August 1, 1945 Wednesday

Today has been declared a legal holiday to commemorate the death anniversary of Pres. Quezon. This is a very fitting tribute, Pres. Quezon will pass in history as the greatest man we have ever produced. Correctly, he can be called the father of the Philippines. He it was who was able to insure the independence of our country. He was the one that did most to implant democracy in this country. His love for the masses, for the laboring class is proverbial. It is to be deeply regretted that he died precisely when we were at the threshold of our goal — the independence of our country.

The Iwahig people, upon the invitation of the teachers, is holding an appropriate program. They have selected Mr. Quintin Paredes as the main speaker. The Colonel-Superintendent approved. But it was disapproved in Manila. And yet we are not to be called “prisoners”. It smacks of intolerance.

At times I ponder on who suffered more — those who went to the mountains or those who stayed in the towns and cities. It is true that those in the mountains experienced untold sufferings. They had to move from place to place to avoid being hunted by the Japanese. Many times they had no food and this is the reason why they sometimes had to resort to forced commandeering of foodstuffs whenever the owners are unwilling to give. Many of them became sick, some very seriously, and died for lack of doctor or medicine. But so did those who stayed in the cities and towns. Their lives too were in danger at all times. They had to watch their conduct, their day-to-day acts for fear that they might displease the Japanese or Japanese sympathizers. The mere sound of heavy boots made them tremble with fear. Their pulse beats faster when somebody knocks at their door at night. Their fears were not without proof; the fact is that thousands in the cities and towns met their death at the hands of the Japanese or their agents, or suffered the most cruel torture at Fort Santiago and other prisons. The victims were both private citizens and officials and employees of the government. Those in the cities and towns perhaps had even less food than those in the mountains because there was very little food — food being transported to the cities and towns were confiscated by the Japanese or by crooks or false agents of the law, or could only be bought at prohibitive prices. As to medicine, the stock was very limited and mostly in the hands of soulless profiteers.

I state all the above not to minimize the patriotic services rendered by the guerrillas in the mountains as the truth is that I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. I envy them for their sacrifice and readiness to give their lives for the sake of the country. What I regret very much is that I, as many thousand others, was not in a condition to follow them for obvious reasons — my family is big and composed mostly of girls who cannot possibly escape capture. What happened to the family of unknown patriot, Col. Emmanuel Borja, is a good example. He was able to flee outside the city, but then the Japanese arrested his wife and, I understand, other members of the family. He had to come back. Many of us just did not know where to go. Many of us could not be a guerrilla at all because of physical defects. I still remember many years ago when I was still young. I applied for enlistment in the National Guard which was to have been sent to Europe. I was rejected for very defective eyesight.

I can cite very many other incidents which show that our lives, those who stayed in the cities and towns, were all but rosy. There was a proclamation providing for mass responsibility and death if any Japanese was harmed or killed. In the streetcars, many were slapped for just jostling a Japanese. I remember an incident in front of my house. A “carromata” (horse rig), probably unintentionally on the part of the “cochero” (rig driver), blocked the way of another “carromata”. The passenger in the other “carromata”, a Japanese, attacked the “cochero” and almost killed him. The people gathered around wanted to lynch the Japanese. But someone in the crowd with presence of mind told them to desist as it would have meant the arrest and death of many persons in the neighborhood. We resorted to cowardice to avoid any trouble with the Japanese.

I would like to relate what our life in Baguio was like and our trek down down the mountains from Agusan, Baguio to Tubao, La Union.

Since the landing of the Americans on the Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945, there were daily flights of American planes to Baguio to bomb and strafe the different parts of the city. By the middle of March, bombings had become very intense. The central part of the city was almost all destroyed. Hospitals, convents, one Protestant church and the surroundings of two Catholic churches were destroyed. Many died or were wounded, especially in the bombed hospitals. The people expressed deep resentment for what we thought was indiscriminate bombing. My own experience with American planes was on January 5, when the market was strafed. I was then holding office at the Philippine National Bank, just around the corner from the strafing.

The Cabinet Hill was surrounded by military objectives. In the east were the South Road and the Teachers’ Camp (converted into a Japanese military camp); in the north, Elizalde’s compound and various private houses occupied by the Japanese; in the west was Hogan’s Alley occupied by the Japanese Marines; in the south, Baguio Auto Line (BAL), Engineer’s Hill, the Government Center and the Justice Hill. Hardly a day passed without bombings of these places. The first heavy bombing was staged by various B24’s and I actually saw the first bombs being released as they were discharged right above our house. We ran to the shelter under our house. The shelter withstood the ordeal but when nearby houses caught fire, we moved to the tunnel-shelter of Minister Sanvictores. Later, we used the shelter of Minister Jose Paez. Luckily enough, not a single bomb fell within the Cabinet Hill compound, although all the houses were full of shrapnel and bullet holes.

Since my family was very big, I decided to build our own shelter-dormitory on the eastern side of Cabinet Hill where we transferred on the 18th of March. The dormitory, built by the male members of my household including my two sons, was 2 by 3 meters with passage of 2 meters. The height was 5 feet 10 inches to the beams. The posts were of fair-sized pine trees. The sides and ceiling were of burnt galvanized iron. Near the passage we built a shaft for ventilation, but principally for an exit in case of necessity. We braced the shelter with two iron pipes so it would not collapse. We covered the shelter with about a meter and a half of earth. It was quite comfortable for sleeping.

The bombings continued. The Mansion House where the President and his family were staying, as well as Speaker Benigno Aquino, Sr. and other officials, was hit and badly damaged. When the American airmen staged carpet bombings, a bomb which would have hit squarely my air raid shelter and the adjoining shelters of Ministers Recto and Paez, exploded in the tree tops. If it had exploded on the ground, all three families would have been wiped out completely. Mr. Recto’s chauffeur was killed and my cook seriously wounded.

We got scared. We decided to walk everyday to the Catholic Cathedral to seek shelter during the daytime. But bombs fell all around the Cathedral and one of the bombs hit the road near the church. We decided that it was too dangerous for us to stay in the city and so we evacuated to a place called Irisan, in the outskirts of Baguio about 6 kilometers away. All the other Ministers also fled the city.

In Irisan, my two sons Tony and Alfredo, and my Filipino bodyguard, Venancio Llagas, built shelters in a narrow gap between two mountains — the shelters were actually caves. It would not be possible, therefore, for the bombs to hit us. My Japanese bodyguard, Mr. Ishikawa, did not accompany us to Irisan.

By this time, a big contingent of the American Armed Forces was proceeding to Manila while other forces prepared to go to Baguio and other places in the Mountain Province.

On the afternoon of the 12th of April, 1945 at about one o’clock, I decided to evacuate from Baguio because for weeks a continuous stream of people fleeing Baguio passed in front or near our shelter. In conversations with them, I came to know that they were leaving to save their lives either as a result of American air and land bombardments, or of massacres being perpetrated by the Japanese. They were all very anxious to go to the American occupied territory. Among them were men and women from all walks of life, from the poorest laborer to the richest tycoons, from a humble messenger to a very high government official. There were doctors, lawyers, engineers, nuns, priests — in fact all human activities were represented. There were newly born babies as well as persons who were visibly sick or over seventy years old who could hardly walk. I could not see how the old and the sick could make it, but I learned later that they all reached their destination after crossing steep and apparently insurmountable mountains, deep ravines, crystal-like rapid streams, thick forests. They arrived at the safety zone more dead than alive, however.

This stream of people so impressed us that we decided to take the long journey ourselves, although we had my child of 6 years, Menchu, who had been sick, and my mother-in-law, Maria de Lontoc, who was old, sickly and could hardly walk.

All our friends in the neighboring shelters, Dr. Jose de la Rosa and family, the Suntays and others, had already left and we regretted not to have gone with them. We received news that they arrived safely at their destination behind the American lines. Mr. and Mrs. Salvador Araneta, Compadre Lacson and family, Atty. Feria and many others stopped for a while at our shelter on their way to Agusan. We became more anxious to go. Two days before our departure, a massacre of about 32 occupants of 2 Igorot houses was perpetrated by the Japanese soldiers. The next day we found the places all around us deserted. I sent my son, Alfredo, to the shelter of Eugenio Lopez and they had just left without notifying us although we had agreed to go together. We inquired about Mayor Mitra and he had also fled. In the meanwhile, we noticed that fighting was getting nearer and nearer judging from the sound of cannons and machine guns. Shelling was becoming intense. Shells were falling all around our shelter. We could distinctly hear the whistling of shells passing overhead. At one o’clock, I sent my bodyguard to Minister Sison to tell them that we better leave right away. The answer came that they could not go as Mrs. Sison was sick and they were waiting for Major Leocadio de Asis who they had sent ahead to explore the way. I immediately went to their shelter which must be about 200 yards distance from my shelter. Shelling was very intense that afternoon and the shells were falling near our shelter and along the way. I had to dive to the ground many times. After almost running the whole way, I arrived on top of the hill where the shelter of Minister Sison was. Up there the explosions were louder; it seemed that the shells were falling just a few yards from us.

