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.
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.
Per my request, Mrs. Cristina M. Cuenca, Malolos Women’s Club President, asked Bulacan Gov. Rustia to find out from the Japanese Adm. if the Malolos POWs are not included in the announced “benevolent Filipino Sick POWs Release Policy”.
Early this morning, Gov. Rustia and Mrs. Cuenca visited Malolos POW Camp to inform us of his findings. He said that, according to the Japanese Adm., all Filipino sick POW releases will be done only in Capas and the first batch is scheduled today. He, therefore, suggested that if we want to take advantage of the release policy, that we request for transfer to Capas.
Because even our friend, Mrs. Cuenca, agreed with the suggestion of our good governor, as the senior officer of our group and on their behalf, I requested that we be transferred to Capas, Tarlac where the rest of our POW comrades are being held. The governor promised to transmit our request for transfer to the Japanese Authorities concerned.
Today I got good and bad news. The good news from Mrs. Cristina Magsaysay Cuenca is that according to reliable information from the Japanese Adm., with their new policy to get the good side of our people, will begin releasing sick Filipino POWs at Capas by the end of this month. I requested her to ask Gov. Rustia to inquire if we are not included in this release policy as we also have ‘several sick’ POWs in Malolos Camp and she promised to do that.
The bad news is from the underground “Free Phil.” latest issue saying that after the fall of Tobruk in Africa, the British Forces were badly beaten and pushed 60 miles from Libya to Egypt by German Forces under Gen. Rommel with 25,000 British taken POWs. This news is, however, offset by the announcement that Maj. Gen. Eisenhower has assumed command of the US Forces in the European Theater of operation signaling a decision to open a second front in Europe.
The Malolos Women’s Club under the leadership of Mrs. Cristina Magsaysay Cuenca continues to help the Malolos POWs. As mentioned before, when they found out that we were sleeping on bare cold concrete prison floors during our early days here, they lost no time providing each of us mattresses and other beddings including mosquito nets. Today Mrs. Cuenca accompanied by her able assistant, Miss Luming Flor R. Cruz (whose brother, Perico, is graduating from West Point this month) visited us. I learned from them that they have already made two trips each to Camp O’Donnell and Camp Cabanatuan bringing medicine. They told us the deplorable conditions of POWs at O’Donnell where daily deaths are reported at 400 to 500. Other Ladies Group leaders performing similar civic assistance to POWs at Camp O’Donnell Mrs. Cuenca mentioned are Mrs. Josefa Llanes Escoda, Mrs. Pilar Hidalgo Lim (wife of Gen. Vicente Lim) and Miss Lulu Reyes, a prominent social worker of Ermita well known to OSP student officers of Class ’41 that boarded with her.
And so today, let me salute all our courageous and patriotic women for all their effort to help our POWs where ever they are.