July 10, 1942

I talked to some released prisoners. They recounted the treatment they had received at the concentration camp. They were not maltreated nor molested, nor even required to work, especially the Filipinos. Their release was undoubtedly an act of magnanimity, although the skeptics believe that it was due to the lack of food for their sustenance. Perhaps it was also for the purpose of winning public sympathy and loyalty, as the families of the released prisoners were constrained to be careful about the behavior of their wards and relatives.

The death toll at Camp O’Donnell has reached alarming heights. More than 30,000 were buried in Capas, where Camp O’Donnell is situated. Malaria and dysentery, aggravated by lack of food during the sojourn through the mountains of Bataan, caused general weakness among the soldiers. Instead of receiving medical care after their surrender, they were made to march from Bataan to San Fernando, the sick mingling with the healthy. There were some 60,000 of them herded into barracks which were meant to accommodate less than 2,000. The epidemic was widespread. The death toll was something like 500 to 600 a day, and their bodies were dumped into common graves. There were no medicines because those sent by people of Manila through the Red Cross were channeled by unscrupulous doctors to the black market, or sold to the prisoners at prohibitive prices.


May 2, 1942

Must call Goyo Anonas. I was told his son is with Philip in Capas. Told Lolita to inform Mrs. Jose Meily that her son Joe was seen alive on the day of surrender in Mt. Mariveles. My cousin Nena Lopez-Rizal is very worried. There is no news of her son Andring. Mrs. Gruet met Lolita in church. She said: “You are lucky. Your son has come back. Mine…” and she broke into tears.

Churchill was right. War is blood and tears…


May 1, 1942

Taken by truck to San Fernando & there stripped of razor, small knife, silver pencil, flash light, cigarette case, Compass, etc whistle & letters from Helen. Had plenty of rice, opened the can of tomato soup — Spent the night & at 8:30 had rice & misua to a train for ride to Capaz. Marched from Capaz to ODonnell. Rested & under supervision of N.C.O. provided with water — Civilians gave each of us two cigarettes. Arrived at O.D about 4 –registered & assigned to Co. B of Casual officers. Then Col. G. & the officer of the 1st. Abbott, Thomas Amato have not appeared. Olson lost on way up. Hutchings & Col Ivey believed lost. Abbott & White made Capt. about April 1. White id here A died enroute.


April 30, 1942

Submitted to Mrs. Escoda the following list embodying the urgent needs of war prisoners in accordance with wishes expressed by officers and men now in Capaz.

I. FOOD

A. Organization: N.F.W.C., Girl’s Scouts, etc.

B. Necessary items: 1, rice; 2. mongo; 3. salt; 4. sugar, panocha; 5. camote, cassava, gabi; 6. lime, calamansi; 7. galletas, biscuits; 8. bananas, papaya, mangoes, guavas—any kind of fruit in season; 9. coffee, tea, ginger; 10. milk; 11. salted eggs.

II. MEDICAL SUPPLIES

A. Organization: Department of Health

B. Necessary items: 1. quinine, iodine, mercurochrome; 4. disinfectants (kreso, lysol, bichloride); 5. alcohol; 6. muslin for bandages; 7. tape; 8. cotton or kapok; 9. sulfathiazol.

III. CLOTHING

A. Organization: Women’s Committee

B. Necessary items; 1. undershirts, shirts, shorts, sweaters, socks; 2. blankets; 3. shoes, slippers; 4. towels.

IV. FINANCE

1. Personal solicitation. 2. Contribution in kind.

V. TRANSPORTATION

A men’s committee to take charge of arrangements for trucks, jitneys, etc., to transport personnel and supplies.

VI. UTENSILS

1. Cooking; 2. forks, knives, spoons, pans, bottles; 3. pitchers, basins; 4. rake, shovel, pick, brooms; 5. empty cans for glasses; 6. tissue paper; 7. empty gasoline cans for water and water wagons.

VII. DISTRIBUTION

1. Bureau of Health; 2. Women’s committee. 

VIII. FIELD WORKERS

Field workers operating under groups in charge of distribution are to be limited to Bureau of Health doctors, nurses, social workers There must be a strong, aggressive, efficient leader.

IX. GENERAL SUPPLIES

1. fuel; 2. cigarettes; 3. matches

The chief consideration is time. Relief must reach the camps with as little loss of time possible if more deaths are to be averted. Average deaths per day according to more accurate reports are over five hundred.

