October 20, 1944

There was an alarm today but the raiders did not pass overhead, giving our shattered nerves a respite from the thunderous experiences of the past days. The raiders, at least, had been considerate enough to allow us to sleep and eat in peace, although the mere sound of a car was enough to make us stand on our toes. This was true among us who had experienced the explosion of bombs over our heads. We were perhaps the most affected, or to put it mildly, the most terrified. There were some exceptions—the Fathers who watched the bombings from the tower where they could see but not be seen.

A bomb fell yesterday near the Legazpi-Urdaneta monument, up an enormous crater, burying alive thirty-one persons who died of asphyxiation. They were in a shelter nearby. At the explosion, mounds of earth and a big uprooted tree covered the entrance.

The Luneta was turned into a forest of anti-aircraft guns. There was such a shower of exploded shells and stray bullets that even those who stayed in light houses could not be protected. If anyone was spared by the metallic fragments, it was someting miraculous. A roof of GI sheets and a wooden floor were as easily pierced as if they were made of paper.

May 5, 1943

This morning, there was another gathering at the Luneta in honor of Premier Tojo. The invitation to join the crowd was extended to students and members of the religious groups. According to the papers, some 300,000 persons, about one third of the population of the Greater Manila area, came freely and voluntarily to see and listen to the Chief of the Japanese State. I suppose one zero must have slipped into the press in giving the figures in gatherings like this. For the first time, English was not used. The speeches were either delivered in or translated into Tagalog.

President Vargas delivered a short but substantial speech, condemning and denouncing the ominous American tyranny and extolling Japanese benevolence to high heavens. The speech reached the peak of its fervor with the promise and offer of all the material and moral support of the Philippines so that Japan might completely crush the remaining Anglo-American forces. Did the illustrious visitor take the speech seriously, or considered it as a mere manner of speaking?

Premier Tojo was also brief and concise. He said, in part:

The Japanese Empire is now providing you with all possible assistance, that you may emerge from the chaos and whirlpool of the old regime and enter the glorious existence of the new. For the present I speak in the name of my country and its one hundred million free inhabitants, that this help will continue without reservation through the future. I am happy to state that on my arrival in this country, I found in all places tangible proofs of your growing desire to cooperate more closely with the Japanese Imperial government. With great satisfaction I note that you have speedily progressed in your endeavor of creating a new Philippines, and that under these circumstances, I am more than ever convinced of the convenience of granting you an early independence.

May 4, 1943

Parades and meetings are a common sight at the Luneta. In less than a month’s time, eight gatherings and parades had been held with compulsory attendance before the monument of Rizal. These celebrations are held for any reason whatsoever, and they prove to be more burdensome than ordinary working days because people have to march through the parades.

The forthcoming holiday which will be a three-day vacation will be celebrated in memory of the fall of Corregidor and to give thanks for the permanent defeat of the Americans. As usual, the occasion will be celebrated to the beat and accompaniment of parade marches. There is a rumor that the celebration will be a welcome ceremony for an illustrious personage who will visit us, probably Minister Aoki. To our surprise, it was announced by a lead team that the visitor was General Tojo himself, the Prime Minister and Chief of State. The announcer, equipped with a powerful loudspeaker, blared out instructions to the multitude along Taft Avenue from Vito Cruz to Manila Hotel, on how to make the bow when the Premier should pass, and to wave the flags and shout Banzai.

Speculations ran high on what the purpose of the sudden visit could be. The people, however, due to the sacrifice they had to undergo standing in the heat of the sun, felt contempt rather than enthusiasm.

December 8, 1942

We have completed one year of war. Even the pessimistic estimate that the war would not last another ten months, and the optimists are not expecting that peace would settle on these islands in 1943. Only the fanatics are predicting the return of peace by the 15th of the month.

The new masters wanted the public to participate in the festivities at the Luneta, and they had succeeded in doing it. The newspapers placed the number of participants at a hundred thousand in the civil parade and a similar number of spectators. It showed beyond doubt that the public responded to the call of the authorities, spontaneously or otherwise. Government employees and those in Japanese-controlled firms may not have shown enthusiasm, but certainly there was a healthy respect for those at the top. Everyone was resigned to answering “Present!” when his name was called from a list. The Chinese were very enthusiastic, participating with their musical band and a 20-meter dragon in a funeral rejoicing.

