August 21, 1945, Tuesday

7:30 a.m. The market was almost dead. There were no quotations for buyers. Sellers were getting sleepy as there was no movement. Don Vicente Madrigal, the President of the Exchange, was so disappointed that he ordered the temporary closing of the Exchange. The sellers left with bowed heads, some even with tears as if some near relations had crossed the Great Divide. But Bayan kept watching and surreptitiously or privately (outside the Exchange), he bought, but timidly and only very small lots.

At 9:00 a.m., Dr. Bunye came and reported that Col. Gilfilan was going by boat. Why not by airplane like others, others who were even minor officers? Immediately we concluded that Gilfilan was going to accompany us, as did Col. Superintendent Forbes when we were brought over here by boat.

At 10:45, Zulueta, who had gone to the hospital not to be cured but rather to smell for news, came back with the report that the Postmaster had certified that the radiogram was authentic. Zulueta considered his trip highly successful because some way or other he was able to connect himself with the cook of Col. Gilfilan and the cook assured that he had overheard a conversation with the Colonel in which the release of war prisoners was mentioned. Immediately the stock market was revived and there were brisk transactions. But Don Vicente persisted in not opening the Exchange, so all transactions had to be done privately — off the Exchange.

At 4:00 p.m., transactions suddenly stopped. It was learned that Col. Gilfilan and Lt. Reyes were going by airplane and not by boat. Consternation! Paredes endeavored to save the situation by stating that his interpretation is just the reverse — that the news was favorable. To show he meant it, he bought some shares. The action of Paredes elicited no enthusiasm.

But we were just like fools. There was too much wishful thinking. When it was found out that the S.S. Mactan had not arrived, some, including myself, illogically came to the astounding conclusion that we were leaving on that boat.

7:00 p.m. Cortez came and reiterated his belief. No reaction.

8:20 p.m. It was announced that MacArthur was going to Washington. More pessimism as it was suspected that in the meanwhile we would be forgotten.

Up to 10:00 p.m., conversations here and there — all pessimistic. Mr. Papa, who works in the Supply Office, said that the matter had been the subject of a conversation in said office among the Americans and themselves. They are all agreed that such a cablegram was received and that war prisoners could be no other than us. If we are not released or taken to Manila, then the word “war” must have been misinterpreted or erroneously codified. It might have been “Insular”.

Let us sleep and hope for a brighter next day.

* * * * *

The Pacifican newspaper states who will be considered war criminals. They are those who sold war materials; those who actually aided the military operations of the enemy; and those who otherwise gave aid to the enemy. We do not come under any of these classifications.


August 20, 1945, Monday

As usual, we woke up early in the morning, about 5:30. We used to go to the Mess for breakfast at 6:00 o’clock, but this time we went after 6:30. The stock exchange was opened also very early. Some transactions were immediately registered. But it continued to be weak. In the Mess, we noted that the usual truckloads of colonists that started here everyday for the construction site of the new stockade were absent. “Oh, there will be no work,” everybody remarked. The usual time for lining up came, but there was no “fall in” command for the construction workers. The sour face of the Sergeant was absent. We went into our quarters triumphant.

We had hardly rested when the bell for call for work sounded. To us it sounded like a death knell — bells tolling when somebody was dying or had died as practiced by the Catholics. We sank into our costs, as if we had “lost everything in a rapid stream” (a Tagalog expression when one is in a position of dejection, “Para kang naanuran”). We went out of our quarters and there we saw the hated Sergeant calling men for the new stockade construction. He had to do this because the men were not expecting that there would be work anymore. The stock prices tobogganed down. Unlike in previous hours, the descent continued, not halting even for a second. At 10:30 a.m., the lowest level until then was reached. The market was extremely weak. There were many sellers and hardly any buyers. There was only one brave fellow who continued buying, Mr. Bayan. His optimism continued.

