Bataan, 1942: views of a father and his son

Victor Buencamino (second from left, second row), with his family in the Pines Hotel, Baguio, 1932. Rightmost on second row is his eldest son, Felipe Buencamino III.
Victor Buencamino (second from left, second row), with his family in the Pines Hotel, Baguio, 1932. Rightmost on second row is his eldest son, Felipe Buencamino III.

The Philippine Diary Project includes the diaries of a father and his son: Victor Buencamino, and Felipe Buencamino III. At the outbreak of the war, Victor Buencamino was head of the National Rice and Corn Corporation, precursor of today’s National Food Authority. His published diary covers the period from the arrival of the Japanese in Manila, and the first half of the Japanese Occupation.

His diary provides an in-depth look into the dilemma facing government officials who stuck to their posts despite the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Government and the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese. At certain points, particularly from January-April, 1942, he gets intermittent news about his son (who was, on the other hand, participating in clandestine military intelligence missions, even in Manila).

Particularly gripping are his entries for April, 1942, when on one hand, he is wrestling with increasing Japanese interference and intimidation –including his being summoned to the dreaded Fort Santiago, where other members of his staff had already been summoned and in at least once instance, tortured– and on the other, frantic for news about his son, particularly after the Fall of Bataan, when on the same day he received condolence messages and news his son was alive. Then, he recounted the grief of parents and his own search of the concentration camps.

Felipe Buencamino III (topmost, leaning on windshield of jeep), photo taken in Bataan, 1942.
Felipe Buencamino III (topmost, leaning on windshield of jeep), photo taken in Bataan, 1942.

As for Victor Buencamino’s son, Felipe Buencamino III, known to his friends as Philip, was a young journalist who became a junior officer in Bataan, assigned to General Simeon de Jesus and his military intelligence unit. He kept a diary from the time of the retreat of USAFFE forces to Bataan, conditions there as well as in Corregidor, which he periodically visited, looming defeat, the eve of surrender,  and then the Death March and the ordeal of his fellow prisoners in the Capas Concentration Campas well as his classmates. At times, his diary intersects with other diaries, such as the diary of Gen. Basilio J. Valdes, since Philip accompanied the General during one of his visits to the front. He resumed his diary, briefly, in 1944.

A close friend of Philip, Leon Ma. Guerrero, who was mentioned many times in Philip’s wartime diary, wrote about Mrs. Quezon and the ambush in which she was killed, in 1951. In his essay, he also wrote about his friend, Philip:

In Bataan I shared the same tent with Philip Buencamino, who was later to marry Nini Quezon. He was the aide of General de Jesus, the chief of military intelligence, to which I had been assigned. I remember distinctly that one of the first things Philip and I ever did was to ride out in the general’s command car along the east coast out of pure curiosity. The enemy’s January offensive was turning the USAFFE flank and all along the highway we met retreating units. Then there was nothing: only the open road, the dry and brittle stubble of the abandoned fields, and in the distance the smoke of a burning town. We turned back hurriedly; we had gone too far. I am afraid we never got any closer to the front lines. Our duties were behind the lines. We were quite close during the entire campaign until I was evacuated to the Corregidor hospital, and I developed a sincere admiration for Philip. He was a passionate nationalist who could not stomach racial discrimination, and I remember him best in a violent quarrel with an American non-commissioned officer whom he considered insolent toward his Filipino superiors.

On April 28, 1949, Felipe Buencamino III, together with his mother-in-law, Aurora A. Quezon, sister-in-law, Maria Aurora Quezon, and Ponciano Bernardo (mayor of Quezon City) and others, were killed in an ambush perpetrated by the Hukbalahap. The late Fr. James Reuter, SJ, wrote about it in 2005:

On April 28, 1949 – 56 years ago, Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon was on her way to Baler. With her eldest daughter, Maria Aurora, whom everyone called “Baby”. And with her son-in-law, Philip Buencamino, who was married to her younger daughter, Zeneida, whom everyone called “Nini”. Nini was at home with their first baby, Felipe IV, whom everyone called “Boom”. And she was pregnant with their second baby “Noni”.

On a rough mountain road, in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, they were ambushed by gunmen hiding behind the trees on the mountainside. The cars were riddled with bullets. All three of them were killed. Along with several others, among them Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City.

Adiong, the Quezon family driver, was spared. Running to the first car, Adiong found Philip lying on the front seat, his side dripping blood. Philip smiled at Adiong and said: “Malakas pa ako. Tingnan mo” — “I am still strong. Look!” And dipping his finger in his own blood, Philip wrote on the backrest of the front seat: “Hope in God”.

When they placed him in another vehicle for Cabanatuan, his bloody hands were fingering his rosary, and his lips were moving in prayer. This was consistent with his whole life. His rosary was always in his pocket. And on his 29th birthday, exactly one month before, on March 28, 1949, at dinner in his father’s home, he said to Raul Manglapus: “Raul, the Blessed Virgin has appeared at Lipa, and has a message for all of us. What are we going to do, to welcome her, and to spread her message?”

He was echoing the thoughts of Doña Aurora, who wanted a national period of prayer to welcome the Virgin and to spread her message of Peace. Years later, the Concerned Women of the Philippines established the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards, choosing the name in honor of this good, quiet, peaceful woman.

The blood stained rosary was brought to Nini, after Philip’s death. Many years later, she wrote down the thoughts that came to her when they gave her the bloody beads:

“We had joined my mother in Baguio for Holy Week, 1949. As we drove down the zigzag, after attending all the Holy Week services, Phil turned to me and said, ‘Nini, if we were to have an accident now, wouldn’t it be the perfect time for us to go?’ I said to him, ‘You may be ready, Phil, but I still have a child to give life to, so I can’t go just yet.’ And not long after this, his life was taken, and mine was spared.”