The Japanese are still very strict. They do not permit visitors. They prohibit relatives from sending food and medicine to the captives.

There is a rumor that one of the staff officers of the Japanese Army called Gen. Homma’s attention to the inhuman treatment accorded Filipino and American war prisoners. Gen. Homma was said to have answered: “Let them die, to atone for the thousands among us that also died.”

Today’s Tribune shows pictures of Recto, Yulo and Paredes drinking a toast with Japanese staff officers in a Malacañan reception.

Teofilo Yldefonso, world-famous breaststroker, several years Far Eastern Olympics’ record holder, died in Capaz. He was wounded in Bataan. In the concentration camp, gangrene developed in his wounds. No medicine could get to him. He died in a lonely nipa shed.

Today’s Tribune carriers a front-page item in bold type entitled “Correction” which gives an idea of Japanese mentality. The story follows:

“In yesterday’s editorial we made a mistake using the words ‘His Imperial Highness’ instead of ‘His Imperial Majestry.’ We hereby express our sincere regret about the matter.”

The Japanese soldier is not merely fired with patriotism. He is also inspired by a religious motive. The Emperor is his god.

Philip’s intimate friend, Johnnie Ladaw, was reported killed in Bataan, two hours after surrender. He was machine-gunned by a tank. Johnnie was No. 3 national ranking [tennis] player. He defeated Frank Kovacs of the U.S. at the Rizal court several months before the war.

When I look at our tennis court, I seem to see him. He was always smiling. Maybe he died smiling…


April 29, 1942

Emperor’s birthday. All houses were required to display the Japanese flag. Gen. Homma, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Army, declared that Japan has succeeded in driving out the power of the United States and Britain in the Orient. Chairman Vargas expressed his gratitude “for the many acts of benevolence of the Imperial forces.”

In Camp O’Donnell, a nephew of mine, Tirso, died because no medicine could be given him. The Japanese Army prohibits the sending of medicines to the sick in Bataan.

Attended a party in Malacañan in honor of the Emperor’s birthday. There was plenty of food. I could not eat. I was thinking of the men starving in Capaz.


April 26, 1942

The concentration camp in Capaz for Filipino and American war prisoners looks like a graveyard. Only there are no tombs and mausoleums and headstones. Instead, there are thousands of walking corpses, breathing skeletons, lying, sitting, crawling, shuffling aimlessly in a bare, treeless, sun-scorched, desert-like area. Capaz is the bivouac of the living dead.

Everywhere suffering humanity walked, squatted, slept, died. There was a cold chill in my heart as I beheld the gruesome sights wrought by the war: a blind officer begging for water to quench his thirst; a young soldier pale and yellow with malaria, shivering on the sand; an old colonel with a blackened leg begging for medicine; an Igorot private shouting deliriously; hundreds of youths with tattered, blood-splattered rags clamoring for food to appease their hunger; an officer on a crutch wandering pointlessly; thousands of dust-begrimed, mud-stained, bony, skeletal, emaciated, sunken-eyed youths fighting for the slow drops of water trickling from a single faucet; hundreds lying limply on the ground waiting for the eternal sleep; a rigid corpse with a smile on his face.

I arrived in Capaz at one o’clock after taking lunch in a nipa hut in Angeles with Arturo Tanco and Dr. Katigbak. In a small house in Capaz, we met Dr. Agustin Liboro and young Enrique Albert. They were preparing medicines for the sick. They did not know how they could send the medicines, but they were going to try their best. The Japanese prohibit the sending of medicines to war prisoners in the concentration camps. They have not permitted the Red Cross nor any relief organization to give succor to the prisoners.

Oscar Jacinto accompanied me to the town convent. There I met Victor Tizon, mayor of Capaz, and Fr. Marcos Punzal. We were told that the only persons authorized to enter the prison camp were: the governor, mayor and teniente del barrio. I persuaded Mayor Tizon to please accompany me inside the camp. I told him I wanted to look for my son. There were rumors that he is sick.

We passed through a narrow, dusty road crossing the camp. On either side of the road were the temporary shelters for the prisoners: on our left were the Filipinos and on the right, Americans. Many prisoners were carrying tins varying in size to fetch water. The main problem in the camp was water. I was told afterwards that the lives of many young boys could have been saved if water could have only been given them.

I saw the camp hospital. It was no hospital at all. It was a morgue. The men were piled on the floor without pillows nor covering. There were no medicines and very limited food and water. It was a transitional station between life and death. A doctor said mortality in the camp was as high as a thousand a day. Some claim it was more.