I proposed to Mr. Sison that we leave that same afternoon. He refused saying that his wife was sick and that he would prefer to wait for Major de Asis. I pleaded and pleaded, but he would not budge an inch. I then told him that we were leaving anyhow as I was afraid that the next day would be too late. I also told him that we had no guide but that I was sure that we would find other people fleeing on the way. Probably because shelling was becoming more intense and the shells were falling nearer and nearer, Mr. and Mrs. Sison decided to come.

I returned to our shelter and announced that we were leaving right then and there. Everybody was ready; everything we could carry had already been packed. Each of us, especially the body guard and the servants, practiced carrying our packs. All gave assurance that they could carry their respective loads. Even small Menchu had a small package. Needless to say, we were able to take very little. We left several sacks of rice, plenty of canned goods and other food provisions. We left almost all our clothing and several valises full of miscellaneous things. They were scattered in and outside the shelter as if a typhoon had just passed. We hid a little food in one of the caves and sealed the entrance, in case we should be compelled to return. We carried food only for one day as we could not carry more. We knew we had to travel at least 3 days but we were expecting to dig camotes along the way and, at any rate, we were ready to suffer hunger. We felt that all we would need was water and we had been assured that there was plenty of water along the way.

We climbed the first hill which was already steep although it was nothing compared with other mountains we had to climb later. We had a great deal of difficulty going up. When we reached the top, we realized that our packs were too heavy to carry all the way. We threw most of our load. The guard and the laundry woman, without even consulting us, left behind a greater portion of their load. It so happened that my clothes were in one of the packs. I had other clothes being carried by a small young servant girl, but they were all woolen clothes. I gave up hope of saving them because I did not believe the little girl could carry her load which was quite heavy. But to the surprise of everybody, she reached our destination without throwing any part of her load.

We went by the shelter of Minister Sison where the family joined our party, and proceeded on our way. Crossing the Naguilian Road, the trail was downhill and it was quite good. After walking about four kilometers we were stopped. On the way we were stopped by two Japanese soldiers. One of them, an officer, asked us where we were going. We told him that we wanted to escape from shells and bombs. We indicated that we were going to Amasi. He was very nice. He allowed us to proceed but warned us not to go straight ahead or turn to the right as there was fighting. He said we should take the left trail as it would be safe.

The place where we stopped and passed the night was near a Japanese patrol station. From there we could see the flash of cannons, hear the whistling of shells overhead and afterwards the sound of bursting shells. On the hillside some of our companions, mostly girls, danced and sang. We had a good sleep and the next morning, we had enough strength to proceed.

Starting our journey early in the morning at about 5 o’clock, we passed through rough trails dotted with big stones, indicating that we were walking on a river bed where a rapid stream runs through during the rainy season. Eight kilometers further, we reached the Asin road. We walked for another eight kilometers along this road where we arrived at a spot where heavy fighting had taken place. It seemed to be a dead trail. Trying to pick up the trail, we explored the area for a while and right up the road about a hundred yards from where we were, we found another trail. There could be no mistake about it; clothes were strewn all along the path. As a matter of fact, from this point on there were clothes thrown all along the trail to Pitugon. We could not possibly lose our way. We contributed our own clothes to the litter, including my terry cloth coat which had covered me for years after playing tennis.

We crossed a big river, went up a steep mountain where we saw some Japanese picking “camotes”, and reached a narrow plateau where at about 9 o’clock we stopped as airplanes passed overhead and began fierce bombardment. I was surprised to learn, especially since shell explosions had been taking place around her shelter, that during a bombing, Mrs. Sison is unable to walk. We could see the target distinctly. It was the place where we used to live and had just left only the previous day. There could be no mistake about it as we could see bombs exploding on and around the lime factory. (Lime is “apog” in Tagalog; this is the reason why the place is called Apugan. Irisan is the next barrio, the boundary of which is very near my shelter). Our shelters are just a few yards below the factory. We were sure that our shelters had been bombed and this was confirmed by reliable information we received later. We probably would have been killed if we had remained until the next Saturday as proposed by Sison. I do not know whether I had already said that I insisted in leaving that afternoon and did not wish to leave the next day as this day was Friday the 13th. Later we also learned that the only places in Baguio where hand-to-hand combat between Americans and Japanese took place were Irisan and vicinity. In other words, fighting was right there where we lived. What would have happened if we had not left?

After aerial bombardment at about 11:30, we moved ahead. We decided not to eat lunch until we were a little further. We crossed the narrow open plateau and again went up through a narrow trail well shadowed by trees. It was quite a winding trail. We seemed to be going around and around. Finally, we reached a ridge which was quite open. We went along this ridge. Ahead of us we could see shells bursting. Before we reached the place where the shells were falling, we turned left. We reached a place where very large rocks nestled several Igorots houses, all deserted. I forgot to state that after crossing the first river after the Asin road, we were stopped by a Japanese civilian. He asked us many questions and ordered us to give all our revolvers if we had any. We carried 6 revolvers. He took them all, but later returned them except one that belonged to Col. Desiderio which was really a very goodlooking revolver. Afterwards, he asked for cigarettes. We were convinced that he was not connected with the Army but was one of the Japanese civilians who went around robbing people. I should also state that from the time we left our shelter, an American observation plane had been flying overhead. It flew very low and we could see the pilot distinctly. He evidently knew that we were evacuees as he waved at us. We waved back whenever we were sure there was no Japanese around. We had to be careful. My son, Tony, was almost killed because a Japanese sentry saw him waving while an American plane flew overhead. He was lucky that the Japanese believed his explanation that he was waving at a girl friend in a house up the road, which was the truth.

We considered the Igorot village as unsafe as it could be the target of shelling. So after two hours of rest, although we were still very tired, we moved. We wished to reach the other side of the valley which we thought was only about two kilometers away. We walked and walked but it took us hours to reach the river bank bordering the village. This was a trail which descends very abruptly. The hill to the river bank was almost perpendicular. We looked down and we were perplexed as to how we could do it. Finally we decided to slide down. It was a most dangerous feat. It was raining hard and this made the trail very slippery. We feared that my mother-in-law might have to remain behind since she could not continue walking anymore. But she was brave and determined. She said she could make it also. She did, and we attributed it to a miracle. She could hardly walk but by sheer strength of will and perseverance she always could go farther and farther.

But there was a time when the way seemed impossible for her and to make things worse, she had fever. She did not wish to go any further; she could not. It rained and she had to lie down on the wet ground. But my son, Tony, true to my instructions to him to take care of Lola (grandmother), stuck to her. Tony and my Filipino bodyguard, Llagas, carried her down to the river bank. This took several hours. Could she continue? It looked impossible. We prayed and prayed. God must have heeded us as the next day, she found enough strength to proceed. She was able to go several kilometers when it started to rain again. Still suffering from a high fever, she had to take a long rest. Then, although practically dragging her feet, she continued on her way and was able to walk almost all the way to the border of the safety zone. All along the way since the start of our trek, I tried to find carriers, but I could not get any. I asked an Igorot guide to furnish me men to carry my mother-in-law but he said it would have to be after Ambosi as runners thought it dangerous to approach Baguio. A man was willing to do it for ₱3,000 worth of treasury notes. I did not have the money; I carried over ₱3,000 but half of them were PNB notes. He lowered his rate to ₱2,000, but I still could not pay. But the Igorot leader assured me that he would have some men carry Mama (my mother-in-law) after Ambosi. Finally, when we were almost at the end of our journey, a man agreed to carry her. How she was able to walk about 25 kilometers of trail crossing high mountains and deep valleys can only be attributed to God’s mercy.

Going back to the river bank, there was a lone house near the bank. As it was raining we went under it where we slept on the dirty ground with our wet clothes on. We slept soundly probably because we were tired. We did not mind the mosquitoes. It is possible that my wife was bitten here by a malaria transmitting mosquito since after her arrival in Manila, she had bouts of malaria. The house must have sheltered numerous evacuees; on the floor and all around were clothes and human refuse. It was upon our arrival in this place that an Igorot leader with several companions passed by and told us they were on their way to Baguio on behalf of the American Army to rescue General Roxas. I told them to be careful since Roxas was being closely watched. The leader said that he expected to be back next morning with Roxas. I thought he was just boasting.

The next morning we could not leave because my mother-in-law had not arrived. We worried about her and feared for her safety, and the two men with her (Tony and Llagas). We were embarrassed because we were delaying everybody in our party. Fortunately or unfortunately, an air bombardment staged by many airplanes began, so we could not leave anyway. The planes started diving just above us, and we could see the bombs being released. The target to be Japanese positions at the end of the Asin road. Finally, my mother-in-law arrived at about 10 o’clock. Shortly thereafter, we continued on our journey. While crossing the river I took a bath in the rapid crystalline current. When my mother-in-law saw my body which was more of a skeleton than anything else, she cried.