Her life was spared, but she felt the agony of those three deaths more intensely than anyone else. In that ambush she lost her husband, her mother, and her only sister. The gunmen riddled their bodies with bullets, on that rough mountain road. But miles away, with her one year old baby in her arms, and another baby in her womb, the gunmen left her with a broken heart. The ones she loved went home to God. But she had to carry on.

Another friend of Philip’s, Teodoro M. Locsin, whose wartime diary is also featured in the Philippine Diary Project, wrote about the murder of his friend, in the Philippines Free Press: see One Must Die, May 7, 1949:

I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.

Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.

Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side…

…As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.

After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.

Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.

He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.

When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.

He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.

A few days earlier, the other friend mentioned by Locsin —Arsenio H. Lacson on May 3, 1949— had also paid tribute to his friend, Philip:

Until now, I can’t quite get over Philip’s tragic death. He was first of all, a very close friend of mine. I saw him married, and was one of the best men at his wedding. I also saw him buried, and it is not a pleasant thing to remember.

Philip was such a nice, clean boy, friendly, warm-hearted and generous, so full of life, and laughter, that I learned to love him. Of course he had his faults, but you take your friends as they are, not as you want them to be. And Philip, for all his faults, was quite a man. In all the years that we kept close together, I never knew him to deliberately do a mean thing.

Because he was by nature easy-going and amiable, he exasperated me at time by failing to take things more seriously and using his considerable talents to point out the many evils with which our government is cursed. Actually, he was not wholly indifferent to them. He could on occasions become quite angry over certain injustices, but he had no capacity for sustained indignation, and it was not in him, to fret and worry over the distraceful and scandalous way this country is being run. Life to him was one swell adventure, to be lived and savored to the full, with very little time left for crusades. The world cannot be changed or saved in a day.

And because he was Philip, he would gaily twit me about being afflicted with a messianic itch. Relax, he would say. Take it easy. Things are not as bad as they look. In time, everything would be alright. Perhaps, he had the right answer. I wouldn’t know. But I shudder to think what would happen if all of us adopted a carely and carefree attitude and paraphrasing archie, Don Marquis’ cockroach reporter, say:

no trick nor kick of fate
can raise me from a yell,
serene I sit and wait
for the Philippines to go to hell.

The last time I saw Philip was two days before his death. Linking his arm to mine with a gay laugh, he dragged me to Astoria for a cup of coffee. We joined a boisterous group of newsmen who flung good-natured jibes at Philip when he announced that he was quitting the government foreign service to settle down to a life of a country farmer. Somebody brought up the subject of a certain Malacañan reporter who always made it a point to take a malicious crack at Philip and his influential family connections, and Philip agreed the guy was nasty. It was typical of Philip, however, that when I curtly suggested that he punch the offensive reporter on the nose, he smilingly shook his head saying: “How can I? Every time I get sore, the fellow embraces me and tells me with that silly laugh of his ‘Sport lang, Chief.’ I can’t get mad at him.”

That was Philip. He couldn’t get mad at anyone for long. He liked everybody, even those who, regarding him with envious eyes as a darling Child of Fortune, spoke harshly of him. He was essentially a nice, friendly guy. It was not in him to harm anybody, including those who tried to harm him.

And now he is dead, along with that fine and noble lady who was his mother-in-law, and that vivid, great-hearted, spirited girl who was so much like her great and illustrious father, foully murdered by hunted and persecuted men turned into wild, insensate beasts by grave injustices –men who, in laying ambush for Mr. Quirino and other government officials, brutally and mercilessly struck down innocent victims instead.

Philip Buencamino III had so much to live for: a charming, gracious wife who adored him, a chubby little son who will one day grow up into sturdy manhood with only a dim memory of his father, and another child on the way whom Philip now will never see. Handsome and talented, Philip had his whole future before him. His was a life so full of brilliant promise, and it is a great tragedy that it should have ended soon. He had been a top reporter before he entered the foreign service. With his charm and affability, his personal gifts and family prestige, there was no height he could not have scaled as a diplomat. The pity of it, the futile pitiful waste of it! A nice, clean, promising youngster sacrificed to the warring passions of men who have turned Central Luzon into a charnel house.

Incidentally, a very rare recording exists of Philip during his time as a radio commentator –and a member of the Malacañan Press Corps– you can listen to him being the emcee of sorts, in President Roxas’s first radio press conference.

Readers can access the diary of Victor Buencamino in full, or that of Felipe Buencamino III in full, as well; or, they can go through the entries for April 1942, which include other entries by other diarists who were writing at the same time.


August 6, 1945, Monday

We were visited or rather inspected by Lt. Col. Jaime Velasquez and Maj. Hanz Menzi, both of the Police Command. They seem to be ranking officers. What the purpose of their visit was, we do not know. They seemed to have been investigating our condition. Col. Velasquez is a graduate of various military schools in the United States and when the war broke out he was Aide-de-Camp to Pres. Quezon. He is one of our most brilliant officers. It had been repeatedly rumored that he had married a daughter of Pres. Quezon, Menzi is Swiss-born, but a naturalized Filipino, He was a guerrilla leader. For his guerrilla activities he was twice imprisoned at Fort Santiago. He is lucky to be still alive.

We had a long conversation with them. One thing we got clear is that we can never hope to get out of this place until after the termination of the war. We will not even be transferred to Los Baños. We appreciate their frankness. Now we can cease dreaming.

Today Sergio Osmeña, Jr., son of Pres. Osmeña, arrived alone. He came from Muntinglupa. He was detained, I suppose, for his buy and sell business during the Japanese occupation. He was very thin. He was taken to our quarters and given a bed there. Later, it was discovered that he belonged to the enlisted class and he was transferred to the quarters of that class. It was quite a humiliation. I do not know how they make the classification as there are others like him who are in our class. I was tempted to write about his case to his father since Serging, Jr. is a very intimate friend and a compadre of mine. I was also quite intimate with his father, but on second thought I desisted as I do not know what the reaction of Pres. Osmeña under the circumstances. Serging has developed a little fever. I hope he gets well soon.

