December 25, 1941

Home all day. There was no work, and there was no place to go. At noon, waves of Japanese bombers circled and circled over the city unopposed and untouched. Is this the meaning of open city?

The declaration of Manila as an open city would mean its complete demilitarization, the removal or destruction of all military installations, and a hypothetical freedom from bombing. The cases of Rome, Paris, and Brussels, which were declared open and were not bombed, were cited as an argument for the declaration of Manila as of the same category. On the other hand, who wants to be like Rome, Paris and Brussels? Look at them now.

There is, besides, no guarantee that the enemy would, in the present case, respect the “open city.” The declaration would create a “right” which the enemy may or may not recognize. One man’s right may be another man’s inconvenience, and convenience is the sole law of war. We would have, therefore, for the declaration, immunity of a sort, if it pleases the enemy, and against the declaration, what amounts to surrender.

Meanwhile, as the headquarters of the United States Army Forces in the Far East, along with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the commanding general, left the city, Manila prepared to assume the supine role of non-combatant.

This morning the enemy raided Nichols Field –what is there left to raid? More reports on yesterday’s raid on Port Area placed the number of persons killed at 43, those wounded at 150. At Atimonan, the enemy’s landing force advanced a mile inland a short distance but was driven back by our force. The enemy, however, continued to bring up more reinforcements and Tayabas, where there had been previously little more than desultory patrol activity, now flamed into the third major battleground of the Philippines. Davao and Lingayen are, of course, the other two. USAFFE headquarters declared itself satisfied with the conduct of American and Filipino troops.

Listening to the radio in the evening, I caught an announcement that “the city will be evacuated within 24 hours”. Later, the announcer carefully corrected himself and informed his listeners that the evacuation of the city would “begin within 24 hours”. It was, as far as I was concerned, the worst moment of the war. I must leave home, books, work. A sense of utter loss washed over me. At the end of the broadcast, it was announced that the city to be evacuated was Cebu, not –as many misunderstood– Manila.

Merry Christmas, after all.

December 24, 1941

Today was bad. They bombed the city.

I was in Wilson Building. I had a ringside seat. I saw the bombers —nine of them, in beautiful formation— shining in the sun. When they were over the building and could no longer be seen, the newsmen turned to the typewriter or the telephone. Then suddenly, three strong explosions. The building shook. I ran to the window and saw the bombs flower—as young Mussolini so prettily put it—in Port Area. They looked just like the newsreels of them. After a while, I saw two fires start.

They dropped bombs along a line running from Chicago and 13th Streets across Port Area to the vicinity of the Marsman building. The Myers building, the Manila Port Terminal bonded warehouse and the U.S. Army quarter master corps laundry were directly hit. About 150 people were either killed or wounded.

Shortly after the bombs fell, starting fires, the acrid smell of burning rubber and the sight of soldiers putting on their gasmasks spread the wild rumor of gas. This was the first real case of panic. The rumor circulated one night ago that the water had been poisoned had upset a few stomachs extremely susceptible to suggestion, nothing more. The rumor of gas, the fear of this new –to the city– form of death shattered the calm of those it reached, which the no less certain promise of death by bombs had failed to do.

One man dipped his handkerchief into the water in the gutter and covered his nose with what he hoped would be a fair substitute for the standard anti-gas. According to a newspaperman whose veracity in this case may be gravely held in doubt –it is such a good story– the man promptly fainted.

Had lunch and went back to the office. There I was told that we had the afternoon off. I had forgotten that the next day was Christmas. We always had the afternoon off the day before Christmas.

The man who told me the good news looked rather peaked and I asked him what was the matter. He had a brother, he told me, working in the bureau of printing, one of the places hit.

“He was standing with some men in the doorway when the first bomb fell. He went inside. The others remained where they were and the next bomb killed them. Had my brother stayed with them….”

Several alarms in the afternoon. The authorities are reported to be considering the proposition of declaring Manila an open city. Just because they bombed us once.

“Are we asking quarter of the enemy? Are we no longer sure of victory? What is a city?”

The people dream of guns and the opportunity of fighting the enemy if necessary in the streets. The people cannot understand this business of open city.

In the dusk a man in the uniform of a major of the United States Army walked into the yard and told us to put out a fire we had made under a mango tree. Earlier in the afternoon we had gathered the dead leaves in the yard and made of them a small bonfire. There was very little left of the blaze, only a bit of smoke still curling up from the ashy pile. Surely, not enough to constitute a violation of the blackout…

The previous night we had repeatedly called the attention of the man in uniform to a light that was showing through one of the windows of his house. Now, we thought, he was trying to be revenged on our “officiousness”. Because of his vesture of authority, we had no choice but to comply with his order. We saw him, as we stamped out the embers, walk stiffly out the yard.

That night a squad of soldiers, armed with rifles and a machinegun, surrounded the house of the man in a major’s uniform and we saw our visitor of the dusk walk out of the house and surrender quietly to the soldiers. He had been sending, we learned from one of the soldiers –they had to go through our yard to get to the man’s place– information to the enemy.

