March 18, 1945

I visited Muntinlupa, the new prison site. Not a political or criminal prisoner was left. When the Americans were about to arrive, they were liquidated without let-up, until the Chief henchman, disgusted with the sight of blood, shouted, “Always kill, kill. You go.” And so was saved a handful of prisoners who were already by the death wall, among whom were Fr. Rufino Santos and a boy of nine. Days before, a group of thirty were able to escape and join the guerillas.

Now the cells are occupied by the former prisoners of Los Baños who are being rehabilitated before being sent home. I heard the story of their liberation from their own lips. As I listened I could not tell whether I was listening to a detective story of Sherlock Holmes or to a script of a Hollywood comedy. They all tallied in the details of their accounts.

At dawn of the 23rd of February, the day the liberators entered Intramuros, the 250 Japanese soldiers who were guarding the prisoners of Los Baños were starting their ceremonial greetings to the sun and the Imperial palace and their routine calisthenics. From the skies, a hundred gigantic shadows fell on the ground like shadows of great scarecrows. Simultaneously, from the thicknesses of the mountains surrounding the camp emerged some two thousand guerillas who had posted themselves around the prison camp during the night. Their firings synchronized with the attack of a hundred and fifty tanks and amphibian trucks, catching the prison guards unaware and sending them scampering to the nearby bushes like scared rats. They burned the barracks and within a few minutes, the two thousand internees were moving out of the lagoon, the men on foot and the women and children in the amphibian trucks. At the beach, other vehicles were waiting for them. The enemies posted at nearby hills, who were still asleep, finally woke up and fired their artillery, wounding a soldier and a liberated internee while they were boarding the watercraft. They were the only casualties. The three-pronged attack was as spectacular as it was successful.

They crossed the lake and landed at Cabuyao which had been liberated by the guerillas. There were some fifteen thousand of them so well entrenched that now, after four weeks, they had not been displaced from those mountains. Among those liberated were seven Dominican priests, about a hundred members of other religious orders and more than two hundred sisters.

This movie-like comedy was preceded, five days earlier, by a Herodian tragedy which undoubtedly motivated the risky liberation of Los Baños. In the nearby town of Calamba, the subhuman beast had sacrificed more than six thousand persons. This was narrated to me by six priests who stayed at El Real. The shouts of the victims of bayonet thrusts could be heard in the whole town during the whole morning. In the afternoon, the priests were arrested together with other townspeople and were made to line up along the road. Their hands were tied and their eyes blindfolded. Then the atrocity! Shrieks and shoutings cried out to high heavens. After more than an hour, they brought the priests to the macabre scene. Their turn of judgment had come amidst the screams of the victims and the grunts of the beasts. They commended for the last time their souls to the Creator. They had assumed this state of resignation born of innocence, undisturbed by the mental sensation of the cold blade that was about to butcher them.

Suddenly the heinous act stopped but not the screamings. There was a long discussion among the henchmen, after which they were untied and their blindfold removed. They never found out the reason for their miraculous liberation. They could not tell whether they could attribute it the fact that the assassins got fed up with so much bloodshed, or whether one of them who was less blood thirsty, interceded in their favor.

A few days later, after trekking through forests and fields, they arrived at Santa Rosa.

Two Dominican priests and a Jay brother did not have the same luck. They were Fr. Merino and Fr. Diez who were in Los Baños. On the day the prisoners were liberated, they were taken by a Japanese and the American amphibian trucks could not wait for them. When the people in the mountains went back to the town on hearing the news that the Americans had come, the Japanese were in town waiting for them, and massacred them, the two Dominican priests included.

Massacre was committed in all towns of those provinces. In Tanauan, the hometown of Laurel, soldiers went from house to house before dawn and killed everybody they found either with bullets or with blows. Some five thousand were slain in San Pablo. The people of Lipa were ordered to evacuate. Those who failed to do so were killed. But for those who fled, soldiers were lying in wait to kill them on the way. There was a conservative count of 15,000 dead. Even those in the mountains did not escape the bloodthirsty vampires. They were hunted like beasts in barrios and mountains. Only those who succeeded in crossing to the liberated areas were saved from the diabolic fury of these children of Heaven. That was how the Bishop of Lipa and a number of priests of that diocese were saved.

Through the towns of Batangas and Tayabas which least suffered during the occupation, passed Genghis Khan in katana and Attila in kimono.


February 24, 1945

The final and thorough attack on Intramuros was effected yesterday. After the artillery assault, the most thunderous and terrifying we had ever heard over this locality, armored cars and amphibian tanks crossed the river along that area and landed via Santa Clara in the Cathedral plaza, advancing up to the center of the Walled City. At the same time, other units hopping through the rubble of the walls at the south of the Victoria Gate, despite heavy casualties, penetrated along the once narrow streets now in ruins, until they joined the amphibian forces.

