After the general heard my report, I took the field telephone and asked for Bat 108 –Manny’s code name in Corregidor. “What’s up, Primo?” he asked. I said: “the line in the east sector won’t hold. By tonight, the Japs will be here. Tell Leonie to stay there.” Manny didn’t believe me, but I was in no mood to argue… so I said: “So long, Primo… If I get home first… I’ll tell the folks you’re O.K.” Ten minutes later, the field phone rang again. I thought it was Leonie… but I was wrong. It was Oscar. “Say, Phil,” he said… “this is the end. I’m in Kilometer 165.5 with all my troops. Where shall I go?” Oscar sounded serious… in fact, nervous. I knew what had happened. The Japs had already broken through and there was general disorganization. The reserve lines had also probably been captured. It was as Oscar said “the end.” I told Oscar to retreat to kilometer 182.2 near Mariveles… because all Filipino troops were going there. “We better stick together,” I explained, “because the Japs might give us better treatment.” Oscar didn’t answer immediately… then he said, “O.K. kid… I’ll bring my men there. Good luck… and if you see Ramon… tell the old fellow not to be nervous.” That was just like Oscar… joking at a serious moment. For all his carefree, devil-may-care attitude… we needed more men like him in Bataan. To begin with… he had no business volunteering. But he did. General Valdes told him he would be a fool to leave his wife and two-day-old baby. But he did… and he told me one evening: “Phil… if I don’t ever get home… tell my kid why I fought. Tell him… I wanted him to be able to tell the other boys… ‘My father fought for his country.'”
At 6 p.m. –sunset– the phone rang again. “It’s me… Oscar… waiting for you in 182.2.” His retreat was a success.
That night, I burned all my papers, all records… including my diary. It pained me to see that diary go. It helped me a lot. Sometimes when I was very depressed… I wrote all my feelings on its pages…. and I felt better afterwards. But orders were orders. “Burn everything” said the General (De Jesus) nervously… and so everything was burnt.
I slept at Kilometer 182.2 that night, besides Ramon Pamintuan. Gatas Santos was also there. We didn’t know that later in the evening we would have a reunion. Ramon was pale and yellow… shivering with malaria. Gatas was looking fine but he was worried about his white skin. “They might take me for an American,” he said. Later in the evening, Johnny arrived. He was thin, exhausted… but not to exhausted to tell us all about his narrow escapes and the way his car ceased to be a car because of a bomb. Then Godofredo Reyes showed up. I didn’t recognize him in the dark, because I had not seen him for a long time and he had a beard. Then came Hector Unson, who I thought was isolated by Jap patrols in Batangas on Dec. 29. He said he heard I died in Corregidor. It turned out we were praying for each other’s soul. At about eleven o’clock Ernie Es. popped in. He had come from guard duty and he was cursing because it was not his turn to guard. Then Tony Nieva arrived. He was fagged out, sunburnt, and very thin. We gave him the little food we had, because he said he had not eaten for two days. He explained that his men were almost surrounded by the advance patrols of the Japanese, because the Americans ran away without notifying him. It was a reunion alright… but a sad one. We thought we would meet each other in Manila in some victory banquet… not on the night of defeat. But as things turned out… there we were… gathering on the dry bed of a stream… not knowing what the morning had in store for us. Would the Japanese kill us? Would they imprison us? Would they free us? We were discussing those questions throughout the night, I was thinking of escaping, thru the mountains of Bagac via Zambales. But they said… ‘Let’s stick together… till the end.’ We talked of our happy days in Manila… the way we used to run around town… Jai Alai… Casa Mañana… Manila Hotel… drinking, dancing, feasting…I also thought of Nini. It was her birthday –April 9.
I guess we were all changed men… and we all agreed that we didn’t regret our experience. I don’t think any of us were the worse for the hardships we endured. They had made men out of us… and above all… it put our country on the map. It was not all in vain. That’s what I was thinking of… when the ground began to shake and the stones in the stream started to roll. It was an earthquake. Was God going to rescue us in the final hour? My heart beat fast… I was sure something would happen… to turn the tide of defeat… but nothing did…and I waited and waited till I fell asleep.
If the news about President Quezon is true, this country has lost one of its main pillars. But I have a feeling, the news is false. Men like Don Manuel do not die in times like this. He is destiny’s godson.
Capati and Oliveros called to Fort Santiago.
Pagu and Unson still languishing in the fort. Their families have not heard from them.
More troops have arrived. Saw them speeding through Taft Avenue in camouflaged trucks. Somebody said they were speeding to their death.