June 4, 1945 Monday

Again rumors are circulating about the coming of Osmeña and MacArthur. We refuse to believe in order not to suffer another disappointment. We concede, however, the possibility of the coming of MacArthur. It has been reported that military and naval bases have been granted by the Philippines to America for a period of 20 years. We have no definite information, nor do we know the details. It is reported that the agreement was signed by Pres. Quezon. It is difficult for us to believe this as this was precisely one of the main objections to the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law which provoked the greatest political crisis in the Philippines in 1933-1935. It was argued that independence with such bases could not be real—the proper status would be more that of a protectorate. Before a definite long term agreement is entered into it will be good to consult the Filipino people’s reaction. The Filipino people’s attitude then had the concurrence of the Americans at that time. When the appropriation for bases and fortifications was submitted to Congress, it was voted down in the House of Representatives. Of course now I do not know the American people’s attitude. I have been informed that it has suffered a radical change.

The above has nothing to do with the present situation. America is now using the whole Philippines as military, naval and air bases. I am sure there is no objection to that on the part of any Filipino. They know the necessity for it. They believe that such an arrangement is beneficial, not only to America, but to the Philippines as well. The Filipinos know that this war involved the problem of the Filipinos and the territorial integrity of the country. I am sure then that there will be absolutely no objection to the present arrangement. But let no formal arrangement be entered into yet. At present, it is not possible to consider the merits of the different phases of the question. There is no hurry since the Americans are using our territory anyhow, and during the next 20 or maybe 100 years, no menace of any kind may be expected.

Marshal MacArthur, with naval and air ranking officers, may come to investigate the possibility of using part of Palawan as military, naval and air bases. Some persons claiming to know, assure me that Palawan is strategically located and consequently has to be seriously considered. It is wishful thinking to believe that his coming has anything to do with us. He is engaged in a work that concerns world affairs and our affair is too insignificant to merit attention. But it is possible that in his spare moments, he may inquire about us, as he has some very intimate friends among us. In my case, I was in charge of preparing the appropriation for the Philippine Army which he planned and organized, with the aid of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Col. Ord.

Marshal MacArthur is really the father of the Philippine Army. He got everything he wanted from me because his explanations were so clear and convincing that I felt it an honor, no matter how insignificant, to have a role in his plan. My connection with MacArthur was a result of the positions I successively held: Chairman, Appropriations Committee of the House which at that time was also the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Protempore, Secretary of Public Works and Communications, and Secretary of Finance. I have the highest respect for Marshall MacArthur. As a friend, he is always true; as an orator and literary man, he is not behind many known men in that field; as an organizer, he is superb; and as a military man, he richly deserves the reputation he gained of being among the greatest. Certainly he is a most worthy son of his great father to whom the Philippines is also deeply indebted. The Philippines, through our greatest hero, Pres. Quezon, conferred upon him the rank of Marshal. I have attended all public and official functions in Manila since 1919 and I have never been as thrilled as in the ceremony conferring the rank of Marshal on MacArthur. Everybody was thrilled. We gave him one of the biggest banquets in Malacañan. He delivered a speech which was a masterpiece in substance as well as in literary style. His oratory was perfect. That was not the first time he was thus honored by the Filipinos. One occasion was when he became the Commanding General of the Philippine Department of the U.S. Army. I am not certain, but I believe it was after his tour of duty ended and he was to return to the United States that we tendered a banquet in his honor at the Manila Hotel. He delivered a speech for which he received a standing ovation. The speech won for the Marshal, in addition to being an orator and literary man, a reputation as a statesman and profound thinker. The banquet was attended by all the high officials of the government, prominent persons, and people from all classes ans walks of life. As I remember it now, Gen. Manuel Roxas was one of the orators on that occasion.

Marshal MacArthur is not without enemies. He has many enemies—almost all of them his countrymen. He has very bitter enemies in Washington. It was rather a paradox that I, a Filipino, was defending him to the Americans who were conspicuously assailing him, calling him a coward, a false friend, disloyal, ignorant, ambitious and a propagandist of the first order. They say that his reputation has been built on propaganda which was generally self-serving. They will tell you that the Filipinos hate him, but a few—a very few only—carefully planned the building up of the reputation that he was admired by the Filipinos. They told me that all he did in America was to charge, on horseback with bayonet drawn, on a crowd who had travelled thousands of miles to present in petition of grievances to the Washington officials. They said that when MacArthur left Corregidor, this was desertion. They put Gen. Wainright far above Gen. MacArthur.

Such accusations do not detract anything from the Marshal, as far as Filipinos are concerned; it probably made him greater. No one can be great if along the way there were no thorns to tread.

I do not mean to defend the Marshal. He can take care of himself. He also has many loyal friends behind him. I will touch on some incidents that endeared him to us which I happened to have witnessed personally. Is he really loved by the Filipinos? I answer yes, not as a result of propaganda, but because he richly deserved it.