On the river we were advised that Gen. Roxas and Chief Justice Yulo and their families had arrived. The Igorot leader had made good his promise. It seems that he went directly to the shelter of Roxas, and upon his insistence the Roxases and the Yulos left at once. Mrs. Roxas, Mrs. Yulo and Miss Roxas were carried by the Igorots in hammocks. Sison and I decided to leave at once and go a little faster as we did not want Roxas and Yulo to leave ahead of us; we feared that the Japanese would pursue them. They were not pursued, however. I doubt whether the Japanese could have followed them because all along the way American airplanes flew above them as if patrolling to protect them from attacks by the Japanese.

We climbed one steep mountain and another steep mountain. We stopped to rest and shortly afterwards, to our surprise, my mother-in-law came walking. But she was very weak and again with fever. A very kindly mestizo gave her medicine. It started to rain hard again, and again she had to stay in the rain with fever.

We continued our way and after about 3 or 4 kilometers walk over a comparatively good road, we arrived soaking wet at a place which was apparently a rest house. As it continued to rain, we huddled like sardines in the one room house. In size, it must have been four by four meters. It had a front porch that sagged. At about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we were startled by our Igorot guide suddenly jumping out the window. A Japanese soldier appeared with a loaded sub-machinegun pointed at us. Another armed Japanese soldier with a big scar on his face stood just outside the door. We could not tell whether there were others outside. The one inside the hut, with Capt. Desiderio who studied in Japan and spoke Japanese acting as interpreter, told us not to move. He told us to surrender all firearms. We showed him our five revolvers. He got them all, but then returned my revolver and that of Minister Sison. But almost immediately, he took mine back. He ordered us to open our baggage, which we did. He examined each of them. He got all the foodstuff. One of our companions, Mr. Gatchalian, remained seated on his bundle. The Japanese pulled it from under him and opened it. To our consternation, it contained a revolver with many rounds of ammunition. The Japanese became very angry. He pointed a revolver at Mr. Gatchalian. We thought the Japanese was going to shoot him, but fortunately he merely got the revolver. The tension eased. He asked us for our watches which we gave him. He returned some but retained the expensive ones, including my gold watch. I did not expect him to like my watch as I had been told that the Japanese preferred wrist watches and the watch of Mr. Sison was a gold wristwatch of the best kind. I prized my watch very much; it was a gift to me of Don Antonio Roxas. My other watch which had been presented to me by the employees of the Executive Bureau when I resigned from this office and which I therefore also prized very highly, had been accidentally included in the bag containing our very valuable medicines left along the way. I could not blame my wife for this as like others she was not herself. It was plain robbery, a regular daytime hold-up. As it turned out, the Igorots jumped out of the window to warn Roxas that there were Japanese and not to proceed. Roxas and Yulo did not arrive until after the Igorot had assured them that the Japanese were no longer in the vicinity.

Roxas and party arrived in the hut that night. He told us that they decided to leave Baguio after they found out that Sison and I had already left. They feared that the Japanese would take action against the Ministers who were left in Baguio. They walked very fast even during the night because they feared that they were being pursued. Fortunately, they met no Japanese. We had a long talk about many things that night. We agreed to leave early the next morning, April the 15th, 1945. He proposed that we go in groups instead of together, each group to leave at half hour intervals.

We learned that we were within the jurisdiction of Ambosi; that we were not yet in the safety zone. Although we were very tired, we did not sleep well that night. The Roxases and the Yulos slept in a nearby house, but we were still too crowded. We slept in a sitting position. The mestizo who gave medicine to my mother-in-law suffered a deep cut on his foot when he stepped on a can which had been thrown out the window by the young son of Mr. and Mrs. Villegas. He was bleeding profusely.

Mr. and Mrs. Villegas had a small baby and they kept lighting matches throughout the night. We could not understand why. We all grumbled and protested but they paid no attention. Because of them, I do not believe anybody was able to sleep.

We had no more food. The men went to search for food and they came back with a load of “camote”. This is what we ate for breakfast the next morning. We received information that the Japanese were pursuing us, so although according to Roxas’ plan they were to leave before us, Sison and I decided to go ahead. At about 5 o’clock, we continued our journey. I left my son Tony, my bodyguard and our laundrywoman to take care of my mother-in-law. I told my son that we would be waiting for them when we reached the safety zone. To make sure that they would not lose their way, I told them I would mark the turns or crossings with toilet paper, which I did. They could not lose their way as there was only one trail and the whole way as littered with clothes and other things thrown by the evacuees. My mother-in-law was growing weaker and weaker. I knew that, her strong will notwithstanding, there would come a time when it would just be impossible for her to continue.

The trails continued to be perilous — in fact they were even worse. Almost perpendicular mountains had to be traversed. After ascending and descending a mountain, another one loomed ahead. We counted nine high mountains before reaching Tubao. Many times we just had to slide down on our backs. There was one portion of about 100 yards on the side of a steep mountain with the trail no more than a foot wide and very slippery. In parts, avalanches had occurred and the trail disappeared down the mountain. We passed these portions by holding tightly on tree roots and vines which fortunately were quite abundant. We had to do some Tarzan stunts. To fall meant certain death as the ravine was very deep. Fortunately, no accident happened to any of us. It was the Almighty protecting us.

The first man we met along this trail told us that he had seen Japanese soldiers on the way. We became very nervous. Although we were already dead tired we accelerated our pace. Mr. and Mrs. Sison and our other companions were far ahead of us. My whole family with the exception of Tony, who was with his grandmother, were walking together. My wife was visibly very tired and weak. But the others, including little Menchu, seemed to be still strong. At one time, we stopped to take a little rest. My three young ladies, Dely, Tesy and Ming, who were a little ahead of us entered a dilapidated shack to take a rest. They came running and very excited. They saw a horrible sight — the body of an old person which they could not distinguish to be that of a man or a woman, already in an advanced state of decomposition. We left the place hurriedly.

We again climbed up a mountain so thickly forested that we could not see the sky. The trail was also very bad, but because it was very shady, we considered it the best portion of our trip. We crossed other streams with crystalline water, but although we wished to wash ourselves, we did not stop. We finally reached a group of houses. There were four or five persons in the village. They said that the day before they had been visited by Japanese soldiers which information scared us awfully. After eating some bananas which we picked along the way, we left. We were again caught by heavy rain. We stopped at an abandoned shack with a roof that hardly protected us. It was here that the Roxases and Yulos overtook us. The ladies looked fresh as they were carried in hammocks. As soon as the rains subsided, we proceeded. We had hardly walked 2 kilometers when it began to rain again. The trail was already very slippery and impassable. We had to stop under a structure which seemed to be an old stone bridge. When the sky cleared, we beheld a mountain on the other side of the river. Behind the mountain was already the safety zone. We burst in jubilation. Roxas signalled us to be quiet as there were Japanese. Sure enough; to our right we saw some Japanese soldiers going in a direction parallel to us. Are we going to meet misfortune at the last lap of our trip? We proceeded quietly and fortunately the Japanese did not see us or pretended not to see us.

As if to complete our suffering and martyrdom, the last lap to safety was a steep mountain which was very slippery from the rain. I fell down many times and at one time I almost rolled down into a deep ravine. I would have met instant death. It was impossible for my wife and daughters to go down the mountain. Roxas approached me and told me that runners and carriers would come for them. I still wonder how these Igorots can go down a steep mountain trail so easily just as if it were a perfectly level road. We arrived at the river bank safely and easily. For the first time since the war, we laid eyes on an American soldier. Our emotions were indescribable.

I related earlier our jubilation at seeing the U.S. Captain and his men. We were carried across the river and then we had to ascend another very steep, very difficult, slippery mountain. We did not allow ourselves to be carried any more. But we noticed that we climbed better and faster. Besides we were no longer suffering from nervousness caused by well-founded fears. We reached the top where we stopped to rest. We tarried as we were already in the safety zone. There were many soldiers and guerrillas. Shortly after we had sat down, my younger son, Alfredo, told me that my mother-in-law was coming. We thought he was joking, but then we saw her carried on the back of a man who was rather small. He was carrying my mother-in-law on his back as if she were a small child. We waited for her and there was a happy reunion of three generations of my family.

Before dusk we had to climb again, but it was not a difficult ascent compared with the others. At the top, a place called Pitugan, were three houses, one just a hut. The big one was occupied by Roxas and family and their friends. The small hut was assigned to my family and to Mr. and Mrs. Padilla. Others wanted to join as but we objected because there was no more room. I am glad the Padilla family was the one assigned to us since Mrs. Padilla is a sister of Don Jacobo Zobel, one of my very good friends whose family always supported me in my election bids in Calatagan and Nasugbu. Here for the first time we ate right; we had a good meal. Here we passed the night without hardly any sleep not only because we were almost all in semi-sitting positions, but also because we were too excited for being already in the safety zone. Even then the necessary precautions were taken by the American Captain. There were soldiers with submachine guns posted throughout the night around our houses. The order was to shoot anybody loitering around. Frequently, they searched the whole neighborhood with lighted torches and flashlights. We were cautioned not to go out by ourselves as we might be mistaken for Japanese snipers. We did not go out all night even though we felt the necessity to relieve ourselves. The precautions were well taken as the place where we saw the Japanese soldiers was just on the other side of the river, and once in a while they cross the river and shoot at anyone they see. Fortunately, no untoward incident happened that night.