The crisis did not come until 3:15 p.m. upon the arrival of Lt. Hagonberg. De la Rama, already very impatient to know the truth, asked him point blank, “Is the rumor now very strong, that we will soon depart for Manila to be released, true?” The Lieutenant answered without any hesitation, “There is no news about your release.” A heavy thud was heard. It was us like a log dropped over our beds. The market crashed. In the wake of the collapse we saw nothing but men with their chins rested on their hands. It was again reminiscent of the scenes at the stock exchange in Crystal Arcade Exchange when favorite stocks suddenly collapsed. We were lucky that although we claim to have already absorbed the American way of life, there was one feature of it that we had not imitated. In America, among the speculators in Wall Street, cases have been registered where reputed millionaires invested all they had and more in stocks hoping to be multi-millionaires. Sitting in front of the tickers, they watched the market constantly. They watched the value of their stocks go down and continue to go down to the point where if they sell, they would be headed directly for the poor house. A case was reported where the investor dropped the ticker’s lace paper, dismissed all his employees, entered the inner room to his private office, got a glass and the whiskey bottle, and began to drink. When already groggy but not yet completely drunk, he scratched a pathetic note of farewell to his family, laid it carefully on the desk, placed a paper weight on it so that it would not be blown by the wind; pulled out a revolver from his deskdrawer… the rest need not be told. The next day, there was the usual obituary notice. Many similar cases were reported. If we had imbibed this way of life, there would have been one or two for whose soul’s repose we would have been praying.

But something else was happening. At first attributed to Atabrine and to the malaria sickness itself, but later discovered to be the result of mental anguish caused by our unjust, illegal imprisonment, many became crazy and many more were showing signs of mental derangement. Three were already outright insane. Our prominent professor was becoming very eccentric and it is feared that he is going insane. A few others are said to be similarly situated. There is such fear and panic that everybody’s actuations are looked upon as a sign of lunacy. Zulueta said that he is afraid that he is also suffering from some mental illness due to the uncertainty prevailing as regards our release. In response to his remarks, someone related this story: The wife of a Chinese died and he was very much affected. He was continuously crying. While the coffin of the deceased was being lowered, he squatted on the border of the “fosa” (hole where body is buried) and cried: “Oh, take me with you, I want to die.” A man behind him gave him a push and he almost fell. The Chinese told the joker: “Huwag ka bilo bilo.” Translated, “Don’t be joking.” (“Bilo bilo” is really “biro biro” but Chinese cannot pronounce their R’s.) So we immediately told Paco Zulueta, “Huwag ka bilo bilo”.

The stock exchange continued to go down. But a faint pulse could still be detected. It was still breathing. But only Bayan continued vigilant. We noticed, however, that although his optimism had not died out, he was not effecting any actual transaction. At 5:30 p.m. an almost imperceptible reaction was noted. This is due to the fact that Reyes came and insisted in the genuiness of the radiogram. Cortez insisted that work at the new stockade was ordered stopped. Those who worked at the new camp arrived and they were besieged with questions from everybody. News were conflicting. Some said they continued working; some said they did all their jobs; some said they were merely ordered to clean and they were relieved of their responsibility for equipment, etc. As each one had his own version and nothing was clear, Rodrigo was called in as he is alleged to know more inasmuch as he had been talking with the Captain in charge of the construction. He reported that it was true that an order was received in the morning to stop construction work and the people who worked on the site that morning were ordered just to clean the premises. But in the afternoon, he said, the order was changed so that construction had to be continued. We passed the night with pessimism.


August 19, 1945, Sunday

We went to church and heard Mass. I went to confession and received communion for the second time here, the first time only a week and a half ago — the first time since I was married in 1914.

To express graphically our reactions on news pertaining to our release, our hopes, joys and disappointments, we continued to use stock exchange language. We take as par price an imaginary price of stock in London. From this comes the expression “A la par con Londres”, “at par with London.”

The night before it was 95% par. After Mass, undoubtedly sobered by intense meditation in Church, the excitement that had begun when the radiogram was first received, subsided. Instead a calm consideration of the import of the telegram was made. Somebody noticed that the words “Magic White” were used at the beginning of the radiogram. They also recalled that “Magic” is one of the favorite expressions of Moncado. The conclusion was that Moncado had invented or altered the radiogram. There was no way of finding out as he was not in the stockade.

The question arose as to whom the expression “war prisoners” refers. There could be four kinds of prisoners: (1) insular prisoners who were here when the war broke out and who continue to be here; (2) prisoners sentenced and imprisoned here during the Japanese regime; (3) Japanese prisoners whether military or civilian, and (4) us. There are still many here of those falling under the first category, the insular prisoners, but they cannot be considered war prisoners. As to the second, the interpretation could be stretched so as to consider them war prisoners, but it is not known if there are such prisoners here. The third class clearly are war prisoners, but our information is that there are no such prisoners here. As to the fourth — us — in a way we are war prisoners. Only future events will solve this quandary.

