in Bataan. One Jap Gen. said, “Being orientals, we should not have been at war. The Americans used you as pawns. Look at the comparatively few American POWs compared to Filipinos. Most Americans escaped to Australia.” And one Japanese official brought the subject of discrimination, how Filipinos are only paid half what their American counterparts are getting yet they belong to same unit. Why the Phil was only using obsolete P-26 planes while the Americans are using the new P-40. The harshest words I heard was from a Jap General whose unit was apparently wiped out during the battle of the Points in Bataan. He said, “Why forbear what was difficult to forbear. It would have been easier for us to subject you to wholesale extermination instead of being magnanimous now. This, I leave to you who understand the basics of humanity.”
The “Bamboo Mail” of Malolos operated by Judge Roldan is still operational with Mrs. Cuenca as chief courier. Today I received a letter dated last Jul 25 from my mother via the Bamboo Mail delivered by Ms Lulu Reyes from Mrs.Cuenca. The good news is Plaridel is back to normal with my uncle Jose Mariano, the elected mayor assuming leadership again. My mother also said that she took my wife Lucy to live with her in our ancestral home in Plaridel as she is due to deliver our first child anytime now.
Rejuvenation Training for the 1,400 POW here had been going on for over two weeks now under a Japanese Adm. team headed by Mr. Hamamoto with his impeccable Harvard English and American knowledge that impressed us. The majority of the POWs are definitely biased concluding that we were simply being “brainwashed.” I listened to every guest speaker and tried to understand what they were saying. That way I can determine not “who” is right but “what” is right. There are many subjects discussed relevant to an independent Philippines we expected in 1946.
This Training will terminate in about a week and I heard we will all be asked to serve the new Phil. Gov’t. under the management of Jorge Vargas.
Yesterday morning, Cav. Maning Gomez ’41, my irrepressible ExO, after coming from our Bulletin Board excitedly exclaimed, “Eureka, we will be liberated from Capas tomorrow.” I went to the BB and saw a long list of officers alerted for transfer to Camp Dau, Pampanga. All from our Malolos Group are included in the list.
And so at 0800 today, we assembled with our belongings at the Camp’s main gate where we boarded trucks for Capas Railway Station. This is a big group, all officers who all seem healthy the way they marched. We boarded the southbound 1100 H train and debarked at Mabalacat, Pampanga RR Stn., thence transported a short distance to nearby huge former FA Training Camp Dau where we saw several cattle grazing that whetted our appetite for steak dinner. We were systematically assigned to our respective barracks with spacious living quarters, running water and toilet facilities that made us feel like human beings again. The food is better than Capas and we, POWs from Malolos, are very thankful we only stayed eight days in Capas.
The entire day is devoted to setting us up in our new place –organization and familiarization. I learned that our group is about 1,400 not so sick POWs and the main purpose of our being here is to undergo “Rejuvination Training” starting tomorrow. I am suspicious what this rejuvination is all about and what will happen after. However, I am happy to see many classmates and officers I know personally with this group I had no time to locate during my short eight days in that big sprawling and frightening Capas POW Camp.
Despite previous announcements that all sick POWs in Capas would be released, as in fact many were released already, there are still many sick POWs in Camp that the daily death is still about 100. This may be a big reduction to the 500 daily deaths when my roommate Sagun died last May 16 but the living conditions – facilities, food, sanitation, flies – are still sub-human compared to Malolos POW Camp. I was just talking with a comrade from Bayombong yesterday who was pale but not bedridden. He died last night. The same with another comrade from Tayabas in our building who died the other day. Today, I discovered that those released sick POWs came from provinces whose peace and order condition are rated by the Jap Adm. as having returned to normal. And so those sick POWs remaining in Capas are from provinces still considered not peaceful or not returned to normal.
Capt. Eugenio G. Lara ’38 my former PMA uppie visited his classmate with us, Lt E Baltazar ’38 this afternoon. He shared with us stories of the horrors, brutalities and experiences he had during the death march. He was Ateneo ROTC Comdt. when WW II broke out and proud to tell us the gallant actions of his Ateneo ROTC boys that became a part of his Bataan Anti-Tank Co. He introduced a young Atenean with him, Sgt. Alfred X. Burgos. I will not forget the fascinating story of Lara about his CO, Maj. E. Cepeda USMA ’32, our former PMA Comdt. Sometime last May when 500 POWs were dying per day, he suggested to Cepeda that they escape. According to Lara, Cepeda bawled him out that he felt so small and ashamed. However, two days later, Lara discovered Cepeda gone — he escaped. An hour after Capt. Lara and Sgt. Burgos left, my Mistah Job Mayo came to visit me and we had a long chat. I gave him four tablets of sulfa.