One of the great romantic stories of World War II, is of Polish lancers bravely –and desperately– charging German tanks in the opening days of World War II. Shades of the famed charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava during the Crimean War, which led a French general, Pierre Bosquet, observing the brave but pointless charge, to remark, C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie (“It is magnificent, but it is not war: it is madness”).
Apparently, romantic as the tale was, the story wasn’t true: it was a myth created by the panzer commander Gen. Guderian, and spread by the famed war correspondent William J. Shirer; see the Polish-American Journal and The Guardian for details.
Delaying actions were fought to permit withdrawal to Bataan, the bloodiest of which was fought by the 11th and 21st Divisions on the Porac-Guagua line. The 26th Cavalry Regiment protected the west flank of the 21st Division. As the entire USAFFE struggled from south and north toward the Layac junction, the only approach to Bataan, the delaying forces held their line on open and unprepared ground. From 1 January to 5 January they stood fast against massive enemy aerial and artillery bombardment, concentrated tank attacks and banzai charges. Casualties on both sides were heavy. The first defensive in Bataan was the Hermosa-Dinalupihan line, where on 6 January 1942 the 71st Division, the American 31st Infantry Regiment and the 26th Cavalry Regiment fought off the pursuing enemy.
The aim of War Plan Orange-3 was to delay the invading enemy forces until the US Navy could gather together it’s Pacific Fleet and sail to the Philippines, on the way dealing with the Japanese Fleet. But there was no US Navy fleet to gather together, for it now rested on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
The main battle position of the USAFFE, the Abucay-Morong line, was attacked along its eastern flank on 9 January, but the 5th Regimental Combat Team, reinforced by the 57th Infantry of the 21st Division repulsed the attack. On 14 January the Japanese attacked the boundary of the 41st and 51st Divisions. The 43rd Infantry, holding the left lank of the 41st Division, which was reinforced by the 23rd Infantry, 21st Division sharply refused its flank. The 51st Infantry, holding the right flank of the 51st Division, withdrew creating a gap through which the enemy advanced to the Salian River. But a patrol of the 21st division discovered the enemy, and elements of the Division rushed to the Salian River valley where after a savage fight, they repulsed the enemy. Farther to the west the enemy surprised and routed the 53rd Infantry. Penetrating deep behind the main battle position along the Abo-Abo River valley, the enemy advance was held up by combined elements of the 21st Division of the II reserve, the 31st and the 51st Division of the Bani-Guirol forest area.
The American 31st Infantry and the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, succeeded in partially restoring the abandoned line of the 51st Division.
It’s in these encounters that the image of dashing, daring, but doomed cavalrymen seems to have captured the imagination of soldiers and civilians alike.
On December 30, 1941, a young lieutenant in the intelligence unit of USAFFE, Felipe Buencamino III, wrote in his diary,
Heard the 26th cavalry was annihilated in Pozzorubio. They charged against tanks and artillery. An eye witness claims he saw “headless riders charging onward.” Another said that some members of said unit “jumped at tanks, pried open their turrets and hurled grenades.” MacArthur awarded DSC’s to members of this brave unit. Most decorations were posthumous.
Buencamino III at the time he wrote his diary entry was in Fort McKinley (today’s Fort Bonifacio) and not in touch with his family; he would soon join the USAFFE withdrawal to Bataan.
December 30, 1941 23rd Day of War.
The 26th Cavalry of the Philippine Scouts really distinguished themselves. A Lieutenant made the mistake of lighting a cigarette early one morning. An ambushed machine gunner yelled that was the wrong thing to do and they were riddled by the Japanese, losing about 500 hundred mounts, eight officers, and many unlisted men. They were covering the flank. The Philippine Army retreated and left them cut off. They had to take to the mountains around Lingayen and get reorganized.
News, apparently, traveled fast if Buencamino III and Brown in the field, and Felipe Buencamino III’s father, Victor Buencamino,in already-Japanese-occuppied Manila, also heard the story. writing in his diary on January 9, 1942, something similar:
Talked to an officer whose troops were cut off from the main body of the USAFFE retreating to Bataan. He said the MacArthur strategy in the north was to delay the Japanese advance as much as possible. He recounted the charge of the 26th cavalry. “I saw those Filipino scouts charging armored units, riding on, on, on, matching flesh with tanks. I saw headless riders. . .” I did not make him go on.
The pressure on Filipino and American troops proved to be tremendous. There is January 16, 1942 when, in the vicinity of Morong, 27 members of G Troop of the U.S. Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) surprised and charged a Japanese infantry unit– the last cavalry charge of the US Army.
You can detect in the official and personal accounts of the military above, that there was resentment on the part of the Americans towards the Filipinos. Filipinos for their part, were aware of this and both puzzled and indignant about what seemed to be a slur on national valor.
There is a story told by General Basilio Valdes to Francis Burton Harrison on June 12, 1942, about this battle in Morong, Bataan:
Valdes: “After the battle of Morong (in Bataan), General Segundo said, we had to withdraw and with us were cavalry from Stotsenburg who had lost their horses in the battle. The next day we retook Morong; so we searched the forest for those horses. We met a man in Filipino uniform who spoke perfect English; he said he knew where the horses were and led us up a trail. But he led our two officers, a major and a lieutenant up to a machine gun nest–thereupon the guide (Jap) threw himself on the ground. Our lieut. was killed, the officer in command of the machine gun, and the others fled. Then the major killed the false guide. The Japanese were always after Filipino uniforms.”
But there remains this postscript to the last engagements and charge of the cavalry. Old, decimated, units were recombined, as Ramon Alcaraz reports in his diary on February 21, 1942:
Finally, a composite unit from the PC, 26th Cavalry, 71st Div, PAAC and even Ateneo ROTC Volunteers annihilated the remaining enemy forces at Silaim-Anyasan Pts. thus ending the so-called Battle of the Points in West Bataan two days ago. And so, Alas and Alackay, I can now say “All’s Quiet in All Bataan Fronts.” Have not seen any enemy plane whole day.
And as for the cavalry’s horses, on March 10, 1942, Felipe Buencamino III would write in his diary,
Life is getting harder and harder. Morning ration reduced to one handful of ‘lugao’.
Sometimes carabao meat is given. It is made into ‘tapa’ so that the rest can be preserved for some other day.
The mess officer told me that very soon we will have horse-meat for viand. The QM will slaughter the remaining horses of the 26th cavalry. I don’t think I can eat those brave horses.
Still, the fight would go on. Even after General Wainwright, under duress, ordered the surrender of all USFIP forces in the Philippines, there were officers and men, Filipinos and Americans alike, who continued to resist.
I remember the Commando Unit smuggled into Zambales on the night of March 11, by Q-113 of Lt. Santiago C. Nuval with instructions from USAFFE HQ to start guerrilla organization and operation that early. When I told this to the Judge, he said that is perhaps the guerrilla unit under a certain Col. Thorpe operating from Mt. Pinatubo and some of his officers are former Cavalry Officers from Ft. Stotsenberg that managed to escape from Bataan Death March such as Lts. Ed Ramsey and Joe Barker. They were joined by Filipino volunteers from Zambales willing to continue fighting the Japanese.
But the era of the cavalry had come to an end. A simple marker stands as its monument.
The Philippine Diary Project contains diary entries from a leading figure in the Leyte Landing: Major General Basilio J. Valdes. His diary, as encoded, edited, and provided to researchers by the Valdes family, provides an invaluable, first-person account of the entire Pacific War, from the outbreak of hostilities in 1941 to the restoration of the Commonwealth Government in Manila in 1945.
During this period, Valdes, already Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, became a member of the War Cabinet of President Quezon, accompanying him to Corregidor, and then to the Visayas, Mindanao, Australia and the United States. During that period he underwent further training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
He then served in the Osmeña War Cabinet and in the first regular cabinet established by Osmeña in the Philippines, after which he returned to focusing on the Philippine Army until November 7, 1945. He established a private practice in medicine and served as the head of the Lourdes Hospital.
The Philippine Diary Project has already focused on the early part of World War II in the Philippines, contrasting the eyewitness accounts of officials like Valdes and civilians: see December 24-25, 1941 In Diaries for example.
This period saw the transformation of Valdes from Chief of Staff to a member of the War Cabinet, including the key role Valdes played in the escape of a hospital ship, see The Great Escape of the S.S. Mactan
Valdes’ diary then chronicles the risky, tension-filled hegira of the War Cabinet from Corregidor to the Visayas, then to Mindanao and Australia. From there, the War Cabinet went to the United States to establish a government-in-exile in May, 1942.
This entire period is a topsy-turvy one, and most accounts are confusing because the wartime situation necessarily made record-keeping and the keeping of an official chronology difficult.
This chart, prepared by the Presidential Library and Museum, shows in infographic form, the parallel governments that existed from 1942-1945:
As for the Commonwealth government-in-exile, you will find Valdes mentioned from time to time in the diary of Francis Burton Harrison who served as an Adviser to the government-in-exile. Much of 1943 was spent by Valdes undergoing further training, with expectations growing that the Allied forces would soon be returning to the Philippines.
Valdes seems to have been relatively uninvolved in the intense debate over the succession issue involving the Philippine presidency at this time. For an insight into this, read Frederick Marquardt’s Quezon and Osmeña.
By August 1, 1944, Quezon was dead and Sergio Osmeña succeeded him as President of the Philippines. He was retained in the new War Cabinet, and soon after President Osmeña succeeded into office, preparations began for the return of Allied forces to the Philippines. Incidentally, Frederick Marquardt wrote an interesting account of the origin of the famous wartime slogan, “I Shall Return,” in Footnote to a slogan.
The Philippine Diary Project also allows us to contrast Valdes’ experience with those of civilians in Manila, before, during, and after the return of the Allies to the Philippines. Fr. Juan Labrador, OP, a Spanish Dominican priest, gives us the point of view of a Spaniard sympathetic to the Allies, and who shuttled back and forth between the Colegio de San Juan de Letran and the University of Santo Tomas where Allied civilians had been interned by the Japanese for the duration of the War. The diary entries of Felipe Buencamino III, a veteran of the Bataan campaign (see Bataan, 1942: Views of a Father and his Son), reflects the point of view of young Filipinos anxious for the return of the Allies and the expulsion of the Japanese.
The diary entries of Felipe Buencamino III for October 1, 1944 and October 2, 1944 opens the scene, so to speak, with a description of how life in Manila was breaking down, and anticipation of an Allied invasion was building up.
On October 3, 1944 Gen. Valdes tersely begins his journey home, flying from Washington D.C. to Hamilton Field, California.
October 5, 1944:In preparation for the invasion of the Philippine Islands… United States Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz ordered Admiral William Halsey to strike Japanese airfields at Taiwan, China and Ryukyu Islands, Japan.
On the same day, October 5, 1944, Gen. Valdes, President Osmeña, Col. Alejandro Melchor and Captain Antonio P. Madrigal had arrived in Hawaii and transferred to Kwajalein. By October 7, 1944 they had arrived in Hollandia, where Gen. Valdes shared a bungalow with Gen. Carlos P. Romulo.