He showed me the letter which I have mentioned somewhere in this diary, that he wrote when statements of his father concerning him and his brother Nick were published in the papers. In effect, the President compared Serging and Nick to his son, Emilio who was killed by the Japanese for refusing to collaborate. Serging’s letter made me cry. As I’ve said before, even under the circumstances, I do not believe I could do what Serging did. A father should be respected and loved by his son no matter what he does.

Paredes received a copy of a letter dated May 20, 1945 which Atty. Pastrana of Capiz sent Pres. Osmeña. It was one of the most convincing in defense of the collaborationists.

Rev. Enrique Sobrepeña, a Chaplain Major in the Philippine Army, was courtmartialled for collaborating with the Japanese. He was acquitted by the Court, his defense being that he was forced to do so. It was a good omen for us.


October 23, 1944

It’s five days since I’ve last written because I’ve been too excited. So many happy things have taken place which you’ve probably heard. They’ve been very unexpected but certainly most welcome.

Well, first there’s the landing in Leyte. The consensus was that they would land in Mindanao or perhaps Luzon so Leyte was quite a surprise. The Japs have admitted the landing but they’re trying to belittle it. Its been placed in a small corner of the front page. A lot of emphasis is being placed on the Taiwan affair. They’re tooting their horn about the aircraft carriers sunk, which to me is plain baloney. It seems they even had a sort of victory parade in Tokyo. People here think the Jap leaders are pulling the wool over the eyes of the Japs and that ought to be easy because they’re chinky-eyed.

What really was a great surprise was the res-establishment of the Commonwealth Gov’t on Philippine soil. I’m not a very sentimental guy, but when I heard Osmeña and Romulo and Valdes and the rest were already in the Philippines, I wept like a kid. And when I repeated the story of how Mac landed to Dad, his eyes got moisty.

Everybody is jubilant these days. When you walk the streets, people greet you with “Have you heard? They’re here.”

The question now is when will they land in Luzon? When will they be here in Manila? Most pessimistic version is that they’ll be here around the 31st of January. Conservative estimate is one month. I think that if they land in Batangas, they can be here in a week. But I think I’m letting my anxiety get the best of me.

Anyway, there’s one thing definite, certain, they’re going to be here and it’ll be very soon. Quite anxious to see Baby and Nini. Gee, I wish their old man pulled through. Sometimes I think he’s still alive.

Yes, men like him, never die. He is the greatest man I’ve met.

It’s raining right now. A lot of people think the weather is keeping the Americans from attacking Luzon. Darn this rain…

Trains are loaded with Jap soldiers. Emilio says they’re going to the Bicol regions. They expect landings there. In the provinces, all forms of transportation are being commandeered. They take even push carts. Saw several carromatas and calesas in a Jap truck. How can such a poorly equipped army win this war?

I’m going to hear the radio now. Somebody said you can hear the Voice of Freedom again.

Mr. Paier, a Swiss, came to the house excitedly just now. He said he got a report that landings have been effected in Aparri, hooray. Pop thinks this is just “rumor”. I told James, my Chinese neighbor. He jumped with joy. “They better come quick,” he said, “because rice is now at ₱5,000”. I said “Don’t worry, they’ll be here by November 15th”. I’m crossing my fingers.

I can hear the roar of planes this very moment. Nope, they’re Jap. Their planes have a funny roar, kind of metallic and desynchronized. They’re flying very high though…


September 6-9, 1943

Saranac Lake, N.Y.

This is the first entry in this diary for more than three months. Early in June, Quezon was attacked by bronchitis and soon developed a serious attack of tuberculosis. Dr. Trepp was frankly alarmed–he told me that Quezon was a worn-out man, and expressed himself as uncertain whether he could pull Quezon through this time. I suggested Saranac Lake, of which Trepp had never heard, but he understood at once when I mentioned the name of the famous Dr. Trudeau. So, after a couple of weeks in Washington and an equal period at Doctors’ Hospital in New York, Quezon was taken to Saranac.

Before leaving Washington, Quezon was not allowed to speak above a whisper, and the Cabinet met in his bedroom, where the President designated Osmeña to act for him, and in case the latter was incapacitated (as he then was!), Elizalde was to act as and for the President. This selection, inevitable as it was, created vast confusion among high officials–Quezon’s secretary, Dr. Rotor, and Bernstein, head of the Office of Special Services, were frankly uncertain whether they could (or would) get on with Elizalde!

Meanwhile, Osmeña, who, as already noted, has been suddenly operated on for appendicitis, came through safely, and then developed an infection and a high temperature. The first two occasions when I visited him in his bed in Doctors’ Hospital in Washington, he could not speak–only moved his eyelids. I then thought he might die in my presence. My third visit, a fortnight later found him sitting up in a wheel chair and conversing agreeably; I told him he would soon be dancing again, and to clinch the matter he stood up and did a couple of fox-trot steps. He has been more or less acting as President ever since, somewhat to the surprise of Elizalde, who had expected Osmeña to be out of business for a year.

Quezon’s 65th birthday was at Saranac on August 19, 1943; shortly after that I heard that he was going to send for me; a telegram on September 4, from Rotor asked me to go up to Saranac for a week.