Towards the afternoon yesterday, the first liberated residents of Intramuros arrived. I talked to some of them. They were completely rattled and shaken not because of wounds or weakness but more because of the horrible scenes that they witnessed and the savagery which they had been subjected to.

The most coherent account was made by Fr. Belarmino de Celis of the Convent of St. Augustine which I shall narrate here as a typical example.

On February 8, all male residents of Intramuros from fourteen years up were taken to Fort Santiago. The women and children were herded into San Agustin Church and the Cathedral. Then the Japanese made a thorough search of all houses, placing dynamite in strong buildings to blow them up or burn them later. In prison, the Spaniards were separated from the Filipinos who numbered about two thousand. After a week without food and water, they were sprayed with gasoline with the use of a hose. Many thought that it was water and therefore opened their mouth to quench their thirst. They were then burned alive. A number of them, driven mad by the fire and by thirst, were able to break the bars of the cells and jumped into the river. But they were machine-gunned by the sentries, and only two, a Filipino and a Spanish youth, were able to escape. The young Spanish, Luis Gallent, with a fractured dorsal spine, swam to the opposite bank and was picked up by the Americans.

The Spanish group (among whom were forty missionary priests) was detained in another room, where they were so crowded that there was no room to fall down on the floor. The food sent them by the women from San Agustin was appropriated by the Japanese. On the 10th, they were returned to the San Agustin Church. Both in prison and in this church, five Filipino spies who confessed their guilt, were mixed with them.

On the 18th, they were moved out to a warehouse in front of Sta. Clara, after the women were assured that the men were being transferred to a safer place, and only for a day or two. The evening of the following day, they were made to line up in the street, guarded by an additional contingent from Fort Santiago, and led to some wide concrete shelters constructed in the yard of the old headquarters in front of the Cathedral.

With their repeated and courteous protests that measures be taken to protect them from the intense shelling, they were made to enter the shelters. In one shelter, eighty were herded, in another, thirty-seven. As the caves did not have the capacity for so many, they made the most of the situation as, after all, the shelling would last only for a couple of hours. When they were all packed up and praying the rosary and receiving the absolution, the Japanese started hurling hand grenades through the port holes of the shelter. Everyone was wounded, each in varying degrees. Some were able to force the door open and attempted to escape. They were met with bullets and laughter. A good number were killed. When the shouting and moanings decreased, the entrance was sealed with earth and gasoline drums so hermetically that those who were still alive died of suffocation.

In another smaller shelter, the soldiers threw grenades through the entrance, and only those near it received the impact. Seven survivors were able to make an opening and got out of the sepulchre alive.

In the other shelter, Fr. Belarmino, with his face and side pierced by shrapnel, noted that he was not seriously wounded, but he was suffocating in that cave and tried to bore a hole at the entrance. But one of the graveyard caretakers detected the hole and sealed it. After a long while, the interred prisoner opened it anew. He had to crawl over the corpse of his dead companions. He could still hear the moanings of some who were in agony. The shells which continued falling all around caused earth and stone to fall and cover the agonizing and the dead. The corpses decomposed and were covered with flies.

Fr. Belarmino was buried alive for seventy mortal hours, dying of thirst and suffocation. On the night of the 22nd, he decided to die of bullets rather than of asphyxiation. He succeeded in removing sufficient quantity of stones and thus create a wide opening. The Father and Mr. Rocamora, the only survivors, pulled themselves, as they could not walk, they crossed the plaza of the Cathedral which was littered with broken glass and barbed wire which opened up new wounds. But they were able to reach the Bureau of Justice building. After a short rest, the priest left his companion who could not crawl any farther and he reached the convent of Santa Clara where he asked for food and water from the Sisters. The Sisters could not give him food or drink as they themselves did not have any. He advised them to leave the convent. They were surprised how he was able to reach that far without having been killed by the sentries and they begged him to go before the sentry returned and killed him. He returned to the Bureau of Justice, searched all corners and found a toilet with the tank full of water. He quenched his thirst and filled a can for his companion. They recovered their strength somehow in spite of the loss of blood, and passed the rest of the night quietly.

Yesterday morning, the siege subsided over that part of Intramuros after a very intense barrage, preparatory to the crossing of the river. There was calm for a couple of hours. Suddenly, they heard voices: “Come on, come out.” From the accent, they knew that they were Americans and they saw the heavens open. The Father, supporting himself on the wall, came out to meet them. But his companion could not move. Three sisters of Santa Clara came. Their convent was a heap of rubble where ten other Sisters were buried. The priest showed the soldiers where his companion was and they took him in a stretcher while he, supported by two soldiers, was taken to another building where he was given food and water. He told them about the two shelters full of people, but they could not cross the Plaza as the Japanese were firing at the Cathedral. He was transferred to the other side of the river and later was brought to the hospital at the UST campus where he narrated to me all these.