I tried to remember how he looked when he talked to us in the afternoon. In my mind I saw again the straight military bearing of the man, the close-cropped hair, the well-trimmed mustache, the hard grey eyes and inflexible lips, the neutral voice, the correct accent. I thought of the possible combination of circumstances that led him to take up such an occupation. I wondered if he had a wife and children, waiting for his return. I wondered what kind of a future he might have had if they had not caught him. I wondered, as they led him away, what kind of a man he was.

I suppose they shot him.

Forty Japanese transports were sighted today off the coast of Atimonan, Tayabas. Despite heavy losses, the enemy was able to effect a landing. Our troops were reported to be “behaving very well”. They were, as usual, outnumbered.

Several Japanese transports were also sighted off the coast of Batangas. No landing, however, was attempted.

USAFFE headquarters said nothing about the situation in Davao. It remained, to be precise, “obscure”.

December 24, 1941 – Wednesday







At 8 a.m. I attended the meeting of the Cabinet at Marikina. It was discussed that the situation was becoming serious. The enemy had landed at Atimonan and Mauban. The President advised us that General MacArthur had told him to prepare to leave for Corregidor at 2 hours notice.

At 9 a.m. I left for my office. At 10 a.m. General De Jesus and I were called rush to USAFFE Headquarters for an urgent conference. General Sutherland told me that I was to be at Malacañan, at 1 p.m. ready to leave with the President. At 1 p.m. sharp I was at Malacañan. There was an air-raid. When the “all-clear” signal was sounded, we left Malacañan for the Presidential landing, boarded the launch Baler, and boarded the SS Mayon which was anchored off the coast of Malabon. At 2:30 p.m. another raid alarm was sounded. The departure was delayed because the Chief Engineer of the Mayon had not arrived and could not be located. Finally we left at 4 p.m. without the Chief Engineer. This delay constituted a blessing in disguise as Japanese planes had raided Corregidor and Mariveles at 4 p.m. sinking one boat and setting on fire a French ship the Marechal Foch.

We landed at Corregidor at 5:30 p.m. The U.S. High Commissioner, Mrs. Sayre and son and office assistants were on the same boat. We were assigned beds in two of the Hospital tunnels. The men in tunnel 11 and the women in tunnel 10. We are fairly comfortable but I fear that living in the tunnel for a prolonged period is not healthy. The President is accompanied by his family and various servants. (Officially he is accompanied by the Vice-President (Osmeña) who has in addition been appointed Secretary of Public Instruction & Secretary of Health, by Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos who in addition has been appointed Acting Sec. of Justice & Acting sec. of Finance, and myself who in addition to being Chief of Staff Philippine Army I have been appointed Secretary of National Defense, Secretary of Public Works and Communications and Secretary of Labor.)

In addition the President is accompanied by 3 M.D.’s (Dr. E. C. Cruz, Dr. B. Diño & Dr. A. Trepp) all of whom were commissioned captains Medical Corps Reserves.

December 23, 1941

The war reveals the parasite, the non-essential man self-confessed. He who does not produce is regarded, with suddenly clear eyes, as an enemy. In peacetime he often occupies an honored position, being then only a thief who lives lawfully on what his neighbor makes.

The war leaves us with only human values to go by. It is not very comfortable. It either shows a man or shows him up. Out of this new revelation may come a new society, a true society, a society of man.

There are economic problems because there are rich men and poor men. There are wars because there are economic problems. Let us, simply, eliminate the rich men?

From Washington, D.C. came the following communique, issued by the war department:

“Philippine theater: Heavy fighting is in progress in Lingayen Gulf, 150 miles north of Manila, where the Japanese are attempting a landing in force.

“Under a strong naval and air escort a fleet of about 80 troop ships appeared off the west coast of Luzon. Soon afterward a large number of about 150-man barges entered Lingayen Gulf, attempting a landing in the vicinity of Agoo (La Union) Some of them succeeded in getting ashore.

“The Japanese force is estimated at from 80,000 to 100,000, from six to eight divisions. The attempted invasion is being met with fierce resistance by American and Filipino troops.

“Fighting is continuing near Davao on the island of Mindanao.

“There is nothing to report from other areas.”

Reports filtering into the city from the front told how the Lingayen beaches were piled high with Japanese dead, the water filled with the bobbing heads of Japanese soldiers whose boats had been sunk. The enemy, nevertheless, continued to gain.

Air-raid alarm this afternoon, catching the city on its way back from lunch to work. I was in a bookstore when the alarm came. I found a chair and a copy of Peter Arno’s usually very amusing cartoons. I was not amused, though I tried hard to be. The necessity of maintaining a decent serenity during a raid leaves a man not quite up to the enjoyment of even the most Rabelaisian humor.

“They can’t do this to me,” said a wounded one from Murphy, indicating what, in fact, they had done.

