Early this morning, Tuguegarao was bombed and strafed. The P-51 dive-bombers were strafing with terrifying precision. The Americans probably know we are here. The planes are diving very low –as low as 100 meters above ground. We could hear bombs dropping just a few hundred meters away. Tuguegarao was the worst place since we started this trip. No water. No food. Continuous bombing and strafing. “Seventh Heaven” suddenly seemed better! At 4:35 p.m. the air raid stopped. The whole town was razed to the ground.
Mr. Fukushima, a member of Ambassador Murata’s party, told us to separate our “essentials” from our “non-essentials.” We are to bring only the very essential.
At 6:05 we finished sorting out our “essentials.” We rode our last ride on native soil. We arrived at Tuguegarao airfield at 8:20 p.m. and waited there till 10:55 p.m. for the Japanese plane to arrive. Some of our baggage containing even our essentials had to be left behind.
This was to be my first airplane trip and I was very excited. I sat below the machine-gun turret. A co-pilot sat beside me and opened a package. It was a pilot’s ration. He gave me chocolate out of what looked like a toothpaste tube, some biscuits and yokan. In return I gave him my bag of army biscuits given to me in Tuguegarao. I went up to the turret and saw the deep blue sky. It was hazy and vast and beautiful. I fell asleep.
We had a hard time climbing the steep slope to reach our resting place for the day. We called it: ‘Seventh Heaven.’ It is about 60 meters above the trail. It was so steep and slippery that we had to crawl grabbing the thick grass and whatever branches and trunks we could hold on to in order not to slip back.
The wheels of Maning’s pushcart came off. Maning still had high fever and had to lean on me. His weight plus my water canteen, .36 caliber revolver, 30 rounds of ammo, a blanket, a topcoat, were very heavy.
We were tired and hungry after the 13-kilometer climb. As I lay on the ground, I thought about the hardships we are going through and wondered –are we not actually “playing with Death”? Here we were exposed to Nature’s ferocity and gentleness. We had the mellow shade of large, beautiful trees above. At the same time, there was the biting cold wind. Suddenly, I thought, the fear of not having anything to eat or of being killed no longer bothered me. What really bothered me more was the fear of the Unknown. We were not really playing with Death. We were instead the playthings of Nature.
We started to walk at 6:00 p.m. towards Pingkian, fourteen kilometers away. The mountain trails began to descend and the walk became easier. Even Mama decided to walk. Mama is determined to go through it all no matter what.
We arrived at Pingkian at 11:10 in the evening, 50 minutes ahead of schedule. We had walked fourteen kilometers in five hours! We decided to just spread blankets to lie down. We were too tired to worry about dirt and dust.
At 6:55 a.m. the convoy came to a halt. After resting for an hour I went with a Kempeitai to cook rice and boil water for lunch. We found a flowing stream about kilometer and a half away. We cooked rice and filled up all the containers with boiling water. I went back alone carrying all the heavy stuff. The path was uphill which made the distance seem like five kilometers! I reached the tend on the hill at 1:25 p.m. dead tired!
We got ready at 7:00 p.m. Reaching a narrow trail, we were told only the cars could pass. Papa, Ambassador Murata, Mama, Dodjie and Maning rode the car, which left at 7:35 p.m. The car was to take them to Kayapa six kilometers away. And then return for Speaker Aquino, Minister and Mrs. Osias, Betty and the two children and my three sisters.
When the car did not return by 9:15 p.m. we all decided to walk. We walked for three hours and covered four kilometers uphill with out heavy load until we finally saw the car. Speaker Aquino and party rode the car while Kuya Pito, Kuya Pepe, General Capinpin and I, together with some of the Japanese soldiers walked to Kayapa two and a half kilometers away.
At 7:25 a.m., the Japanese escort commander signaled us all to stop. The trucks were made to park under the trees and camouflaged with leafy branches. Our resting place was to be on the slope of the hill. Kuya Pito and I had to carry Maning on a stretcher because he had high fever.
Kuya Pito and I cooked rice. We placed too little water at first and had to keep adding water. We added too much water! The rice became lugaw!
We were told we are to travel at night because during the day we might be spotted by the American planes and by the guerrilla. We were to rest during the day. But, then, we had to boil water, cook and do so many things and I am not used to sleeping during daytime. Too bright.
At about 7:00 p.m. the soldiers removed the camouflage branches on the truck. We were on our way. After two hours, the road stated to get narrower. At one point the outer wheel of our truck was dangling over the precipice! A loose stone could mean the end! The soldiers got out and started digging to widen the road as we inched our way forward! Below us was a very steep and deep ravine. I could hear my heartbeat and heavy breathing as we slowly moved on -a meter a minute. After five hours we came upon a high stretch of the mountain trail. It was already daylight.
It is 6:30 p.m. We are ready for the journey. Everyone is tearful. It is very touching. The people we are leaving would have stayed with us to the very end. Now we are leaving them. We may never see them again.
We left exactly 9:25 that evening. We used three cars and four trucks. Papa, Mama, my three sisters and Dodjie used the first car. Speaker Benigno Aquino, Betty and her two boys, Minister and Mrs. Camilo Osias took the second car, Ambassador Murata and his secretary Mr. Masaki, rode in the third. Kuya Pito, Kuya Pepe, Maning and I boarded the third Army truck which also carried our luggage. 40 Japanese soldiers, with their supplies and equipment, used the three other trucks.
How beautiful Baguio was only three months ago -and how badly battered it is now! I asked myself, “Where are we going?” I really don’t know. All I know is that we are heading north, that we are still in the mountain trails of Benguet, and that with all my thick clothes I am shivering from the cold.