The streets were very animated. Streetcars and buses offered free rides to the public. Movie houses which showed Japanese war victories also admitted the public free of charge. Due to this liberalism, an unusual stir, interpreted as an expression of popular rejoicing, could be felt in the city.

June 3, 1942

The occupation army held a military parade at the Luneta to celebrate the end of military operations in the Philippines. Some 80 tanks, canons of all calibers, anti-aircraft guns mounted on trucks, and motorized infantry men paraded through Burgos Avenue. The din was deafening.

Fifty planes flew overhead in perfect formation, three of which performed aerial acrobatics. There were other displays of military might in other avenues which we did not witness. There was no brass band, unlike in other military parades of the past years, where the brass bands constituted a major attraction.

The districts around the Luneta were made off-limits to traffic, and since early morning, no one could leave Intramuros or Ermita. People were requested to close the windows of higher floors and watch the parade from the sidewalks or from ground floors.

At the Luneta, only invited guests were allowed to enter and view the parade, namely, General Homma and his retinue, the high officials of the army and the government, and some representatives of Allied or neutral governments.

As the gates of the Walled City were closed, people could not go to their respective places of work, nor to the market. We therefore could not buy our supplies for the day. And as we did not want to go on a fast, Fr. Sadaba and myself decided to play mendicants, appealing to the charity of our guests. We jumped over the barrier that separated us, and went to their kitchen, which was ours in the place. With signs—we have been improving our use of the language of the mutes—we made them understand that we had nothing to eat. The cook, a typical representative of his profession—good-natured, corpulent, with wall-sized shoulders and a pair of elephantine biceps—opened their, or better still, our refrigerator and gave us a basketful of eggs, meat, tomatoes and eggplants.

A kitchen aide approached us and, forming a cross with his fingers, asked, “Kristu?”

“Yes, we Kristu,” meaning we were Christians.

He pointed to himself and said, “Kristu.”

“Oh, you Kristu,” we said, and we laughed and nodded our heads in mutual understanding.

“Nagasaki,” he continued.

“You from Nagasaki?” Nagasaki is the center of Catholicism in Japan. He started counting with his fingers, asking how many Christians we were.

We answered, also with our fingers, that we were twelve Christians in that place. The good Japanese appeared well-pleased.

We glanced at their food storeroom and saw that there were basketfuls of fruits and vegetables, sacks of rice and big quantities of meat and fish. We could not help gazing with envy at the big cauldrons overflowing with steaming rice and big chunks of meat, as if in preparation for a big feast.

If only we could understand one another, we and the tenants could be of mutual assistance to each other. They could help us materially and we could help them spiritually. We could see that they were eager to converse with us. But in spite of their gesticulations and their practice in the art of mimicry, we still find ourselves at a loss.

We just found out that these soldiers are pilots or air cadets, some of whom had taken part in the bombing of Intramuros. Every morning most of them are fetched by magnificent buses, and we imagine that they are taken to an airfield.

They must have been assigned their living quarters in this residential place so that enemy planes may not get to them. Perhaps they do not feel secure within the vicinity of an airfield. We are only hoping that the flying fortresses would not spot them and drop some bombs on our place!

Saturday, August 13, 1898

The final act of this conflict between the Spaniards and the Americans has taken place. It lasted two hours this morning; the simulated attack was met by a simulated defense.

At 9 o’clock, the American fleet readied itself by raising its flag, positioning the Charleston in front of Parañaque, and rallying the other ships behind the Petrel right in front of Manila. The Concorde is moving to the north of the Pasig, where she will keep watch over the Tondo coast until the city surrenders. It is hard to believe that the cannons on the southern pier have been ordered not to fire to prevent the likely bombardment by the Americans.

The fleet coming from Cavite is sailing in the following order: Olympia, Monterey, Raleigh, Charleston, Baltimore, Boston. The small ships are moving independently of this formation.

At 9:38 the Olympia opened fire west-southeast, at 5,000 meters, followed by the Monterey and the Raleigh a few minutes later. All three ships aiming their shots at San Antonio were missing their target completely. As I watched the continuous fire to the finish, the following words of a Spanish officer ran through my mind: All this cannon fire is merely a bluff and Fort San Antonio would not be threatened if they did not fire at the American troops.”

Some missiles landing on Spanish trenches have caused some lost lives. After the Monterey took the lead position at 9:49 a shell fell on Malate. By 10:00, a heavy shower of rain hid the details of the struggle, if there actually was one. I would say it was Much ado about nothing.