On arrival, I found all the customary “court circle” at MacMartin camp–Mrs. Quezon, the three children and all their usual suite. Osmeña and Bernstein were there, and Valdes and young Madrigal soon arrived. They were all gayer and in better spirits than I have seen them since their arrival in the United States in May, 1942. Quezon was said to have gained five pounds, and was contemplating an early return to Washington to escape the cold weather at Saranac. Trepp seemed resigned to the move, although he was enjoying himself in surroundings which reminded him of his native Switzerland. Quezon had the steam heat on in the house all summer, and part of his “outdoor” porch enclosed!

I found Quezon still on his back in bed, he was obliged to talk in an unaccustomed low voice, and easily became tired. Osmeña, Bernstein and I were at once employed on several alternative forms for a joint resolution of Congress declaring that the Philippines were and of right ought to be free and independent, that independence was to be granted as soon as the invader was driven out of the Islands and was to be secured, and the United States was to make good the ravages of war.

Quezon had received at Saranac a visit from Secretary of War Stimson on the latter’s journey to the Quebec conference. Stinson had been deeply disturbed by the Japanese political maneuvers in the Philippines (as, indeed I have been myself). They feared that the Japanese grant of independence might rally a certain number of Filipinos to aid the Japanese army to resist the coming American attack on them in the Philippines. Stimson told Quezon that if this occurred, he (S.) would feel like committing suicide. Millard Tydings, the Senator from Maryland, Chairman of the Committee on Tertitories etc., had been staying nearby with his father-in-law, ex-Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, and the two of them had come over to visit Quezon. Tydings then told Quezon that he would “father” “any damn thing” to which the President would agree in order to meet this situation.

So, together with Osmeña and Bernstein, I worked for the first day on the various forms offered for the proposed joint resolution. We could see Quezon for only an hour in the morning and the same length of time in the afternoon. That night Osmeña and Bernstein returned south.

Talk with Colonel Manuel Nieto, Quezon’s loyal friend and chief a.d.c. He told me that they had recently seen a colonel (American) who had escaped from the Philippines in July last. He reported that the Filipinos still have 10,000 troops in Mindanao; that there the Japanese held only Davao, Zamboanga, Misamis and the country up as far as Lake Lanao. The Filipinos can operate elsewhere in Mindanao as they wish. Tomas Confesor has a sort of government in existence in parts of Panay and adjoining islands; Samar and Leyte are for the most part unoccupied by the Japanese. Parts of Cebu are still in the hands of Filipino commandos; Luzon is pretty thoroughly occupied by the enemy.

In conversation at lunch I condoled with Mrs. Marcos Roces over the death of her brother-in-law, my good friend Don Alejandro Roces. It seems that the news had been kept from her–I don’t know why! In talking over this with Quezon later he remarked “Roces was better dead than left alive to explain later his attitude in his newspapers (La Vanguardia, Taliba, etc.) which had been pro-Japanese from the moment the enemy occupied Manila.” Quezon added that he would not himself hang any of the pro-Japanese Filipinos upon his return, though he added that “some of them may be killed before we can take control.” The general impression is that the Filipino people can distinguish accurately between those who are really pro-Japanese and those who are merely co-operating formally to preserve what they can of their country. Quezon quoted again the cable he sent to Roosevelt before leaving for Corregidor, that “if a government cannot afford protection to its citizens it cannot claim their allegiance.” It seems that thereupon Roosevelt cabled MacArthur to release the Filipino Army if Quezon demanded it, but also cabled Quezon his famous message “promising to redeem and protect the Philippines and give them their independence.” Quezon added that he had changed the word “redeemed” when he issued to the Filipino people the proclamation publishing Roosevelt’s message, on the basis of which the Filipinos fought the battle of Bataan. Roosevelt did not know that MacArthur had showed Quezon the message allowing him to disband the Philippine Army if Quezon insisted. Quezon praised Roosevelt’s attitude very highly.

He told me that Stimson’s recent visit to London was to insist that a more vigorous war be waged at once. Hence the pronouncements to that effect at the subsequent Quebec Conference.

About the so-called “independence” offered by the Japanese to the Filipinos, Quezon said: “As soon as I heard that the voting was to be done only by members of the Kalibapi, all my anxieties were ended. If it had been a vote of the Filipino people I would never have gone against it–I would have resigned.” (As a matter of opinion, the Filipinos are said to have “adopted” the new constitution by the vote of 181 hand-picked members of the Kalibapi!) This attitude of Quezon toward his retention of the presidency is uncertain in my mind. When Osmeña and Bernstein left after handing him the various forms proposed for a joint resolution of Congress, Quezon in bidding good-bye to Osmeña said “If this resolution passes Congress before November 15th, I shall resign because I am ill.” Mrs. Quezon also told me that when they go back to Manila, it would not be to reside in Malacañan Palace, but in their own house! On the other hand, Trepp says that he knows Quezon is going to retain the presidency, since he has overheard the negotiations on that subject!

After Osmeña and Bernstein had left, I worked for two more days with Quezon on the joint resolution and the various alternative forms were whittled down to one, declaring the Philippines independent, etc., as soon as invader was ejected and reciting Roosevelt’s famous message of promises to “redeem, secure, etc., and to repair.”

Just as I was leaving to return home, well satisfied with the draft of the joint resolution and Quezon’s proposed letter to President Roosevelt, a telephone conversation between Mrs. Quezon and ex-Governor General Frank Murphy in Michigan introduced another uncertainty into Quezon’s mind! Murphy was then quoted as having said that “he did not want the Philippines to be treated like India, and the resolution must grant immediate independence and he was going to Washington to get it!”

Canceran, the President’s private secretary, who had been busy all day for three days typing and retyping forms of the resolution as Quezon thought of new improvements, sadly said to me: “That is the trouble with the President, he always changes his mind at the last moment, upon new advice.”

Well, we shall see, what we shall see.

Roosevelt and Stimson are already committed to the earlier proposition–i.e., independence as soon as the Japanese invader is thrown out. (The other form might look as if the United States were evading their obligations).