Since the American occupation up to as recent as 1918, the relationship between the U.S. Army and the Filipinos was anything but cordial. I remember conflicts with the Rizal provincial officials because the American officers at Fort McKinley considered the reservation as an independent nation where no Filipino could enter without the required passport. The Filipinos, including even the Philippine Scouts, were considered foreigners in their own country. At Ft. McKinley, Ft. Santiago and Sta. Lucia, the American officers of all ranks were very anti-Filipino. They showed their disdain for us by refusing to sit with the Filipino officials during official functions. We Filipinos did likewise; we showed our disdain and hatred of them just as clearly as they showed their hatred towards us. The cleavage went so deep that there were many incidents.

When MacArthur came, one of his first acts was to pay his respects to Pres. Quezon and other Filipino officials. The President immediately returned the courtesy, paying a call to Gen. MacArthur accompanied by about 20 high Filipino officials. I was one of them. Right then and there MacArthur invited us to a review of the troops which would be staged in our honor. During the review, the General was there with his Staff. The officers looked fiercely at us when the General was not looking. We also made it rather painful for the officers; we talked directly to the General with our backs turned on them.

After the first year of MacArthur’s arrival, we began to mix with the Americans, and in that way we came to know one another better. The review in honor of the Philippine Legislature (then only the legislative branch was in our hands) became an annual feature and continued to be staged even after the departure of the General. At one time, the program in our honor included equestrian feats performed by the Philippine Scouts. They performed acrobatic stunts on galloping horses. Another number was a race (I do not remember what they call it) of the best Army horses, over walls, hedges, ditches and other obstacles. One of the participants was a Filipino who later became Colonel, a brother of Justice Moran. It is reported that he was one of those killed by the Japanese. Thereafter, there were U.S. Army and Navy high officials in all Filipino public functions. The officers of the lower ranks also became very chummy with us. So were their ladies. They invited us to play bowling with them and we organized a men’s and a ladies’ bowling team. After each game, they would invite us for refreshments in their club. For the first time Filipinos were seen eating and drinking in that club. Even the exclusive Army and Navy Club opened its doors to Filipinos.

General MacArthur left, but he returned on his second tour and this time his office or residence was in the western part of the historic walls surrounding Intramuros. I think they call it Sta. Lucia. We went to see him in his quarters to pay our respects. We intended to stay just a few minutes but he and Mrs. MacArthur insisted on our staying longer. We stayed for over two hours enjoying the hospitality of General and Mrs. MacArthur. This was also the first time that Filipino officials were honored in the military barracks. I believe it was at this time that he did another act which convinced us that he had reposed upon us his full confidence.

The well known Island of Corregidor then was as foreign to us as the famous Island of Sta. Catalina on the beautiful California coast. Filipinos were not allowed to roam around that portion of their country, with the exception of the landing. The only other portion of the Island ever treaded by a Filipino official was the cave where our Treasury deposited and kept its funds, especially the silver coins. We were thrilled when Gen. MacArthur invited us to inspect the Island. Was it possible? Will we be allowed to see that portion of our own country where America had built at an enormous cost fortifications containing all their military secrets? We thought that they would probably just take us to the Island for lunch at their military club there, and then return to Manila.

But early the next morning, the Commanding General at Corregidor himself, I think his name is General Hutch (I lost all my personal memoirs when my house was burned by the Japanese upon the entry of the Americans), received us at the Admiral Landing where we boarded a good-sized Army launch. At the pier on the landing place in Corregidor, we were received by the high officers at Corregidor. We were immediately given a complete tour of the Island. We saw every section of it. We saw cannons in deep trenches and we wondered how they could be fired to hit the target. They explained to us how it could be done. We saw the gun implacements. But the most interesting part of the tour was a large hall deep in the interior of a big tunnel where we saw all kinds of apparatus to find the ranges and give orders to the different emplacements. Afterwards we were treated to a sumptuous luncheon at their club located at a summit in the middle of a golf course. The Filipino waiters who were allowed only in the club, gaped at us with their mouths wide open since it was the first time that Filipino civilians accompanied by the General himself were served by them.

The General returned to the United States, I understand to occupy the highest position within the realm of a military man in the U.S.—Chief of Staff. We expressed real joy as it was the triumph of a friend. After his term of office he retired.

But the Philippines needed him. Dark clouds were already hovering over the Orient. Everyone knew that there was going to be war with Japan, but nobody thought it would come so soon. In the meanwhile full military preparation in the Philippines was being made. It was no surprise that the U.S. immediately thought of Gen. MacArthur. He came back to the Philippines. He lost no time in organizing the Philippine Army which was later made a part of the United States Army. When the war broke out, it was logical that General MacArthur became the Commander-in-Chief in the Southern Pacific.