For a while we had to stop our car. There was an endless line of stretchers. The American soldiers stood at attention. We took off our hats. I counted 60. They were to be buried in a plot reserved for the dead. One soldier carrying a stretcher suddenly knelt and collapsed. He too was dying.

Outside the camp were thousands of mothers, fathers, sweethearts, relatives, friends, trying to see their loved ones. But the sentries were adamant, stern, strict. Their bayonets were fixed, their fingers ready on their triggers. Around the camp, there were makeshift look-out towers with guards armed with machine-guns. Any prisoners approaching the barbed fence by one meter would be shot.

I saw Mrs. Ciocon. She was there all day waiting for an opportunity to see her son. Mrs. Zobel was there too. Jake, she said was an orderly in the Commandant’s office. Mrs. Gruet was also there. She was able to reach the Commandant’s office. “What do you want?” said the commander curtly. “Please,” she said in tears, “is my son alive? Is he in camp?“ The Japanese looked at the records, read the names, then he stood at attention, bowed low, paid homage to the mother of a war hero. “Madam,” he said, “your son is now in a better place.”

As it was getting dark, we decided to return home. Before leaving, I gave a bundle containing a can of coffee, some sugar and quinine capsules and sulphathiasol to Mayor Tizon. “Please,” I said, “try to give this personally to my son.”

On the way home, we met more people in cars and trucks and jitneys and carromatas going to Capaz. I saw Dr. Escoto and he told me that he was able to go inside the camp. “Philip is sick,” he said.

When I arrived home, I told my wife and kids about the sad conditions of the prisoners in Capaz. To break the loneliness, I told my daughter Neneng, to switch on the radio.

A Filipino official was giving a speech praising the magnanimity of the Imperial Japanese Army.

 

 


April 21, 1942

Capas, Tarlac

F.C. Camp

Joined the grave-detail. We buried those that died this morning. Some of the graves yesterday were not dug deep enough. The bodies buried yesterday have been unearthed. The sand here is clayish because the cemetery is too near the river.

One of the boys we buried had a little piece of paper in his pocket. We opened it. It was the copy of a citation awarding him for exceptional bravery in an attack in Bataan.

(later)

Most of the boys in the camp are very depressed. They feel that “it will be a long time before we are released.”

Many are disappointed with our leaders in Manila. “All they know is to give speeches and make promises!” “Why don’t they resign from their posts if the Japs do not want to release us?”

Personally, I don’t think we will be released until all resistance in the islands has ceased. The Japs are afraid that when we are strong enough, we might start trouble again. Besides, they want to make up for the thousands of Japs who died in Bataan. The more among us that die here, the better for them.

(later)

Collecting impressions of everyone here about Bataan. It will make a book someday. Am also listening to everybody’s experience during the long walk from Bataan to this prison camp.

Apparently, the Japs gave every barch more or less the same kind of treatment, although some groups got very much worse treatment.

Consensus is that at least 15,000 died during that bloody march. Japs bayoneted men who could not keep up with the pace. Very little rest was given. Some were shot for trying to escape.

For example, there was an old soldier who took off his shoes because of blisters. Suddenly, one of the Japs clubbed him on the head. A relative of the clubbed man charged at the Jap. Both fellows were tied to a tree and slowly tortured. Their shouts could be heard by all those around, but no one was allowed to look.

Someone said that in Orani, everybody was searched. One fellow was found with Jap money in his pocket. The Jap soldier said in broken English: “Why you have Jap money? So maybe you take that from dead Jap soldier! O.K… Now you die!” And he was bayoneted in the lungs. According to the one telling the story, the Jap money was given by a Japanese officer who bought the boy’s watch.

After such exchange of stories, everybody ends the conversation with the remark: “Someday we will get even, someday.”

Very few boys in camp think that Corregidor will be able to stand. Quite a number are disappointed at America. They ask: “Where is the convoy she promised?” The great majority believe, however, “in due time, when American factories get going, Japan will be beaten.”

Must stop writing. It’s getting dark. We have no lights here.

Two boys are humming a duet. Kundiman again. I like kundimans. They are soft, plaintive, full of feeling, lonely, very lonely.

They have stopped singing. Somebody in the group is weeping. I wonder why.

(later)

Just ate another camote. Superb.

[diary does not resume until September 21, 1944]