In another ward, I visited Fr. Cosgrave, an Irish Redemptorist. He had both shoulders pierced by a bayonet. His account was another typical one among hundreds which could be told.

Fr. Cosgrave, together with sixteen lay brothers, their chaplain and four families were living in an unoccupied portion of the De La Salle College. The four families — of Vásquez Prada, Judge Carlos, Dr. Cojuangco and his politician brother, were composed of thirty women and children, twelve houseboys, aside from the men, a total of seventy persons.

On the 7th of February, the Japanese took the Director, Brother Xavier and Dr. Carlos. They never returned. On the 12th, while the refugees were under the stairs because of a violent shelling, a Japanese officer with twenty soldiers came. Upon orders from the officer, the soldiers poked their bayonets at all men, women and children. Some of the Brothers — twelve of them were Germans — were able to get away and run upstairs. They were chased by the soldiers and were stabbed at the entrance of the chapel, others inside. Those who resisted were shot by the officer.

When the soldiers were through with the orgy, they dragged the bodies and piled them under the stairs, the dead over those who were still alive. Not all died upon being stabbed. Among them were children of two years and less.

At about ten o’clock in the evening, the chaplain, notwithstanding his wounded shoulders, was able to free himself from the heap of corpses and crawl upstairs to the chapel. He administered the extreme unction on the agonizing, himself resigned to his fate, and likewise asking pardon for their torturers. He found other corpses in the chapel. Hiding behind the altar were ten others.

On the following day, the Japanese started blowing up different parts of the College. They tried to burn the chapel, but as it was made of concrete, only the furnitures caught fire. For a while, they feared that the smoke would suffocate them. On the 15th, after four days of natural fasting and slow bleeding, the ten survivors — among them a son of former Speaker Aquino — were saved by the liberating troops.

These two preceding accounts were later confirmed by the two narrators in signed and sworn statements.

Among those who were buried alive in Intramuros were fourteen Augustinians, ten Franciscans, six Recollects, nine Capuchins (including three who died in Singalong) and two Filipino priests.

Others who died of Japanese brutality were the Fathers Commissary, Guardian and Procurator General of San Francisco; Fathers Gaudencio and Carlos Castrillo, Fictor, Polo, Alvarado, Pinedo and Casares, all Augustinians; the Prior and Procurator General of the Recollects, and the Capuchin Superior. A number of my old friends, Spanish and Filipinos, were also killed.

The following figures speak eloquently for themselves: It was estimated that Intramuros had seven thousand inhabitants. All the men above 14 years were killed, except some twenty sick or wounded. The women and the children were saved because the Japanese used them to defend themselves and for other diabolic purposes. When the shelling intensified, the Japanese would bring the women and children to the churchyard and make them walk in the streets so that the American plane which directed the shelling would see them. They were thrown out into the streets when the liberators broke into Intramuros in the hope that they would be killed in the cross fire. However, they arrived in Letran and were picked up there by the Americans and brought to the rearguard. About eighty per cent were saved.


February 21, 1945

Weeks have passed since the start of a thorough attack on the south of the Pasig. The battle was bloody and although there were heaps of Japanese fatalities, there were very few prisoners. American casualties were heavy. The front line ran along behind San Luis Street, behind the Casino Español, City Hall up to Quezon Bridge. American artillery is demolishing the palace of the High Commissioner, the Army and Navy Club, the Bayview Hotel and the government buildings east of the Wallace Field. City Hall and the Post Office building also received their share of shells.

The shelling of Intramuros has begun. The Japanese are using the walls as mortar positions and defense walls. They launched a mortar attack on the tower of the UST main building, and another on the Education building.

American firing during the day is incessant, and by night, formidable. They are pulverizing the buildings between Taft Avenue and Burgos Street, and those of the Luneta. The clouds of smoke rise like a black torrent surging from the horizon and enveloping the sky. We are worried about the fate of the residents of Intramuros, trapped within its walls. We can only foresee unspeakable anguish and torture and a bloody agony in the hands of their tormentors.

The number of persons imprisoned is calculated to be around seven thousand, among whom were some forty missionaries, mostly Spanish, and some Filipino and Spanish Sisters.

The High Command, before dealing the final blow in Intramuros, appealed to the Japanese defenders to surrender in order to save so many innocent lives. Not receiving any response, they proposed the alternative of letting the civilians free with the assurance that all firing will cease for four hours. The time specified elapsed and no one went out.

The remaining Japanese troops are incessantly putting to action their plan of murder, suicide and devastation.

What are the Japanese achieving by these killings — of others and of themselves? By this destruction of the city and its landmarks? Instead of saving their faces, Oriental style, they will pass into eternity stigmatized by their barbarism and vandalism, and eternally hated by the Filipino people and nations whose citizens they have massacred.


February 20, 1945

Let us shift our view for a while from this scenario of horrors, and take a look at the Manila of the liberators, as it was narrated to me.