October 10, 1944:American aircraft struck Okinawa, Yaeyama, and Miyako Islands, Japan. Okinawan city of Naha was heavily damaged; many of the 548 deaths occurred in Naha, as many of the 698 wounded. 11,451 buildings were destroyed, which included a great number of civilian residences
October 11, 1944:Halsey struck Luzon, and moved on to bombard Taiwan from 12 Oct thru 15 Oct. The attack on Taiwan disabled or destroyed every single one of the 230 fighters that Admiral Shigeru Fukudome had available to him at Taiwan. Other pre-invasion operations included bombing of Hong Kong, Dutch East Indies, and Mindanao.
October 12, 1944:[A] cloudy day, a total of 90 Japanese aircraft were sent to attack Halsey’s carriers off Taiwan, which included Army B6N Tenzan torpedo bombers, Army Ki-49 Donryu horizontal bombers, and Navy P1Y Ginga horizontal bombers.
Gen. Valdes had spent October 8-12, 1944 at work with American staff officers.On the same day, Felipe Buencamino III recounts in his diary that he suffered a relapse of the Malaria he contracted in Bataan, and that,
A Japanese visited Tio Phil and told him that 700 U.S. ships were sighted north of Luzon including 100 aircraft carriers. I wonder if this is the invasion fleet, cross your fingers.
October 13, 1944: 947 American aircraft struck several Japanese airfields at Taiwan. The Japanese staged a counter attack that achieved little, but inflated reports on damage inflicted on the enemy provided the Japanese leaders the false information that the counter strike sunk one aircraft carrier and one battleship; meanwhile, the Japanese admitted to only two aircraft lost.
On this day, October 13, 1944, Gen. Valdes wrote that the invasion fleet bound for Leyte Gulf set sail from Hollandia:
At 10:40 a.m. we boarded our ship the APH SS John Lang. Captain Graf the skipper, a very charming U.S Navy officer met us. Several cabins belonging to the officers of the ship were prepared for us. I occupy the cabin of Lieutenant John F. Moorehead the navigator, and I am very comfortable. The bay is covered with ships of all kinds — hundreds of them: L.C.V’s, L.C.I’s, L.C.M’s, L.S.T’s, APA Cruisers, Destroyers, Airplane Carriers and P.T. Boats. Airplanes are flying over us continuously. What a magnificent display of force. This wonderful picture shows what the U.S can do when she gets started. The alert has been sounded for 1:30 p.m. In a few hours we will start moving, and then the biggest convoy set for an attack, since the invasion of France, will be on its way. I have talked to several officers and men. The morale is high, the enthusiasm inspiring. They are all happy to go, anxious to meet the foe in a death struggle. I am happy to be with them.
At 2:30 p.m. life belts were distributed and instructions were given to us on how to use them in case of sinking. It is on the same principle as the Mae West life vest used by Aviators. It becomes inflated with carbon dioxide. We were advised to keep it on continuously and not to inflate until after we are in the water, as it would be dangerous to jump overboard with that inflated.
It is warm; sea is calm, perhaps a presage of the “hell” to come. I hope the weather is good when we reach our objective. With the grace of God we cannot fail.
The convoy started on its way at 4 p.m.. 400 ships of all kinds. We travel only at eight knots per hour because the L.C.I’s cannot go faster.
Tribune headlined U.S. raid on Taiwan. They claim that a hundred U.S. planes were shot down. I wonder how much damage was done. Question is now being raised as to whether the U.S. will attack Formosa before the P.I.? Or is the Formosa raid just a diversionary attack? Or will they head for the Japanese mainland immediately?
October 14, 1944: American aircraft struck Taiwan and northern Luzon, Philippine Islands. About 240 Japanese aircraft were lost on this day both in the air and on the ground, including aircraft lost during another failed counter strike. Imperial General Headquarters reported that, once again based on inflated reports from the field, that at least three American carriers, one destroyer, and three unidentified warships were sunk, with another carrier and another warship damaged.
En route. We crossed the equator at 2:30 p.m., and I was made a member of the ‘Order of the Deep’. A card signed by ‘Rex Neptune’ was presented to me. It is very hot. Practically no breeze…
The convoy is magnificent & impressive. It shows the tremendous power of the U.S. ships of all sizes, types and denominations.
In Manila, October 14 was the first anniversary of the Republic established by the Japanese. Fr. Juan Labrador OP wrote about the isolated nature of the official commemoration:
Today is the first anniversary of the Republic. Due to existing conditions—Formosa is under air attack—the celebrations were limited to some ceremonies at Malacañan. The projected parade before the legislative building was suspended. The suspension was attributed to the lack of transportation for the students and employees who were supposed to attend. Only the President’s family and some Japanese officials were invited to Malacañan. The public had never attended such ceremonies, nor is it interested in the welfare of the Republic, which they consider to be moribund and liable to collapse anytime, either violently or by natural death.
Today’s the first anniversary of the Philippine Republic, heh, heh. Puppet Laurel declared: “The first-year of the Republic has been a success”. He forgot to say that during this republic’s first year, the people have had less and less food. The BIBA has distributed rice only three or four times. There has been no peace and order, no….. oh why crab about it.
–adding that the public had been expecting an air-raid.
October 15, 16, and 19, 1944: successive corrections to the reports further increased the number of American ships damaged and/or sunk during the counter strikes at the US 3rd Fleet operating east of Taiwan.
On October 15, 1944, writing in his diary on the progress of the invasion fleet, Gen. Valdes noticed,
At 11:45 a.m. another convoy coming from Manis Island joined us. We are now 600 ships. The hardest part is the total blackout at night.
Hooray, there were here again… this morning. They came at about 10 o’clock, after Mass. Of course, you know who I mean by “they”.
Japanese planes went up this time. People said there were many dogfights around Caloocan. Several civilians were killed.
I saw a heartbreaking sight. An American aviator bailed out. First, he looked like a toy dangling on a white umbrella. Then his figure became more distinct and people started shouting “Parachute, parachute!”. When he was just above the housetops, Japanese soldiers started firing at him. I even heard the rat-a-tat of machine guns. Made my blood boil, this slaughtering of a fellow that’s defenceless. Can’t conceive how the Japanese can interpret such an act as bravery.
No more raids this afternoon…
Several of the boys that came to the house to play basketball believe this is the prelude to invasion.
The Japanese have spread their ammunition dumps all over the city. In front of Hicky’s and Gabaldon’s and the street leading to the house and beyond there are a lot of boxes under the trees. Taft Avenue is exclusively for Army cars and trucks. Streetcars are also for Army and Navy men only. There’s a rumor that cars, dokars and bicycles will be commandeered. That’ll leave us with practically nothing. They’ve taken our food, our shelter and now –transportation.
The Japanese claim they sunk 12 aircraft carriers. “We’ve driven them off,” they boast. “No,” added another, “we sunk them all.” That’s why I’m disappointed. I wanted them to come to make these fellows eat their words.
Tio Phil thinks this was just a diversionary raid. Their main objective is Formosa, he said. They sent a couple of carriers here to mislead the Japs, he opined.
America is still silent about yesterday’s raid. Some say Aparri was terribly bombed. That’s what I think. In my opinion, the air raid over Manila was just a feint. They were after some big game up north.
The diary of Fr. Juan Labrador OP on the same day gives his own eyewitness account of the same air-raid recorded by Buencamino –and his own account of the same Japanese propaganda:
I was reading this dogmatic editorial when the air raid signal no. 1 sounded, and within a few minutes, anti-aircraft shells were exploding above the clouds. The Japanese fighter planes, emboldened by the editorial, were flying confidently overhead when the American bombers came without having learned about the sinking of their aircraft carrier. Bombs exploded so loudly from Nichols that they could be heard in Balintawak, as a giant umbrella rose from the airfield.
Eighteen out of sixty American planes were downed according to Japanese propaganda. Tokyo found the figure too low and increased it to thirty. Both agencies are giving a decisive importance, and as we supposed, a very inflated one at that, to the battle being waged at the east of Formosa. Tokyo radio arrived at fifty-three American ships sunk or damaged, twenty-thousand Americans killed, and one thousand planes shot down. The Manila news agency was more conservative, scattering flying leaflets in the streets and sending out a van through the city with streamers announcing the resounding victory.
On October 17, 1944 Felipe Buencamino III noticed only Japanese planes were flying that day, and recorded that,
Several people were getting disappointed. They are asking: Maybe there is some truth in the Japanese claims of 12 aircraft carriers sunk? Is that why they can’t bomb anymore? Others are angry. They say: “The Americans shouldn’t have bombed at all if they were going to stop like this. It only gave the Japs a chance to spread their dumps into private houses. They should have kept it up, bombed on and on”. Only consoling note is the fact that Formosa is being bombed and rebombed. People say that this is a prelude to the invasion of the Philippines. “They’re neutralizing whatever help Formosa can give to the Japanese here when invasion comes” according to Joe.
I don’t know what history books will write about this day. Maybe they’ll put it down as the beginning of the offensive for the reconquest of the Philippines. Or probably they’ll note it as just the 7th day of the naval attack on Taiwan with diversionary raids on the Philippines. To me it’s the day I had a narrow escape. A machine gun bullet struck our shelter, fortunately on the concrete side. If it had hit an inch higher, it would have penetrated the thin wooden panel and I wouldn’t be writing this now.
I don’t know how many U.S. planes raided Manila today. They looked plenty and I didn’t have time to count because AA shrapnel started raining around our garden. By the drone and by the glimpse I had, I judged there were at least a hundred.
October 18 to this tramp means nothing but several hours in the air-raid shelter, Mama nervous about Vic who refused to take cover, Neneng praying the rosary, grandpop smoking a cigar, Dad going in and out of the shelter to take a look and then to hurriedly run in when the earth begins to shake, and the dog trying to squeeze into the shelter.
October 19, 1944:By the time the Imperial General Headquarters released the battle report on 19 Oct, it noted that 11 carriers, 2 battleships, and 7 cruisers and destroyers American ships were sunk. Furious but yet somewhat amused, William Halsey noted to Chester Nimitz that “[a]ll Third Fleet ships recently reported sunk by Radio Tokyo have been salvaged and are retiring at high speed toward the Japanese Fleet”, and Nimitz promptly made that message into a public relations piece. The top ranks of Japanese leadership bought into their own propaganda, with Emperor Showa personally delivered a word of congratulations for the achievement that never took place.
From October 16-19, 1944 Gen. Valdes had nothing to write about except the routine of the invasion fleet’s voyage:
At sea. Nothing unusual. I attended Mass every Morning to receive Communion. It is nice to see a number of boys that attend Mass and receive Communion, about 100 every day
We had a double feast today; great activity in the morning and doubly great in the afternoon. Without previous siren warnings the planes attacked at 7:15 a.m. and caught the sleeping guardians of the city by surprise. Before the anti-aircraft guns could be positioned, the enemies had dropped their loads and spun back to the skies beyond the reach of ground fire. There was not one red marked plane in sight the whole day. It’s either that they were not given the chance to take off or they were discarded for good. Anti-aircrafts barkings were fewer. Only the guns near the bombings were fired, unlike before when the air vibrated with activities and the city was draped in smoke. On the whole, the thunder was still terrific, but there were fewer shelling victims. It’s surprising how there could have been less accidents when people were all out in the streets watching and enjoying the fight in the sky.