He is now one of the four or five Five-Star full fledged Generals. There is talk of his appointment as the first American Ambassador to the coming Philippine Republic. I believe such an appointment will be received with approval by the Filipino people.

I want this portion of my memoirs kept strictly confidential, at least for the present. It may be misinterpreted in view of my present status. I purposely do not want anybody to intervene in my case. My relationship with Pres. Osmeña was close and very intimate. But I do not want to make use of that relationship. I need no influence; I want no favor. This writing may be misunderstood as an effort to win the goodwill of Gen. MacArthur. I have absolute confidence in the justice of my case.

I am charged with being a collaborationist. If it means that I am anti-American, and I favor Japan, I emphatically deny this. How can I be anti-American and pro-Japanese? I saw an American for the first time at age 11 in about 1901, while hiding from the American invading forces in the barrio of Cubamba, Taal. I still remember that my sister, Consolacion, and my cousin, Carmen Castillo, painted their faces with charcoal because it was rumored that Americans capture pretty Filipino girls. The soldiers passed by and saw us, but they merely smiled. Our impression of Americans changed immediately.

We went out of hiding into town and were horrified to see that our house had burned down. It was because the Philippine revolutionary army took refuge in the town and when they departed, the Americans burned a good portion of the town.

I studied in the barrio under cousin Ramon Castillo, and in town after our arrival under Maestrong Goyo (Gregorio Castillo) and later under Mr. Juan Medina. Later, I enrolled in the public school, established by the Americans, under Mr. H. H. Buck, Mr. Kempthorne and Mr. Dennis. How good they were! Mr. Buck treated us just like his own children. He remained in the Philippines and married a Filipina girl. I studied in the public school of Taal from 1903 until 1905, finishing grade school in three years. I was one of top students in class. The only one who could beat me was Mr. Agapito Gaa (during the Japanese occupation, he received my protection). I was good in debating and was captain of the spelling team that competed with other schools. The year after finishing grade school, I was appointed teacher in the barrio school of Mojon. That same year, after a few weeks of teaching, Mr. Trace, the American District Supervisor of Schools, came to the school to tell me that I must quit teaching. I thought it was because I was not making good so I went home very disappointed. I was receiving ₱15.00 a month, and I was happy since I was able to give almost all of it to my parents. They bought a “calesa” (horse rig) and a horse for my use in going to school in the barrio of Mojon about 7 kilometers from the town. Mr. Trace told me that I was young, bright and with a good future and he wanted me to continue my studies. I answered, “How can I? You know my family is poor. My brother, Vicente is studying medicine in Manila, and my parents can hardly support him.” Mr. Trace said that he would take care of the matter. He said that an examination for government pensionados to the United States was going to be held soon in Batangas and he would like me to take it.

I protested, “You know that I am not prepared for it. I only finished grade school and there are subjects that I had not studied.” He promised to prepare me for the examination. For three months he instructed me day and night. He was sure I would make it. His only fear was that I was too thin and that I was not strong enough to pass the physical examination.

The examination for government pensionados was given by examiners under my former grade school teacher, Mr. Buck, who was then Superintendent of Schools. Knowing that I had no high school education, he was surprised that I got an average of about 84%.

While waiting for the result of the examination, I enrolled in the first year class of the High School of Batangas then located just behind the municipal building. My teachers were Americans also. (The high school was later transferred to a new site near the market. When I was Speaker Protempore, one of the buildings burned down. I secured a large appropriation for a new school building.)

Accompanied by my father, I went to Manila for my physical examination. I failed. I remember the examiner was Dr. del Rosario, I asked for reconsideration through Dr. Gervasio Ocampo. The examination was reconsidered and this time I passed.

While waiting for the boat to take the government pensionados to the United States, we noticed big parties being held. We found out that they were parties in honor of William H. Taft, then Governor General of the Philippines. One of the parties was held in the old premises of the Army and Navy Club in Intramuros, located just in front of the house where I lived in Cabildo St. One day, we were taken to the Philippine Normal School on Padre Faura St. (later made a part of Philippine General Hospital grounds) to hear the speech of Mr. Taft. It was in that occasion where Mr. Taft said the famous words which made him popular among the Filipinos: “The Philippines for the Filipinos.”

My companions and I left Manila on August 15, 1905 in a boat called “Toan”, only about 4,000 tons. We were about 40, accompanied by Prof. Townsend of the University of the Philippines, a very kindly old man. We suffered terribly in the trip to Hongkong because the weather was rough and our boat was small. I was able to stand the trip better than the others. In Hongkong, we transferred to the S. S. Manchuria, a four-masted 28,000 ton American steamer. It was then the second largest boat on the Pacific, the first being the Mongolia of about 32,000 tons. We proceeded to San Francisco passing through Japan.

