March 18, 1945

I visited Muntinlupa, the new prison site. Not a political or criminal prisoner was left. When the Americans were about to arrive, they were liquidated without let-up, until the Chief henchman, disgusted with the sight of blood, shouted, “Always kill, kill. You go.” And so was saved a handful of prisoners who were already by the death wall, among whom were Fr. Rufino Santos and a boy of nine. Days before, a group of thirty were able to escape and join the guerillas.

Now the cells are occupied by the former prisoners of Los Baños who are being rehabilitated before being sent home. I heard the story of their liberation from their own lips. As I listened I could not tell whether I was listening to a detective story of Sherlock Holmes or to a script of a Hollywood comedy. They all tallied in the details of their accounts.

At dawn of the 23rd of February, the day the liberators entered Intramuros, the 250 Japanese soldiers who were guarding the prisoners of Los Baños were starting their ceremonial greetings to the sun and the Imperial palace and their routine calisthenics. From the skies, a hundred gigantic shadows fell on the ground like shadows of great scarecrows. Simultaneously, from the thicknesses of the mountains surrounding the camp emerged some two thousand guerillas who had posted themselves around the prison camp during the night. Their firings synchronized with the attack of a hundred and fifty tanks and amphibian trucks, catching the prison guards unaware and sending them scampering to the nearby bushes like scared rats. They burned the barracks and within a few minutes, the two thousand internees were moving out of the lagoon, the men on foot and the women and children in the amphibian trucks. At the beach, other vehicles were waiting for them. The enemies posted at nearby hills, who were still asleep, finally woke up and fired their artillery, wounding a soldier and a liberated internee while they were boarding the watercraft. They were the only casualties. The three-pronged attack was as spectacular as it was successful.

They crossed the lake and landed at Cabuyao which had been liberated by the guerillas. There were some fifteen thousand of them so well entrenched that now, after four weeks, they had not been displaced from those mountains. Among those liberated were seven Dominican priests, about a hundred members of other religious orders and more than two hundred sisters.

This movie-like comedy was preceded, five days earlier, by a Herodian tragedy which undoubtedly motivated the risky liberation of Los Baños. In the nearby town of Calamba, the subhuman beast had sacrificed more than six thousand persons. This was narrated to me by six priests who stayed at El Real. The shouts of the victims of bayonet thrusts could be heard in the whole town during the whole morning. In the afternoon, the priests were arrested together with other townspeople and were made to line up along the road. Their hands were tied and their eyes blindfolded. Then the atrocity! Shrieks and shoutings cried out to high heavens. After more than an hour, they brought the priests to the macabre scene. Their turn of judgment had come amidst the screams of the victims and the grunts of the beasts. They commended for the last time their souls to the Creator. They had assumed this state of resignation born of innocence, undisturbed by the mental sensation of the cold blade that was about to butcher them.

Suddenly the heinous act stopped but not the screamings. There was a long discussion among the henchmen, after which they were untied and their blindfold removed. They never found out the reason for their miraculous liberation. They could not tell whether they could attribute it the fact that the assassins got fed up with so much bloodshed, or whether one of them who was less blood thirsty, interceded in their favor.

A few days later, after trekking through forests and fields, they arrived at Santa Rosa.

Two Dominican priests and a Jay brother did not have the same luck. They were Fr. Merino and Fr. Diez who were in Los Baños. On the day the prisoners were liberated, they were taken by a Japanese and the American amphibian trucks could not wait for them. When the people in the mountains went back to the town on hearing the news that the Americans had come, the Japanese were in town waiting for them, and massacred them, the two Dominican priests included.

Massacre was committed in all towns of those provinces. In Tanauan, the hometown of Laurel, soldiers went from house to house before dawn and killed everybody they found either with bullets or with blows. Some five thousand were slain in San Pablo. The people of Lipa were ordered to evacuate. Those who failed to do so were killed. But for those who fled, soldiers were lying in wait to kill them on the way. There was a conservative count of 15,000 dead. Even those in the mountains did not escape the bloodthirsty vampires. They were hunted like beasts in barrios and mountains. Only those who succeeded in crossing to the liberated areas were saved from the diabolic fury of these children of Heaven. That was how the Bishop of Lipa and a number of priests of that diocese were saved.