I found the internees the best indicators of oncoming raids. They were the first to identify American planes. All I did was watch these internees as they pointed to the skies and applauded noiselessly.
The contrast between the speculation in Manila and the stealthy advance –under cover of air-raids in other places– of the Allies is a striking one.
October 20, 1944: After a two-day naval bombardment, the US Sixth Army landed on the northeastern coast on the island of Leyte on 20 Oct 1944 under the command of General Walter Krueger. The US 7th Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid provided transport and protection for the 175,000-strong landing force. Against the advice of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo (IGHQ) sent in reinforcements to Leyte from Luzon and as far as China, determining to fight the decisive land battle against the American land forces at Leyte. Landing troops almost whenever they wished, the US forces largely accomplished the goals set for the first day of landing.
After having escaped from the Japanese and in the process fleeing his homeland, one can only image in the emotion felt by himself –and the other Filipinos in the landing party– when, on October 20, 1944, Gen. Valdes finally returned to the Philippines.
His account of the historic Leyte landing is terse:
Entered Leyte Gulf at midnight. Reached our anchorage at 7 a.m. The battleships, cruisers, and destroyers opened fire on the beaches and finished the work begun two days before ‘A Day’ by other U.S Navy units. The boys in my ship where ready at 9:45 a.m. At 10 a.m. sharp they went down the rope on the side of the ship. Their objective was Palo. At 1 p.m. General MacArthur and members of his staff, President Osmeña, myself, General Romulo, and Captain Madrigal left the ship and proceeded on an L.C.M for Red beach. The beach was not good, the landing craft could not make the dry beach and we had to wade through the water beyond our knees. We inspected the area, and at two instances shots were fired by Japanese snipers. General MacArthur and President Osmeña spoke in a broadcast to the U.S. We returned to the ship at 6 p.m. under a torrential rain. We transferred to the Auxiliary cruiser Blue Ridge flagship of Admiral Barbey, as the SS John Land was leaving for Hollandia.
In Manila, Fr. Juan Labrador OP observed there was no air-raid that day, which was just as well as everyone was on edge after the past few day’s bombings:
A bomb fell yesterday near the Legazpi-Urdaneta monument, up an enormous crater, burying alive thirty-one persons who died of asphyxiation. They were in a shelter nearby. At the explosion, mounds of earth and a big uprooted tree covered the entrance.
The Luneta was turned into a forest of anti-aircraft guns. There was such a shower of exploded shells and stray bullets that even those who stayed in light houses could not be protected. If anyone was spared by the metallic fragments, it was someting miraculous. A roof of GI sheets and a wooden floor were as easily pierced as if they were made of paper.
October 21, 1944:US 7th Cavalry Regiment reached Tacloban, the capital of Leyte. Civilians cheered them on as they entered the city, but the Japanese were still well dug-in.
In his diary on October 21, 1944, Gen. Valdes recounted a kamikaze attack on their ship:
At 5:30 a.m. ‘general quarters’ were sounded. All rushed to their respective guns and fired at approaching Japanese planes. The Australian cruiser Australia was about 300 yards from our starboard side. A Japanese plane coming from the stern flew very low strafing the cruiser. He accidentally came too low and hit the wireless and crashed on the forward deck near the bridge killing the Captain and mortally wounding the Commodore, who died six hours later. The cruiser Honolulu was also hit and was beached to save it. The Australia returned to Australia for repairs.
At 5 p.m. some more Japanese planes attacked us and we downed two.
Manila found out about the Leyte landing on this day. Fr. Juan Labrador OP recounts in his diary entry for October 21, 1944, how news spread in the city:
Joy! Joy! The Yanks have arrived. They landed on the same place where Magellan set foot on firm land when he discovered these islands which he called St. Lazarus. The news of the landing in Leyte spread like wildfire. We took the news as probable, without reassuring ourselves of its certainty, but the exultant Filipinos believed it without a shadow of doubt. Tokyo had admitted it, although the local press still refuses to put its stamp of approval.
Gen. MacArthur and Pres. Osmeña were heard delivering messages over the radio. MacArthur announced that he had complied with his promise to return and, God willing, he would proceed with the re-conquest of the Islands. Osmeña declared that the legitimate government has been restored in this country. Reports have it that General Valdés, Soriano, Romulo and a nucleus of the exiled Philippine government has also arrived.
No one—not even the sharpest strategists—predicted where the landing was to be made. Some guessed that it would be in Mindanao, or at some gulf in Luzon, or in some island in the Visayas, but not one of them singled out the place where the landing was actually made. After the fact, everybody admitted that the Bay of Leyte, formed by Leyte and Samar, was the least guarded, least defended and most strategic point for the developing operations. Situated almost in the center of the archipelago, it is one leap from Mindanao, from Luzon, and from almost all the islands of the Visayas.
October 22, 1944:US 8th Cavalry Regiment secured the high ground around Tacloban, slowing strangling any remaining resistance in the area. At this stage, the American troops at Tacloban realized their mission became as much a humanitarian one as a combat one, for that many thousands of Tacloban residents were in dire need of food and shelter; some of the soldiers offered the little rations they had, while others opened up Japanese warehouses and distributed whatever they thought could help.
The day was spent quietly as far as Gen. Valdes was concerned: his diary entry for October 22, 1944 recounts sending radio messages and dinner on board another ship with American officers.
For his part, writing in Manila on October 22, 1944, Fr. Juan Labrador OP recounted how the Japanese finally confirmed the Leyte landing had taken place (and how Filipinos were responding to the return of the Allies):
Tokyo radio, in announcing the landings in Leyte, added that the Filipino and Japanese defenses furiously counter-attacked the invaders. This reports, however, were not repeated in the Philippines for lack of any semblance of truth. What appear credible to us, however, are the rumors that the Constabulary strongholds are passing over to the invaders. We were told that the insular police of different towns, with their rifles and baggages, have taken to the mountains to join the guerillas. In Calamba, the Constables have gone into hiding in the mountain thickness, a pattern which we had observed at other times. The guerillas are becoming active, mobilizing ex-USAFFE officers and chaplains.
With the first attack, whole towns have moved to the mountains. In some districts and provinces, the guerillas are in command. They cannot do so, however, in Manila, where it is risky for them to come out in the open.
October 23, 1944:As soon as Tacloban [was] secured, MacArthur restored Osmeña’s government there as the ruling body of the Philippines. “On behalf of my government,” MacArthur announced, “I restore to you a constitutional administration by countrymen of your confidence and choice.” [At sea: Battle of Leyte Gulf, Oct. 23-26, 1944]
In his diary, Gen. Basilio Valdes (October 23, 1944)once again has a terse account of a history-laden event:
Disembarked and went ashore to Tacloban. In front of the Capitol of the province, General MacArthur read the proclamation declaring null and void all laws promulgated by the Japanese and the puppet republic, and replacing those of the Commonwealth. His proclamation was followed by a speech by President Osmeña. At 2 p.m. I returned to the ship on a PT boat to get my luggage and return to Tacloban at 5 p.m. I was going to stay in the house occupied by the Japanese commanding general, which was made available for the President, but due to lack of space I accepted the invitation of Mrs. Losa to live in her home.
It’s only on this day, October 23, 1944, that Felipe Buencamino III is able to catch up with his diary, recounting the news of the Leyte landing and the excitement that swept the city:
Well, first there’s the landing in Leyte. The consensus was that they would land in Mindanao or perhaps Luzon so Leyte was quite a surprise. The Japs have admitted the landing but they’re trying to belittle it. Its been placed in a small corner of the front page. A lot of emphasis is being placed on the Taiwan affair. They’re tooting their horn about the aircraft carriers sunk, which to me is plain baloney. It seems they even had a sort of victory parade in Tokyo. People here think the Jap leaders are pulling the wool over the eyes of the Japs and that ought to be easy because they’re chinky-eyed.
Buencamino then catches up with the latest news –even in Manila, they’re getting news practically in real time by this point:
What really was a great surprise was the res-establishment of the Commonwealth Gov’t on Philippine soil. I’m not a very sentimental guy, but when I heard Osmeña and Romulo and Valdes and the rest were already in the Philippines, I wept like a kid. And when I repeated the story of how Mac landed to Dad, his eyes got moisty.
Everybody is jubilant these days. When you walk the streets, people greet you with “Have you heard? They’re here.”
The question now is when will they land in Luzon?
He also waxes nostalgic for President Quezon:
Quite anxious to see Baby and Nini. Gee, I wish their old man pulled through. Sometimes I think he’s still alive.
Yes, men like him, never die. He is the greatest man I’ve met.
The October 24, 1944 diary entry of Gen. Valdes features a close call with Japanese bombs:
5:20 a.m. I woke up with the sound of two airplanes flying low over our house. I thought “It’s nice to have our planes patrolling”. A few seconds later I was startled by two explosions nearby. The concussion blew away my mosquito net. I jumped out of bed. I took a quick bath, as I was wet with perspiration, dressed and went to the place where the bombs had exploded. The first one fell over a nipa house killing the whole family who were asleep. A woman and six children. The husband was out working for the U.S. troops unloading. When he returned home he found his home destroyed and all his family killed. Poor man. The second bomb fell about 60 yards from the house occupied by the other members of the Presidential party. The President slept elsewhere. Some small shell fragments went through the house.
In Manila, the story is of Allied air-raids. His October 24, 1944 entry has Fr. Juan Labrador OP writing,
Some twenty planes made a thunderous attack over Nichols, catching the guardians of the city unaware. They did not hit as accurately as on the first day.
In San Pedro, Makati, bombs were dropped off-target. A boat in Manila Bay was bombed several times but it remained firmly afloat.
A Japanese official attributed this poor hitting precision to the fact that the pilots were Canadians, not Americans. That was a consolation for the Imperial Air Force which had already lost supremacy of the air in the Philippines since the first day.
A good part of the Japanese officialdom is gradually being convinced, not only of the possibility of losing the war, but also of the improbability of winning it.
There are bombers flying. Nope, they’re pursuit planes, plenty of them, about fifty. They’re up too early, I think. Ben’s looking at them and he says they’re Japs. Yes, I think he is right. I can hear that familiar metallic roar… Vic is opening the radio to verify. Now, its not a raid. They’re playing a boogie number, “In the Mood” I think. Wait… I think that was an AA I just heard. Yes, siree, the guns are firing at something. It’s a raid, and the Japs have been surprised again. The radio is still playing “In the Mood”. Wow, I can see U.S. planes right here from the porch where I am typing. There goes five, ten, twenty, wow… so many…. heading for the Bay area. Now the house is shaking but they’re bombing the other side of Manila so I can still type. I want to give you a blow by blow description of this thing. Nope, change my mind. It’s getting too close. This blow-by-blow story might end up with this bum blowing up too.