The American High Command has not failed to notice the vandalistic scheme of the Japanese in the attempt to save themselves with the City and with the residents of the Capital, of converting the city into a heap of rubble and killing all the inhabitants, starting with the internees in Santo Tomas.

This was confirmed by some well-meaning Japanese. The program of destruction, murder and suicide, which is being launched in the southern zone is also being planned for the northern section. Written orders to this effect had been found and brought by the guerillas to the headquarters of General MacArthur.

The Japanese did not expect the American advance forces at the approach to Manila until about the 6th or 7th of February, so that on the 3rd, it was supposed that the front line was about fifty kilometers from Balintawak. On the eve of this day, at about 8:00 o’clock, the priests and internees of Santo Tomas heard tanks penetrating through España street. They posted themselves in front of the gate of the University campus. Lights went on and illuminated the buildings. Jubilant shouts and outbursts of joy were heard from the detainees who barely perceived that their liberation was forthcoming. In a few moments, volleys sounded from within and without the campus. The tanks and machine-guns replied. A number of soldiers and guerillas who served as guides fell, among them Manuel Colayco and the young Kierulf who died later. Absolute silence. Total darkness. Then the lead tank barged in through the fence into the campus, followed by seven others and by twenty trucks loaded with troops, the first with lights on, the others without lights. They reached the front of the Main building. Another shout and welcome from the prisoners. A new discharge of fire from the Japanese defenders, and then another sepulchral silence. The monstrous caterpillars kept advancing along the sides of the building until they were positioned one at each alley. Some internees started fraternizing with the liberators and received their first cigarettes, biscuits and canned goods. Other tanks positioned themselves towards the gymnasium and the Education building.

So passed the night.

At daybreak, the capture of the Gymnasium. There were Japanese soldiers there guarding the prisoners. But they fled into the darkness. The Americans scoured the place fearing that the Japanese had hidden themselves in a nearby grassy area. But they could not be found.

Later, the conquest of the Education building. There were some seventy Japanese soldiers dispersed behind the detainees. The Americans appealed to the Japanese to surrender. No response. They were promised to be let free out of the campus. Negative. They were promised to be transported with their arms up to the Japanese lines. The Japanese conceded, and in two trucks they were transported up to the Rotonda.

That was how the campus which had imprisoned some four thousand internees, and, incidentally, occupants of the seminary, was recaptured. But they were so far the only liberated buildings together with those near Malacañang. The rest of the city, during the night of the 3rd and the whole day of the 4th, were still not re-occupied, except in the sense that the liberators were almost in the middle of the capital. But there was only a handful of American troops who had entered the enemy territory. It was a blow which was as bold as it was daring.

The First Cavalry, dismounted but motorized, had left Cabanatuan two days before. As it was left behind forty kilometers from the main body of the advance forces, it opened up a road through Novaliches and Balintawak, Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard, spitting machinegun shells against Japanese troops and trucks they encountered along the way, and penetrating almost into the heart of the city. They were about a thousand men surrounded by Japanese forces bent on defending the city. Their audacity rattle the enemy. If the Japanese had a foreknowledge of the small number of the infiltrating forces, and had they organized a rapid and decisive attack on the Americans, the liberating forces would have been annihilated. They had thirty-six hours to do it and they faltered. Thus were saved the First Cavalry, the American prisoners and the north of Manila.

In the morning of the 5th, when the Japanese initiated a disorganized attack from España street, from Far Eastern University and from Bilibid, the 37th Division had already penetrated the City from the north and from the east, joining the liberators of Santo Tomas, and jointly re-occupying Quezon City and the sector of Manila north of Azcarraga. Malacañan and Bilibid, where some one thousand two hundred seventy war and civil prisoners were detained including those who came from Baguio, were also liberated.

The Japanese began their program of destruction. They placed cans of gasoline and mines in big buildings of the Escolta, and surrounding streets, and destroyed fire engines and equipments. They blew up and burned buildings, and the uncontrollable fires razed the whole of the commercial district from Azcarraga to the Pasig.

On the 6th, the Americans positioned themselves along the Pasig River. The whole northern region was thus liberated, although small groups of Japanese continued burning clusters of houses and forcing the Filipinos under their control to do the same. On the 7th, the battle of the Philippine General Hospital shelled the north of the city, especially the University of Santo Tomas which suffered fifty to sixty hits, mostly on the construction of P. Ruaño, the principal target of the Japanese guns. There was a lamentable number of casualties, some forty dead and three hundred wounded among the recently liberated. In the Education building, five were wounded. In the Seminary, there were only two slight casualties, a priest and a househelp. The attack lasted forty-eight hours.

The Japanese blew up the four bridges across the Pasig. On the 7th, further beyond Malacañan, five battalions of the 37th Division crossed the river in tanks and amphibian trucks and, after fierce fighting, they opened up a path through the cleared areas of Paco and the Gas factory. The Japanese defenders started converting each house and building into a fortress, burning them and killing their occupants when they had to abandon their posts.

