3rd January 1945

Eddie Vargas enplaned for Manila this morning, his baggage mostly medicines for his family, parcels for home from the students, a letter or two from each of the rest of us.

The Nippon Times carries an article by General Homma. in a reassuring review of the present Philippine campaign he states: “We need not be unduly apprehensive as even if oil will no longer be forthcoming from the southern regions, we can fly our planes with alcohol produced from pine resin.”


2nd January 1945

Koiso ate his words yesterday or perhaps took a bigger mouthful. In a New Year’s Day radiocast he proclaimed that Leyte was no longer decisive; “the entire Philippines…is the crucial battlefield.”

The Burmese military cadets are out on furlough over the holidays and the Burmese military attache has been hunting all over the city for a pig to give them one decent meal before they go back to their rations of rice and pickles. Today he called us up again to ask if our cook could help him locate a pig in the black market. At first it seemed hopeless. The cook knew where to get the pig but he claimed that his friend the meat-dealer had a son going into the army today and that nothing, not even a thousand yen, would persuade him to go out to the black-market pig-farm. My friend the colonel however was his usual persistent and resourceful self. He asked for the man’s address and in one hour he had the pig. One bottle of Japanese whiskey had worked it. Cost of the pig: 600 yen; of the whiskey: 300 yen.

In the evening there was a farewell dance for Eddie. It was the first ever held in the chancery. The cold hall looked different with the desks out of the way, a fire actually blazing in the shuffling dimness; a phonograph provided dance-music muted to a whisper to defer to Japanese prejudices. We all took a turn or two but most of the dancing was done by Nisei girls and all those young Filipino students who were going to be made over into grim and earnest Japanese.


1st January 1945

Almost on the stroke of twelve the air-raid siren sounded. We were having a New Year’s Eve dinner at the embassy and the sound of the signal made everyone homesick. We fell silent around the table and looked at one another, remembering Manila before the war where the sirens of the government ice-plant and the ships in port had always joyously called in the new year with one great and happy shout. The past teased us with a lawyer’s question: where were you on the eve of the 1st January 1941? I found I could not answer, it seemed so many lifetimes ago and there was nothing to link us with it except this thread of sound, a sound that we remembered as strangely eager and exultant and which how had turned shrill and lonely with tortured apprehensions.

Outside the skies were empty but there was a tiny blaze in the distance and the fire-engines were already out hooting to work. All around us the darkened city seemed to wait breathlessly; only that small bold flare challenged the uneasy night like the first campfire of a conquering army, glimpsed over the horizon.

A few minutes later one of our interpreters came rushing in. He had feared that it was the embassy on fire and, laughing at his fears, we shook off our own depression. He had with him airplane tickets to Manila which he had bought the afternoon before for Eddie Vargas. We were congratulating Eddie when the neighborhood association patrol went howling outside the compound. It seemed there was a light showing. After a futile search all over the building it turned out to be in the chauffeur’s quarters, which was rather disconcerting because the chauffeur is the head of the association.


April 8, 1942 (April 8-9)

Morning

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.


April 6, 1942

HQ, Bataan

 

 

More men retreating, more stragglers, the rear area has become the front. Japs keep on following their gains, bombing, shelling, blasting, burning, shooting, bayoneting. They have been waiting for this hour. Blood is flowing freely…

Evacuee area is a most pitiful sight. Saw women and children gathered around the cinders of their former dwellings, begging for food, bewildered by the terrific advance of the Japanese.

From morning to sunset, the hillsides and shell-burnt roads have been brown with bleeding men –the remnants of the Filipino-American forces. These are the men who have electrified the world with their glorious stand.

Saw troops of the 41st lying on the ground near Mariveles. Most of them were thin, emaciated, yellow with malaria. Many were dying. Others were blind to due to vitamin deficiencies. Some did not have even strength to drive the flies crawling on their bodies. When planes hovered above, they did not move, they did not care to move. Death would be a welcome respite.

Japs advancing fiercely, killing mercilessly, bayoneting with unleashed fury.

Already the flies, the hawks and the pariah dogs have found the dying & dead. Saw a big rat bite off a dead man’s eye.

Still no order to surrender. Fight must continue. Bleeding must continue. Dying must continue. Can hear roar of machine-guns. More & more boys dying, by the minute.

 

(later)

 

Received a phone-call from Manny de Leon from Corregidor. He said “Leonie is very ill.” I gave him my regards and farewell. I told him the lines had broken. After that our telephone went dead.


April 2, 1942

HQ, MIS, BATAAN

This place has turned into hell. The Japs are battering the lines from morning to evening, pounding the front from the air with high explosives. rushing the front with tanks and flame-throwers under cover of ceaseless artillery fire.

The rear areas are being subjected to inch-by-inch bombardment. Several AA guns have been silenced. Gasoline and oil supplies are aflame. Parts of the jungle are burning, presenting a weird light at night. Corpses strewn by the roadside staring up at the sky.