The radio announcer is excited. “There is an air-raid,” he says. There goes the siren giving the air-raid alarm. Caught asleep again, heh, heh.
October 25, 1944:[A]ll initial goals had been met, with slightly lighter casualties than expected. [At sea: Battle of Surigao Strait].
His diary entry for October 25-28, 1944 has Gen. Valdes recounting the success of U.S. fighter planes. On October 26, 1944, Juan Labrador OP was writing about the Japanese commandeering all forms of transportation:
The soldiers are commandeering horses, calesas, bicycles and push carts, and the people are forced to hide them. As a consequence, there is an even greater lack of transportation in Manila. This is a sign that the Japanese are running short of motorized vehicles. The trucks which they had confiscated at the start of the war are reduced to junk. They are now willing to pay ₱200,000.00 for an automobile of a reputable brand in running condition, and ₱400,000.00 for a good truck. The only cars moving about are those which are being used by the officers and ministers. There are many other cars, but their owners have dismantled them, hoping to drive them around again when the Leyte invaders arrive.
At 9 a.m. left for Palo with Major Lambert 1st C.A.D., to inspect the post-office there. The town was full of soldiers, trucks, and tanks etc. The First Cavalry Division has a Squadron bivouac in Palo. The Church is being used as a hospital where army as well as civilian casualties are treated. Met Lew Ayers who is doing excellent work. Called on Bishop Manuel Mascariñas of Palo. He received me very cordially. He has accommodated civilian refugees in his convent and he himself at times sleeps in a chair.
For his part, after recounting there had been no Allied air-raids for four days, Felipe Buencamino III reported another Allied air-raid:
The Japs are in a happy mood. Their Propaganda Corps has been telling them for the last four days of great naval victories in Sulu Sea. Our Jap neighbors were drinking and feasting last night and shouting “Banzai! Banzai!”. Right now I can hear the radio saying something about outstanding victories in the waters east of the Philippines and that the American fleet is almost entirely crippled. Now he is boasting that MacArthur’s troops are stranded on Leyte. (Wait, I hear the roar of planes, many planes)
I can’t see them but I’m sure there are planes above. Maybe they are Japanese. There have been no raids these last four days. Some people are quite disappointed though many say that its just the lull before the storm. I’ve been trying to take bets that there will be landings in Luzon before the 7th or 15th and no one wants to call. The Japanese however interpret this lull as proof of the sinking of many aircraft carriers in Philippine waters. In fact, I can hear the radio saying this very thing right now. “The complete absence of raids in Manila for the last four days is proof,” he says, “of the crippling of the American Navy in the waters of…..” (Wow. That sounded like a bomb. More bombs. Yes, I can see planes diving at Nichols Field. Yes, that’s the direction of Nichols Field. There are hundreds of planes, Papa and Mama and Neneng are running to the shelter. My gosh… The Japs have been surprised again. Now the siren is giving the air-raid alarm, late again. The poor commentator has to eat his words. Now the AA guns are barking. But the planes don’t seem to mind. They keep on attacking the airfields and the Pier areas. Now I can hear machine guns, strafing probably. There’s not a single Jap plane intercepting. The Japs in the next house are now very silent. I can see them crouching in their foxholes. The Filipino boys in the fields behind the house are watching the planes and they are smiling. I got to leave now, AA shrapnels are falling nearer and nearer the house. I think I heard several drop on the cement pavement near the garage. Yes, Ma is calling for me. She gets nervous if all her chickens aren’t around her. I can hear more strafing. And there goes a big bomb. It shook the whole house. This is a pretty long raid. There goes another bomb and another…… Wish I could tell that radio commentator “So you’ve sunk all their carriers?”
By October 29, 1944, Juan Labrador OP would be writing about the increasing absurdity of Japanese propaganda:
The press proclaimed in bold lines: “American Bombing in Leyte Ceases”.
“In the face of a terrific Japanese attack, the American fleet had abandoned the landing troops which are facing complete annihilation. American forces in the Pacific have been completely destroyed and Manila is going to be spared attacks for a long time.”
I was reading these lines this morning when, without previous warning, American planes came within visible altitude, dropping their bombs on their targets on Manila Bay. The people who are getting to be more hopeful are comparing what the Japanese are claiming and what is actually happening. Obviously, what was annihilated was the Japanese fleet, and the Imperial Air Force has been left without wings.
Today is Sunday, and the UST Chapel was full of devotees. The sermon started just when the bomb explosions were loudest, the pounding of anti-aircraft shots was most resounding and the gloomy staccato of machine guns was most frightening. Many of the faithful were feeling uneasy, glancing towards the door with one foot forward. The preacher, calmly and cooly, exhorted the people to stay in their seats as they were safe within that sacred place. The Mass—a High Mass—went on and the choir continued singing to the accompaniment of the Celestial concert outside.
Later, everybody ridiculed the Tribune editorial which promised peace and a sky free from attacks. It was a known fact that when the newspapers predicted a pleasant time, based on Japanese victories, the American planes—which were supposed to have fled or been destroyed—came attacking with greater intensity.
There are many planes flying but they’re Japs. You can tell by the metallic desynchronized roar of the engines. There’s one plane flying very low. It passed directly on top of the house. There was a time –just after Bataan when I would dive on the floor when I hear a plane. I must’ve been bomb-shocked but I didn’t realize it…
The Tribune says the Americans are shelling Lamon Bay. That’s about 60 miles from Manila in a straight line. Why don’t they hurry up because this waiting and waiting is killing me? Somebody told me the suspense is like waiting for the bride to appear in Church. Saw Emilio on my way home. He was looking at the map.
I can hear the sound of blasting somewhere in the direction of McKinley. I’ m afraid the Japs are planting mines.
Heard the G8s have been tipped to expect landings on either the 3rd or 4th.
Listened to broadcasts from Leyte to America by the different newspapermen there. Liked Cliff Roberts’ “personal report”. Time had a good story on the naval battle off Leyte Bay. Courtney had a good report on the rehabilitation work in Leyte.
Heard that Romulo gave a nationwide instruction to the Filipino people. It was short, dramatic: WORK OR FIGHT!
But there would be months more of fighting before the Allies even reached Manila –and then the death agony of the capital city would take place. See The Battle of Manila, Feb. 3-March 3, 1945 for eyewitness accounts of the Battle for Manila. During that period, on February 25, 1945, Valdes took on the Health portfolio; soon after that, he would leave the Cabinet altogether to wrap up his work as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army.
In October, 2013, the country will mark the 70th anniversary of the so-called Second Republic established under Japanese auspices.
In anticipation of that event, the project aims to complete the publication of the Iwahig Prison Diary of Antonio de las Alas, a prominent prewar political and business figure, and member of the Laurel government. His diary, written while he was detained by Allied forces awaiting trial for collaboration, gives a thorough account of the dilemmas and choices made by officials who served during the Japanese Occupation, including their motivations and justifications for remaining in the government.
The diary of de las Alas goes backward and forward in time: starting on April 29, 1945 he details the tedium and petty bickering of prison life, he also gives an insight into politics and society during the Liberation Era, while extensively recounting his experiences during the Japanese Occupation.
His account bears comparison with the conversations recorded by Francis Burton Harrison, prewar adviser to President Quezon, who again served as an adviser during World War II, when the Philippine government went into exile in Washington D.C. His entries covering the government-in-exile begin on May 30, 1942, and come to an end on May 31, 1944.
In the Philippine Diary project, other diarists put forward different facets of life in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation.
Charles Gordon Mock, an American originally imprisoned together with other Allied civilians in the University of Santo Tomas, details his experiences as a prisoner-of-war transferred to Los Baños on May 14, 1943.
The experiences of soldiers and guerrillas are captured in the diary entries of Ramon Alcaraz –his entries chronicle the transformation of a prisoner-of-war into a soldier serving in the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Constabulary: and how he used his Constabulary postings for guerrilla activities (the progression of this development can be gleaned from a sampling of entries: June 30, 1942; August 3, 1942; August 30, 1942; February 20, 1943).
The diary of Felipe Buencamino III ends with his first few weeks as a prisoner-of-war in the concentration camps established by the Japanese; but he resumes his diary on September 21 1944, at the tail end of the Japanese Occupation (see October 2, 1944 for an example of the growing anticipation of the end of the Occupation): in fact, his diary ends just at the moment of Liberation.
His father, Victor Buencamino, chronicles the frustrations, fears, and tedium of being a mid-level official still serving in the government, not so highly-placed as to be ignorant of public opinion, but also, trapped between public opinion and his own problems as someone in government. His diary serves as a counterpoint to the diaries of soldiers and officers in the field, and to the other diaries describing life during the Occupation.
Two other diaries remain to be uploaded extensively, namely the Sugamo Prison diary of Jorge B. Vargas, onetime Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission, and Laurel’s wartime ambassador to Japan, and the diary of Fr. Juan Labrador, O.P, a Spanish Dominican who kept a diary during the Japanese Occupation. But perhaps these will have to wait for future anniversaries.
You can browse the entries of the diarists mentioned above by clicking these links to view their entries in reverse chronological order:
(Revised, April 8, 2017) The Philippine Diary Project includes the diaries of a father and his son: Victor Buencamino, and Felipe Buencamino III. At the outbreak of the war, Victor Buencamino was head of the National Rice and Corn Corporation, precursor of today’s National Food Authority. His published diary covers the period from the arrival of the Japanese in Manila, and the first half of the Japanese Occupation.His diary provides an in-depth look into the dilemma facing government officials who stuck to their posts despite the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Government and the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese. At certain points, particularly from January-April, 1942, he gets intermittent news about his son (who was, on the other hand, participating in clandestine military intelligence missions, even in Manila).
As for Victor Buencamino’s son, Lt. Felipe Buencamino III, known to his friends as Philip, was a young journalist who became a junior officer in Bataan, assigned to General Simeon de Jesus headed military intelligence. He kept a diary from the time of the retreat of USAFFE forces from the outskirts of Manila to Bataan, and conditions there as well as in Corregidor, which he periodically visited, looming defeat, the eve of surrender, and then the Death March and then wrote a kind of diary-memoir of the ordeal of his fellow prisoners in the Capas Concentration Camp, as well as his classmates. At times, his diary intersects with other diaries, such as the diary of Gen. Basilio J. Valdes, since Philip accompanied the General during one of his visits to the frontlines in Bataan. He resumed his diary, briefly, in September to December, 1944.
His Bataan diary prominently features two close friends: the writer and future diplomat Leon Ma. Guerrero (who would later keep a Tokyo diary covering the last months of World War II in Japan and the first months of the Allied Occupation), and Fred Ruiz Castro, future Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and who ended his career as Chief Justice of the Philippines.
After the Death March and imprisonment in Camp O’Donnell, Lt. Buencamino would go home and convalesce. His diary resumed in September, 1944, and covers the start of Allied air raids on Manila, and the preparations of Japanese forces for what would be the Battle for Manila.