In an invasion the invaders are always grim, earnest and “proceed according to plan.” The invaded, bewildered at the beginning by the sudden onslaught of the enemy who had so recently been talking amity and peace, minimize by whimsy and humor the offs against them and set up a wall of lightheartedness between themselves and the desperate character of their situation. It is no longer fashionable to believe in heroes. Even as men conduct themselves unmistakably as such, they perversely refuse to acknowledge it. They die with their boots and a quip on.

They refuse to honor the enemy by taking him –at least in their speech– seriously. This is more than a case of whistling in the dark –the practice of adolescence. This, they vaguely feel, is the proper attitude to be adopted by the host toward an uninvited guest. Impolite and distant.

December 23, 1941 – Tuesday




At 8 a.m. I attended the meeting of the Cabinet at Marikina. At 9:30 a.m. went to the office. At 10 a.m. the President told me that he had consulted General MacArthur with his plan and that I was being appointed today. Shortly after Secretary Vargas called me to congratulate me. At 4 p.m. I attended the meeting of the Cabinet and took my Oath of Office as Secretary of National Defense. Returned to the office now being arranged at Far Eastern University.

I Returned home at 7:30 p.m.

December 22, 1941 – Monday



Attended Cabinet Meeting at 8 a.m. at Marikina as Chief of Staff. Attended office afterwards. Anxiously waiting for news from the front. The enemy is pushing on. Our forces are outnumbered and out-gunned. The bombing and strafing by planes is damaging our troops.

At 8 p.m. the President called me by phone and asked me to go to Marikina. I rushed to Marikina. He told me that he was going to appoint me Secretary of National Defense in addition to being Chief of Staff. He asked me if I was willing to leave my family. I answered that I was a soldier and as such I was ready to go wherever sent. He asked me to keep it confidentially.

December 21, 1941

Today the fighting increased in intensity in Davao. The situation, said Army headquarters, “remained obscure”. There was patrol activity south of Vigan and north of Legaspi, with the enemy pushing forces forward at both points. Our own patrols penetrated Japanese lines.

We have more than 7,000 islands. We cannot hope to keep the Japanese out of every one of them. We can, however, make his stay temporary.

The war is not observing the six-day week. This morning, Japanese bombers came over the city. I could hear their motors but they must have been flying very high or kept well behind the clouds that were scattered all over the sky, for I did not see them nor heard, where I stood, anti-aircraft fire.

Late in the afternoon, I heard about a whore –not pretty, just a plain, run-of-the-mill whore, and no longer young. She had little to recommend her. She had been too long at it. The good-looking ones, however, seemed to have all left the city and she had no competition. She was very much in demand.

“The war has been a bit of luck for me,” she said.

December 20, 1941

Still no raid last night.

What’s happened to the war?

One day, the wolf said to the jackal, my friend, let us attack the bear. He is big and slow and does not know how to defend himself and between the two of us should be easy meat. To be doubly sure, let us first make friends with him. I will promise not to attack him, which should disarm him, and as for you, he knows he has nothing to fear from you, you are entirely contemptible and do not know how to fight. You can be a nuisance, though.

Swallowing his pride, the jackal gave his assent and a few howls as well to prove that he was really, contrary to the wolf’s judgment and his own conduct in the past, a formidable fellow.

As a matter of fact, the wolf conceded, you have your uses. Everybody knows he can’t trust you.

So the wolf and the jackal made friends with the bear. Then, when they thought the time ripe, the two entered the territory of the bear, the wolf snarling and baring his fangs, the jackal yelping a safe distance behind. Meeting the tiger on the way, they induced him to join them.

So, snarling, yelping and baring fangs, they entered the domain of the bear. Occasionally, the wolf would glance at his two allies and think a secret thought. Catching the glance, the two would feel an uneasiness which they tried to put down by thinking only of the easy pickings ahead.

The bear, surprised –or not at all surprised– retreated into his cave. Making loud noises of triumph, the trio followed him inside. In the darkness of the cave, the bear fell upon them.

Alarm this afternoon. I had lunch at two. With a friend. Bob.

“This is very good for wartime,” he said.

It was, indeed, very good food. For wartime. It gave us a bad conscience. Others dying or dead and we eat well.

Late this afternoon it was announced that another part of the Philippines was being attacked by the Japanese. An undetermined number of enemy transports were carrying on landing operations at Davao in Mindanao. The enemy landed “in force” in Davao, the official communique said, and heavy fighting was going on there.

Quiet night.

December 19, 1941

No raid last night. Slept well. Rose early. U.S. Army headquarters confirmed bombing of Iloilo City yesterday. More than 30 planes participated in the raid which killed an estimated 5, wounded 34. In Manila looting cases were reported. War is war. Temperature at 8 a.m. 85 degrees, Fahrenheit. Cloudy. Possible showers.

Press conference at a former convent school for girls. Men in khaki and newspapermen in anything needing a shave. Nun in the doorway, with serene eyes. What does she think of the war?

Pray for us now and at the hour of our death…

At noon, in the Manila Hotel, while people were eating their lunch, two Japanese came in.

“My God, are they already here?”

The two Japanese, came reassurance, were American citizens, serving as interpreters in the Army.


Night-fall. In a few nights the moon will come up again, bringing bombers.