The next morning, April 16th we left already rather late — about 7 o’clock. We walked not hurriedly on trails all going down. They reminded me of the trails of Batangas. I admired my wife; she had walked practically the whole way and she seemed to be still strong. She was very thin and I feared she would collapse, but she was no more tired than I was. We were, carrying nothing as we were able to hire carriers for this part of the trip. Mama and Menchu were being carried. All along the way, we met hundreds of people, many were runners and carriers. They brought canned goods and candies which they were selling at high prices to the thousands of evacuees coming from Baguio. At about half past eleven, we reached the plains. I think the place is called Rizal. There we stopped a while to eat young coconuts and sugar cane.

Gen. Roxas and Mr. Yulo walked with us. When we were half way to Rizal, a horse was brought for Gen. Roxas. We walked on the plains and after crossing two rivers we sighted a military truck. It was intended for us. The Engineer son of Minister Paredes was in it. The American driver was very nice. My wife and I boarded the truck. I wanted to bring my young ladies but I was told the truck was going back for them. We passed new roads which I understand were built by the American Army. On the way, we picked up Mama and Menchu. We reached Tubao after twelve. The truck returned to Rizal, and after less than an hour it returned with my other children.

We all went to church to give thanks to God for our safe arrival, our successful escape from the clutches of the Japanese. After we left the church, we stayed at the church plaza to wait for assignment of our quarters as we were told. It was there that we received the sad news that my daughter Neny had died. Our sorrow was indescribable. We wept like children. She had been a good and dutiful daughter. She married Ramon Cojuangco in September, 1944 a little more than six months ago. My wife and I were very happy when Neny married a man we heartily approved of. The news of her death was totally unexpected. We had always feared for Lily and her family because they lived in San Miguel near Malacañan and the San Miguel Brewery, and it was here that heavy fighting was reported. It was true that heavy bombardment was reported at Taft Avenue, but it was the Taft Avenue proper up to a little beyond Vito Cruz. This is still far from the house of the Cojuangcos which was on the southern end of Taft Avenue extension. But it turned out that the whole Conjuangco family left their house to seek shelter in the Chapel of De La Salle College near the intersection of Taft Avenue and Vito Cruz. It was a surprise to me to learn that they had gone to that place since, when I learned that the family of Judge Carlos had moved to that place, I expressed to them my belief that it was not a safe place. De La Salle College itself was occupied by the Japanese Army and it had to be bombarded from the air or shelled from the ground. I told them that they should either join the Aquino family who lived in a concrete house near Malacañan or they should just stay in their house on Taft Avenue which was a three storey cement house with a very strong air raid shelter. The reason for this instruction was that I feared the Japanese more than the American bombs and shells. It got into my head that upon retreat they would kill all the Filipinos they could find as by then they would have discovered that the Filipinos were not only guerrilleros but that they hated the Japanese. I based my belief on the record of the Japanese in China. I thought that the only house the Japanese would respect was that of Speaker Aquino for his vocal Japanese leanings. If they chose to remain in their own house in Taft Ave., my instructions to them were to secure the gates, and close tightly and securely all the doors and windows of the house. Evidently, they moved to La Salle upon the persuasion of the Carlos family, Mrs. Carlos being the sister of Mrs. Cojuangco.

I was called to the Municipal building where the office of the C.I.C. was. Engineer Paredes accompanied me. I met there Justice Yulo, Mr. Sison, Mr. Paredes, an American and a priest. There I cried again. The priest was trying to console me by saying that the news about Neny could not be true. This gave me a ray of hope. I was given a little brandy to drink probably to bolster up my spirit. I left the building without having been questioned at all. I think they just wanted to know my personal circumstances and these were provided by Engineer Paredes. I had just returned to the church yard when I was called again. We — Roxas, Yulo, Sison and Paredes and myself — were loaded in two jeeps and taken to Agoo which was the headquarters of the 6th Army operating toward Baguio. There we were introduced to the Commander of the Division, Gen. Carlson. We were invited to a luncheon which was a typical American meal. For the first time in a long time, we ate good bread with butter, nice sweets, ice cream, etc. We had a hearty meal. All the members of the staff of Gen. Carlson were there. After the meal group pictures were taken of us.

Gen. Roxas and Mr. Paredes were closeted with Gen. Carlson probably to learn from them some facts of military value in connection with the operations to take Baguio. We were taken to the office of Col. Arvey whose position we did not know. He might have been the Judge-Advocate. He seemed to have complete files on us and other Filipino high officials. He had a good many personnel and the office seemed to be a busy one. We were asked many questions, but the one that struck us the most was when he asked us what we thought of the postponement of independence. Yulo, our spokesman, answered immediately and without the least hesitation. He answered that our independence should not be postponed at all. The Colonel argued that what we need now is the country’s rehabilitation and this would require the assistance of America. Yulo answered that there was no incompatibility between independence and American assistance to our rehabilitation. I could not help making my sentiments also known by nodding approval to the statements of Mr. Yulo.

The Colonel immediately retorted, “I am surprised with your attitude. I have talked to very many Filipinos and 98% of them were for postponement.” I do not doubt that the Colonel was telling the truth. This reveals the inherent weakness of the Filipinos. I am sure that a great majority of them are for immediate independence. But we generally do not want to displease our hearers especially if they are Americans. We readily agree to insinuations. Or we are apt to presume that all the Americans are against our independence and so whenever we talked to them we give them to understand that we are not enthusiastic for independence. This trait, this weakness in our character must be remedied.

Before leaving another Colonel talked to me. He said that a mob near Baguio had unearthed about 800,000 of silver pesos, and he asked me whether I knew something about it. I told him that I was reliably informed by the Japanese that they were able to recover in the waters around Corregidor several boxes of silver pesos. These were turned over to the Taiwan Bank. This bank had a branch in Baguio and it is possible that the bank had buried the silver pesos in the place where the Americans found them. The Colonel after some recollecting exclaimed, “Oh yes, there was a piece of board with ‘Taiwan’ written on it.”

We returned to Tubao and rejoined our families. We were taken to the school building where two families were assigned to a classroom for living quarters. We, with the Sison family, occupied the classroom on the right end of the building, and the Roxas and Yulo families, the room on the other end of the building. We were given rations of canned goods at nominal prices; We had everything we needed, including butter. We had more than enough. What a contrast! Whereas the Japanese stole our food, the Americans gave us food. Our only problem in that building was sanitation. The authorities were doing their best to keep the surroundings sanitary. There were many toilets behind the building. But just the same human refuse was found abundant all around the building.

I forget to recount that before we reached Ambosi, there was continuous shelling directed by slow flying planes hovering above — the target of the shells was a mountain top just above us. In that place we heard sounds that were most terrifying. The sound travelled through the ravine where we were. I believe it was the whistling of shells falling above us, but instead of the whistling sound, it sounded like the zooming of many airplanes on account of the ravine. Or it might have been the sound of the cannonading at Galleno, the place below Asin where heavy fighting was taking place and as cannonading was on the ravine we were in the sound path.

The 17th and 18th, we spent resting, recovering from our ordeal. Each one of us had lost at least ten pounds on the way. We inquired about when we were to be brought to Manila. The military people promised to provide transportation to Manila just as soon as the quarantine of Manila was lifted and they could secure special passes for us. In the morning of the 19th, we were loaded in a closed small truck, and the rest of the story has already been told. Little did we imagine that it was the beginning of a long incarceration. We were ignorant of what they intended to do to us and we brought nothing. We were originally told that we were only going to San Fabian. I had nothing but the clothes on my back and my toothbrush and shaving kit.

I want to record the departure of President Jose P. Laurel.

On Sunday, March 18, we were called to a special meeting of the Cabinet at the Mansion House. All the Ministers, with the exception of Yulo, Sison and Roxas, were present. It was a very solemn meeting. The President spoke for more than one hour beginning at about half past five. We consider it one of the best speeches that he had ever delivered.

He explained that Ambassador Morata had seen him to transmit the wish of the Japanese Supreme Council to have the President, the members of his Cabinet, the Speaker and the Chief Justice brought to Japan. Laurel asked that he be given until that evening to give his answer. His purpose was to be able to consult his collaborators in the government. He showed us a letter which he had dictated when he was told in Manila that he and the members of his Cabinet might be taken to Japan.

In the letter he declined to go to Japan, giving his reasons. He accepted the Presidency on the conviction that he would be able to serve his country and people. He can only do so if he stays in the Philippines. He was determined to stay and serve his people even if it would cost him his life. His leaving the Philippines at this time would be a desertion and he cannot betray his people by such a cowardly act. Besides, Pres. Quezon was criticized by the Japanese themselves for having abandoned his people when they needed him. He considered the criticism well founded and he should, therefore, not commit a similar dereliction of duty. But if circumstances prevail on him to leave, he would like to request as a counter proposal that he go alone. Just as when the “state of war” with the United States and Great Britain was declared, he was desirous of assuming alone and exclusively the full responsibility, he was now willing to make another sacrifice by going alone so that the others would not have to undertake a dangerous trip to Japan.