During Liberation, he became did a stint in the newspaper published by the Allied forces and then joined friends in setting an early post-Liberation paper. He also became a broadcaster.
He left journalism to begin a career in the new Philippine foreign service.
On April 28, 1949, Felipe Buencamino III, together with his mother-in-law, Aurora A. Quezon, sister-in-law, Maria Aurora Quezon, and Ponciano Bernardo (mayor of Quezon City) and others, were killed in an ambush perpetrated by the Hukbalahap
Leon Ma. Guerrero, in writing about Mrs. Quezon and the ambush in which she was killed, in 1951, also wrote about his friend, Philip:
In Bataan I shared the same tent with Philip Buencamino, who was later to marry Nini Quezon. He was the aide of General de Jesus, the chief of military intelligence, to which I had been assigned. I remember distinctly that one of the first things Philip and I ever did was to ride out in the general’s command car along the east coast out of pure curiosity. The enemy’s January offensive was turning the USAFFE flank and all along the highway we met retreating units. Then there was nothing: only the open road, the dry and brittle stubble of the abandoned fields, and in the distance the smoke of a burning town. We turned back hurriedly; we had gone too far. I am afraid we never got any closer to the front lines. Our duties were behind the lines. We were quite close during the entire campaign until I was evacuated to the Corregidor hospital, and I developed a sincere admiration for Philip. He was a passionate nationalist who could not stomach racial discrimination, and I remember him best in a violent quarrel with an American non-commissioned officer whom he considered insolent toward his Filipino superiors.
On April 28, 1949 – 56 years ago, Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon was on her way to Baler. With her eldest daughter, Maria Aurora, whom everyone called “Baby”. And with her son-in-law, Philip Buencamino, who was married to her younger daughter, Zeneida, whom everyone called “Nini”. Nini was at home with their first baby, Felipe IV, whom everyone called “Boom”. And she was pregnant with their second baby “Noni”.
On a rough mountain road, in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, they were ambushed by gunmen hiding behind the trees on the mountainside. The cars were riddled with bullets. All three of them were killed. Along with several others, among them Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City.
Adiong, the Quezon family driver, was spared. Running to the first car, Adiong found Philip lying on the front seat, his side dripping blood. Philip smiled at Adiong and said: “Malakas pa ako. Tingnan mo” — “I am still strong. Look!” And dipping his finger in his own blood, Philip wrote on the backrest of the front seat: “Hope in God”.
When they placed him in another vehicle for Cabanatuan, his bloody hands were fingering his rosary, and his lips were moving in prayer. This was consistent with his whole life. His rosary was always in his pocket. And on his 29th birthday, exactly one month before, on March 28, 1949, at dinner in his father’s home, he said to Raul Manglapus: “Raul, the Blessed Virgin has appeared at Lipa, and has a message for all of us. What are we going to do, to welcome her, and to spread her message?”
He was echoing the thoughts of Doña Aurora, who wanted a national period of prayer to welcome the Virgin and to spread her message of Peace. Years later, the Concerned Women of the Philippines established the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards, choosing the name in honor of this good, quiet, peaceful woman.
The blood stained rosary was brought to Nini, after Philip’s death. Many years later, she wrote down the thoughts that came to her when they gave her the bloody beads:
“We had joined my mother in Baguio for Holy Week, 1949. As we drove down the zigzag, after attending all the Holy Week services, Phil turned to me and said, ‘Nini, if we were to have an accident now, wouldn’t it be the perfect time for us to go?’ I said to him, ‘You may be ready, Phil, but I still have a child to give life to, so I can’t go just yet.’ And not long after this, his life was taken, and mine was spared.”
Her life was spared, but she felt the agony of those three deaths more intensely than anyone else. In that ambush she lost her husband, her mother, and her only sister. The gunmen riddled their bodies with bullets, on that rough mountain road. But miles away, with her one year old baby in her arms, and another baby in her womb, the gunmen left her with a broken heart. The ones she loved went home to God. But she had to carry on.
Another friend of Philip’s, Teodoro M. Locsin, whose wartime diary is also featured in the Philippine Diary Project, wrote about the murder of his friend, in the Philippines Free Press: see One Must Die, May 7, 1949:
I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.
Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.
Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side…
…As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.
After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.
Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.
He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.
When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.
He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.
Until now, I can’t quite get over Philip’s tragic death. He was first of all, a very close friend of mine. I saw him married, and was one of the best men at his wedding. I also saw him buried, and it is not a pleasant thing to remember.
Philip was such a nice, clean boy, friendly, warm-hearted and generous, so full of life, and laughter, that I learned to love him. Of course he had his faults, but you take your friends as they are, not as you want them to be. And Philip, for all his faults, was quite a man. In all the years that we kept close together, I never knew him to deliberately do a mean thing.
Because he was by nature easy-going and amiable, he exasperated me at time by failing to take things more seriously and using his considerable talents to point out the many evils with which our government is cursed. Actually, he was not wholly indifferent to them. He could on occasions become quite angry over certain injustices, but he had no capacity for sustained indignation, and it was not in him, to fret and worry over the distraceful and scandalous way this country is being run. Life to him was one swell adventure, to be lived and savored to the full, with very little time left for crusades. The world cannot be changed or saved in a day.
And because he was Philip, he would gaily twit me about being afflicted with a messianic itch. Relax, he would say. Take it easy. Things are not as bad as they look. In time, everything would be alright. Perhaps, he had the right answer. I wouldn’t know. But I shudder to think what would happen if all of us adopted a carely and carefree attitude and paraphrasing archie, Don Marquis’ cockroach reporter, say:
no trick nor kick of fate
can raise me from a yell,
serene I sit and wait
for the Philippines to go to hell.
The last time I saw Philip was two days before his death. Linking his arm to mine with a gay laugh, he dragged me to Astoria for a cup of coffee. We joined a boisterous group of newsmen who flung good-natured jibes at Philip when he announced that he was quitting the government foreign service to settle down to a life of a country farmer. Somebody brought up the subject of a certain Malacañan reporter who always made it a point to take a malicious crack at Philip and his influential family connections, and Philip agreed the guy was nasty. It was typical of Philip, however, that when I curtly suggested that he punch the offensive reporter on the nose, he smilingly shook his head saying: “How can I? Every time I get sore, the fellow embraces me and tells me with that silly laugh of his ‘Sport lang, Chief.’ I can’t get mad at him.”
That was Philip. He couldn’t get mad at anyone for long. He liked everybody, even those who, regarding him with envious eyes as a darling Child of Fortune, spoke harshly of him. He was essentially a nice, friendly guy. It was not in him to harm anybody, including those who tried to harm him.
And now he is dead, along with that fine and noble lady who was his mother-in-law, and that vivid, great-hearted, spirited girl who was so much like her great and illustrious father, foully murdered by hunted and persecuted men turned into wild, insensate beasts by grave injustices –men who, in laying ambush for Mr. Quirino and other government officials, brutally and mercilessly struck down innocent victims instead.
Philip Buencamino III had so much to live for: a charming, gracious wife who adored him, a chubby little son who will one day grow up into sturdy manhood with only a dim memory of his father, and another child on the way whom Philip now will never see. Handsome and talented, Philip had his whole future before him. His was a life so full of brilliant promise, and it is a great tragedy that it should have ended soon. He had been a top reporter before he entered the foreign service. With his charm and affability, his personal gifts and family prestige, there was no height he could not have scaled as a diplomat. The pity of it, the futile pitiful waste of it! A nice, clean, promising youngster sacrificed to the warring passions of men who have turned Central Luzon into a charnel house.
On a final note, you can listen to Felipe Buencamino III: He was the emcee for the Malacañan Press Corps, in the first radio press conference of President Roxas broadcast from Malacañan Palace in 1947.
However, From late January to mid-February, 1942, the Commonwealth War Cabinet undertook a great debate on whether to propose the Philippines’ withdrawing from the war, in the hope of neutralizing the country.
The cause of the debate seems to have been concerns over reports of the situation in the provinces, the creation of a Japanese-backed government in Manila, and the apparent lack of any tangible assistance to the Philippines as Filipino and American troops were besieged in Bataan. Here is a sampling of some letters received in Corregidor, from Filipino commanders at the front:
In his diary entry for January 21, 1942, Felipe Buencamino III, in the Intelligence Service in Bataan, visited Corregidor and wrote,
President Manuel Quezon is sick again. He coughed many times while I talked to him. He was in bed when I submitted report of the General regarding political movements in Manila. He did not read it. The President looked pale. Marked change in his countenance since I last had breakfast with his family. The damp air of the tunnel and the poor food in Corregidor were evidently straining his health. He asked me about conditions in Bataan –food, health of boys, intensity of fighting. He was thinking of the hardships being endured by the men in Bataan. He also said he heard reports that some sort of friction exists between Filipinos and American. “How true is that?” The President’s room was just a make-shift affair of six-by-five meters in one of the corridors of the tunnel. He was sharing discomfort of the troops in Corregidor.
The hardships of Filipino soldiers in Bataan –young ROTC cadets had already been turned away when they turned up in recruiting stations in December, 1941, and told to go home (though quite a few would join the retreating USAFFE forces anyway)– was troubling the leadership of the Commonwealth. The troops, too, were beginning to starve. On the same day Buencamino wrote his diary entry, the S.S. Legazpi was dispatched to Capiz Province to try to bring rice to supply the troops:
The next day, this letter would arrive from Mateo Capinpin, stating the lack of food for the troops:
At the same time I am going to open my mind and my heart to you without attempting to hide anything. We are before the bar of history and God only knows if this is the last time that my voice will be heard before going to my grave. My loyalty and the loyalty of the Filipino people to America have been proven beyond question. Now we are ﬁghting by her side under your command, despite overwhelming odds. But, it seems to me questionable whether any government has the right to demand loyalty from its citizens beyond its willingness or ability to render actual protection. This war is not of our making. Those that had dictated the policies of the United States could not have failed to see that this is the weakest point in American territory. From the beginning, they should have tried to build up our defenses. As soon as the prospects looked bad to me, I telegraphed President Roosevelt requesting him to include the Philippines in the American defense program. I was given no satisfactory answer. When I tried to do something to accelerate our defense preparations, I was stopped from doing it. Despite all this we never hesitated for a moment in our stand. We decided to ﬁght by your side and we have done the best we could and we are still doing as much as could be expected from us under the circumstances. But how long are we going to be left alone? Has it already been decided in Washington that the Philippine front is of no importance as far as the ﬁnal result of the war is concerned and that, therefore, no help can be expected here in the immediate future, or at least before our power of resistance is exhausted? If so, I want to know it, because I have my own responsibility to my countrymen whom, as President of the Commonwealth, I have led into a complete war effort. I am greatly concerned as well regarding the soldiers I have called to the colors and who are now manning the ﬁring line. I want to decide in my own mind whether there is justiﬁcation in allowing all these men to be killed, when for the ﬁnal outcome of the war the shedding of their blood may be wholly unnecessary. It seems that Washington does not fully realize our situation nor the feelings which the apparent neglect of our safety and welfare have engendered in the hearts of the people here.