At 10:25, the weather cleared to show the Americans drawn up in two columns pointing approximately north-northwest. The Petrel and the Callao approached land, with the latter merely 2,000 meters from San Antonio, and the next day’s observations showed that six shells penetrated the fort, one of which was responsible for the death of three men manning a cannon. Another flattened the ramparts at the point where there were no gun emplacements. A shell, apparently fired from the Callao, exploded close to another cannon, lifting its parapet and killing several servants.

At 10:40, the fleet stopped firing. The only shots heard were those directed towards San Antonio and the trenches, but the Spaniards were not responding to the enemy fire. At any rate, from our decks we saw no counterattack. If we can believe the Americans, 20 projectiles were fired from the fort, killing two men and wounding six. They could scarcely have done less. The start of the siege is not exactly like a ballet performance. The 24cm and 25cm cannons at the ramparts of Manila remained silent for the same astonishing reason, the “prevention of the city’s bombardment” rapidly becoming a proverb since it was being heard constantly everywhere.

At 10:52, the artillery fire resumed both at sea an on land. Undoubtedly, the infantry had not been able to take over the trenches. There was one final burst of cannon fire from the fort. One minute later, a massive shell smashed into it.

By 11:00 the American flag crowned the crest. The soldiers retreated from the trenches which hardly showed any trace of battle. From this point onward, the Spaniards were obviously on the defensive. The troops from San Antonio and the surroundings either capitulated or beat a retreat. In the direction of Paco, the confusion continued as the insurgents attacked a battalion of sailors and captured two sections.

The victorious American troops were suddenly everywhere, coming from Malate and arriving in Luneta at 11:30. Along the way, they took over the 24cm cannons without firing a single shot, making one believe that a tacit agreement did exist between them, since both camps did not use their cannons.

The Spanish volunteers guarding the ramparts fired only a single volley as the Americans appeared. There again a situation of pure bluff. The Americans replied with a few shots, and then gave orders for an immediate ceasefire. The end result showed a few wounded on both sides. The white flag was raised in the southern part of the city as the comedy continued to unfold. When the Olympia finally signalled the city to capitulate, it was obvious that no reply came since the city had already surrendered.

From noon to 2 o’clock we took a much-needed rest. Then we dined. At 2:35, a Belgian vessel flying a parliamentary flag came alongside the Olympia. Admiral Dewey boarded a small American steamer full of troops which entered their new port. The Callao followed it. This is the end. They are negotiating the terms of surrender. The general feeling is that this whole scene has been meticulously prepared since yesterday, or perhaps earlier. W find this deception completely offensive.

At 3:38, the American squadron anchored 4,000 meters south-southwest of the Walled City. By 6:00, they celebrated their victory by lowering the Spanish flag and replacing it with the American fla to the thundering sound of a 21-gun salute.

This is definitely a great American victory, but a humiliating defeat for Spain, and undoubtedly, for Europe. Someday we shall discover the real truth. Spain is finished, and no matter what she chooses to believe, she has lost both her influence and possessions throughout the world primarily through her own fault. Her ferocious presence will fade away and, as it often happens, will end in ridicule and absurdity. And thus, the final curtain drops on this shameful tragedy. The sun which has shone for 400 years on the pearl of the Orient seas will no longer shine over Spain.

The Americans are festively marching into Manila with their rifles on their shoulders. Not a single gunshot is heard. The Spaniards do not show any resistance, except for the artillery unit in Luneta which fired this morning against the rebels in the north. One thousand five hundred Spaniards, a thousand Tagals, and one sole American regiment took part in the struggle. The next day, those in the garrison who were not involved in the fighting left their trenches, taking their guns with them.

Some details about the Americans. Some Yankees were seen entering the Pasig on a small steamboat; instead of hoisting their flag, they put up some sort of American publicity. Even worse, before the end of the day, two drunk volunteers were beating up the natives and pushing them around with the butts of their rifles.

And soon after Manila opened its gates, a formal order posted on the road to Paco prohibited the Tagals from entering the city. A group of natives, refusing to take heed, were blocked by the Americans, who harassed them with their bayonets.

Monday, August 8, 1898


Yesterday, Governor Jaudenes convened a meeting of the consuls of France, England, Belgium, and Germany. He naturally appealed to their sentiments in the hope of obtaining their support to delay the Americans. He dwelt on the fate of the women, the children, and the wounded. The consuls pretended to convey the request to Admiral Dewey. At 7 o’clock this morning, they boarded ship and headed toward the Olympia.