Everybody was so affected that no one could speak after the peroration of the President. The President himself had to ask our opinion. The consensus of opinion was that, if possible at all, the President and his Cabinet and other high officials should not go. But if he had to go, each and everyone were willing to accompany him. The President reiterated his determination to go alone. He promised to go to the Cabinet Hill the next day to tell us the result of his negotiation with the Japanese.

The next day, Monday, March 19, he did not go to the Cabinet Hill. Tuesday, at 5:00 p.m., we went to the Mansion House. This time Yulo, Sison and Roxas were there. The President informed us that he had to go, and that his proposal to go alone was partly accepted in the sense that he would only be accompanied by some Ministers and a General. He announced that those accompanying him were Speaker Aquino, Min. Teofilo Sison of Home Affairs, Min. Camilo Osias of Education and Mrs. Osias, and Gen. Capinpin. This announcement was a great relief to me because I feared that on account of my position in the government, I had to go. I was worried as I brought my whole family to Baguio, except my two married daughters. I also brought my mother-in-law. My wife was not in good health. Besides, almost all the families in Baguio were having serious problems with the food shortage. Under the circumstances, I could not leave my family. The announcement was also a surprise as regards Manuel Roxas because it was taken for granted that he would have to go. The President concluded that the departure of the party would be announced soon. We promised to come in the afternoon of the next day.

The next day, Exec. Sec. Emilio Abello sent us a note that the President would like us to go to the Mansion House early. We went at two o’clock that afternoon. We had our picture taken with the President. In the picture was the Filipino flag which the President had been using and which was almost completely torn from the bombing of the Mansion House. Those present were Claro M. Recto, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Jose Paez, Minister of Public Works and Communications; Camilo Osias, Minister of Public Instruction; Pedro Sabido, Minister of Economic Affairs; Emiliano Tria Tirona, Minister of Public Health and Welfare; Arsenio Luz, Chairman of the Board of Information; Jose Sanvictores, Head of the Food Production Activities; Emilio Abello, Executive Secretary; Ramon Macasaet, Vice Minister of Health and Welfare and private physician to the President, Maj. Gen. Guillermo Francisco, Mayor Ramon Mitra of Baguio, Jose Laurel, Jr., Assemblyman from Batangas, and myself, Minister of Finance. Speaker Benigno Aquino, Sr. was also present. Chief Justice Jose Yulo and Brig. Gen. Manuel Roxas came after the meeting, conferred with the President, and left before the President’s departure. Ministers Quintin Paredes of Justice and Rafael Alunan of Agriculture were absent as they could not be notified.

The President spoke again for several minutes. He said that he had devoted the greater portion of his life to his country. It would be a pleasure and it is his determination to dedicate the rest of his life to the service of his country. Undoubtedly, he said, he would be criticized and bitterly attacked. But he hopes that some day his people will understand. His ideals and principles are very clear, having been repeatedly expounded by him. He wants to establish a Philippine nation, truly independent and free. He will combat with all his might any intervention or interference on the part of the Americans, or Japanese, or any other foreigner. He wants his people to be happy and prosperous. He believes that we should not depend upon foreigners as no one could love a Filipino better than a brother Filipino. He would like the Philippine Republic to befriend all nations, but we should always remember that we are Oriental and our country is located in the midst of Oriental nations. It is but natural that we should establish the most friendly relationships with other Oriental nations.

Afterwards, the President sent for his crucifix. He stated that since his childhood he had knelt and prayed before this crucifix. He is leaving it with us under the care of the ranking member, Minister Recto. Before it, he would like us to pledge unity and perfect understanding. He concluded by asking us to forgive whatever offense or wrong he had committed.

It was a very touching and pathetic scene. The President was crying and so were all of us. I could not bear it — I was the most affected as I am the most intimate friend of the President — I had to leave the room for a while. Nobody could speak. In everybody’s eyes we could see the love and trust for our President. The scene was at the Guest House, amidst the ruins and debris.

We left the President and went to the Mansion House. The President spent his time bidding goodbye to the Presidential Guards and the household.

At 7:00 o’clock in the evening, the President and those accompanying him to Japan went by automobile to Ambassador Murata’s residence. We followed on foot as the residence was just outside the Mansion House compound.

Members of the party to Japan were President and Mrs. Laurel, and all the members of his family including his in-laws, Speaker Aquino, Minister and Mrs. Osias, and General Capinpin.

Those who saw the President and party off were Ministers Recto, Paez, Sabido, Tirona, Luz, Sanvictores, Abello, and myself; Gen. Francisco; and Vice Min. Ramon Macasaet.

The Japanese present were Lt. Gen. Muto, Chief of Staff; Maj. Gen. Utsonomiya; Mr. Hamamoto; and many other Japanese.

As a last wish, the President asked Gen. Muto to extend assistance and protection to the Ministers and the General whom he left behind. Gen. Muto promised to do so and, addressing us, he stated that we should not hesitate to communicate to him anything in which the Army could be of help.

The party left by automobile at 9 o’clock. Ambassador Murata accompanied the party to Japan. Japanese soldiers in two trucks convoyed the party. They were supposed to go by automobile for about 15 kilometers; walk for about 60 kilometers, and then by automobile again up to the point the party could board an airplane. A few days later, Mr. Hamamoto told us that the President and party had to walk only about 30 kilometers and that they had arrived safely in Formosa. They could not proceed to Japan probably because of the invasion of Okinawa Island, part of Japan proper.

Before leaving, the President signed an order reorganizing the government by relieving all the Ministers and other officials who remained in the Philippines. Chief Justice Yulo resigned. The purpose was to be able to organize a complete government in Japan.

Thus ended the first government of the Second Republic of the Philippines. No doubt it had been a success under the able and courageous leadership of Pres. Laurel. The government was established under the most difficult circumstances. The war reached its acute stage and it was natural that there would be conflicts between the government and the Filipinos on the one hand, and the Japanese Military authorities on the other. The Japanese naturally wanted to win the war, and at times the requirements of the Army and Navy affected vitally the interest and welfare of Filipino citizens. The difficulty of subordinate Japanese officers and officials and Japanese civilians to understand and appreciate the Filipino customs and idiosyncracies and also to understand and effectuate the principles and aims of Japan as regards the Philippines, created problems which admitted no solution satisfactory to the Filipinos. With so many serious difficulties, the government of the Republic was nevertheless able to forge ahead. It is a wonder how it could count with so many achievements and accomplishments under the circumstances.

I purposely mentioned Japanese subordinate officers and officials. This is because the high officers, like Gen. Kuroda, Gen. Wachi, and Gen. Utsonomiya deserve the respect, admiration and gratitude of the Filipino people.

* * * * *

            Thus for the second time, I am out of the public service. It certainly afforded genuine pleasure and relief. Notwithstanding the fact that I was in the service of the government from 1909 to 1939, and from 1942 to March, 1945, I harbor only dislike for the public service. The reason is not because I have experienced disappointment in public service. I know of no other person who has been treated with as much justice. In fact, my promotions were even faster than they should have been.

But I have seen countless cases of irregularities in the public service. I have seen men promoted who did not in the least deserve it. I have seen flagrant cases of nepotism. I have seen vengeance wreaked on brilliant employees. I have seen bribery and serious irregularities in the service go unpunished because of the influence and “pull” enjoyed by the culprit. I have seen promising young men unjustly dismissed or laid off just to give way to relatives or favorites of the appointing officers. I have seen lazy and inefficient employees retained in the service to the prejudice of the interest of the people. All these so disgusted me that I longed to leave the public service and enter private business where I felt I belonged.

My first opportunity came in 1938 and I immediately seized it. The then President did his best to persuade me to remain in the service, offering all kinds of inducements, including the managership of either the Philippine National Bank or the Manila Railroad Co. But I insisted in resigning. I was not mistaken. In April of 1939, I joined Marsman & Co. I left the government with an indebtedness up to my neck.

On this day, Wednesday, August 1,1945 we read that at Potsdam, Germany, Truman, Stalin and Attlee (the new Premier of Great Britain), and with the concurrence of Chiang Kai Shek, sent an ultimatum to Japan demanding surrender. The conditions imposed were that Japan is to have only her four original islands. All lands taken by force must be returned.