In the same letter, Quezon asked that a proclamation be given the widest possible publicity. Here it is in leaflet version, distributed in the front lines:
I have read with complete understanding your letter to General MacArthur. I realize the depth and sincerity of your sentiments with respect to your inescapable duties to your own people and I assure you that I would be the last to demand of you and them any sacriﬁce which I considered hopeless in the furtherance of the cause for which we are all striving. I want, however, to state with all possible emphasis that the magniﬁcent resistance of the defenders of Bataan is contributing deﬁnitely toward assuring the completeness of our ﬁnal victory in the Far East.
The day after FDR sent his telegram, the front in Bataan stabilized, as Buencamino recorded in his diary on January 31, 1942:
Good news. Troops of Segundo have reentered our new lines. They escaped Jap encirclement by clambering precipices on Western coast for two days and nights. The men looked thin, haggard, half-dead. They all have a new life. Segundo arrived with troops dressed in a private’s uniform. Japs were slow following initial successes. Some boys, unfortunately, fell while clambering through very steep precipices. In some cases, men were stepping in ledge only half-foot wide. Some of the wounded were left to mercy of Japs. Others were carried by companions. I will try to see either Feling Torres or Manny Colayco. They belong to the 1st Regular –if they are still alive.
There seems to be a move to change Gen. Segundo. Col. Berry will replace him, I understand. I don’t think Segundo is at fault. His troops have been fighting since December in Camarines. His men are recruits, volunteers, mostly untrained civilians. His division has not had a bit of rest since campaign in Southern front and when Japs first attacked Bataan front, they chose his sector.
The Philippine Diary Project provides a glimpse into how the telegram from FDR was received. On February 1, 1942, Ramon A. Alcaraz, captain of a Q-Boat, wrote,
Later, I proceeded to the Lateral of the Quezon Family to deliver Maj. Rueda’s pancit molo. Mrs. Quezon was delighted saying it is the favorite soup of her husband. Mrs. Quezon brought me before the Pres. who was with Col. Charles Willoughby G-2. After thanking me for the pancit molo, Quezon resumed his talk with G-2. He seemed upset that no reinforcement was coming. I heard him say that America is giving more priority to England and Europe, reason we have no reinforcement. “Puñeta”, he exclaimed, “how typically American to writhe in anguish over a distant cousin (England) while a daughter (Philippines) is being raped in the backroom”.
The remark quoted above is found in quite a few other books; inactivity and ill-health seemed to be taking its toll on the morale of government officials, while the reality was the Visayas and Mindanao were still unoccupied by the enemy. Furthermore, Corregidor remained in touch with unoccupied areas, and a sample of reports and replies helps put in context the attitude of the Filipino leadership in Corregidor.
On February 2, 1942, Gen. Valdes wrote that the idea of evacuating the Commonwealth Government from Corregidor was raised –in case “forces in Bataan were pushed back by the enemy,” suggesting that holding the line after the last attempted advance by the Japanese still left the weakened defenders uneasy.
Writing in his diary on February 2, 1942, Felipe Buencamino III recounts battle stories of his comrades, and the physical and mental condition of soldiers like himself:
Talked to Tony Perez this morning about penetration in Mt. Natib. He said they walked for two days and nights without stop, clambering cliffs, clinging to vines at times to keep their body steady, in a desperate effort to escape encirclement by the Japs. He said it was a pity some of the weak and wounded were left behind. There were men he said offering all their money to soldiers to “please carry me because I can no longer walk.” He said that he and a friend carried a fellow who had a bullet wound in the leg. “Some of the boys” he said “fell down the precipice because the path was very narrow, in some cases just enough for the toes.” He expressed the opinion that if Japs had followed their gains immediately and emplaced a machine gun near the cliff, they would all have been killed. “It was heart-breaking” he said. “There we were trying to run away from Japs and sometimes we had to stay in the same place for a long time because the cliffs were very irregular, at times flat, at times perpendicular.” He said that most of the men discarded their rifles and revolvers to reduce their load. Most of our artillery pieces were left, he stated. “We were happy,” he recounted, “when night came because it was dark and the Japs would have less chances of spotting us but then that made our climbing doubly difficult because it was hard to see where one was stepping especially when the moon hid behind the clouds.” He opined that the Japs probably never thought that one whole division would be able to escape through those precipices in the same way that we never thought that they would be able to pass through the steep cliffs of Mt. Natib. Fred said he will write a poem entitled “The Cliffs of Bagao” in honor of the Dunkirk-like retreat of the 1st regular division…
Life here is getting harder and harder. I noticed everybody is getting more and more irritable. Nerves, I think. Food is terribly short. Just two handfuls of rice in the morning and the same amount at night with a dash of sardines. Nine out of ten men have malaria. When you get the shivers, you geel like you have ice in your blood. Bombing has become more intensified and more frequent. The General is always hot-headed. Fred and Leonie are often arguing heatedly. Montserrat and Javallera are sore at each other. And I… well, I wanna go home.
Although the U.S. Navy never showed any willingness to use its surface ships to assist the supply of the Philippines, whether for the carriage of cargo or as escorts, that reluctance did not apply to its submarines, but it took direct pressure from the White House to get action. Between mid-January and 3 May, eight U.S. submarines unloaded cargoes at Corregidor. For their return trips, they evacuated a total of 185 personnel together with the treasury of the Philippines as well as vital Army records. The quantity of the cargoes the subs delivered totaled 53 tons of foodstuffs along with various quantities of munitions and diesel oil. In aggregate, this was hardly enough to make a dent in the overall need; nevertheless, it was an asset to the morale of the defenders. The personnel who the submarines evacuated were of considerable import as most of them were essential to the future conduct of the war.
The same paper also discusses efforts to bring much-needed food and supplies to the soldiers in Bataan and Corregidor:
There was, though, one shining moment, and this was the result of a plan put in force by MacArthur’s quartermasters during early January to utilize ships which had been anchored off Corregidor since the evacuation from Manila in late December. Three were used, all being medium-sized Filipino coasters: Legazpi, Kolumbugan, and Bohol II. Between mid January and mid February, each of them made two round trips for a total of six deliveries of foodstuffs to Corregidor from the island of Panay as well as from Looc Cove in Batangas Province. Legazpi and Kolumbugan were victim to enemy interception on what would have been for each of them their third attempt. After those losses, it was decided that to send Bohol II again would have been futile since it was obvious that the Japanese blockade had effectively canceled out any hope of success.
Although the three ships which sailed from Corregidor had a short operational history, they had all told brought in 5,800 tons of rice and other foodstuffs together with 400 head of livestock. It was not enough to stave off surrender, but it must have made the last days
of the siege a bit more bearable.
Three days after the reserves of the Commonwealth were evacuated, however, matters came to a head. On February 5, 1942 General Valdes went to Bataan to inspect the troops and confer with Filipino and American officers. He returned to Corregidor that evening; one can possibly infer he then made a report to the President. What is explicitly recorded in the Diary of Gen. Basilio Valdes, on February 6, 1942 is that the following took place:
The President called a Cabinet Meeting at 9 a.m. He was depressed and talked to us of his impression regarding the war and the situation in Bataan. It was a memorable occasion. The President made remarks that the Vice-President refuted. The discussion became very heated, reaching its climax when the President told the Vice-President that if those were his points of view he could remain behind as President, and that he was not ready to change his opinion. I came to the Presidents defense and made a criticism of the way Washington had pushed us into this conflict and then abandoning us to our own fate. Colonel Roxas dissented from my statement and left the room, apparently disgusted. He was not in accord with the President’s plans. The discussion the became more calm and at the end the President had convinced the Vice-President and the Chief Justice that his attitude was correct. A telegram for President Roosevelt was to be prepared. In the afternoon we were again called for a meeting. We were advised that the President had discussed his plan with General MacArthur and had received his approval.
9 a.m. Another meeting of the Cabinet. The telegram, prepared in draft, was re-read and corrected and shown to the President for final approval. He then passed it to General MacArthur for transmittal to President Roosevelt. The telegram will someday become a historical document of tremendous importance. I hope it will be well received in Washington. As a result of this work and worry the President has developed a fever.
The situation of my country has become so desperate that I feel that positive action is demanded. Militarily it is evident that no help will reach us from the United States in time either to rescue the beleaguered garrison now ﬁghting so gallantly or to prevent the complete overrunning of the entire Philippine Archipelago. My people entered the war with the conﬁdence that the United States would bring such assistance to us as would make it possible to sustain the conﬂict with some chance of success. All our soldiers in the ﬁeld were animated by the belief that help would be forthcoming. This help has not and evidently will not be realized. Our people have suffered death, misery, devastation. After 2 months of war not the slightest assistance has been forthcoming from the United States. Aid and succour have been dispatched to other warring nations such as England, Ireland, Australia, the N. E. I. and perhaps others, but not only has nothing come here, but apparently no effort has been made to bring anything here. The American Fleet and the British Fleet, the two most powerful navies in the world, have apparently adopted an attitude which precludes any effort to reach these islands with assistance. As a result, while enjoying security itself, the United States has in effect condemned the sixteen millions of Filipinos to practical destruction in order to effect a certain delay. You have promised redemption, but what we need is immediate assistance and protection.We are concerned with what is to transpire during the next few months and years as well as with our ultimate destiny. There is not the slightest doubt in our minds that victory will rest with the United States, but the question before us now is : Shall we further sacriﬁce our country and our people in a hopeless ﬁght? I voice the unanimous opinion of my War Cabinet and I am sure the unanimous opinion of all Filipinos that under the circumstances we should take steps to preserve the Philippines and the Filipinos from further destruction.
By the terms of our pledge to the Philippines implicit in our 40 years of conduct towards your people and expressly recognized in the terms of the McDuffie—Tydings Act, we have undertaken to protect you to the uttermost of our power until the time of your ultimate independence had arrived. Our soldiers in the Philippines are now engaged in fulﬁlling that purpose. The honor of the United States is pledged to its fulﬁllment. We propose that it be carried out regardless of its cost. Those Americans who are ﬁghting now will continue to ﬁght until the bitter end. So long as the ﬂag of the United States ﬂies on Filipino soil as a pledge of our duty to your people, it will be defended by our own men to the death. Whatever happens to the present American garrison we shall not relax our eiforts until the forces which we are now marshaling outside the Philippine Islands return to the Philippines and drive the last remnant of the invaders from your soil.
I propose the following program of action: That the Government of the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan recognize the independence of the Philippines; that within a reasonable period of time both armies, American and Japanese, be withdrawn, previous arrangements having been negotiated with the Philippine government; that neither nation maintain bases in the Philippines; that the Philippine Army be at once demobilized, the remaining force to be a Constabulary of moderate size; that at once upon the granting of freedom that trade agreement with other countries become solely a matter to be settled by the Philippines and the nation concerned; that American and Japanese non combatants who so desire be evacuated with their own armies under reciprocal and appropriate stipulations. It is my earnest hope that, moved by the highest considerations of justice and humanity, the two great powers which now exercise control over the Philippines will give their approval in general principle to my proposal. If this is done I further propose, in order to accomplish the details thereof, that an Armistice be declared in the Philippines and that I proceed to Manila at once for necessary consultations with the two governments concerned.