After a full month, we finally reached San Francisco. We had a very nice time across the Pacific, playing games on board. Upon our arrival, we were impressed with the greatness of America. We were met by the Superintendent of Filipino Students in America, Mr. Sutherland. He certainly was a father to us. He gave us advice on what we should study, suggesting teaching, medicine, engineering or agriculture. He insinuated that law was discouraged. I chose law and insisted on it. Why I did is not quite clear in my mind. I was probably influenced by the belief prevailing during the Spanish regime that the most honorable professions are law and medicine, and that farming or any work that may require physical efforts is shameful. Because I selected law, I was sent to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

In San Francisco, we lived in the Palace Hotel which was later destroyed by the great earthquake. We bought new clothes in a store called the Emporium. I got acquainted with a girl from Iowa. While at the hotel, a near tragedy occurred. Two of my companions, instead of turning the key to put out the gas lamp, blew out the light. Gas came out and almost asphixiated them. A timely discovery prevented a tragedy.

It took us 6 days to reach Indiana, staying a few hours in Chicago. We were also delayed in the Rocky Mountains because of snow. We got off the train and had a good look at the Rockies. I found Bloomington a very nice place. It is a town of only about 10,000 inhabitants. The people were very nice to us. We lived with American families who treated us like real members of the family. We would never forget the Reeds and the Thompsons. The university itself was small, having only 3,000 students, but a very good one. For undergraduates, it is advisable to enter small universities like Indiana. The dean of the law school was Dr. Rainhard and I had many outstanding professors like Dr. Hepburn. The Filipino students were Francisco Delgado, Jorge Bocobo, Mariano H. de Joya, Proceso Sanchez, Pedro Sandico and myself.

A problem arose as to how I could be admitted. I was only in the first year of high school when I left for the U.S. However, being a government student, a special arrangement was entered into. I would be admitted in the first year but had to get a good grade in the first examination. Only then could I be considered a regular student. I received one of the highest grades in the first examination. I took as much academic courses as I could possibly study—philosophy, economics, history, literature, etc. College life was certainly a very enjoyable one. The American students, especially the girls, were very good to us. I also took oratory under Professor Clapp. I do not know why but I seem to have a penchant towards oratory.

Our pension was very small, about $25.00 a month, exclusive of books and clothing. We paid $5 for room and $4 for board a week. We had very little money for extra expenses, especially since we never neglected our Sunday mass contribution. To make extra money, I worked as an ordinary laborer in one of the stone quarries which abound around Bloomington. As I remember, I was given about 15 cents an hour. I walked to the quarry which was about 6 miles away, and for luncheon I took a can of pork and beans with a piece or two of bread with butter. It was sufficient for me. All the other laborers were American whites. They were honest and hardworking. The work did not only provide me with some money to make up the deficiency in my pensions, but it also built up my body and gave me a correct appreciation of labor which in my public life influenced me to favor all legislation and measures calculated to better the conditions of the laboring class.

I got acquainted with many girls there, among whom were Agnes and Marie Peale, Edith Skinner, May Berry and Helen Burnett. We spent our time dancing and playing tennis. We also joined a debating club to practice oratory. I received my Ll.B. degree in June of 1909. Among those in the platform when we graduated were Gov. Folk of Missouri and poet Reilly. Pres. William Lowe Bryan of the University spoke. I was one of the highest in class.

I went to New Haven, Connecticut, to take post graduate courses in Yale University. I arrived there in September of 1909.

Yale is located right in the heart of the City of New Haven which had about 200,000 people then. The city itself had the old look but it counts with modern, beautiful parks. The only thing noteworthy then in the city was the University of Yale. It had some of the very best professors in the United States. It could afford the best because it was amply provided with donations. For President, it had Dr. Twidling Hadley; Dean of Law School, Mr. Rogers who afterwards became a Federal Judge. I enrolled in the post graduate school for my Ll. M. degree. In June, I finished with the honor of Cum Laude. There was no higher honor conferred.

* * * * *

My reminiscences of my boyhood days are not very clear. All that I remember was that my father had to hide many times because the Spanish “guardia civil”, noted for cruelties and brutalities, were looking for him. At one time, he had to jump through the back window of the kitchen into a deep precipice behind our house to elude them. I also recollect that our house was at one time occupied by Spanish officers. One of the sights which impressed me very much and which I shall never forget was when I saw from our window three “careton” loads of dead bodies—persons killed by the Civil Guards. Because of the persecutions and injustices committed by the Spaniards, the revolution was embraced by all the Filipinos and spread like wild fire all over the Philippines.