It seems that Quezon has had Dr. Cherin, an assistant of Bernstein, working on the re-writing of Quezon’s book this summer, though Quezon told me nothing of that. The real hitch in publication is that Quezon cannot yet tell the full story of the all-important interchange of cablegrams between himself and Roosevelt before the battle of Bataan.


May 26, 1943

Doria and I sat in a taxi today with Mrs. Paul McNutt who had not seen our small daughter Ursula since she was a baby of three weeks at Baguio, six years ago. Mrs. McNutt was looking lovely and very smartly dressed. She commented on the regal style in which the Quezons lived at the Shoreham; and said that sometimes shen she entered the hotel with her arms full of bundles, as one was obliged to do nowadays, she met Mrs. Quezon flanked by two a.d.c.’s! Said that she herself had once been a refugee (from Mexico), but that was not the way people expected refugees to look! It was good-natured but ironic.

The Japanese radio (Domei) states that Vargas announced that all Filipinos should celebrate Japanese Navy Day (May 17) since the freedom of East Asia had been assured by the shattering by the Japanese of the Anglo-American and Dutch navies!

Arnaldo in charge of the library in the Commonwealth Building (1617 Mass. Ave.) says that it is not believed that the Japanese have destroyed any libraries in the Philippines, except possibly a part of the University Library. That the Philippine National Library was untouched, except that probably they took the old documents for their own great collection of Filipiniana in Tokyo–as, also possibly all the priceless collections of Professor Otley Beyer.

Sitting in the lobby of the Shoreham that evening with Dr. Trepp, we saw Quezon and his daughter Baby going toward the front door for a drive. Quezon went up the three or four steps nimbly almost waving his rubber-tipped cane. Trepp observed that if he had seen us, he would have been leaning feebly on Baby’s arm. Trepp told me that the President was a “used-up” man, physically; that there was nothing organical serious about his condition, and that he should live for from 5 to 10 years more–but was gradually wearing down. Says he (Trepp) saved Quezon’s life in 1932 and at first Quezon was grateful to him and put him in charge of the Sanitorium later replacing him there by Dr. Cañizares and making Trepp the latter’s “adviser.” As soon as Trepp had taught the Filipino doctors his methods, they shoved him aside. Quezon has not been generous to him in later years, but Trepp had built up a fine private practice in Manila, and had put his savings into successful gold mines.

Trepp said he “simply adored” Quezon until they went to Corregidor–but thought his leaving Manila a terrible mistake (of course, Trepp did not know of the pressure and specious promises of help from Roosevelt).


March 5, 1943

Shoreham.

Quezon wired for me to come here for ten days or so to help him finish his book, which he is determined to do, because, no doubt, of Warner Bros’ offer for the cinema rights.

Congratulated him on his Opera House (New York) address last Saturday, which he said had brought him many compliments.

Asked him about political conditions here–whether Roosevelt would seek a fourth term? He said, yes–if he thinks he can be elected, otherwise he will sacrifice Wallace or McNutt. That nobody could make a success of the first post-war presidency. The Republicans had no man in sight who could do it–the United States would be in for very hard times–whoever got in would be a one-term president. Then Roosevelt would try to get in again in 1948 when he would be only 68 years old. He thought the present trend in America was towards post-war isolationism, which would be disaster. The only two leading candidates who were surely not isolationist, are Roosevelt and Wilkie, and the latter was talking himself out of the nomination.

He then turned to the story of my nomination to the Philippines in 1913. He, as Resident Commissioner, had had an understanding that no nomination of a Governor General would be made without letting him know. But one day he read in a Washington evening paper that the nomination of Oscar T. Crosby, a West Pointer and an engineer for the New Jersey traction companies, was being considered. He went right to Tumulty and said he must see President Wilson. T. let him in with the agreement that he would take only three minutes. He asked Wilson if it was proper for him to express himself on a nomination of a Governor General? Wilson said “Yes.” “Mr. President, I have just read in an evening paper that Mr Oscar T. Crosby is being considered, is that a fact?” Wilson replied that it was. Then Quezon said: “The people of the Philippines will not feel that this is what they had expected of you.” “Why not?” “Because it says here that Mr. Crosby is a West Pointer, and that would mean to them that you were sending out a soldier to govern them with an iron hand; then it says that he is an engineer for the great traction interests–that would mean to the Filipinos that he was coming out there to advance American financial interests.” Mr Wilson replied: “That is interesting.” So Quezon went out and straight to the War Department where he told General Frank McIntyre that they had not kept their understanding with him, and that now he could tell them that they would not get their man nominated.

(It must have been shortly after this that I went to see the President at the request of my brother Fairfax, to advocate the nomination of Crosby. Wilson told me that he esteemed Mr. Crosby very much personally but that Crosby was connected with traction interests against which he had been fighting when Governor of New Jersey.)

Quezon then continued by stating that a few days after he had seen the President I came into his office at the request of my brother, to ask whether there was any hope for Crosby. He told me his objections and then said: “Why shouldn’t you get the nomination yourself?” I was somewhat taken aback and asked: “What makes you think I could get it?” He replied: “I don’t know, but I can try.” I asked him to wait a little for me to consider the matter and that anyway I did not want Crosby to believe that instead of advancing his cause, I had only been working for myself.

A few days later, I returned and said that if he found the idea acceptable he might go ahead. He went at once to Representative William A. Jones of Virginia, the Chairman of the House Committee on Insular Affairs and told him he had found the right man for Governor General. Jones expressed himself as much pleased with the idea so Quezon went on to Secretary of State Bryan’s office. He was diffident and rather uncertain in approaching the great man, but was at once admitted to his office. Bryan replied “why he’s the man who has been helping me to fight the reactionaries in the Ways and Means Committee in the tariff revision. I’ll go right into the President and put the matter before him.”