Your message of February tenth evidently crossed mine to you of February ninth. Under our constitutional authority the President of the United States is not empowered to cede or alienate any territory to another nation.
Had a Cabinet Meeting. The reply of President Roosevelt to President Quezon’s radio was received. No, was the reply. It also allowed General MacArthur to surrender Philippine Islands if necessary. General MacArthur said he could not do it. The President said that he would resign in favor of Osmeña. There was no use to dissuade him then. We agreed to work slowly to convince him that this step would not be appropriate.
I wish to thank you for your prompt answer to the proposal which I submitted to you with the unanimous approval of my war cabinet. We fully appreciate the reasons upon which your decision is based and we are abiding by it.
From then on, the question became where it would be best to continue the operations of the government; and plans were resumed to move the government to unoccupied territory in the Visayas. The sense of an unfolding, unstoppable, tragedy seems to have overcome many involved. From theDiary of Gen. Basilio Valdes, February 12, 1942:
The President had a long conference with General MacArthur. Afterwards he sent for me. He asked me: “If I should decide to leave Corregidor what do you want to do?” “I want to remain with my troops at the front that is my duty” I replied. He stretched his hand and shook my hand “That is a manly decision; I am proud of you” he added and I could see tear in his eyes. “Call General MacArthur” he ordered “I want to inform him of your decision.” I called General MacArthur. While they conferred, I went to USAFFE Headquarters tunnel to confer with General Sutherland. When General MacArthur returned he stretched his hand and shook hands with me and said “I am proud of you Basilio, that is a soldier’s decision.” When I returned to the room of the President, he was with Mrs. Quezon. She stood up and kissed me, and then cried. The affection shown to me by the President & Mrs. Quezon touched me deeply. Then he sent for Manolo Nieto and in our presence, the President told Mrs. Quezon with reference to Manolo, “I am deciding it; I am not leaving it to him. I need him. He has been with me in my most critical moments. When I needed someone to accompany my family to the States, I asked him to do it. When I had to be operated I took him with me; now that need him more then ever, I am a sick man. I made him an officer to make him my aide. He is not like Basilio, a military man by career. Basilio is different, I forced him to accept the position he now had; his duty is with his troops”. Then he asked for Whisky and Gin and asked us to drink. Colonel Roxas and Lieutenant Clemente came in. We drank to his health. He made a toast: “To the Filipino Soldier the pride of our country”, and he could not continue as he began to cry.
On February 15, 1942, Singapore fell to the Japanese. That same day, February 15, 1942, General Valdes wrote,
At 9 a.m. the President called a meeting of his war cabinet. The matter of our possible exit from the rock was discussed. It was shown that the President could be of more help to General MacArthur and the general situation outside of the rock. The President conferred after with General MacArthur. He readily saw our point of view, to which was added my frequent report regarding the physical condition of the President. General MacArthur promised to radio asking for a submarine.
The Japanese are shelling Corregidor from the Cavite coast, probably Ternate.
Five days later, the Commonwealth government departed Corregidor to undertake an odyssey that would take it from the Visayas to Mindanao and eventually, Australia and the United States. See Escape from Corregidor by Manuel L. Quezon Jr. See also the diary entries of General Valdes for February 20, 1942, and February 21, 1942.
See also the diary of Felipe Buencamino III, earlier that same day, February 20, 1942:
Accompanied General to Mariveles. Was present in his conference with Col. Roxas. Javallera also attended meeting.
Roxas although colonel was easily the dominant personality of the meeting. He is a fluent, interesting and brilliant speaker.
Roxas explained military situation in Bataan. He said the convoy cannot be expected these days. He pointed out that Jap Navy controls Pacific waters. He stated that very few planes can be placed in Mariveles and Cabcaben airfields, certainly not enough to gain aerial superiority. “And,” he pointed out, “we don’t have fuel here, no ground crews, no spare parts!”
Roxas said Bataan troops must hold out as long as possible to give America, time to recover from initial gains of Japs who will attack Australia after Bataan.
Roxas said that Corregidor questions a lot of our reports.
Roxas said that evacuees are a big problem. They are thousands and they must be fed and they are in a miserable pitiful condition. He is thinking of sending them to Mindoro by boat that wil bring food here from Visayas.
Roxas revealed that thousands of sacks of rice good for a couple of days were brought to Corregidor by Legaspi from Cavite.
Though never publicized (for obvious reasons) by the Americans, the proposal to neutralize the Philippines was viewed important enough by Filipino leaders to merit the effort to ensure the proposal would be kept for the record.
The President called a Cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. Present were the Vice-President, Lieutenant Colonel Soriano, Colonel Nieto and myself. He discussed extensively with us the war situation. The various radiograms he sent to President Roosevelt and those he received were read. All together constitute a valuable document of the stand the President and his War Cabinet has taken during the early part of the war. The meeting was adjourned at 6 p.m.
In the Philippine Diary Project, this account by an unnamed officer to Francis Burton Harrison, recorded in his diary on June 13, 1942, gives an insight into the frame of mind of officers and soldiers at the front even as the debate was going on:
Supplies for besieged armies on Corregidor & Bataan: An officer told me: ‘All through the battle of Bataan we expected relief and reinforcements, though we knew the American Pacific Squadron had been temporarily put out of action at Pearl Harbor. On my first trip back from the front at Bataan to see General Sutherland on Corregidor the boys in the trenches had asked me to bring them food, tobacco and whiskey. This was on February 3rd; on February 18th I was again sent from the front on an errand to Corregidor, and this time all that the boys asked me to bring back was only “good news”–i.e., of relief coming. We all expected help until we heard President Roosevelt’s address on February 22nd. The truth about the sending of supplies is as follows: three convoys started from Australia. The first was diverted to Singapore; the second to the Dutch East Indies, and the third, consisting of three cargo boats started at last for the Philippines. Two of the vessels turned back and went to the West coast of Australia–to Brisbane. One boat, the Moro vessel Doñañate (?) got through to Cebu; it carried 1,000 tons of sugar and 1,000 tons of rice, both commodities we already had in the Visayas, so it was like carrying coals to Newcastle. Very little of this got through to Corregidor and Bataan, because of the blockade. Another vessel went aground near Leyte but the cargo was salvaged. We understood that after Pearl Harbor, the American Navy could not convoy supplies to us. Nor, of course, could they strike directly at the Japanese Navy as had always been the plan.’
Francis Burton Harrison’s diary entry June 12, 1942 and for June 22, 1942 also has a candid account by Quezon of this whole period and his frame of mind during that period.
June 12, 1942:
When we were alone together once more, I asked Quezon why, when he was on Corregidor and refused the Japanese offer of “independence with honor,” he had been so sure in staking the whole future on confidence in a positive victory over Japan. He replied: “It is the intelligence of the average American and the limitless resources of your country which decided me. The Americans are, of course, good soldiers, as they showed in Europe during the last war, but as for courage, all men are equally courageous if equally well led. Merely brave men certainly know how to die–but the world is not run by dead men.” He cited the case of the Spartans and the Athenians. “What became of the Spartans?” And then he added that in making on Corregidor that momentous decision, he “wasn’t sure.”
It seems Harrison was quite interested in this question and on June 22, 1942 he got Quezon to expound on the situation in February at greater length:
Exchange of cables between Quezon in Corregidor and Roosevelt: Quezon advised him that he was in grave doubts as to whether he should encourage his people to further resistance since he was satisfied that the United States could not relieve them; that he did not see why a nation which could not protect them should expect further demonstrations of loyalty from them. Roosevelt in reply, said he understood Quezon’s feelings and expressed his regret that he could not do much at the moment. He said: “go ahead and join them if you feel you must.” This scared MacArthur. Quezon says: “If he had refused, I would have gone back to Manila.” Roosevelt also promised to retake the Philippines and give them their independence and protect it. This was more than the Filipinos had ever had offered them before: a pledge that all the resources and man power of United States were back of this promise of protected independence. So Quezon replied: “I abide by your decision.”
I asked him why he supposed Roosevelt had refused the joint recommendation of himself and MacArthur. He replied that he did not know the President’s reasons. Osmeña and Roxas had said at the time that he would reject it. Roosevelt was not moved by imperialism nor by vested interests, nor by anything of that sort. Probably he was actuated by unwillingness to recognize anything Japan had done by force (vide Manchuria). Quezon thinks that in Washington only the Chief of Staff (General Marshall) who received the message from MacArthur in private code, and Roosevelt himself, knew about this request for immediate independence.
When Quezon finally got to the White House, Roosevelt was chiefly concerned about Quezon’s health. Roosevelt never made any reference to their exchange of cables.
Quezon added that, so far as he was aware, the Japanese had never made a direct offer to the United States Government to guarantee the neutrality of the Philippines, but many times they made such an offer to him personally.
“It was not that I apprehended personally ill treatment from the Japanese” said Quezon; “What made me stand was because I had raised the Philippine Army–a citizen army–I had mobilized them in this war. The question for me was whether having called them, I should go with this army, or stay behind in Manila with my people. I was between the Devil and the deep sea. So I decided that I should go where the army did. That was my hardest decision–my greatest moral torture. I proposed by cable to President Roosevelt that the United States Government should advise the Japanese that they had granted independence to the Philippines. This should have been done before the invasion and immediately after the first Japanese attack by air. The Japanese had repeatedly offered to guarantee the neutrality of an independent Philippines. This was what they thought should be done.” Quezon is going to propose the passage by Congress of a Joint Resolution, as they did in the case of Cuba, that “the Philippines are and of right out to be independent” and that “the United States would use their armed forces to protect them.”
When asked by Shuster to try to describe his own frame of mind when he was told at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 8 of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Quezon said he had never believed that the Japanese would dare to do it; but since they had done so, it was at once evident that they were infinitely more powerful than had been supposed– therefore he immediately perceived that the Philippines were probably doomed.
The question of the not just future, but present, status of the Philippines, particularly in light of the de facto government set up by the Japanese in Manila, led to this entry on February 25, 1943: in his diary, Harrison hears that,
It appears that Justice Frank Murphy presented to Roosevelt the plan for the recent announcement that Roosevelt has already recognized the Philippines as possessing the attributes of an independent nation by putting Quezon on the Pacific War Council and asking him to sign the United Nations declaration.
The United States published some of the documents cited above, and others, in a compendium covering the period from December 12, 1941, to December 12, 1942, which provides an insight into the internal discussions taking place in Washington and between Washington and Corregidor: SeeOfficial US-PH correspondence to open the PDF file of documents as published.