During this period, I already had enough discretion to remember events distinctly. Preparations for the war against Spain went on feverishly right under the very noses of the Spaniards. All the brave sons of our town enlisted in the Army. I remember Gen. Diokno, Col. Martin Cabrera, Col. Filomeno Encarnacion, and Col. Tacio Marasigan. I am sorry I do not remember the names of many others. They immediately proceeded to take the town. But the Spaniards were not willing to fight in the town of Taal. They decided to proceed to Batangas, Batangas. As soon as the Spaniards left Taal, the Filipino revolutionary army entered the town. There were thousands of them, most of them carrying only “bolos.” They lined up in the spacious town plaza where they were welcomed cordially by the townspeople. I was one of the many boys who took part in the wild celebration. In the midst of the celebration, the people began to run in all directions. The soldiers promptly assumed battle positions planting themselves in strategic locations. Nobody knew what was going on. Finally, we heard an officer remark, “The Spaniards are coming back!”

My brother Vicente and I ran home to the house of our aunt, Felipa de las Alas, married to Aguado Orlina. After the death of our mother and when our father Cornelio married again, our aunt took care of us in her house located near the town plaza. We immediately packed essential clothing and started for the house of Mamay Ukay, located at the extreme western end of our street where we had a good view of Balayan Bay. I still remember that on the way, one of our maid servants stepped on a big snake. We did not sleep that night, expecting to hear plenty of shooting. We heard no shots and the next day we learned that the news about the return of the Spaniards was false. This must have been around 1898, when I was nine years of age.

The next several months were very peaceful and quiet. Everybody was happy as there was no longer the threat of civil guards; the intrigue, injustices and mismanagement of the government by the friars (at that time the friars were really the ones governing the towns; they selected the “capitanes”), and the stupidity and haughtiness of the Spaniards. Many Spaniards were captured and they were distributed in the different towns where they served as servants to prominent Filipinos. There were many social functions, the most notable one was held in the palatial house of Capitan Flaviano Agoncillo, father of Don Gregorio Agoncillo. The guest of honor was the famous Filipino General, Miguel Malvar, the last to surrender to the Americans. He was accompanied by almost all the prominent people of Batangas, including the ladies from Lipa all brought in by “carruajes” pulled by the finest Batangas horses. As boys, we maneuvered for the best position to see everything. What impressed me most was the beautiful well-dressed young ladies from Lipa who were adorned with sparkling diamonds of unimaginable sizes all over their bodies, including their shoe tops. This was the period of the bonanza in Lipa brought about by the famous coffee of Lipa.

War between the United States and the Philippines started and feverish preparations were made. Enlistments were started. A military organization was formed call the “Guardias de Honor” (Guards of Honor). What I recall about this organization is that there were as many officers as there were privates. In appearance, it was as good as any military organization—martial discipline was one of its characteristics. The town was also prepared. Trenches were dug, some bridges destroyed. At the bottom of the destroyed spans were well camouflaged bamboo spears projecting from the ground. A machinegun was placed in the church roof. Cannons were placed just behind the house of Ka Ukay where the approach from Lemery, through the only bridge spanning the Pansipit River and connecting the towns of Taal and Lemery, could be well defended.

One day Filipino soldiers, all well equipped, entered the town. They immediately occupied the Church of Caysasay at Labak on the northern portion of the town near the bank of the Pansipit River. They made the town authorities believe that they were soldiers of Aguinaldo sent to reinforce the defense of Batangas. They turned out to be Macabebe soldiers (from Macabebe, Pampanga) sent by the Americans. The discovery came too late as they had already spread and occupied strategic places in Taal and Lemery. Before the Filipino Army could prepare to oust the impostors, the Americans came. The Filipino Army withdrew to the mountains to engage in guerrilla warfare. In this, they were not totally unsuccessful. At one time, they were able to attack the town of Taal, but had to withdraw because of American reinforcements. The Americans burned the town.

The guerrilla warfare of Gen. Malvar worried the Americans very much. They took drastic action and adopted what was called “zoning” (zona). The people were ordered to move to a certain place, generally the “poblacion” of a town, with all their food and belongings. They were warned that anybody stepping outside the boundary would be shot or dealt with as an enemy. The zonification order was made by Gen. Bell and executed by Col. Baker. The people suffered very much because of this concentration. The backbone of the resistance was broken; Gen. Aguinaldo was captured; and resistance all over the Philippines ceased. Gen. Malvar and his men surrendered.

While we were fighting the Spaniards and Americans, the spirit of Rizal was invoked. His teachings had spread all over the Philippines. There were all kinds of legends and stories built around Rizal. One was that he was riding on the moon to watch over us. The other was that, like Christ, he would rise again from his grave to lead us in our fight for liberty and independence.