A day or two later my nomination went to the Senate and was confirmed the same day. Meanwhile Quezon had seen Senator Gilbert Hitchcock, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Philippines, who was believed to be rather a “reactionary” but he agreed at once. Hitchcock, however, was believed to be opposed to Philippine independence.

Secretary of War Lindley M. Garrison, a leading conservative, was fortunately absent on a speaking tour in the West at this time, or else, with the backing of the War Department he might have blocked the nomination. He, like most of the Army officers, was opposed to the independence of the Philippines.

Next we talked over the strong anti-English sentiment in the United States today. I told him of my arguments with Gwathmey and Finley of the University of Virginia two days ago; that I was convinced that the heart of the so-called “democratic” movement in the world today was social: that it was rather a revolutionary struggle, not so much for political rights, as formerly, but a demand for social equality. He agreed, and said that it was rather dangerous to be pronouncedly in favour of the English in the United States today. That Roosevelt was aware of this and had told Lord Halifax so, but was sticking firmly by England. Quezon said that a large part of the dislike of England in the United States today arose from dislike of the Jews who were all-out to help England. Justice Felix Frankfurter had lost his commanding influence in Administration circles because of being so excessively pro-English. I recalled Colonel Lindberg’s Chicago address of August 1941 in which he stated that the principal influences which were pushing the United States into this war were: 1. The Roosevelt Administration; 2. The English; and 3. The Jews. For this, Lindberg was violently attacked in the press.

Quezon told of his own long-standing dislike of the English because of their arrogance in Asia; of how he had cursed them in Corregidor for their failures in Singapore and Hong Kong; how he had come to admire them as men, after Dunkirk and the battle of Egypt, and how the alliance between the United States and England now was the salvation of the whole world. He, himself, had given up for the present, all his own interests and plans for a Malay Federation, etc., and was concentrating only upon the interests of his own country. (This was the advice I so strongly urged upon him when I first joined him ten months ago on May 30, 1942.)

The recently (March, 1943) announced convention of the United Nations soon to be held to debate the world food problems, was originally the suggestion of Mr. Nash, the Minister of New Zealand, in the Pacific War Council. But, after a debate lasting two hours over the subject of wheat, in which the difference of viewpoint between those nations which produced wheat and those which bought it was apparently so sharp, the Council was going to abandon the idea of a convention of the United Nations as likely to serve only to show up the lack of unity among these “allies.” Then Quezon spoke in the War Council in favour of calling such a convention–he said it was quite right that the nations (U.S. and Gt. Britain) which were making the greatest effort in the war, and were spending their money should be the ones to direct the affairs of the United Nations. However it would be wise to allow the smaller countries an opportunity to present their own views. That would make them all feel that they were taking their share of decisions. It is potentially a strong movement to which attention must be paid. “Have the conference,” he said “not in Washington or New York, but in some quiet place like the Warm Springs, Virginia, where the delegates would be thrown into intimate association with one another and could discuss everything in private conversation. Roosevelt could address the conference on the subject of food, select a chairman and let the latter send everything placed before the Conference to Committees, to hear and consider and report later. Let there be no real debates before the conference to disclose or develop sharp differences of opinion, but let anyone discuss what he pleased, even though the ostensible purpose was only the food question.” Finally, these ideas were accepted by the whole Pacific War Council, and the project of a Conference of the United Nations was later announced by the President.

I commented on the loyalty of Roosevelt to his friends and supporters–how he immediately appointed to new posts those of his circle who had been defeated in the elections. Quezon commented: “I never did that.”

Excerpt from Quezon’s letter of March 4, 1943 to General MacArthur in Australia.

I gather from the reports to which 1 have referred above that some of our guerrillas are committing the same mistakes or abuses that were committed by our guerrillas during the fight against the Spaniards and later against the Americans. They are looting and maltreating, and, in some cases, killing Filipinos whom they suspect to be pro-Japanese. From every point of view that is wrong, moreover, it may be of serious consequences.

In the case of Peralta, he has even gone to the extent of criticizing me for not denouncing Vargas and his colleagues. The insolence of this man in attempting to give me a lecture regarding the history of the revolution in which I took part while he was still unborn or a baby, and on the psychology of the Filipino people, would be laughable if it did not betray his utter unfitness for the role that he is aspiring to play in the Philippines.

Not as an answer to Peralta, but only to make crystal clear my stand in this respect, I wish to remind you that even while we were in Corregidor, at a time when a policy of threat or condemnation might have had more effect than now, I studiously avoided saying anything that might give Vargas and the rest of the Filipinos who have now accepted positions under the Japanese Military Administration, the impression I have lost faith in them. The reason for my attitude is that I knew, and have not changed my opinion, that the Filipino can best be won by showing him confidence rather than distrust. Indeed, if threat and punishment would make a Filipino loyal, the whole country would now be pro-Japanese. In other words, I am of the opinion that if we want to keep the Filipinos on our side the commanders of the guerrillas must refrain from persecuting those who seem to be co-operating with the Japanese, unless they help the Japanese to discover the places where our guerrillas are hiding, or kill our men. Prager’s report shows that even our Constabulary and Philippine Army soldiers who are now serving in the Japanese organized police force are, in fact, loyal to us.

Long discourse today by Quezon illustrating his advantage in politics in the Philippines because he knew how to appeal directly to the tao instead of relying like most of the other politicos upon securing the support of the “leaders.” He illustrated this method by referring to General Sandiko’s successful appeal to the people in his province of Bulacan (during Governor Forbes’ administration) against an extra-legal Executive Order of the Governor General which Speaker Osmeña had obligingly ratified by passage through the Assembly.