I realize how sometimes you must have felt that you were being abandoned. But once again I want to assure you that the Government and people of the United States have never forgotten their obligations to you. General MacArthur has been constantly asking for more planes, supplies and materials in order that he can carry out his one dream, which is to oust the Japanese from our shores. That not more has been done so far is due to the fact that it was simply a matter of inability to do more up to the present time. The situation has now changed. I have it on good authority that General MacArthur will soon have the men and material he needs for the reconquest of our homeland. I have felt your sufferings so deeply and have constantly shared them with you that I have been a sick man since I arrived in Washington, and for the last five months I have been actually unable to leave my bed. But sick as I was, I have not for a moment failed to do my duty. As a matter of fact the conference which resulted in the message of President Roosevelt was held practically in my bedroom. Nobody knows and feels as intensely as I do your sufferings and your sacrifices, how fiercely the flame of hate and anger against the invader burns in your hearts, how bravely you have accepted the bitter fact of Japanese occupation. I know your hearts are full of sorrow, but I also know your faith is whole. I ask you to keep that faith unimpaired. Freedom is worth all our trials, tears and bloodshed. We are suffering today for our future generations that they may be spared the anguish and the agony of a repetition of what we are now undergoing. We are also building for them from the ruins of today and thus guarantee their economic security. For the freedom, peace, and well-being of our generations yet unborn, we are now paying the price. To our armed forces, who are fighting in the hills, mountains and jungles of the Philippines, my tribute of admiration for your courage and heroism. You are writing with your sacrifices another chapter in the history of the Philippines that, like the epic of Bataan, will live forever in the hearts of lovers of freedom everywhere.
December 24, 1941: Philippine Army Chief of Staff and Secretary of National Defense, Secretary of Public Works and Communications and Secretary of Labor Basilio J. Valdes, and Executive Secretary Jorge B. Vargas, watch as President Manuel L. Quezon administers the oath of office to Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who also became Acting Secretary of Justice & Acting Secretary of Finance; witnessed by Jose P. Laurel and Benigno S. Aquino, in the Social Hall of Malacañan Palace. A few hours later the government evacuated to Corregidor, where the seat of government was transferred. Behind Quezon can be seen the Rest House (now Bahay Pangarap) across the river in Malacañang Park.
The Philippine Diary Project has several entries for this and the next day, covering different facets of life:
Fr. Juan Labrador, OP, a Spanish Dominican, tries to piece together the information he has in UST for December 24, 1941. He is better informed than most.
Teodoro M. Locsin: as a civilian, December 24, 1941 was, for him, about the effects of air-raids in Manila. With nothing to do on December 25, 1941, Locsin observes life around him, and the isolation war brings.
Felipe Buencamino III: writing as a young lieutenant in Tagaytay, rounds off December 24, 1941 among the diarists.
President Jose Laurel, Chief Justice Jose Yulo and all cabinet ministers left early this morning for Baguio. The presidential convoy was accompanied by two truckloads of Jap troops armed with mg’s, two trucks of Malacañang guards, one car of P.C. men and one car of detectives. The convoy consisted of thirty or more cars. The President and the Chief Justice and Ministers left with their families. All Aviles, San Rafael and the vicinity of Malacañang were surrounded by a protective cordon of policemen, P.C. men and M.P.’s since last night to early this morning because all the puppet leaders and their families slept at Malacañang. Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, Jap Commander-in-Chief was said to have attended the last conference of the President and cabinet at Malacañang last night. Yamashita reportedly assured the puppets that the Japanese Army guarantees their safety. The Open City declaration was also informally discussed.
Amid persistent rumors regarding probable declaration of Manila as an Open City in view of continuous movement of Jap troops and installations and the transfer of the seat of government and the Jap Embassy to Baguio, first concrete indications were obtained from Mayor Leon Guinto’s office where draft of Open City manifesto is reportedly being drawn. President Jose P. Laurel will subsequently announce the Open City declaration formally, according to rumors. Manilans feel relieved at the sight of outgoing large numbers of Jap troops. Some fear the Sakdals might take over the reins of government. Others hope the G’s come in and drive out the Japs and Sakdals. Greatest wish is that the Americans “hurry up about Mindoro and land in Luzon proper and dash over to Manila whose gates gave been left open by Japs.”
Man being battered during the recent zonification of barrio Teresa, Sta. Mesa, two days ago, died of skull fracture. Blood oozed out of the man’s nose, mouth and ears. A total of 12 persons were killed in raid zonification. Victims were bayoneted to death.
Dr. Antonio Sison, president of the U.P. and head of P.G.H., was taken by the Military Police last night. The MP’s were dressed in civilian clothes.
In Rosario and Binondo districts, Japs picked up people in the streets this morning. They forced the unlucky ones to work with Jap soldiers. George Dee, prominent Manila businessman, was made to work for an hour in Rosario. Mr. Tong, laison officer of Chinese Assocation, tried to ask for an exemption, claiming that he had work to transact with Japanese officers. The reply was: “Military needs first. You help build the barricade.”
Saw three truckloads of Jap dead. The trucks were covered with leaves.
Significant developments. Puppet P.I. government moving to Baguio. Laurel and all Ministers including Manuel Roxas scheduled to leave for Baguio last night. Jap Embassy also hurriedly packing to transfer to Baguio. Jap Dept. of Information burning papers, will continue propaganda in Baguio. Speaker B. Aquino remained in Manila, promised to go up after wedding of his son Billy. Minister Antonio de las Alas expressed fear Japs will eventually bring P.I. cabinet to Tokyo. Gen. Paulino Santos, head of P. Constabulary, will reside in Malacañan. Japs planning to give Sakdals thru Makapili more extensive powers in Manila government.
Further indications Japs vacating Manila: big shipyard and iron works in Findlay & Miller docks being dismantled; ammunition dump in Pinaglabanan being transferred. All telephone installations of buttai 2944 in City being removed. Jap leather factory in Aviles has stopped work. Wives of Jap civilians left by train last night. Preparations to move sick Jap soldiers from Quezon Institute now underway. Non-stop movement of troops, trucks, tanks, artillery in Manila roads. Soldiers are in full pack. Trucks loaded with supplies and baggages. Roads leading to the outskirts of Manila filled with Japs leaving the city hurriedly.
Manilans agog by these new developments. Morale of people has risen to skies. Jap morale evidently on the downgrade. An old Jap who had been here 10 years said: “What do you think of all these things?” Manilans think Americans will be in Manila by the 15th of January. Landings will be effected “maybe before Christmas or New Year”. People suspect landings in Batangas. Everybody is in gay spirits. “No better Christmas could be had!” some say. Talk of open city revived.
Barrio Teresa, Sta. Mesa, zonified yesterday morning. All houses in said barrio searched. About 400 males corralled near Sta. Mesa market. Everybody made to sit under sun. One man being battered with a blunt instrument kept shouting, pleading: “Somebody please kill me, please, please, please.”
Victor Pagulayan, assistant manager of Naric, dying. After leaving Fort Santiago he was brought to the hospital. Several liters of water have been taken from his lungs.
Indications rise that RICCOA, newest rice agency, may be able to distribute around 600 sacks for Manila before Christmas, if Japs permit. It is reliably known that Japs have recently decided to take “all rice that can be procured from Central Luzon because of military needs.” Rice to be harvested will not be deposited in Jap bodegas in City. Harvest will be stored in warehouses along Central Luzon. This again indicates Jap intention to leave Manila. This will naturally worsen food situation in City, increase hunger-deaths. Doctors of San Lazaro hospital estimated that deaths due to chronic hunger in city around 500 daily. Many walking in streets can be seen suffering from vitamin deficiencies. Beri-beri rampant especially among lower classes.
With all these significant developments, I am of the opinion that Gen. Yamashita recognizes the untenability of defending Manila. The more troops he keeps here, the more will be sacrificed. Manila is indefensible due to its many exits and entrances. Consequently, Yamashita has taken away from city all material and people like the puppets whom he would not like to see in the hands of Americans. He has sent the bulk of his troops to the north. He has sent a minimum force to guard the coasts of Tayabas and Camarines and Batangas, most possible landing points. Yamashita realizes that his troops in the coastline will only be decimated by U.S. aerial and naval bombardment. Coastline of P.I. is flat and open. No natural protection to defenders from skies. Yamashita expects to make his stand in the north with his back to Japan. There he has natural protection, mountains, cliffs and food.
People are waiting for the zero hour. When, when will it come? Opinions range generally “from Christmas” to the first 15 days of January. Up to now the furthest I’ve heard is “around the month of March.”
Meanwhile collaborators have changed tune, speak differently. Even Aquino is changing his opinions. Opportunists, perhaps.
Guerillas are increasing in numbers. Some believe capitol of Batangas, taken by guerillas, with aerial support.
Heard people talking about it in street-corners yesterday afternoon. The news spread like wild-fire: landings in Mindoro, Mindoro, Mindoro.
The Japs are stumped. American planes had complete dominion of the air over Luzon. They kept flying over Manila all day yesterday.
From the morning of December 15th to the evening of December 17th, Americans were in the air, bombing, strafing, reconnoitering. Traffic of trucks, movement of troops and supplies, were completely paralyzed. Bridges in Calumpit and Pampanga were bombed. Japs couldn’t move around in their cars, trucks, trains and boats.
Not a single Jap plane flew up to challenge the Americans.
Many and varied comments from people yesterday: The bombing was very accurate. The American planes circled over targets many times before dropping bombs. Japs have spread their dumps in private houses. Guerillas have given information to the Americans. Accuracy was important. They had to hit targets in between residences of civilians to minimize destruction and casualties. I saw an American plane flying just above the rooftop of our neighbor’s house. It flew very low.
Radio reports that 245 Jap planes were grounded in the Luzon area.
This morning in church the people forgot about the non-stop three-day raid, talked about the landings in Mindoro. Many people that were already depressed by the ‘delay’ in Leyte because of the Jap stand in Ormoc coupled by the bad weather, had happy faces in church this morning.
Consensus is that the Americans will finish with Mindoro in “a couple of days” and then “they will land in Luzon proper before Christmas.”
Some think: “New Year’s” …Happy New Year!
People believe landings will be effected in Batangas. It is very near Mindoro. “You can swim across,” said someone.
Personally, I believe the Mindoro landing is just a feint. A diversionary move. Main effort will be exerted in the eastern coast of either Tayabas or Camarines.
MacArthur now has the Jap Commander-in-Chief guessing. “Where will Mac land?” is the question today. Second question: “When will he land?” As far as I am concerned, I don’t care where, I only care for the ‘when’. I am damned tired of waiting.
Greatest surprise to most people has been the Japanese admission that landings have been effected by Americans in Mindoro. This is a great change in their news dissemination policy. Previously, they kept quiet about such landings. Now they have announced it as soon as possible.
Japs probably realize that they can no longer fool the people. You can’t talk of “Japanese aerial superiority” when Americans skylark without a single Jap interception. You can’t say there are still no landings when you hear the roar of cannons.
Japs probably want to prepare the people’s mentality. They want to prepare them for the big thing: the landings in Luzon.
Japs have not yet admitted Leyte campaign is finished, because they keep saying that their para-troop units have captured several aerodromes in Leyte.
Meanwhile food prices are going higher and higher. The masses can no longer afford the food. No rice. No viands. Only vegetables at prices that are fantastic.
The people say: “Never mind all that… as long as they return!”