August first has always been considered as an unlucky day. We were therefore glad that we went to bed at 10 o’clock without any unfortunate incident. But at about 11:30 that night we were awakened by a loud cry. We did not pay any attention. A few minutes later, we heard a heavy thing drop. We jumped out of bed and turned the lights on. We saw Dr. Julio Luz lying on the floor. We thought he was merely dreaming. We put him back on his cot. He woke up and began to sing. It was then we realized that he had lost his mind. He stood up on his bed and fell on the floor again. It was lucky for him that he did not get hurt. His brother, Arsenio, called for the doctor. The guard also notified Lt. Hagonberg. They came immediately. Julio called for Sanvictores. He took hold of the left hand of Sanvictores and pulled him in. Julio pulled Sanvictores so strongly that if he were not a strong man, being our physical director, he would have fallen. Luz saw Lt. Hagonberg and he asked, “How is Hagonberg?” “Well, thank you,” answered the Lieutenant. “How is Gilfilan? How is your shit?” The Lieutenant did not answer.

Luz crawled to the ballustrade and tried to jump. Three strong men, for in the meanwhile a big crowd had gathered around, pulled him back. His brother Arsenio became so nervous that he did not know what to do. He ran back and forth. Somebody remarked that it was the effect of Atabrine. Doctor Bunye said that it was the effect of the malaria itself as the type he contracted attacks the brain. But we who knew Luz before he came to Iwahig, and who had observed his conduct since his arrival believe that he is a lunatic.

Bocobo is also showing signs of eccentricity. He seems to think that he is seriously sick and would soon die. We believe that it is just the result of depression caused by our unjust imprisonment. We are all doing our best to help him. The Colonel and the Lieutenant are also doing their best to help. They have authorized him to go out of the stockade any time he wished to take a walk accompanied by another internee to Class A. We still hope to save him.

As a joke, we printed out the different hobbies of each of us, which showed that something is also the matter with our heads.


July 11, 1945 Wednesday

Confesor, Cabili and Kalaw are out of the Cabinet. Their appointments would have been disapproved in the Commission on Appointments anyway, for justifiable reasons. The three are temperamentally unfit for such high positions. They are not only unprepared for such important responsibility but their prestige among the people is very low. They have done a great dishonor to our country in that they have done the most to divide us with their blind and indiscriminating prejudice against those who held any kind of position in the former regime. According to them, all those people are traitors to their country; that the only patriots are those who ran to the mountains and stayed there, those who issued emergency notes Like Confesor and Kalaw, or who did not join the government because the “buy and sell” business was more profitable. The Commission would have disapproved the appointments of the three with a full and public exposition of the reasons. Osmeña sensed trouble brewing. He immediately withdrew the appointments of Confesor anc Cabili, and appointed them to the Rehabilitation Commission in the U.S. Kalaw was made a book collector in the U.S.A. These are strictly political appointments. What can Confesor and Cabili do? Instead of helping they will prejudice the mission entrusted to the Rehabilitation Commission since that requires not only ability, but above all tact, moderation, and subtleties of diplomacy. These two men absolutely lack these qualities. As to Kalaw, isn’t it degrading that an ex-member of the Cabinet will merely be a book collector, a work that any instructor in a University can do? The worst part of it is that poor Juan de la Cruz is always the victim. The three men must be getting the salary of a Cabinet Member in addition to per diems and many other allowances of officials detailed abroad. How can we convince the people that we have the welfare of our country at heart?

Such action is weakening Pres. Osmeña. It may cost him the presidency. The general remark is that he is not using his appointing power judiciously.

It is also suggested that debts incurred during the Japanese occupation be revalued as of the date the debt was incurred. I think this is also a private matter which should be left to the courts. Furthermore, in almost all cases, the estimated value of the military note in the future had already been taken into consideration. I know for instance of a ₱100,000 indebtedness for which the debtor will pay only ₱5,000, but in Philippine currency at the time payment.

It seems that some banks refused to admit as security all real estate acquired during the Japanese occupation. This is a wrong attitude. If the owner has a Torrens Title, that should be enough for any bank to grant credit. If the guarantee is sufficient, the bank will not lose anything having acquired interest in good faith. But again this is a matter that should be left to the courts to decide. The buyer in good faith must be protected; on the other hand, sellers in bad faith must not be allowed to take advantage. The Chamber of Commerce has asked for a definition of the policy stating that unless this is settled rehabilitation would be difficult. The Chamber is right, since the amount of real estate transactions during the Japanese occupation was enormous.

Many more questions like this will arise in view of the decision of Judge Dizon that all court proceedings during the occupation are invalid. These cases should be appealed to the Supreme Court for final ruling. It is of transcendental importance. The Judge himself was aware of it as he suggested that an act of Congress validate such proceedings.


23rd March 1945

Saipan led to Yiojima and Yiojima may lead to the mainland, warned the Mainichi today. Apparently in preparation for invasion the vice-minister officer, Shibayama, in reply to interpellations in the commons yesterday, revealed that “the fighting services at present are making nationwide preparations for the organization of a defense corps”. This defense corps will be composed of former service-men, with units in every army regional command in Japan. Their arms will be manufactured locally in the different regions. “In case we directly face an enemy invasion,” concluded Shibayama, “not only this defense corps but also the volunteer corps, the patrol corps, and the police forces, etc., will be unified and mobilized.” The volunteer corps refers to another organization proposed by Koiso himself yesterday; details are not yet available but it will be drawn from the people at large, who will be armed and trained to fight as guerrillas.


March 19, 1945

I have not written in almost four weeks. It seems like I have passed a terrible nightmare and have awakened in Barotac, where it is peaceful and calm.

I shall try to take you back to where I left off. On the night of February 15, exactly at

midnight, both sides ceased fighting. The Philippine Army retreated as the Japanese forces advanced and pushed them outside of Jaro. The following four days (16, 17, 18 and 19) we heard no more shooting, but every day American planes raided Iloilo. For us folks in Jaro, we did not mind this so much as we knew that the American targets were the ships in the harbor and warehouses. It seemed strange to us that the Philippine Army should be so quiet, but we did not know that they had direct contact with the American forces who were already on the island of Leyte.

On February 20, the Americans bombed Jaro! At 8:30 a.m. I heard the drone of planes. I immediately called the children to take cover. We had no sooner entered the shelter when the bombs began to fall! The bombing raid lasted 20 minutes, but it seemed like 20 hours! Shortly after the bombing, refugees began streaming into the college. Most of them came from the Seminary, where they had been living with the priests. I want to mention at this time that most of the civilians who were still living in Jaro and Iloilo had gone to live with the nuns in the different private colleges, as it was thought that the Americans would not bomb these institutions. It was, therefore, a shock to us to learn that the Seminary had been hit by an incendiary bomb and had burst into flames! At the time, it was full of refugees, priests and sisters. It seems like a miracle that with all those people, there was not one casualty! The population of the college was increased with the arrival of these people. We have heard that many of the homes in Jaro were all destroyed and in flames.

After the initial shock wore off, came questions why it happened in Jaro. We never thought we would be bombed –- little did we know that this was just the beginning of more bombings to follow. The general opinion is that the USAFFE must have given the Americans the wrong information. This later proved to be true.

February 21, 1945 was quiet –- only a few scouting planes.

On February 22, we awoke early and at 8:30 a.m. I heard the drone of planes. There are only two large air raid shelters outside, so most of the people remain inside during a bombing, seeking shelter in the areas that have concrete walls. There are over 500 people living here now. The planes dived and dropped their bombs around Jaro. The bombing was quite heavy, and we were all praying that the college would not be hit! Some of those bombs fell awfully close! After it was over, we learned that two bombs had fallen within 150 yards of the building. Why so close?? What was the target? These are the questions everybody is asking!

To further upset us, we heard that one of the air raid shelters in Jaro sheltering 42 people had been a direct hit, killing all except two boys. Dr. Ledesma’s brother and entire family were some of the victims. In this second bombing, there were no Japanese casualties –- only civilians!

It was now clear to us that we would not be spared from the bombing, and realizing this, people became panicky! Everybody started packing a few belongings that would fit on a small pushcart. The Japanese lifted their restrictions and opened a main road leading out of the city. People were given two hours to leave –- from noon to 2:00 p.m. There was a mad scramble to get out, but we decided to stay.

By 2:30 p.m. many of the people in the college were gone. Soon after, we heard a heavy drone and I knew we were in for another bombing! Coné, the children and I rushed to one of the outside shelters, as we no longer felt safe inside the building. We were afraid the Americans may have been misinformed. The Americans dropped their bombs and it seemed as if the heavens were rent asunder! The strafing was just as bad, and I prayed that no bombs or bullets would hit our shelter! A direct hit would wipe us out! The raid lasted half an hour, and when all was quiet we crawled out. My nerves were at the breaking point by this time, and I told Coné I wanted to leave the city or go somewhere where we could feel safer.

We immediately started packing and Coné was able to secure two small pushcarts. By 5:30 p.m. we left the college. Dorothy and Meñing were with us. I had to leave my two angora cats and birds with Susie Gurrea and three other families who stayed behind.

The main road leading out of the city was closed by this time, so we headed for a fishpond which was still within the city limits, but was far from any buildings. The owner happened to be a relative of Meñing. Along the way, we passed the Iloilo High School which was being used as a Japanese garrison, and the Iloilo Mission Hospital, where the sick and wounded Japanese soldiers stayed.

