January 2, 1942

(Noon)

Looting.

Met a man carrying a leg of ham on one hand and a roll of khaki on the other. Saw a truck full of cigarette packages and boxes of sardines and Carnation milk. Three men were running with typewriters and adding machines. A boy smashed display window and a mob entered the store.

The police cannot stop the looting. A police jitney with a loudspeaker went around the city urging the people to return to their homes, but nobody paid any attention. Saw a policeman carrying belts and hats.

Law and order have vanished. Looting reigns.

(Night)

Rice riots in three of our warehouses this afternoon. Looters and boarders demanded that the bodegas be opened. I asked for police protection, but only a few policemen arrived and they were without arms.

A big mob tried to force open the NARIC gate, demanding “Rice!“ I ordered the bodega closed. Whatever rice we have will be rationed to the people. I always keep in mind what President Quezon told me a few days before the war: “Whatever happens,” he said, “everybody must eat, rich and poor, alike. There must be no discrimination.” But the profiteers, the mob of looters were insistent. They banged the gates, waved their hands and clubs and demanded, “Rice! Rice! “ My two policemen were unarmed. The door was being forced open. So I drew my .45 and told the crowd that I’d shoot the first man that crosses the line. I waited for five tense minutes. Nobody stirred. Nobody took a step forward, but neither did anybody leave. My heart began to beat fast. I have placed my life in peril, but that was the only step to take under the desperate circumstance. If I gave in to the unreasonable clamor of that mob of looters, Manilans would have no rice. Fortunately, no one in the crowd protested. I gave my gun to the policeman and I gave him orders loud enough for all to hear: “Shoot anybody that passes that line, officer!“ and to emphasize my point, I squeezed the trigger and there was a faint “click.” The bullet was a dud.

I can hear the roar of many planes. They are probably going to bomb Bataan. I think I will pray. Brandy is not such a good palliative.

Midnight

Can’t sleep. Worried about my son, worried about the rice rioting, and the looting that has gripped the people. Worried about the Japanese. Yes, they entered quite peacefully and in an orderly manner, but you never can tell what they are up to. Man can be the most brutal animal. Females will be females and males will be males. History and biology repeat themselves.

I can hear the tramp of marching feet. It must be a battalion. The Japs prefer to move at night. What is that they are singing? It is a strange, weird, hymn.

Only last night, it was boogiewoogie.


January 1, 1942

Most of Luzon is in Japanese hands. The USAFFE has retreated to Bataan. Where are the U.S. planes? Will the convoy arrive? My eldest boy is with the 51st division. He is a lieutenant. God protect him.

Manila’s gates are open. The Japanese are expected any moment. The oft-repeated, long-foretold “yellow menace” has come true. How will they treat us? I am not worried about myself, but of my wife and daughters. There are fires all over the city. Historic Santo Domingo church is a mass of ruins. The oil and gasoline dumps of Pandacan have been set ablaze. The piers are destroyed, wrecked, charred. The red sky above the city and the black coils of smoke rising to the clouds present a weird picture. At night, Manila looks like a burning cauldron.

Lolita cries over her son. In war, mothers suffer most. Can hear the San Juan cabaret band playing a fast boogie-beat.

Had a busy day in the office. Worked till late in the afternoon. Jorge B. Vargas said that President Manuel Quezon’s last order was for all government officials and employees to stick to their posts.

This is my saddest New Year. I think I’ll open a bottle.