Corregidor too is rocking with bombs. We can see columns of smoke rising out of the Rock. We can feel the detonation here when bombs are dropped in Corregidor. The Rock looks like a blazing boulder.

We had no rice today as the mess officer did not dare build a fire. We only had canned goods. ate one sardine for brunch and one salmon for supper. It was like medicine. Had to follow it up with water.

Leonie is very ill. I am afraid he will die if he does not get medical assistance. Romulo said by phone that it would be better to send Leonie to the hospital in the Rock.

Leonie and I have written a plan for the establishment of an underground broadcasting station to operate in enemy-territory to continue the Voice of Freedom in case Bataan and Corregidor fall.

We addressed the plan to Romulo who is in charge of the Voice of Freedom. Romulo said he would take the matter up to the staff in the Rock.

Our plan consisted in putting up a moving radio station to broadcast in Luzon in case the Japs overrun Bataan and Corregidor.

We offered to operate the radio and to broadcast if the plan is approved. Proposed site of station was the island of Talim, in the heart of Laguna de Bay. Operatives have reported that Talim is not yet occupied by Japs.

Received letter from Romulo stating “Roxas will return to Corregidor to join us in the crucial hr.”


April 1, 1942

HQ, MIS, BATAAN

 

Awakened by “Photo Joe”. Name given to Jap observation plane by Bataan boys is “Photo Joe”. Leonie said: “That means bombing around ‘brunch’ time.” Fred, usually more grim, said: “That also means deaths.”

Major Javallera who was O.D. said that there was continous artillery firing the whole night. “It must be hell at the front,” he remarked.

After brunch, I prepared to go to the eastern sector. While crossing the stream to the Motor Pool, Jap planes commenced bombardment.

Japs were throwing small bombs, a lot of them. At first, I thought they were leaflets. But when I heard the swishing sounds and the detonations, I ran to a ditch near the traffic officer at the foot of the bridge in Base Camp.

Several bombs dropped near the trucks parked under the trees at the curve of the stream. One exploded a few meters away from the Igorot chauffeur. I saw him shaking and pouring water over his head. Men have funny reactions to a bombardment.

I rode on one of the jeeps. Had to stop three times because of strafing planes. Around Limay, I did not notice a low-flying Jap plane until I saw a truck full of Americans put on the brakes and stop dead in its tracks and all the soldiers jumped out and took cover under the brushes along the road. My chauffeur jammed the brakes and I dove into a bush. The U.S. truck was hit by five .mg bullets but it was able to run because the meter was not hit at all.

Saw the Limay schoolhouse burning, it was hit by incendiaries. An officer stopped our jeep and he asked for a ride till the next intersection. He said the Japs have a system of rotating cannons so that they do not stop pounding our lines. They are sending wave after wave of fresh troops and it was a question of time for the lines to break. I remember the General’s statement about the limit of human endurance. The officer said: “We kill and kill but more and more came…”

Scouts have been placed on the eastern sector. The Philippine Scouts have a fine record. One officer of high rank said that if all troops in Bataan were as well-trained as the Scouts, the Japs would have a very much harder time.

Bulk of troops in main-line however are mostly ROTC boys, cadre-trainees and volunteers. They are not professional soldiers like the scouts. But after all these months of fighting, they have gained valuable experience and according to an American officer from West Point “they are behaving like seasoned troops, like veterans.”

Saw several stragglers. They can’t find their units. Some said they belonged to the 41st, others to the 51st, others to the 31st. My driver said “those are running away from the fighting.”

The sight of those five or six stragglers reminded me of the retreat from the northern front in Pangasinan. When the fighting there was getting very hot, the divisions who were still new, started to get disorganized and many of the troops were lost. “Bad sign,” I said to myself.

On the way to one of the trails leading to the front, our jeep ran out of gas. I stayed on the roadside till dark waiting for someone who would be kind enough to share a bit of fuel. Slept an hour and when I woke up I was covered with dust.

There is no doubt by now that the Japanese are putting their “main effort” on the center of the front line, between the divisions of Gens. Capinpin and Lim. They are trying to drive a wedge where the two divisions meet. Here the maximum amount of fire power is being concentrated and although I have not noticed any sign of the lines folding in this region, when it does break it will be sudden and rapid, like a dam that suddenly cracks, and there will be a stream of blood.


March 14, 1942

Bataan, HQ, MIS

 

The general looks very depressed. He talked to nobody today. He stayed in his tent smoking his pipe silently. He must be brooding about something sad.

I told Fred when I said “Good morning” to the General, the old Fogie did not even answer, damn the impolite bum. (Sometimes I like him; sometimes I detest him.)

Fred said the General talked with him. Said the general: “Fred you talk pessimistically.”

Fred said he was taken aback but he replied: “I always try to take a rational and realistic point of view, sir.”

The General did not reply.