In the meantime, the 11th Airborne Division, after a successful landing in Tagaytay, advanced until they joined the first wave at the southern approaches to the capital through Baclaran and Nichols Field. They mopped up these areas, destroying one hundred Japanese fighter planes and capturing seventy-five pieces of artillery and one hundred and twelve machineguns. They then proceeded towards Pasay. The cavalry made a second crossing of the Pasig through Sta. Ana. After a bitter house-to-house fighting, they drove back the Japanese from the hippodrome and from Makati. They then joined the 37th Division near the Paco Railroad station, and the 11th Airborne at the north of the Polo Club.

With these reunited forces, the Japanese defenses in Manila have been isolated and pushed back in Singalong, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Intramuros and the Port Area. American advance is slow. They are not employing the air force and they use the artillery with moderation for the sake of the civilians. The soulless defenders entrench themselves behind houses and concrete buildings, devoting their time more to arson and murder rather than in fighting the liberators. The Americans, in a rapid execution of strategy, were able to save some seven thousand refugees at the General Hospital before the vandals could effect their diabolic plans.


February 18, 1945

The evenings are a nightmare. They bring a rosary of shocks produced by powerful guns which, from New Manila and Grace Park, strike at Ermita and Intramuros, shaking the air, the earth, the doors and the nerves. Projectiles fly over our heads, whistling their funereal song of destruction. We cannot look at them: we can only follow their trajectory with our ears. Mortars from the Far Eastern University and the Osmeña Park batter the eardrums with metallic poundings. Machine guns, crackling like coffee grinders –Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac! rattle in, from behind, at the sides, in search of Japanese snipers. The fires from the Japanese side which reach our vicinity add to the confusion. A mortar hit the tower of the main building where the Americans had set up an observation post, and from which General MacArthur observed enemy lines this morning. Others fell on the Education building and on the intern’s garden. However, there were no casualties.

But more shattering than the dissonant harmony of war engines is the news about the tragedies suffered by survivors who escaped from the southern part of the city. The accounts are so terrifying and so macabre that my spirit was filled with infinite bitterness, and I wept with tears of pain and indignation. From the sadness and sympathy arose an impotent anger against the infernal forces which vented its desperation and hate among the civilian populace. So many families of acquaintances and friends exterminated. So many mutilated. So many who escaped the Japanese hell lost everything but their lives. The hospitals –the few old ones which still remain, and a number of improvised ones– are filled with the wounded, whose hands or feet or body are perforated with bullets or shrapnels. Many are searching desperately for their lost loved ones. Manila is a picture of sadness impossible to describe.

The Japanese plan of attack against the defenseless Manilans is as diabolic as it is organized. Its defense strategy consists in positioning themselves behind the civilian residents, and as the conquerors advance within a dangerous distance, they flee or burn the buildings and retreat a few blocks backwards. They machinegun the residents who attempt to put out the fire or run for their lives. The only way to save themselves is to jump into a ditch and stay there. Anyone who raises his head is fired at. They stay for four to eight days without eating or drinking, tortured by a rabid thirst. I was told of cases where persons, dying of thirst, drank human blood mixed with mud.

In many cases, the soldiers would approach the ditches and kill the occupants with bayonets. That was how they killed the De La Salle Brothers –Irish and Germans–, the Padres Paules of San Marcelino among whom were Fr. Visitator Tejada and Fr. José Fernández, and Irish Fathers of Malate, together with the evacuees in their buildings. The same fate fell on fifty others, almost all of whom were Spanish, who took shelter in the Spanish consulate. Aside from being attacked with bayonets, they were also attacked with hand grenades. Only a little girl escaped alive.

Another way of liquidating the people is by herding them into a house and setting fire to it, at the same time hurling hand grenades inside. Anyone who attempts to escape is shot.

There were frequent cases where soldiers threw hand grenades into the ditches or air raid shelters, and those who attempted to escape were hunted like animals. In order to economize on bullets, the assassins usually would tie entire families to post or pillars and kill them with bayonets. It was not rare that a hundred or more persons were lined up and machinegunned.

In the shelter at the German Club, some four hundred persons of different nationalities were attacked and massacred by drunken soldiers. Only about half a dozen escaped. The young Enrique Miranda, son of Telesforo Miranda Sampedro, told me that his mother and five brothers were taken by the Japanese. He did not know what happened to them. We learned later that their bodies were found mangled –those of his two brothers, in the street. Enrique said that he was made to kneel down and they hit him on his neck. He lost consciousness. He came to his senses when a soldier was prickling him with the point of his bayonet to find out if he was already dead. He tried to bear the pain and feigned death. The soldier covered him with earth. He was able to bore a hole through which he breathed. Later, he squeezed himself out and, bleeding all over, he hid among the stones until he was found by the Americans.