His best story was of the campaign made by him against the all-powerful Godofredo Reyes of Sariaya, Tayabas, when Quezon was President of the Senate and in control of the Nacionalista party. He put up Primitivo San Augustin and, to the astonishment of all the leaders in Tayabas, San Augustin beat Reyes. Quezon had gone himself to open the campaign and had addressed crowds of taos appealing to them in speeches 1 hour to 1 ½ hours long not to let their caciques vote for them, but to exercise the right of suffrage like free men. This method won that election.

Discussion of the Church and of Masonry. Quezon thinks neither of them count much in Philippine politics–bishops always have been easy to beat, but less so since Filipinos have been ordained as bishops, and the parish priests are now almost exclusively native citizens.

Quezon always states that he became a Catholic again after his “daughters were grown,” but it really was in 1928 when “Baby” was about 7 and “Nini” was, say, 5. Quezon scorns the idea that this move benefited him politically. He explains he did it so that his daughters should not be “ashamed” of him. One can understand how Mrs. Quezon brought pressure on him upon this subject in the home life. In order to be readmitted to the Church, he had to renounce Masonry, since the Church will not tolerate any secret society and is especially violent against Masonry. Quezon argued with his father confessor against the prejudice in the Church against Masonry. The priest said: “Ah! you do not know–they don’t let you know what the real secret purpose of those in control of it cherish–they spit on the cross!” Quezon protested. “Do you know who I am–I am the Cardinal of the Masons–I almost might say their Pope! I am the Grand Master of the Blue Lodge.” But it was all to no effect–he had to give in.

Conversation with Mrs. Quezon on her voyage with Mrs, Buencamino to Java in 1936. The Dutch Government would pay her no direct courtesies because she came unofficially. The American Consul General in Batavia told her of all the precautions the Dutch Government had taken to prevent the Javanese leaders from meeting her. Two of the Javanese leaders, ladies who had been educated in Europe came to Mrs. Quezon’s hotel room after midnight and asked that the door be locked. Mrs. Quezon had already refused the room prepared for her so as to avoid the possibility of dictaphones. These two ladies begged her to help them towards independence. She said in reply that the Filipinos had succeeded because they were united under her husband (!). But the Javanese replied that they could do nothing to that end because they could not assemble to unite–the Government would not even allow more than two of them to meet together after dark.

The Japanese, she said, through their cheap and excellent shops in Java as well as through the excellent manners of their shopkeepers were making great headway with the Javanese.

The Dutch system of rotation of crops included also rotation of agriculturalists–so the native farmers never felt they owned any of the fields!


August 28, 1942

Quezon gave a luncheon in his rooms for “Chick” Parsons, the first person to leave the Philippines and return to the United States whom we have seen since the Quezon party arrived here in May. What confidential messages he brought to Quezon have not yet been told me.

All Quezon’s family and staff were clustered around Parsons, each one anxious for news of home and friends. General Kilbourne, Superintendent of V.M.I., who long ago used to command on Corregidor, was also present.

Parsons gave his news succinctly and had a ready response to all questions.

The general impression he gives is that Japanese rule in the Philippines is fairly lenient. All American men and women over military age are free from internment and living in their own homes. The chief difficulty is in lack of money, due to freezing of American and foreign banks. Jake Rosenthal is busy getting checks from Americans and selling them (without commission) for what they will bring–80% or even 50%. This, Parsons thought to be very kind because the checks are on the frozen banks “which will probably never be opened again.”

Americans of military age are interned in the new buildings of Santo Tomas University in Manila.

72,000 soldiers are interned, the Filipinos (including Scouts) at Stotsenburg, and the Americans at Fort McKinley.

Those Filipinos, such as Manuel Roxas, and Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who accompanied Quezon to Corregidor have been shot. (Quezon told me this in an aside–“not executed but shot”). Parsons said that there have been others “executed.” (N.B. Most fortunately, the news of the shooting of Manuel Roxas was false).

I asked Quezon what part Aguinaldo was playing, and he said “I don’t really care to talk about that.”

Bennet of the Bulletin and Dick of the Free Press are in prison in the dungeons of Fort Santiago.

The Quezon girls asked Parsons how the people felt about their leaving for Corregidor, and he replied that all were in favour of it because otherwise they would have been used as hostages to exert pressure on their father.

General Vicente Lim has not been released, as reported, and is not likely to be.

Quezon questioned Parsons as to the loyalty of the Filipinos–he replied that Quezon never had the people so united behind him as at present.

He next asked about Major Speth, the Vice Mayor of Baguio, an American of German descent and one of his closest friends. Parsons said “he is practically governor of the (Mountain) Province now.” Then Quezon told the experiences of Speth during the invasion. He was having coffee with Quezon when Camp John Hay was bombed. On leaving that night for the south, Quezon took Speth with him, but sent him back to see the Commander of the Japanese troops in the north, to ask that Baguio not be damaged, since it was undefended. This Speth tried to do but was arrested by the American general in command there and thrown into prison as a fifth columnist. On learning of this Quezon telephoned the general asking that Speth be released, but the general replied: “He talked himself into this, let him talk himself out.” So Quezon telephoned MacArthur, saying that Speth had merely done for Baguio what MacArthur had done for Manila, in declaring it an open city–so Speth was released.

I asked Parsons if any Filipino troops were still resisting, and he replied: “I hope not.”

Cebu has been burned as far up as tho church by the Filipinos.

Inter-island traffic is by vinta; there are no steamers.

The Calumpit bridge has not yet been repaired; the Manila Railroad Co. is still being run by Paez.

Imported food is no longer available; plenty of native food.

Japanese are keen about iron mines; are not interested in gold mines, of which only the lower levels have been flooded; the mills are intact. They want chromium, but the mine at Acoje cannot be used because the wharf has been destroyed.

