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.


February 3, 1945

Every day is about the same. Early in the morning planes flew over scouting the waterfront for ships. Yesterday a gasoline depot and a motorboat were bombed.

During the last few nights we have heard gunfire in the distance. The USAFFE are attacking the garrisons on the outskirts of the city.

Meñing had a funny experience this morning. He was passing by the Iloilo High School, which is now being used by the Japanese as a garrison, when an American plane flew over very low. A Japanese guard shouted out to him to jump in a fox hole nearby. He jumped into it, and as he did, he landed right on the back of a Japanese soldier! It scared Meñing and he thought the soldier would slap him, but the soldier saw the humor in it and had a good laugh over the incident.

The prices of food continue to soar. Pork is now 1,200 Pesos a kilo, beef is 900 Pesos. A sack of sweet potatoes costs 4,000 Pesos. One egg is 80 Pesos. A ganta of brown rice is 300 Pesos, white rice costs 450 Pesos!

Yesterday I exchanged an old school uniform of Dolly’s for 53 eggs!


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

Today so many American planes flew over that I am no longer able to keep track of them. Some of them bombed and machine gunned the waterfront. One never sees any Japanese planes anymore, as the air and sea is now controlled by the Americans. Coné continues his trips to Iloilo to see his patients in spite of the planes overhead. Dolly is better, but quite thin.

This morning the price of one egg rose to 70 Pesos! When a person goes to the market, one does not spend in the hundreds of Pesos, but in the thousands nowadays.

We do not get much news of the warfront, only what the Japanese publish on their Bulletin Board. Several days ago the news was that the “Americans are 25 miles from Manila.”


January 26, 1945

Last night around 6:00 p.m. we could hear shooting in the distance and it lasted till around 3:00 a.m. So far today I have not heard any shooting, but at this very minute four American planes flew over. I heard them dive and machine gun. Their targets were Iloilo waterfront.

At 2:30 thirteen flying fortresses flew over us. Also several “Lone Rangers” flew over us though they were on parade. Panay does not offer any resistance, so these planes are in no danger, and we are not bombed so much.


January 25, 1945

Many planes passed over today, but there was no bombing in the vicinity of Iloilo, although we could hear bombing from afar.

The price of food has reached the limit! I do not believe the war prices in Europe can surpass ours at present. One egg costs 50 Pesos; a kilo of pork is 1,000 pesos; 1 kilo of beef costs 600 Pesos; 1 kilo of sugar, 50 Pesos. One bar of PMC laundry soap costs 2,500 Pesos! A new cotton dress costs 3,000 Pesos! We have already converted our drapes and curtains into dresses.