Earlier, radical change or movement in the prices of the stocks occurred only about once a week. Later, it became daily. Now it is hourly. The prices become bearish. Radical changes take place every hour. The extremes are quite far apart. The stockade is now a regular stock exchange with the usual huzzle and buzzle, the nervous demeanor of the traders, and the ticking of tickers. Men converge everywhere, asking one another of any new development. Whenever somebody new enters the stockade, he is immediately besieged with questions; even the American guards were submitted to thorough questioning.

Because of the fear that the radiogram might be a Moncado invention, the differences in interpretation and lack of confirmation, stock prices receded and continued going down every hour. Gloom was beginning to reign when suddenly big Cortez, a Chinese-Filipino who was one of those working in the kitchen, came running as if he was sprinting in a one hundred-yard dash. Everybody became excited and immediately surrounded him. After catching his breath, he told us that the Mess Sergeant had congratulated them because we would soon be released. The Sergeant said that in their barracks they discussed to whom the term “war prisoners” referred, and they concluded that it referred to us. The Sergeant said that the work of construction on the new camp had been ordered suspended by Manila. This happened at about 10:50 p.m. When Cortez came the price had reached already the low price of 50% below par. After the news of Cortez, it rose to 95% above par. Some even wished to offer 100% but desisted. A pandemonium was again about to break and much effort had to be employed to stop it. It was not an easy task to calm them down. We were all in high spirits. At 12:00 o’clock, we went to the Mess with much hunger but without any intention to eat as we were so happy in the thought that we will soon be able to join our families; we did not care to eat anymore.

I shall state that when the radiogram was brought to the stockade on the night of Saturday and when Big Cortez made his famous run, the scene was reminiscent of the scene in the New York Stock Exchange and the Manila Crystal Arcade Stock Exchange during the mining boom in the Philippines, Everybody was excited; everybody had their eyes wide open and ears cocked for any change in prices on the board or for any news; everybody was buying or selling to their financial limit.

In the mess hall (Sunday, August 19, 12:15 p.m.), it was noticed that many colonists were entering and leaving the recreation hall with their baggages. We were told that they were the prisoners who were released and were going to Manila on board the Mactan. The conclusion was that the word “prisoners” in the radiogram did not refer to us. Stock went down. Moncado was sought and he denied that he had falsified or altered the radiogram. He was of the opinion that the radiogram referred to us. Stock prices reacted. We found out that Nadres, the Acting Superintendent of the Colony, also received a radiogram similar in tenor as that received by Col. Gilfilan. Nadres has no jurisdiction over us; he only has the Insular prisoners under him, so that the word “prisoners” must refer to Insular prisoners only. It was explained that the Provost Marshall radioed Col. Gilfilan upon the request of Director of Prisons Misa, as the latter has no jurisdiction over Col. Gilfilan. Stock down. It was discovered that there was a difference between the two telegrams in that the one received by Col. Gilfilan referred to “war prisoners” and we are the only war prisoners here. Stock up.

While we were on our way to the mess hall for supper we met Dr. Reyes, the dentist, and he told us that he had been transferred to the General Headquarters in Manila. Since Dr. Reyes came with us and no substitute had been appointed for him, and since we could not possibly be left without a dentist, the conclusion was that we were going. Market became firm. In the mess at supper, Reyes, who brought the sensational radiogram, and Cortez, the sprinter, confirmed and insisted on the news. Upward trend observed.

Another point nobody could understand is the secrecy maintained by the Colonel and the Lieutenant. If there was such an order why should it be kept secret from us? It was suspected that these officers would not divulge the message to us until the time of our departure, otherwise the people would not work. Furthermore, such is the Army practice. I added that necessary precautions need to be taken — it will take time to notify Japanese subjects to surrender.

That afternoon and evening, the market was very variable— bearish. But all agreed that we will have more or less definite news next day. If work in the new stockade is continued there will be no hope; otherwise, our departure for Manila will be assured. Our night sleep was far from perfect.