After the surrender of Malvar and as late as 1905, there were remnants of the revolutionary army roaming around Batangas under Montalan, Sakay and Igat (Jose Solis). They were, however, regarded as bandits and hunted down by the government. In 1903, they entered the town of Taal and ransacked the municipal building. Thousands of Mexican silver pesos were taken. My brother Vicente and I were out that night. We saw Solis’ men enter the building. I was then visiting a girl near the municipal building. I left her house and hid in the house of Dr. Hermenegildo Castillo. It was on this occasion when almost all the prominent people of Taal were arrested and lodged in the municipal jail suspected of conniving with the bandits. My father, who was Municipal Treasurer, expected to be arrested. The Provincial Treasurer, Mr. Blanchard, had a very high regard for him and he was not molested. Don Vicente Ilustre, one of our most prominent lawyers who had been educated in Europe, tried to see the prisoners. Lt. McLean refused. Don Vicente brushed the Lieutenant aside and went inside. Luckily, the Lieutenant did not take action. The prisoners were being forced to confess their connection with the bandits. They refused. Later that night, they were all taken out of jail and shoved into a hold of a boat. For days they saw nothing. They did not know where they were; all they knew was that the boat was moving. They feared that they would be taken to Guam where Mabini was exiled. After a few days the boat returned. Most of the prisoners were released. This reminded me of what happened to us—placed in a hold of a freighter, not knowing our destination. It was when we were approaching Palawan after a few days at sea that we discovered that we were headed for Iwahig Penal Colony.

Later I shall continue my biography in so far as America and the Americans are concerned. I shall also prove that my connection with the Japanese regime was motivated solely by my love for my country, my desire to serve my people.


October 27, 1943

Our guests were leaving the College, going French style. They took with them all that was theirs and all that was ours. Among the latter were chairs, beds, tables, cabinets, the refrigerator, bulbs, lamp shades, all amounting to thousands of pesos, specially now that they were irreplaceable. We were disillusioned by the belief that independence would extend to us the pleasure of having our whole building back. But other soldiers were coming in with beds on their shoulders and installing themselves in the divested building. They were sure to be groping in the dark tonight, as their predecessors took all the bulbs with them. It seemed that it was common practice among these soldiers to leave nothing behind whenever they transferred quarters. One of them, whom we approached in complaint and protest, justified such conduct saying that when General Kuroda had to leave the palace of the American High Commissioner which was converted into the Japanese Embassy, all the furniture was taken out, and Mr. Murata had to stay at the Manila Hotel until the Embassy had been refurbished.


April 3, 1942

Will buy a bicycle. My alcohol ration is not enough. It might even be reduced. Most people now ride in rigs, except the Japanese of course. They ride in cars. It is not an uncommon sight to hear a man walking under the blistering sun shout: “There is my car.”

To the victor belongs the spoils of battle.

(later)

Double talk is very frequent these days. People have mastered the art of ambiguity. Here’s a sample of a conversation between two friends who dined with me at the Manila Hotel.

“Japanese music is superb, don’t you think so?” The orchestra was playing a popular Japanese song.

“Not only superb. It is realistic. And also reproductive.”

“Waddya mean—realistic and reproductive?”

“American music, for example is basically savage. It is an improvisation of jungle tom-toms. But Japanese music immortalizes one of man’s best household friends, reproduces that blithe, graceful, nine-lifed creature that women so love to fondle.”

“By the way, where’s Pedro now?”

“They took him for a vacation. So very kind of them.”

“I hope he is all right.”

“Of course, he is. They see to it that nobody hurts you, so they put a lot of men to watch you. And they’ve probably given him bracelets that don’t break unlike those you buy in the Estrella. And not only for his wrist but also for his ankles. They’re so generous, you know.”

“By the way, how’s Maria’s face?”

“Perfect.”

“They told me she was…”

“Yes, she was. Many times. Now she doesn’t have to use rouge. Its all for the better. More economical, practical and attractive. Very attractive.”

“Say, I haven’t seen you for ages. What do you do these days?”

“I’m cooperating with the co-prosperity sphere.”

“How?”

“Oh, I gave them my house and my car and even my face—both cheeks.”

“You also? Why, what happened?”

“I forgot to bow.”

“Oh…

“Well, see you soon… when the sun sets. Its cooler then.”

“Now, I know I’ll certainly see you. The sun is sure to set.”

The orchestra stopped playing, the band leader bowed and several officers applauded.

“Here waiter. Keep the change.”


March 31, 1942

Gen. Yamakoshi gave a dinner in Honor of the NARIC staff at the Manila Hotel. It was a dry affair. Missed the lively Rotary luncheons.

Near our table there were Japanese civilians. They were drinking and singing and eating. They had hostesses. But they were old-looking. One of them must have been around 45. Too long at it. The war has given her a lease on life. There is a great demand.

Well, it’s been another month. How many more months or years?

Who said “Time flies”?

