Saturday, February 10, 1945

When it got bright we started fixing our house. We were preparing the whole day to run away. For my knapsack I got a nepa bag and put one change of clothing, my veil, rosary, and some clean strips of cloth in case anyone got wounded. Mama gave each of us rice, red beans and some money. We also were given a tag with our name and address (613 Remedios Malate, Manila) written in India ink. We pinned it with our blessed Miraculous medals. We were never to remove it.

We packed our pushcarts with food, clothes and cooking utensils and left one empty for the children to ride. The shelling was getting worse and worse, so that we could not even go outdoors to get water from the well.

Friday, February 9, 1945

We awoke hearing the rumbling of tanks. We thought they were American tanks but we were mistaken. We spent the whole morning downstairs. We only went up in the afternoon but were alert and ready to run down, whenever a shell burst. The time passed so slowly. How dreary! We ate early and decided to sleep on the cement steps and the landing.

Around 10 p.m. we heard a big commotion. There were two big fires, one in Irasan and one on Leveriza St. All the people were running back and forth carrying their possessions, and piling them up on the sidewalks. The streets were noisy and crowded with people talking and running with their belongings. Frank brought Josie and Bobby home and told Baby and I to watch the house. We were so afraid. We started folding blankets and packing. Frank came back with the others from home with a pushcart. They made several trips. Frank and I brought down the refrigerator with Baby putting a sack underneath so we could slide it down the two flights of stairs, into the yard and on the sidewalk. But the fire was getting nearer so we left it and saved the other things. From home we watched the houses burn one by one. No one stopped the fire as there was no water in the fire hydrants. The whole Kalaw Court was burned and the whole block (bound by Georgia, San Andres, Remedios and Florida sts.) The fire stopped by itself around 3 a.m. and then we lay down and rested, feeling very sad.

Thursday, February 8, 1945

Few people walked out in the streets because of the shelling. The shrapnels fell like scattered stones on rooftops. By midnight shells came nearer. Frank and Josie got up and brought Bobby down. Baby and I followed. It was damp and cold at the landing of the stairs. But we spent the rest of the night there. Frank brought a small suitcase and foodstuffs in case we’d have to run. Then I went up to get more blankets but when I reached the top of the stairs I couldn’t move because I was afraid. But I ran into the room, pulled the blankets and ran down the stairs. The cement steps where we lay were so cold and my bones ached. Frank put an oil lamp and played with cards to keep awake. I slept very little.

8th February 1945

A heavy snowfall did not help to cheer us up. All of us were in a bitter mood. Vargas has definitely rejected the proposition that, due to the possible suspension of funds from Manila, he be put on the Japanese government payroll. “It would put me in the position of a querida,” he exclaimed. And he added: “I don’t love the Japanese government that much.”

A ranking officer from the war office had dinner with him last night. With the help of numerous military maps he took the trouble of bringing along, he explained Yamashita’s strategy in the Philippines. His version was substantially that given in every newspaper in Tokyo: a strategy of “blood-letting” or attrition from mountain positions dominating Manila, Clark Field, and the gate to the Cagayan valley in northern Luzon. Cagayan will be Yamashita’s Bataan.

In the diet the fall of Manila led the lower house to pass a nagging resolution calling on the Koiso government to get going.

February 8, 1945 — Thursday

Returned to Manila with food supplies for the family. Saw the destruction by three direct hits on Tata’s house by six inch Japanese shells. Five hits on the garden. One neighbor killed, several were wounded.

7th February 1945

The Japanese press has now been allowed to reveal that the United States army entered Manila on the 3rd and that fighting is now going on within the capital.

The news of street-fighting in Manila plunged us all into deep anxiety. “The Filipinos will never forgive for this,” I told one of our interpreters. “The Americans declared Manila an open city in 1942 and withdrew without fighting. Why couldn’t you do the same?”

He was decent enough not to argue about ”blood-letting tactics”; he grew thoughtful and said nothing. Later he came up to me with a Japanese newspaper. Japanese marines, he said apologetically, were doing all the fighting; the army had withdrawn according to plan but the navy had refused to cooperate.

February 6, 1945 — Tuesday

At 6 a.m. left General Head Quarters with Major General R.J. Marshall, Major General Stivers, Colonel Egbert for Manila. Arrived 10 a.m. Fighting still going on. Found five dead Japanese in front of Tata’s house. Many dead Japanese in the street. Went to R. Hidalgo Street. Prayed at Rita’s tomb. Saw my family.

5th February 1945

Kobe was raided yesterday by 100 B-29’s. She eight-day theory seems to be working.

Manila’s fail was announced last night by San Francisco but the Japanese press still has the Americans at San Fernando, 70 kilometers away.

At the diet a curious little exchange took place. The story goes that someone was indulging in the usual platitudes about “divine assistance” when a representative arouse to remind his colleagues that there was also such a thing as “divine punishment”.

I wonder if the story is authentic. It sounds almost too pat to be true.

The cabinet had to run another gauntlet of questions in the upper house yesterday. The Koiso government seems to be on its last legs. Who will be next? It is said that a powerful clique is gathering around the old men who did not want the war and now seem to have known beat. If and when one of the old men takes over, possibly Admiral Nomura or General Ugaki, it will be the beginning of the end.

February 4, 1945

The advance troops of the liberators entered Manila last night after thirty-seven long months since the remaining troops of the USAFFE retreated to Bataan. We cannot tell how many districts of Manila are already liberated. News dispatches are a little confused. All we are sure of is that the first place recaptured is the University of Santo Tomas with all its residents, priests and internees. We were told that the rest of the city had been turned into a battlefield, won not amidst psalms and cheers but amidst firings and shellings “…that this city and all its people might be protected…”

The conquest of the Central Plain of Luzon was a successful one. The 210 kilometers between the Gulf of Lingayen and the City of Manila were negotiated in 27 hours instead of 27 days. Except in Bamban and Stotsenberg where the enemy had attacked from the nearby hills, the Yankee war machinery rolled through the wide open fields without opposition.

The enemy had lost the battle of Luzon when it allowed the gigantic invading equipment to land unopposed. In the open fields, the Japanese could not put up a fight. They preferred to retreat in disarray, dispersed like scared rabbits as the mechanized columns of the invaders rolled by. Yamashita’s strategy was to convert the mountain ranges of Caraballo and Zambales into another Bataan, in the manner of MacArthur’s defense three years ago. The Imperial Army was entrenched in the rugged mountains without roads and almost without any footpaths, turning each mountain into a fortress, each hill into a machinegun nest and each cliff into a trench. They dug a complex of tunnels of communications through the mountain where they hid and installed their artillery. They fired from the mouths of the tunnel to avoid being localized by the American Air Force and artillery. The Americans had to destroy these subterranean hideouts one by one. Not only did they blow up these artillery nests. They chased those who manned the guns and flushed the others out of the caves and tunnels who defended themselves like corralled beasts.

Under this mode of defense, it was not necessary to launch big battles nor heavy attacks nor fighting on a grand scale, nor mechanized campaigns. It was a work of mopping up, a fight of a group of hunters against a group of game animals. The air force, the tanks and armoured cars were hardly of any use. Only the rifles, flame throwers and hand grenades were effectively utilized. It was a slow, tedious, lousy and bloody fight.