In Singalong, the Japanese marines gathered the men to send them on forced labor. The men were made to line up and were herded on groups of ten into houses where their heads were cut off. As those who were in the streets could not hear anything, they entered the houses confidently, believing they were only to register their names. A son of Mr. Ynchausti, among others, escaped, but was badly wounded.

It was providential that in almost all cases, someone among the victims was able to escape and was able to relate the fate of his companions.

The Japanese installed machineguns on the towers of the Paco and Singalong churches, not to counterattack the approaching Americans but to mow down the residents –men, women and children– who might attempt to flee. The Remedios Hospital and the San Andres agricultural school, where thousands of escapees had taken shelter, were shelled with mortars and even Japanese anti- aircraft guns. Many, however, were also killed by American bombs.

Very few persons escaped unscathed from the southern xone. There were countless wounded and it was almost impossible to attend to them all in spite of the fact that the doctors and nurses, both Americans and Filipinos, worked beyond their limits. The suicidal and homicidal plan of the Japanese, according to superior orders, was to exterminate the whole population and annihilate themselves. Survivors attributed their survival to a miracle and to a special favor of Providence. Many promises and vows were made and each escapee had his heartrending tragedy to tell.

The savagery displayed by the Imperial Army is as brutal as it was unexpected or, better still, it is doubly brutal for being unexpected. There were fears, and it was expected, that the Japanese would not hand over the city on a silver platter, but we could not believe that their ferocity would reach such a point of diabolic savagery.

The phantom of hunger not only hovers over the people. It holds the people captive in their claws. There is nothing to buy in stores and marketplaces. And where there are goods, there is no money with which to buy them. The occupation money has been reduced to what it is –scratch paper. The new Victory bills which the U.S. Army brought along, are still hardly in circulation. Those fortunate ones who live in the liberated zone have exhausted the supplies of rice and mongo. Parents and friends of escapees from the Japanese hell who were given refuge by those in the north are creating problems of food supply.

The American Red Cross, the PCAU and the soldiers themselves try to assist the hungry people, but there are so many of them and here is just not enough supply for all. I met a number of friends whom I hardly remembered, especially those who escaped from the claws of the Japanese and who had been reduced to skin and bones. There were also those who had been wounded or mutilated. The liberating troops, as they advance step by step, house by house, perform the dual function of combatants and Samaritan, gathering the survivors, assisting them with their own rations and transporting them to the rearguard. The wounded are transported by the Red Cross, the officers of the chaplains to improvised hospitals at the north of the Pasig. The able bodied travel in the way they could, searching for the members of their families who were separated in fleeing from Japanese fire and vandalism. Hungry and thirsty, they roam the streets as souls in agony, broken and ragged, pale and sweating under the heat of the sun, looking for people they know, and recounting their own horrors and those of others.


January 1, 1942

It was a day of looting. The year 1941 passed and was buried in the midst of a tragic, uncertain and restless silence. The new year was greeted by the eerie illuminations of a conflagration which is growing bigger and bigger each time.

First thing in the morning, I was informed that the Japanese were entering Manila, and Fr. Provincial advised all the Fathers who were sheltered outside Manila or in private homes to stay in the University seminary. I moved to the University together with most of the Fathers from Letran.

There is great fear and confusion among the civilian populace. Many are afraid that the Japanese will enter the city and indulge in killing and burning. A number of families have sought refuge in the University, placing themselves under our custody. The same situation now prevails in all the convents.

The looting today has taken on alarming proportions. It all started innocently, when the American military headquarters, not being able to bring along their huge amounts of provisions, opened the doors of their storerooms and invited the people to cart away what they could. Then the Chinese, who also wanted to evacuate, began underselling their wares. Those who were not able to loot yesterday broke into stores abandoned by their owners, tearing down doors and destroying padlocks.

In Intramuros, great multitudes milled around the doors of stores which they tried to force open. People in the streets carried boxes or bags of foodstuff, machines or pieces of furniture or a thousand other things. Some came in calesas, cars or wagons to be able to carry more. For one peso, they would sell a whole case of milk or canned goods. For five pesos, a typewriter or an electric stove or gas range. Fortunately there were no indications of violence, although they burned some stores.

 

The more sober portion of the populace attributed these incidents to two things: first, the bad precedent set yesterday by the Americans when they gave away the contents of their warehouses; and second, the fact that the police and the constabulary have been disarmed so that the Japanese, finding them so, would not have any reason to be violent. The police therefor are powerless in protecting properties, and the looters have lost respect for them. However, it is sufficient for someone to shout. “Here comes the Japanese!” and everybody would scamper away like rats. As a matter of fact, there are many who actually await the arrival of the Japanese to put an end to such pillage, as nobody feels secure anymore.

Manila has taken on the demeanor of a conquered city, having yielded, not to the invaders but to the plunderings of its own citizenry.