Destruction was everywhere. Houses were still burning as we passed them, and electric wires were lying on the road. Thank God there were no casualties this time as the civilians no longer take any chances and take cover.

We arrived at our destination at 6:30 p.m. and stayed in a small, comfortable wooden house with a good air raid shelter. I began to relax knowing that we were far from the crossfire between the USAFFE and Japanese, and away from any buildings. We all slept well that night, had an early breakfast before the planes “visited” us again. We stay in the shelter most of the day whenever there are planes flying, as we never know whether they will bomb or not. For three days we did not have any bombing until the 26th.

We heard them coming and rushed to the shelter. They circled over the Iloilo High School and the Iloilo Mission Hospital. They came in three waves, 16 planes in all. After they dropped their bombs they began to strafe the area. The raid lasted half an hour. Our shelter shook with every explosion, and the strafing was ear-shattering! After it was all over, we crawled out and could see fires in many directions. We stayed in the shelter most of the day and had our lunch there.

At 1:30 p.m. we heard the drone of planes again –- the same 16 planes had returned. Again they bombed and strafed! All we could do was to pray that they would not miss their targets. In spite of it all, Coné remained very calm, as he always is when great danger faced us. Dolly, also, seemed to keep calm and did not get upset. Jr., Millard and Roland seemed to be more nervous and affected by the bombing. When it was over and all was quiet, we could still hear explosions, as ammunition dumps had been hit.

Again we crawled out of our shelter and to our astonishment, we could see part of the Mission Hospital was missing! As we are out in the open, we can clearly see it. The part that was damaged was the nurse’s home. Later we heard that the Japanese had used this building to store ammunition, and the USAFFE had radioed this information to the Americans.

We also saw fires in the vicinity of the High School, which is just across the street from the hospital.

After the raid, the Japanese patients who were able to walk went to an open field behind the hospital and stayed there all day. They have dug fox holes and shelters behind the hospital and have covered them with mongo plants. We are close enough to see all their activities.

That evening we all retired early and slept well in spite of everything. We arose early, had an early breakfast and headed for the shelter. John cooked our day’s meal early, as we expected to be bombed again. Sometimes they come upon us so suddenly that we barely reach the shelter before the bombings start.

We noticed that the Japanese were also up early and had taken their bed-ridden patients to the shelters. They have also taken over the empty nipa houses nearby and keep their sick and wounded there instead of in the hospital.

Thank goodness Meñing and Dorothy are with us and have their cow and calf, who provides us with plenty of milk. Our problem is water. It has to be fetched at a main faucet on the main street, and there are always people waiting in line, including the Japanese. This chore is done early in the morning, or late in the afternoon by John, or anyone we can hire.

We have spent the next several days practically all day in the shelter. Planes have flown over us, but there was no bombing. We would like to leave the city limits and go to the hills or to our farm in Barotac, but it is dangerous unless one has the proper contact with the USAFFE. We have heard that many of the people who left the college had been robbed when they reached the outskirts. Some lost everything they had.

In the meantime, unknown to us, our relatives in Barotac were making arrangements for us to get out of the city, and on the afternoon of March 1, a messenger from the USAFFE was able to get through the Japanese lines and located us! He brought a message from a Capt. Bautista telling us to leave at once as the situation in the city was expected to get worse. He said there would be an escort waiting for us across the river. We immediately started packing a few changes of clothing in a bag or pillow case, as we no longer had a push cart. Our chickens, ducks and a small pig were given to a family friend, Bisay, who was living nearby. Everything else would have to be left behind.

When the caretaker of the fish pond heard of our plans, he decided to take his family out, too. The news spread like wildfire, and by the time we were ready to leave, 60 people had gathered at our house!

Our guide became quite upset at seeing such a large crowd. He worried that a large group would attract more attention.

We left at dusk so that the Japanese snipers would not see us. We crossed a small river in a “banca” (a small boat). Meñing swam across with the cow and calf. Our escort, who was dressed in a Japanese uniform, met us across the river. We walked for about a kilometer until we came to a small nipa house, where we stayed until the moon rose. By 10:00 p.m. there was enough moonlight to see our way along the edge of a fish pond. By this time, we were now between the Japanese and USAFFE lines. Our destination for the evening was the salt beds owned by the Pison family. We hiked another two kilometers and finally reached it. We did our best to make ourselves comfortable on a wooden floor, without any pillows or mats to sleep on. The children each carried a blanket, and their bundle of clothes served as pillows.

The sound of gunfire during the night kept us from getting a good night’s sleep. By daybreak we were on the move again, and in an hour reached a barbed wire entanglement marking USAFFE territory. We were met by a group of soldiers and a lieutenant who took us to Capt. Bautista’s headquarters. Unfortunately, he was not there, so we had to wait for him. In the meantime, lunch hour was approaching, and we realized that in our haste, we had forgotten to bring some rice. The lieutenant, therefore, instructed one of the soldiers to give us some.

After lunch, the lieutenant in charge told us that we should go to another area as we were still within reach of the Japanese trench mortars, and they had lost a soldier the previous night. He furnished us with a bull cart and at 2:00 p.m. we went on our way.

On reaching our destination, we heard the sound of a car, and the first thing I saw was an American flag waving in the breeze, attached to the car. Dorothy was touched at seeing the flag and began to cry. When the car stopped, I quickly walked over and hugged the soldier who was driving it, and kissed the flag! I noticed a Filipino colonel riding in the back seat Two , and was somewhat embarrassed by my actions, but I could not help show my feelings at seeing the flag again! In the course of our conversation with Col. Chavez, Dorothy expressed her doubts as to whether we would ever see the flag wave over the Philippines again, and he spoke and said, “I never had any doubts!” His words still ring in my ears, and he spoke for all the Filipino people. He was very gracious to us and told the soldiers to make us comfortable.

Two beds were made available to us –- I was tired and so were the children, so we quickly lay down to rest. For supper a soldier shot two chickens. They waited on us like we were royalty! What a fine group of boys!

By 8:00 p.m. Capt. Bautista still had not arrived, so we retired for the night. At 10:30 p.m. a car stopped in front of the house and a sergeant announced that Capt. Bautista and Capt. Hausman had arrived. They had been out on an inspection trip all day and had not eaten lunch or dinner. They saw us immediately and were anxious to get us out of the area for it was not safe for civilians to be there. We immediately gathered up all our things and Coné, the children and I got in their car. We even took our dog, Budigoy. Since it has been a while since he had ridden in a car, he got carsick and made a mess in their car, much to our embarrassment.

Dorothy and Meñing had to stay behind, but left early the next morning. Meñing walked with the cow and calf, while Dorothy rode a “calesa”, a horse-drawn, 2-wheeled cart.

We arrived at the town of Alimodian past midnight – a distance of about 24 kilometers from Iloilo. The car stopped in front of a house and Capt. Bautista called out to the occupants to open their door. The people turned out to be former evacuees at San Jose College, so we felt perfectly at home.

This town is full of evacuees from Iloilo and Jaro. The Redemptorist priests and the Bishop of Jaro were also there, and we were honored one day by a visit from His Excellency and Father Guinn. We stayed in Alimodian for three days to rest and to be investigated by the USAFFE. The officers and soldiers could not do enough for us, and provided us with food and even loaned Coné some money. We are most grateful to them for all their kindness.

On March 6, at 5:30 a.m. we started out on the last lap of our journey back to our farm in Barotac. We had an escort (USAFFE) and a bull cart to carry our belongings. Sometimes we also rode on it part of the way.

We travelled for about seven hours, and stopped at noon at a shady spot and ate our lunch of rice, dried fish and bananas. Believe me, it tasted like a turkey dinner! We were very tired and felt revived after the meal. After resting for an hour we started again as we wanted to cover as much mileage as possible. Along the way we passed a place that had a concentration of Japanese soldiers and we picked up our pace, as the Japanese can still go through the USAFFE lines anytime they wish.

We went through the town of Ma-asin, which was totally destroyed. Even the old Spanish church was in ruins! (The Spanish churches in the Philippines are centuries old and are built with stone and concrete a meter thick).

Our next stop was the town of Janiuay, where we planned to spend the night. We arrived at 4:30 p.m., all tired out. Again, the USAFFE was very kind to us, and provided us with lodging. Janiuay was also totally destroyed. The old Spanish church had been blasted by the Japanese, intending to use the debris to repair an airfield. Most of the houses in the town were burned, but one nice wooden house remained on the outskirts of town and we were taken there to spend the night.

On March 7 (and the sixth day of our journey) we rose at 4:00 a.m. The cow and calf seemed to be rested enough to continue the long trip, so we started on our way.

It was terribly hot and humid –- March is the hottest time of the year. Meñing collapsed from the heat and had to be helped the rest of the way by USAFFE soldiers. We arrived at our farm at sunset, completely exhausted, but happy, and had a joyous reunion with relatives! The cow and calf arrived the following day –- they laid down and did not get up for two days!