Leonie is down with malaria and dysentery. He is getting very thin. He does not trust the doctor.

No change in general situation. Occasional artillery duels, partial skirmishes.

 

(later)

 

Three U.P. boys are here. They are Angel Baking, Teddy Lansang, and Renato Constantino. They want to join our service. They are sergeants.

Leonie was indifferent about taking them in. “What can these U.P. guys do, anyway?” he asked Fred jokingly because Fred comes from U.P.

The General asked me if the three fellows are O.K. because he does not know them. I told them the three were good writers and editors at one time or another of a paper called Collegian.

The General said: “Ah, they are your rivals.” I replied: “I don’t know them personally. What are we rivals about?”

The General said he liked the Ateneo.

I told the General to take them in and I would answer for them because I believe they are intelligent fellows. “Put them under Leonie or myself.” I wanted to have them under me, confidentially.

I pointed out that maybe we could use them for some mission in Manila.

The General said: “Let’s try them out on little things first.”

It was decided that I should bring them the day after tomorrow to Corregidor and give them instructions on the way.

 

(later)

 

Very dark night. Maybe it is going to rain. If I get wet, my malaria will get worse. Hell!

Spent afternoon reading Tribune. Saw pictures of Manilans biking in boulevard. Noticed that marriage wave continues unabated. I wonder how Morita is.

Leonie looked at advertisements. This and that restaurant selling this and that pastry and cake. This and that show running this and that film. We felt very homesick. Leonie read some parts of “Personals” aloud.

The three U.P. boys are all right. They are regular fellows. I don’t know why there is so much tiff between the Guidon and the Collegian. Its just a case of not knowing each other.

Constantino showed me a diary with a drawing of his girl’s face. He is in love with her. I think she is a niece of Speaker Roxas. Lansang sketched her face. Lansang also likes to write poems.

Will bring them to the Rock tomorrow afternoon at about five o’clock. Told them to eat well. They laughed.

Several raids today. Some AA shrapnel dropped near our toilet.

Three operatives arrived from Manila. One had a letter from Mrs. Osmeña to the Vice President.

Another operative whom we gave up for lost arrived. He claims he was captured by the Japs and allowed to return providing he comes back with information for them, heh, heh. Sometimes Japs are naive.

The general bawled out one of our officers. He was sent to the front to observe conditions and he pretended he went but he really stayed in rear.


March 10, 1942

HQ, MIS, Bataan

Life is getting harder and harder. Morning ration reduced to one handful of ‘lugao’.

Sometimes carabao meat is given. It is made into ‘tapa’ so that the rest can be preserved for some other day.

The mess officer told me that very soon we will have horse-meat for viand. The QM will slaughter the remaining horses of the 26th cavalry. I don’t think I can eat those brave horses.

Bombing has been intensified. Raids are more frequent. Rest periods between raids are shorter and shorter.

More men stricken with malaria and dystentery. Many shell-shocked cases. Several dozen cases of appendicitis and many tuberculosis patients.

Morale visibly on the downgrade. Officers greet fellow officers with remark: “What, is there any hope yet of the convoy?”

Reports from front indicate that the boys there are suffering from blindness especially at night due to lack of vitamins.

Men are weary, exhausted. They work all day and they also act as sentries at night. Men have only several hours of sleep. Sometimes two or three only.

We officers do double, triple work. Many officers are sick, others have died.

Gasoline shortage. Use of trucks and cars are limited. Horses that are not eaten will be used to help out in the transportation problem.

No more quinine. Medicine bottles in hospital are empty. Doctors are working day and night. Wounded have increased.

Paper for SYIM publication very limited. Practically no more stencils. Food for evacuees cut down. One civilian in evacuee camp committed suicide.

Japs continue dropping surrender-leaflets. They have changed technique. Behind surrender-leaflets, they print the picture of a naked ‘mestiza’. Still no cases of desertion.

Fred thinks “It’ll take a long time for the convoy to arrive”. “There is no use deluding ourselves,” he says.

Some of the officers believe Hart’s fleet was beaten in naval battle around Macassar strait.

Others think convoy will be diverted to Australia.

Still others cling to distant hope of war between Japan and Russia.

Very few believe the convoy will be here in a few weeks.

Some think –very few of them– that “we will all die here.”

Japs have given ultimatum urging immediate, unconditional surrender –or else.

We have chosen the: or else.

(later)

Visited her again. She helps one forget this blasted war.

We sat again under the cenniguela tree but I couldn’t stay there for more than an hour.

Fred and Leonie visited the other girl. They will rival each other. They had better make an agreement: one day Leonie, one day Fred.

When Major Javallera found out, he complained. Told Fred: “That’s my territory.”

“That’s all right, sir,” said Fred. “Don’t you believe in Communism? What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine?”

“Stand for private property,” said the Major.

“Abuse of authority, sir,” ventured Fred jokingly.

The Major replied: “All’s fair in love and war.”