November 6, 1944

More bombings yesterday at 12, 2 and 4. Then early this morning at 4 and at 8:30 the Pier area was strafed and bombed. There were many ships there because several Jap divisions arrived. They probably came from Singapore.

Just received a phone call from Ning. He says that a bomb hit Paco Bridge. It was probably accidental. So far practically all bombs have been directed at military installations. In fact, most of the casualties have been caused by the shrapnel from Jap AA guns. One shell burst right in Julito’s room destroying his wardrobe and the walls of his house. His Jap neighbor ran to his hous to find out what happened. The Jap said “indiscriminate bombing by the Anglo-Saxons”. Then Julito picked up one of the fragments and it had a Jap inscription.

Right now we are still under ‘alert’. That means I can’t go out of the house this morning because the Jap sentries stop everybody on the way. They ask for passes or permits and I haven’t any.

There were several fellows here yesterday and the conversation was all about the bombing, of course. Julito thinks they will land in Luzon before Elections. James claims that Atimonan is already being shelled. Mama expects landings somewhere in Batangas. If Mama is right, we may see Romulo and Osmeña and Valdes and good old Mac before the 15th. Batangas is just about fifty miles from Manila.

Deputy Military Governor Figueras was here last night. He said he was called by President Laurel because the President had issued a confidential order “conscripting all able-bodied men from 15 to 50 for labor purposes”. Personally, I believe that labor conscription is worse than military conscription. Under military conscription, you at least get armed and then if you feel like turning around, you can do something about it. With labor conscription, you become human fodder. Imagine having to work in airfields, shipyards and military establishments. Figueras said Laurel told him “Fix this order up to make it look voluntary. The Japs demand Filipino labor for their roads, airfields and military installations.” Figueras said he will try to fix it up to permit substitution. This is a bad arrangement, in my opinion, because only the rich will be able to ‘buy’ substitutes. Figueras said he told Laurel that all young men will go up to the hills if this is publicized. It must be enforced quietly through the neighborhood associations.

Paier, our Swiss neighbor was crying yesterday. He received word that his best friend Carlos Preysler died in Fort Santiago (he must have been tortured to death). Teddy Fernando, a friend of mine from the Ateneo, was arrested a few months ago and his wife recently received word that she may get his corpse from Santiago. After this war, there will probably be many Jean Valjean stories about Santiago.

I’m still very depressed about the news of Eking Albert’s capture. He was actively engaged in guerrilla warfare especially after his daring escape from Muntinglupa Prisons where he was a military prisoner. Raul, who is also in the hills, wrote me a sad account of Eking’s capture. That means that 3 of my close friends are gone. Paquing who disappeared in Cabiao; Johnnie Ladaw who died in Bataan and now… Eking. Of course, there is a chance that Paquing is still alive. Who knows, he may still be in some underground unit?

I’m going to take my breakfast now. I wonder what it is. I haven’t eaten eggs for months now. It costs ₱10. When will I taste bread again and ham and… oh well. Probably it will be a little rice and dried fish because the cook was not able to go to market yesterday. And I don’t think he’ll be able to go today also. It’s good we still have a little supply of canned goods, which we bought four years ago. Heard Dunn of CBS kicking about corned beef the other night in a broadcast to America, imagine!

There goes the siren again….


November 5, 1944

Just came out of the shelter so I’m quite dirty right now. The bombing was quite stiff and the mud on the sides started to scatter all over the place. I can’t stand the shelter so I went out to take a look at the dogfights. Saw a plane shot atop Camp Murphy. First it started to spin downward and then there was smoke and finally it lighted up in flames. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. I don’t know whether it was Jap or U.S. The bombing began at about 8 a.m., just after Mass and it ended at 8:30. They came back again at 10. I wonder if they’ll come back before this afternoon.

Perrucho was here and he was complaining about his salary. He is receiving ₱22o plus corn ration of 200 grams. That’s certainly not enough. A ‘papaya’ costs ₱50. If you take your lunch downtown, it’ll cost you around ₱300. Then, of course, the conversation was all about the war. People think Luzon will be invaded before the Elections. Anybody who thinks otherwise is considered a defeatist. Papa told us not to speak very loud because outside the house there is a Japanese sentry. The Japs are very strict these days.

Everything is quiet right now, although we are still under ‘alert’. The radio is still blacked out. If you look out of my window and the see the fields and the carabao wallowing in the mud near Tito’s shack, you’d think there was no war.

Now I can hear the motor of Jap planes. There are three of them flying near Murphy. There are four columns of smoke in the direction of Mandaluyong and another one around Pasay.

Mama’s calling me for lunch. She says we better eat early because they might come back again.

I listened to the press dispatches from Leyte last night. In fact, I’ve been listening for the last of three nights. I like the shows of Dunn, Flarety, Clint Roberts, Cummison and others. The Time Inc. story was also very good.

P.S.

This is shocking news. Eking Albert was captured. You probably heard of his escape from Muntinglupa and his guerrilla activities. He is a great loss. He had a thousand and one ideas and he had nothing but his country in mind. He is a great kid.

Because of Eking’s arrest and the arrest of Gen. de Jesus I am very cautious these days. I have made arrangements for a hurried escape, just in case the Japs start knocking at my door one of these nights.


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.