 

 


March 27, 1942

Noya has been replaced by Mr. Fukada as Supervisor. Noya was all right. He was not arrogant and we got along quite well. There must be a code of gallantry between generals. A friend of mine told me that when General MacArthur left for Corregidor he left his room in the Manila Hotel just as it was. “As if he just went out for a walk,” my friend related. “His books were in the shelves, some on top of the tables and his clothes and even his decorations were left as they were. There was obviously no effort to hide anything.” My friend said General MacArthur left a little note to the commander-in-chief of the Japanese forces entrusting his belongings to him. The Japanese general, in turn, has not touched Gen. MacArthur’s room. “And he has ordered the Manila Hotel Manager,” recounted my friend, “to see to it that nobody touches anything in the room.” The age of chivalry has not passed.


January 26, 1942

Must encourage the people to do some home gardening. Every available backyard should be planted to vegetables. The Bureau of Plant Industry can provide the seeds to interested parties. Planted tomatoes, cabbage, pechay and radish in my garden. This will help increase the food supply. “Little drops of water make an ocean; little grains of sand make a mountain…”

Things don’t look so rosy in Singapore. The radio says that the three main Japanese mechanized columns smashed through the western, central and eastern sectors of the Malay peninsula penetrating through the 130-kilometer radius of the British Far Eastern base. Looks like the sun that never sets on the British Empire will set on the East.

Many society boys and girls now ride on streetcars. This will do them a lot of good. Soft life begets softies. Youth when tempered in fire, becomes stronger—like steel.

Curfew has been extended from 8 to 10 p.m.

The Japanese have no sense of humor. I was at a party at the Manila Hotel. Seated beside me was a Japanese major. A Japanese civilian, who has been in the States, introduced a hostess to me in joking terms: “Dr. Buencamino, I would like you to meet this young girl. She is thin because the price of rice is exorbitant.” Some Filipinos present got the joke and laughed. I did too. But the Japanese major got sore. He looked at the Japanese civilian angrily and said very tersely “After office hours, no talkee business. Understand?“ The Japanese civilian bowed respectfully and apologized. Must remember to give him my condolence, the poor man!

My statement has not been published. I thought so.


December 29, 1941

The war holds your problems in grateful suspension. You almost dread the coming of peace which will once more precipitate them. For the moment, they have lost their urgency. That trouble with your family, the uncompleted novel, the hopeless passion for a girl who does not love you, which had formerly so troubled you, must now stand humbly at the door while you occupy yourself with matters more pressing, of life and death. That fine emotional balance, that delicate synchronization of all your parts, that rich fulfillment you thought was so necessary to your happiness have ceased to concern you, for the reason that happiness has become, for the duration, superfluous. No longer necessary. The war has given you a breathing spell.

The war has given me what I never had before: time to read as much as I like. I had several books I bought and never found the leisure to read. I had given them up as money lost. During the last three weeks, I was able, between alarms and all-clears, to finish reading them all. The war has been an unexpected dividend.

It has changed, though, the character of my reading. I have a collection of detective novels still unread. I used to enjoy few things more than to run through their gory pages at the end of the day. Now I cannot read them.Their dismay over the killing of one, two or three people seems to me rather petty. Now.

Now I find comfort and relish in the pages of the philosophers whose conclusions may be briefly stated:

Nothing matters.

The war has also affected our drinking habits. Those who drank as a matter of habit are drinking more than ever. They drank for relief, as a means of escape from the intolerable self. Now they drink to escape, simply, the war.

Those who drank on occasion have, on the other hand, stopped drinking altogether. They drank as others read books, listen to music, collect paintings or go to the movies, to relieve boredom. The war has taken boredom away. Bombers coming over in perfect formation, glistening with death, are the equivalent of a good stiff drink. Bombs rushing through the air overhead are an all-night revel.

At the Arcade bar a man started a collection for a soldier who had just come back to the city from Lingayen and was now in a hospital for treatment of his wounds before returning to the front.

“I want to have enough to buy him a complete suit.”

When the Japanese captured the boy, they stripped him of his clothes except his underwear, leaving him shivering in the December cold. Managing to escape from prison camp, the boy reached Manila the other day, undaunted, naked except for his undershirt and shorts.

The narrator, a Dutchman who had once been district commissioner in the Netherlands East Indies, had retained his youthful admiration for Oscar Wilde’s wit. Now he concluded his little tale:

“He kept his pants up.”

What happens to a man is his private concern. It can hardly be of interest to anyone but himself. If he has a wife and children, it touches them. Otherwise, he goes alone.

But what happens today to a man is happening, in greater or less degree, to other men all over the world. The war has descended on us all. We are its heirs, joint and solitary. It cannot be disposed of separately.

We live a common life and the fate of one becomes, in time, by a new necessity, the fate of all. The order of the day has replaced “I” –precious relic from the past– with the collective “we”. We are all, under an absolute clause, parties to the act.

At the bar I heard a man complain to another about his bad luck. He had bought several yards of Irish linen some time ago and taken them to his tailor in Intramuros to have them made into suits. The suits were finished.