Instead of going as far as the admiral’s ship, these consuls turned midway. They only pretended to carry out their mission, realizing that it would lay themselves open to ridicule. The governor should realize that the Americans cannot assume responsibility for the 50,000 civilians in Manila, which include 3,000 sick. This is an absurd request to demand from an enemy wanting to take possession of a city at the earliest opportunity. The consuls could not have been in a position to negotiate more than an armistice. This has been the situation for the last three months. A bombardment would settle the matter. The Spaniards have had enough time. Even if granted a reprieve of three years, they would not be in a position to act decisively. A tacit agreement had, in fact, been made between Dewey and the governor general after Cavite. It is even possible there was a formal accord. The Americans seem to say: “Neither of us is in a position to attack the other. We do not intend to bombard the city, so there is no need for you to leave.” Dewey was not ready for an attack in May, and even if he carried out his plans in June, he would not have been successful, either. Only the insurgents would have benefitted from it, a situation which neither the Americans nor the Spaniards wished. Everyone seems perplexed by all of this.

Manila is reduced to defending itself with the 24 guns at Luneta, which is certainly insufficient to repulse the American squadron from its shores. We see vehicles carrying shells for 15cm cannons, which are being mounted on the sea front. The two that are visible from the outside must be a recent model, and one of them seems to be a mortar.

At the gun placement in Luneta, repairs are being done over the damage caused by bad weather these past few days. The Spanish artillery is not that interior after all; it is the poor training of their artillery men which is evident. Even compared to the Yankees, who are not at all accomplished, they are pitiful. Indeed, their gunpowder is of poor quality, due either to faulty manufacturing or bad storage. “All is rotten in Spain!” What an unfortunate country to be so criticized! Everything is in a very bad state. The cannons are exploding, the gunpowder does not fire, and the men are pathetic. During the battle fought on the first of May, the projectiles fired by this artillery (type 24) were falling short of the target, although there was enough time to correct the shortage.

Meanwhile, Manila was so well armed that it could not be penetrated by less than a thousand men. Marshal Primo de Rivera was convinced of this. He also knew it was important to control the sea with soldiers, cannons and, above all, an effective commander at the helm.

Manila still maintains its everyday routine. Vehicles loaded with furniture and belongings are everywhere. The foreigners have started their exodus. Since this morning, they have been seeking refuge for their families aboard the ships in the harbor. An air of sadness surrounds their plight. The Spanish officers are leaving their families for what could be a final separation. Some officers have difficulty holding back their tears. The farewell between Admiral Montojo and his family is heartrending. One of the young girls is sobbing, and two young officers (fiances or brothers) appear to take this parting very badly.

General Jaudenes’s orders with regard to the bombardment have been made public. It states the Spaniards’ intention to resist. Shelters for civilians have been designated in the different sections of the city. The Walled City has been divided into a number of zones, with the churches serving as places of refuge. From tomorrow morning, no vehicle will be allowed on the streets.

Some churches are now filled with people, mostly women. These buildings, in the worst Jesuit style, with parquet floors and wooden wall panelings, closely resemble the holds of giant steamers filled with immigrants. Everyone feels at home, with some laughing, and others beginning to quarrel. Some women are making coffee while others are cooking rice for the next meal. They exchange an abundance of inaccurate information, which sometimes results in violent verbal attacks. But the young people are strumming at their guitars at the entrance or singing beneath the porch. Mandolins playing a seguidilla can be heard. Behind the pillars, somewhere in the shadow, cockfighting is going on and bets are being placed.

I visualize a shell suddenly whistling through and falling in the midst of these joyful people, exploding in a tumult of screams and turning the carnival into a sea of blood…


Sunday, August 7, 1898

Finally, this farce is reaching its conclusion. I am convinced that up to the last minute, each one will do his utmost to mislead the other. General Merritt and Admiral Dewey have released the United States’ ultimatum for Manila’s surrender. The Spaniards have been given 48 hours to reply.

Admiral Dewey has informed the foreign squadrons of a likely American attack on Manila at the stroke of noon on Tuesday. The captain general’s immediate reply to the possible bombardment on Tuesday if he refused to surrender was that the Spanish flag would not be lowered.