To add further to our joy upon arrival, we heard the wonderful news that the Americans had landed in Iloilo and had taken control of the city and surrounding towns!

Four days later, very early in the morning, we heard the rumble of vehicles along the road, and on looking out, we saw American tanks and trucks moving very slowly along the main road! We rushed out to greet them and joined the people who were lined along the road, waving and cheering with excitement! Even the dogs were excited and were barking and chasing after the trucks! For us, the war was over, and our joy at that moment was beyond words!

 

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Soon after the American landing in Iloilo City, we left the farm and returned to the city. Many of the homes and buildings were destroyed, but we were fortunate to find a house for rent.

A few months after we settled down, I received a note from a young American soldier, who had traced our whereabouts through the Red Cross. He explained that he was recuperating from his wounds on the nearby island of Negros, and that he was my nephew, Ramond (my brother Harry’s son) from Wichita, Kansas. The last time I saw him, he was just a baby. I could hardly believe what I was reading!

We exchanged letters back and forth, and a few weeks later, with the help of his commanding officer, he was able to get transportation to Iloilo. When he walked into our house, looking so handsome in his uniform, I felt so proud and happy to see him! The years of war were quickly forgotten as we talked about our experiences, and I got firsthand news of my family back in the U.S. Who would ever think that it would take a war to bring us together!

Needless to say, he was given the royal treatment and I gave a party in his honor. Life is full of surprises –- and this was certainly the biggest one of them all!

This is the end of my diary. A few months later, Dolly, Roland and I left for the island of Leyte, where we boarded the S.S. “GEN. BREWSTER”, a U.S. Army ship bound for the United States. After living in the Islands for 20 years, I returned to visit my family and for a well-earned vacation and rest.


February 15, 1945

On the night of February 12, at around midnight a barrage of gunfire suddenly erupted and lasted until 7:00 a.m. without any interval! It was terrifying beyond words! The college shook from the cannon fire and trench mortars! Bullets were flying so thick that it sounded like a hailstorm! Everybody stayed in their rooms as the walls are of concrete and it was safe. Those people whose rooms were upstairs had to run to the stairwell which was made of concrete.

The next day was quiet. There was only an occasional shot. At 4:30 that afternoon I went to the chapel to attend the rosary, which was moved to the library downstairs. Then at 5:30 we ate our supper hurriedly for fear the shooting would begin again.

Eight o’clock had just struck and it was accompanied by a volley of shots. The shooting had started as we expected, and continued through the night with only a few minutes of interval. The USAFFE are trying to retake Jaro and Iloilo, but I do not believe they can, as the Japanese are reinforced and well entrenched. I cannot understand why they cannot wait for the Americans. They are doing more harm to the civilians and to themselves. Their casualties have been high, and the civilian homes are being burned.

It was quiet all day on the 14th, until 8:00 p.m. when the shooting started again. The shooting was not quite so heavy, and there were longer intervals. I made up my mind I must get some sleep and relax, so I took some cardiosedol and retired. I heard 10 o’clock strike and no more till 4:30 this morning. I remained awake for an hour, then slept again till 7 o’clock. The shooting was still going on, and Coné said, “It went on all night, but not so heavy as the previous night.”

As I am writing this, I can hear cannon fire and trench mortars a short distance from the college.


February 12, 1945

here are so many stories circulating about the events that took place while the USAFFE had entered Jaro and surrounding areas. We heard that the wife of the Swiss Consul and her three children were taken outside by them. The Swiss Consul is in the hospital and is very ill. We are hearing stories of looting and burning. We also heard that civilians (some Spanish) who had taken shelter at the Bishop’s residence were also taken outside by the USAFFE, and the residence burned.

Last night we saw some fires, but fortunately they were far from us.

There are many Japanese in Jaro now, occupying what is left of the large, concrete houses. Don Ramon Lopez says to pray to God the “Americans land soon. It is our only salvation.” There is no more food coming into the city, and what little there is available, is beyond the reach of most people. A kilo of pork is 2,500 Pesos, a squash costs 1,500 Pesos. Mongo beans cost 2,500 Pesos a ganta (5 lbs.).


February 10, 1945

I have not written in a week and I don’t know how or where to begin, or whether I will remember everything that has happened during the week!

On the morning of February 5, the USAFFE soldiers entered Jaro a 9:00 a.m.! Some of the soldiers came inside the college and people were afraid of them. Some behaved themselves, while others did not. Looting by them in Jaro was rampant and houses were set on fire. The Bishop’s residence with all its precious things was looted and the house set on fire.

The USAFFE came inside Jaro and the college so quietly that the Japanese were not aware they had done so. It was not until noon that the USAFFE started firing. They had also set up barricades in other locations around Jaro. The Japanese returned their fire and the heavy shooting lasted for four days! On the second day of shooting trench mortars fell around us. One fell on the roof above the dining area, and two fell on the tennis court. Thank God that in spite of the heavy firing, no one was hurt! All we could do was to remain on the floor in our rooms. The walls of the college were peppered with bullet holes. Most of the beautiful homes around the Jaro plaza are burned, and ¾ of the town of Molo has been destroyed by fire.

On the night of February 7, we could hear (between the gunfire) someone calling for help on the other side of the wall. No one dared to go out. He kept calling for help for about ½ hour, then was silent. The following morning during a lull in the shooting, someone in the college ventured to look over the wall and saw the dead body of a USAFFE soldier.

Don Ramon Lopez’s house which is on the other side of the college, had been occupied by the USAFFE during the shooting, so we were between the cross-fire. On the 4th day of fighting, more Japanese reinforcements arrived, and the USAFFE had to retreat. The fighting was carried outside of Jaro to the river, so today it has been quiet.

After things quieted down, four Japanese soldiers came to the college to look around and inspect the damage. At the time they came, the Chaplain asked permission from them if the dead body on the other side of the wall could be buried. The officer gave his permission and mentioned that there was another dead USAFFE soldier a few yards away.

The next morning, a priest and some servants at the college, including John, our cook, went to bury the two soldiers. Some Japanese soldiers came to the site while the graves were being dug, and helped in the digging.


January 28, 1945

It is Sunday today and we all attended mass, with the exception of Coné, who was on guard duty last night. Every night there are three men on guard and a sister.

Planes have been flying all day – bombing and machine gunning the water front. So far, there have only been a few casualties. The pilots seem to be very careful –- they have not even machine gunned the garrisons where the Japanese soldiers are housed, but they are watching the ships carefully.

Both Iloilo and Jaro look like ghost towns more and more each day as most people have left and gone to the country. However, there is more danger outside now as the Japanese are “penetrating” the barrios and villages, to clean out the USAFFE soldiers, and civilians are caught between two fires.


January 27, 1945

We would frequently meet soldiers who say, “I am Spanish.” Curious as to how there could be Zamorans in the U.S. Army we asked one of them:

“From what province are you?”

“From California”. And he explained, “My father was Spanish and my mother Mexican, and I am an American citizen. We’ve just arrived and we feel like talking in Spanish. Tomorrow we might be dumped into another place where there are Japanese still remaining.”

They took pride in talking about their countrymen, and we enjoyed listening to their sweet accent and diction, their picturesque expression and their language interspersed with hispanized English words.

We came across some authentic Spanish who told us he was from Sevilla or from León or from Valencia. There was even one who insisted in referring to himself as an “Asturian from Texas”.

“In the Army” one officer told us, “there are no socialists nor communists as there are no Democrats or Republicans.” Among the Mexicans with whom we chatted, there are no partisans — Toledans or pro-Tolstoy or pro-Stalin. They are all good Catholics.

Also with the expeditionary forces were thousands of Filipinos who were connected with the auxiliary services. Fighting in the first lines were the locally enlisted Filipinos, especially the guerrillas who served as links to the American forces. They are excellent combatants. Unfortunately, though, many dissident elements in Tarlac and Pampanga would pass as guerrillas and they would attack the Americans. The Army, unable to distinguish the grain from the thistle, had to dissolve all groups — Sakdalistas and genuine guerrillas alike, confiscating all arms until they could clear the area and pick out the marauders from the same elements. The communist threat is real and is transcendental.

As long as the Army is in control, they will be able to keep the different dissident groups in check. But the day the politicians return to power, the political leaders of Moscow and Tokyo will be back to fish in the confused river of politics. We know who’s winning in war. But who’s going to win in peace?

Wars can be won by force of arms; peace can be gained only by justice — justice tempered with charity. To win in the grand final battle there is a need for men, organization, equipment and supplies. To win the peace, all these are needed, directed by the powers of the spirit. The course and recourse of these faculties is charity. I do not know of any other antidote to hatred than love, nor any other antidote to avarice, pride and ambition than charity!

If hatred is to win the war, what kind of peace shall we expect? Were the millions of lives lost sacrificed to this end?

“I don’t mind losing my life”, an officer told me a few days ago, “but I would certainly want to lose it for a noble cause.”

What these soldiers have to contend with is not Germany or Japan, both of which have already been defeated, but Russia or, if we might personify, Stalin.