The Japanese were delayed in arriving due to the blown-up bridges and railroad tracks left in the wake of the retreating Americans. The Americans proved themselves better at handling dynamites rather than guns. Soldiers who came to Manila from the front were ordered to reassemble at Bataan and Pampanga after a brief and ineffective resistance at La Union, where the invading forces landed.

The declaration of Manila as an open city was a humanitarian act of the High Command, which saved the whole area from major destruction. But the desertion of Greater Manila—which was created by President Quezon by annexing to it the suburban cities and towns before he left the capital—without police protection, with the burning of so many depots and the fires which spread to so many private homes, were manifestations of the confusion and lack of foresight of the exiled government—a fact which completed the demoralization of the civilian population.

The conflagrations have continued to spread. Large columns of smoke—about 20 of them—extending to some twenty kilometers in length, together with the looting of stores and warehouses converted this first night of 1942 into an anarchical milieu, giving Manila the countenance of a city left to the vandalism and fury of an army of barbarians.


December 30, 1941

After yesterday’s bombings, the bomber planes merely hovered around Manila.

I made a quick round of the site of the tragedy so that the ruins would not affect me too much. I noticed that a bomb fell on the big courtyard near our dining room. Its shrapnels spread out like a fan, perforating our refrigerator. The posts and beams of the chapel here still burning. The chapel was completely destroyed inside, except the portion of the choir. Another bomb had bored through the wall, hitting the crucifix and shattering it to pieces.

Also our storeroom was still burning. Canned goods burst open under the heat of the fire… Thousands of pesos gone in smoke.

I observed the hole caused by the bomb which exploded at the base of a column about four meters away from our air raid shelter. I made a round of the new building. From the outside, it looked intact, but nothing was more deceiving. Almost all the wood inside was burned or scorched. The doors and windows are either burned or destroyed by the impact and not one of them is of any use. The roof of the fourth floor facing Beaterio Street, and which was made of corrugated iron sheets, fell on the floor when the wood supporting it was consumed by the fire.

            All over are ruins, piles of half-burned wood, mounds of twisted metal… a big heap of debris.

I went up the roof garden. From this vantage point, I had a panoramic view of the whole devastated area. Seven blocks of the Walled City were now nothing but a heap of rubble. Almost all their inhabitants had fled to safer places, and I could not but recalled Jeremiah’s words: “How lonely has been left a city, full of people…”

Hunted by the thought of the aerial visitors, I cut short my lamentations and made a hurried round of the vicinity of Santo Domingo. For three days now, the pillars and beams of such sizes that two men could hardly embrace them, have been burning. Some of the Fathers tried the flames and muddy water in search of anything worth salvaging: medals and charred rosaries, utensils and other metal objects which the fire had not consumed.

I could see a number of cars—more than twenty of them—abandoned along the sidewalk near Santo Domingo, Santo Tomas and Tesorería. Nothing was left of these cars but their steel frameworks. One of them was hurled against the wall of the Treasury, half buried in it. The Magallanes Drive and the Plaza de España were pockmarked with craters.

That night, using blowtorches, we forced open the steel door of the safety vault of the Procurator’s office. The venerable statue of the Virgin, the jewelry and other marble statues, together with the great portion of the archives, remained intact in spite of the fire that surrounded the vault for three days. Braving the scorching heat inside the vault, the priests, 15 of them, finished the long salvage work at around 11:00 in the evening. Fr. Ortega stayed in his knees with the Virgin’s statue in the wagon while on the way to Sulucan. With the help of about twelve men armed with pistols and six policemen who stood on guard, they safely deposited the precious treasures in the offices of the University of Santo Tomas.

People were asking, “Did the Japanese bomb Letran with incendiary bombs?” Many thought so, considering the big fires caused by the bombings. However, I am not sure since they did not contain combustible liquid. The steel frame simply contained shrapnels. We, who were at Letran during the bombings, saw that fire did not immediately flare up after the explosions. Some of the Fathers found fragments of bombs which were incandescent. One of them had the inscription, “Made in Japan. 30 kilos.” Some others thought that the fires were due to broken electrical installations.


December 9, 1941

Some boys came to school, not knowing that classes had been suspended. The Fathers and the workers went to the seashore in the school bus to get sand with which to barricade the vestibule entrance with sandbags. A van came from Calamba with sacks and more sand from Pasay. It will take us more than a week to cover the windows and doors with about a thousand sacks of sand. We took off our habits and started to work. We were helped by some students and cadets.

 

By midmorning, we were taken aback by American soldiers installing a big anti-aircraft in front of Letran College. Two of the soldiers, soiled and emaciated, with their rifles hanging, approached me asking for confession. I invited them to the chapel. They knelt without putting down their rifles.