Neither side is willing to compromise. Admiral Dewey pretends that his only option is to attempt a sea operation due to the numerous losses supposedly sustained by the land troops in the course of various attacks launched over the past days. In fact, the Americans have not yet attacked Manila, and during the fighting on July 1 and August 1, losses were few. It is a known fact that even the Spaniards sustained only six wounded in the fight that took place on the 2nd and 4th of August. If the Americans did attempt an intensive land attack, their high-powered weapons would have completely destroyed Manila. The Americans are fully aware of their uncontested strength, and feel no need to attack. On the contrary, they need to capture Manila and take possession of the city before a peace agreement is concluded. Obviously imminent is that Admiral Dewey plans to offer the Philippines as a gift to his country. According to the English, a certain number of civil servants will come after the arrival of the expedition troops, and the United States government will then take over the administration of Manila. It now seems evident that the United States has been considering the annexation of the Philippines since June.

The Americans, on the one hand, know that there is no need to bombard Manila, and the Spaniards, on the other, want to give the impression that they are going to attack. The truth of the matter is that the Americans never had the slightest intention of destroying the city, and the Spaniards did not for a single moment wish to be bombarded.

On August 4, when General Jaudenes announced the length of time he needed to consult his government, the Americans, out of absolute compassion, could not grant his request. And why not? Unless it was for the reason that their main interest was to use a conquered Manila as leverage in their peace treaty.

In short, the Americans were determined to capture Manila before making peace. What could Spain hope for at this point? Hold Manila at all costs for as long as possible? But the Spaniards made so many erroneous moves which, in the end, cost them dearly. In fact, we know today they lost everything in the name of peace.

Same day, Afternoon

Manila and its Surroundings

I shall go on land as soon as possible. The news of the ultimatum which has been spreading for the last three months has no great impact in this country that has been smelling of gunpowder and resounding of gunshots for the past three years. Manila is built almost entirely of wood to make it less vulnerable to earthquakes, but as a consequence, it has had frequent fires caused by constant bombardments. However, the Tagals are not demoralized by this situation.

In the Philippines, I met some Spanish officials who have no illusions. All they demand is the opportunity to fight. As the colonel of the light artillery stated:

–What will they accomplish by bombarding? They will merely kill women and children. These are the sordid details of war, but we are not going to be stopped.

What is the point in all this discussion when they refuse to take up arms? I suppose that the officer wished to explain that the death of civilians would not prevent them from fighting. If such were the case, the Americans would be a long way from Manila.

Some Spanish officers have expressed their disappointment over the way the war is being conducted and the policies of their ministers. They deplore the lack of change and the abuse of civil servants and the court systems. They feel that the only difference is that the newcomers have empty stomachs and are therefore three times more greedy than their predecessors.

“No one has ever wanted to look the situation in the face,” commented someone. “We have always postponed making decisions. We have arrived at the present disastrous situation because there has been no remedy for the ills which we suffer.”

Camara’s recall was the last blow for these courageous people. They realized that the pathetic politicians in Madrid did not suspect how serious the Philippine war was between the Americans and the Spaniards until Dewey’s squadron entered the bay. If cruisers like the Pelayo and the Charles-Quint with their torpedoes were in Manila, they could have put Dewey’s fleet in a precarious situation.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to secure provisions. The troops have no more bread and are living on b biscuits.

The liveliness of the streets has not diminished. Although we id not know Manila at the prime of its prosperity, we still feel something feverish in the air, with the people no longer interested in their affairs for several weeks now, the rich Chinese leaving, and the Tagals deserting their jobs. Only the coachmen are seen driving their emaciated little horses. Everyone seems to be waiting for some spectacular event to take place. Nothing can be more tiring than waiting, like spectators in a theater, for the sound of gunfire, a calamity, or the murder which would bring down the curtain. The Spaniards have always lived with the vague fear of a massacre. The Americans pretend to share the same apprehension and take advantage of the situation to impose their will on all without any accountability to anyone.

Before retiring on board ship we stopped at the Luneta. There were numerous vehicles on the promenade and the weather was pleasantly cool.

Looking at all these people, we could not believe that in 48 hours, there would be a bombardment. Everyone was strolling quietly and appeared to be enjoying the beautiful day. Admiral Montojo, in the company of one of his daughters, passed by in his vehicle. We noticed that he looked well and had such an untroubled expression that it was hard to believe Admiral Dewey sank his entire fleet three months ago. He gambled and lost, and has called it quits. But what about the fatherland?