Quezon was thrilled to learn that his radio addresses are heard in the Philippines. Parsons says the Japanese did not seize radios–only took antennae–so the Filipinos have installed new antennae buried in the ground.

Public schools are open, but the use of English is abolished; teaching is in Tagalog; at least one year of Japanese is required. Universities are closed.

Parsons told us no atrocity stories at luncheon; I had no means of seeing him alone.


July 22, 1942 — Wednesday

Temperature in Washington cooler. Busy at office morning & afternoon. I invited Colonel Melchor, Mr. Davis & Major Eraña for luncheon. At 3:30 p.m. Lieutenant Madrigal phoned for me to get ready to leave with the President at 6 p.m. for Leesburg. Arrived at Leesburg 7:20 p.m. Temperature delightful. Could not sleep worried about my family in Manila. Received birthday presents from President & Mrs. Quezon & their daughters.


June 4, 1942

12:30 p.m. at Senate Chamber to hear Quezon’s address. Excellent and effective. He seemed a little nervous at the beginning, and no wonder: that is the most critical audience in the world. They were all very friendly to him. Quezon told me that never in his wildest dreams had he expected to address the United States Senate, though he had always counted on being the President of his own country. Senator Barkley of Kentucky, the floor leader, sat on his right and led the applause, while Senator Tydings sat on his left. As the Senate was technically in recess to receive him, applause was not “out of order” and some of the Senators kept it up even longer than the crowded galleries. They had interrupted their voting on a declaration of war against Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary to receive him. The ex-Mrs. Douglas MacArthur went up in the motor with the Quezons.

Quezon was in high spirits after it was all so well over, and had A. D. Williams and myself, with Quezon’s two daughters to lunch at the Shoreham. His daughters were chaffing him because he had made one slip–referring to the V.P. as “Vice President Marshall.” It was, of course, Henry Wallace.

At lunch, there was a lively conversation between Quezon and A. D. Williams, who in recent years had been closest to the President of any American in the Philippines, being his adviser in the construction of public works in which Quezon’s keen creative energies were always fully employed. Williams, who had at last, after so many years of service in the tropics incurred the disease known as “sprue” had finally, in July 1941, been obliged to resign his most confidential post with the President in Manila and retire for good to his farm near Culpepper, Virginia. One of his last bits of construction work in the Philippines had been the creation of an air-raid shelter at Quezon’s country home at Mariquina, near Manila. The Quezon girls, who were present at this luncheon commented enthusiastically over this and said that, during the invasion they had spent most of their time in that shelter; it had a toilet and two entrances, and had been cut out of the tufa rock which is excellent material for insulating shocks.

Quezon and Williams told of some differences of opinion between the President and General MacArthur during these months of anxiety and strain before the war broke, but it would be quite superfluous to recount such matters now after the close friendship and heroic co-operation of those important personages during the dramatic war scenes which followed.

They also chatted about General Eisenhower the present Chief of the War Plans Board in Washington. MacArthur had brought with him on his mission to the Philippines two Majors in the United States Army, Ord and Eisenhower. When poor Ord was killed in an airplane accident at Baguio, Eisenhower became MacArthur’s “number two.” Eisenhower was very popular with both races in Manila–Americans and Filipinos, and seemed to enjoy the many occasions on which Quezon entertained him at Malacañan and on the yacht Casiana. Finally, Mrs. Eisenhower began to claim the Major’s time for her social engagements and Quezon had chaffed him about this in the presence of his wife at the farewell luncheon he gave them at Malacañan Palace some months before the war broke, when they were returning to the United States.

At this same luncheon, Quezon and A. D. Williams made quite different computations as to the number of American war planes in the Philippines at the time of the invasion. When Williams then ill, finally left the islands to retire home, he had been a member of the board appointed by Quezon to advise on new air fields. He calculated that the United States then had some three hundred plane in or en route to the Philippines, actually on hand or about to arrive. Quezon said there had been, at the time of the Japanese assault thirty-eight four engine bombers and about one hundred and thirty war planes of various types. Many of these were destroyed on the ground at Nichols Field, Clark Field and Cavite on the eighth of December, 1941. I asked whether this destruction caused any panic among the Filipinos and he replied that they knew nothing about it. Williams told again of his having, as representative of the Philippine Government gone around in June or July 1941 with the American officer-in-charge to inspect ground for new air landing space near Manila and how he personally had begged the Commanding General not to extend existing fields, but to build a dozen new landing grounds among the bamboo fields to either side of the South Road. No attention had been paid to his advice. He also remonstrated with the navy for spending five or six million dollars in dredging and in filling in an extension of the existing air field at Cavite which, as he said, “stuck out like a sore thumb” in Manila Bay, and was visible from the air for a great distance.

Quezon then said how indignant he had been with Admiral Hart for withdrawing his fleet from the Philippines at nearly the last moment. “If he was going to lose his fleet, why not to so in defense of the Philippines instead of Java?” He admitted, however, that Hart’s fleet was destroyed after he, himself, had been relieved of command at the insistence of the Dutch, who took over the American ships before the disastrous naval battle of the Java Sea. But Quezon still insisted that his submarines, based on Cavite for refuelling, should have been used to sink the Japanese transports and thus interrupt the invasion of the Philippines. There were twenty-eight submarines in this command of which some twenty-two were of the new type.

Quezon then turned to some remarks on the pressing reasons which had induced him to attempt towards the end of February 1942 the escape by submarine from the beleaguered fortress of Corregidor. This will not be repeated here, because it has been described in his book The Good Fight, published by D. Appleton-Century in New York in 1944, after the President’s death.

This account of that day’s conversation at the luncheon table at the Shoreham would be incomplete without recording the writer’s recollection of another subject discussed by Quezon, which has, however, a very remote bearing if any on the invasion of the Philippines.