“I reminded myself to pass by Intramuros on the way home in the afternoon and get the suits. I never did. It was one thing or another, the days went by and the suits remained with the tailor. Yesterday, after the bombing, I went to Intramuros. There were no longer any suits. There was no longer any tailor.”

The man he was telling the story to asked him the name of the tailor. When he gave it, the man said:

“He was my tailor, too. I had two suits with him.”

The first man said he would be damned.

“I have a drink with a stranger, tell him about the suits I lost in the raid, and what does he tell me –this perfect stranger– he had lost his, too, in the same place, with the same tailor, in the same raid!”

“We are all in the same war.”

Including the tailor.

The people are taking to the war easily. They have adjusted themselves to having to walk to work in the morning, to salary cuts, to unemployment, to the possibility of death during the day. They have few possessions, and the war finds them singularly unencumbered except for the wish to survive without loss of character, to give no way to fear.

The rich and the influential are the pitiful ones. They have so much to lose! They shake for their lives, they shake for their office, they shake for their bank accounts. They read all the literature on the established methods of avoiding death and damage by bomb, bullet, and gas. They sit in a circle all day and worry over every rumor and report of disaster. They scan every threat to their security with the passion of scholars poring over a newly recovered line from the Greek Anthology.

The war freshly illumines a paradox:

One may be casual about one’s life but rarely over one’s property.

In high good humor the people are compiling a list of dishonor. With infinite malice they treasure each new story of how their lords and masters have disgraced themselves.

A prominent politician who used to set the National Assembly on fire with his oratory, when the bombs began to fall last week in one part of the city, flung himself on the floor of his office so hard he broke an arm.

A former executive, who liked to make a show of independence of spirit and about whom I had, with the careless accuracy of journalism, written admiringly in the past, made the Manila Hotel, which has the best air-raid shelter in the city, his home, careful not to leave its premises unless absolutely necessary. He was having a drink with a woman at the hotel bar when the first bomb fell on Port Area. At the thud of the bomb, he left lady and drink at the bar and scurried for shelter. The following day, the woman was having lunch with a friend in the dining-room when the father of his province passed by. Seeing the woman he had so casually deserted the day before and seeing no way out of it, he came over and made small talk as though nothing had happened. The woman, after listening to him for a while, smiled amiably.

“Gotten over your jitters now?” she asked, shattering him.

And here’s a story:

The first time Japanese bombers came over the city, students manning a machine-gun unit on top of their college building debated among themselves where the bombs were falling.

“Nichols Field.”

“No, it’s Fort McKinley.”

“It’s the Nielson air-port.”

The debate went on. American officers from another unit came over and listened to the Filipino boys argue which part of their country was being bombed by the Japanese. They broke into pure laughter when a boy of 19 put an end to the fruitless debate by declaring with a grave and judicious mien:

“The Philippines.”

This morning an army officer came to the office and offered two to one that Manila would never be taken.

“We have not even begun to use our army. We let the Japanese come through, then we cut them down. Down in the South we let Japanese trucks loaded with soldiers come up the road, then, from the hillside, we cut them down with machine-gun fire. You could see the trucks turn over and spill the bodies of the Japanese all over the road.”

They would never take Manila.


October 11, 1941

After a week-long Joint Tactical Training between our Q-Boat Squadron and PT Ron Three, the OSP Officers hosted a dinner dance for the USN Officers at the Winter Garden, Manila Hotel. I invited my good friend  Lt. Sid Huff USN to the affair.  He escorted former Miss Philippines, Miss Conching Sunico.

It was an impressive social gathering of the cream of Manila socialites and among those that graced the affair were Erlinda Kalaw; Josephine, Purita and Baby Yulo; Eva and Nina Estrada; Helen Bennett; Alice Dreyfus; Aurora Zablan; Paquita Puzon; Amparito Gutierrez; Leonor and Maxime Carmelo; Helen and Evelyn Fabella; Betty Arrastia; Erlinda Garcia, Susan Magalona etc.  This is not surprising as the Head of our Invitation Committee was Lt. Charlie Albert ’39.

The atmosphere was joyful with a scent of Christmas.  After dinner our guest enjoyed dancing with their new friends from Manila.  Dancing lasted past midnight with our guest expressing profound thanks for  a memorable evening.  Lt. John D. Bulkeley, Sqn. Comdr. PT Ron Three told me how much they enjoyed the honor accorded them.

Manila’s front page good news  announced USSR Red Army stopped the German advance towards  Moscow.


November 21, 1938

When I got back to the Manila Hotel last night, the Kahirup society ball was going on in the new ballroom. This is a Filipino dancing club, apparently based on sugar money. The ladies were laden with brilliant jewels, and acres of beautiful new cars were parked outside the hotel. Such a display of wealth is a dangerous sign of the times here. It is all photographed for Sunday newspapers which circulate in nearby poverty-stricken provinces.