After hearing their confession and giving them communion, I asked them to take a cup of coffee. They said they came from Clark Air Base. The night before and early in the morning, the Japanese raid had caused enormous destruction. They could not tell how many American planes were burned or how many pilots, mechanics and officers were killed. Casualties were heavy on their side. They were scared, but they left Letran physically and spiritually relieved.

Other camps in the outskirts of Manila—Nichols, Murphy, McKinley—have suffered similar destructions. Fires can be seen from all over the city. From our roof, they look imposing. Witnesses inform us that many houses are burning in Baclaran.

In the afternoon, the anti-aircraft gun in front of Letran College was removed, to our great relief. The same thing is happening in other places where pieces of artillery had been installed. The military placed them, removed them. There seems to be widespread confusion in the military organization. Cars, trucks and buses ply about with a seeming lack of direction. The military have begun commandeering vehicles for the transport of military personnel. They pay well for their use or purchase.

The infernal barking of guns continued throughout the night. One could not tell whether they were firing at the planes, at people, at the lights, or at ghosts.

Heaps of bamboo poles were being burned during the night. They were arranged like fans and inverted cones. As they burned, they presented a pictureque and beautiful sight, if one was in the mood to enjoy the spectacle.

We were told that the youth would be called to active duty, especially those who had already been trained in college and those who had complied with military training in cadres. Many want to be reactivated, and they have volunteered. Most of them were told to wait. The country is in danger and the youth are anxious to defend her, but their services are not accepted. Here is an enigmatic irregularity that is hard to explain.


December 8, 1941

After breakfast, I read the Daily Bulletin, the only newspaper published on Mondays. The Bulletin carried no news of special interest. At seven in the morning, Señor Alberto Guevara called me up. He had just heard over the radio that Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese planes. That was the first news of the war.

One of the Fathers came up with an “extra” of the Daily Bulletin. But the “extra” added very little to the scanty information we had. It was reported that Japan had declared war on the United States moments before Ambassador Kurusu delivered to Secretary Hull the answer to the demands of Roosevelt. Hull replied that those were the greatest bunch of lies the world had ever heard.

We are beginning to realize that we are engulfed in the whirlpool of war. There is excitement, there are telephone calls, sirens, plans, scamperings, panic-buying of food, clothes and other provisions. Speculations and projections run big. Everybody is playing prophet. Would they attack? No, they would not dare. If they do, it would be by air from Formosa, Hainan, in aircraft carriers. Landing places would be Lingayen and Batangas, but they are fortified. By sea, it is impossible to pass through Corregidor. Evacuate the capital: to Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Bicolandia, Visayas. Manila will be mercilessly destroyed. Wait for developments.

Thus it was on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

By midmorning, the Director of Private Schools announced that all classes are suspended until further notice.

But when will this further notice come?

I attended the Provincial Council to discuss emergency and urgent matter. The Father Provincial had just arrived by car all the way from Aparri, as the boat he was supposed to take was late. It was providential though. The boat was later bombed and sunk by Japanese planes.

The other Fathers who felt more secure in the provinces or with friendly families have been allowed to receive money from and live with them. It was feared that the government would order the evacuation of some districts, Intramuros among them. The suburbs are considered safer.

As Chairman of the National Basketball Committee, I presided over the meeting scheduled for today. The members of the Committee unanimously decided to suspend the national championship games which were to start the day after tomorrow. The teams from Cebu and Iloilo arrived yesterday; they were sent back home. There could be bombings during the games and we wanted to avoid a possible catastrophe.

 

Came night time. There was complete black-out. We slept in our rooms on the fourth floor. Two Fathers volunteered to keep watch for the night and to give warning in case of an air raid. It was necessary though, as the siren was situated at the Post Office, about 200 meters away.

We were awakened before midnight by its shrill, doleful sound as if it were announcing gloom which the nocturnal planes would sow. The vestibule and the receiving room were converted into shelters. One hour in the shelters and back to bed.

At three o’clock there was another signal. We scampered down in total darkness, feeling the wall with our hands, taking care that we and the boarders would not slip.

The planes could not be seen. We only saw a small red star like a wandering ruby among the others which were gilded and immobile in the sky.

Then an airborne fleet, like buzzing bumble bees made known its presence. The searchlights ripped the thick mantle of darkness that enveloped us. A frantic volley of shots deafened us. The CEA fired their pistols, the cadets and recruits fired their guns. Artillery and antiaircraft guns thundered, dominating this infernal macabre orchestra with their barking.

The planes continued their majestic flight at a comfortable altitude that permitted them to enjoy the sight of the dogs which below were barking at them with fury.

There were sounds of bomb explosions. We calculated where they fell. Each one of us suddenly became an expert in localizing these deep rumblings. We were hearing them for the first time in our lives, but we indicated the places being bombed with the accuracy of veteran warriors.

And so ended the first day of war, with a greater noise and din than New Year’s eve. Beautiful was the perspective the god Mars showed us!