Through the towns of Batangas and Tayabas which least suffered during the occupation, passed Genghis Khan in katana and Attila in kimono.


January 31, 1945

There is no Foreign Legion in the American Army. But there is one particular group composed of daring characters who court death and who are sent on missions behind enemy lines. These are the “Rangers”. When sent on missions they do not wear the military uniform in order not to be detected by the enemy, but a special one by which they will not be mistaken for spies.

Two of these rangers, one of whom is a Mexican friend of ours, came last night from a humanitarian assignment. They narrated that there are a hundred of them, guided by 200 guerrillas who have penetrated the enemy lines sixty kilometers towards Cabanatuan where some 500 American war prisoners are being detained. After a brief battle all the Japanese soldiers were killed. They had a hard time convincing the prisoners that they had come to liberate, not to kill them. The prisoners could not believe them. Many of the prisoners had to be carried because of their weakness. Two of the rangers and twenty guerrillas were killed in the operations. The liberated prisoners were brought to hospitals in various towns of Pangasinan until they could be transported to their country.

No one can explain why there are hardly 500 prisoners in Cabanatuan when there were an estimated 10,000 of them in 1942. How many had died of hunger, sickness or torture, or brought out of the Philippines or died in Japanese boats sunk by American submarines or planes? We doubt if any satisfactory explanation could be made on this. All we have now was a cold fact, as sad as it was eloquent.

In September of last year, after the first American air attack on Manila, some 1,500 American prisoners were loaded in a boat for Formosa. The boat was sunk by American planes and only 600 were rescued. Such is the cruel and ironic tragedy of war.


16 June 1944

At Cebu after a slow trip two men escaped or tried it. Cebu is a pretty place I would like to come here on peace. It was hot aboard ship last night & the cool breeze ashore are very refreshing. We got a RC Box on the trip.


Sunday, August 29, 1943

Apparently the camp is opposed to the proposed restaurant. Calhoun received quite a jolt, he looked dazed and a little angry at the monitors meeting last Thursday. The consensus was that until the line could serve something better than rice or beans with squash or camote and a cup of what is fondly termed “carabao sweat” there should be no camp restaurant. The subject was dismissed. I don’t know what was in the background, but I have an idea that there may be a large stock of canned goods or something somewhere in the picture. The fact is that if the proposition had been properly presented there would have been little opposition. As it was, there appeared to be something secretive in putting it over. Anyway, it’s out for the time being. No one liked the idea of Hornbostel at Santo Tomas buying sugar thru our canteen (allegedly) and sending candy here to be sold when none of the local boys have been permitted a license to manufacture and sell candy. The peanut butter project is under way and available at ₱1.15 per pint. The repatriates are practically on their way and some of them, old men for instance are pretty happy about it.

The camp kitchen, temporarily by the gym since our arrival, is moving into the barracks quarters tomorrow. This said that workmen will start on improvements within a few days and October. The time is flying by. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I have accounting, German and Spanish 1:30-4:30 Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday my history class 2:30-3:30 German every day 11:00-12:00, Spanish every day 9:00-10:00 p.m., English Literature Thursday 3:30, 4:30 shorthand with O’Mally Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 1:00-2:30 p.m. and as often in the evening 7:00-8:30 as possible. Analysis of Financial Statements Tuesday and Thursday 7:15-8:15, and Sunday afternoon 3:30-4:30 there will be an insurance discussion. I guess that’s all, but it’s too much for concentration and I’m only exposing myself to all of them because there’s plenty of time and I like variety. I have a monitors meeting once a week and that’s about the story. There are three ball games next week—I play on the average twice a week 5:45-7:00 p.m. Its quite a life—there are newspapers, I can read the Spanish fairly well now but there are very few rumors of the type that flew around Santo Tomás—the boys have been riding Jack Chapman since yesterday morning when someone passed him the next news that Bedloe’s Island been retaken with 4,000 prisoners. He passed it along to a group of fellows and apparently they let him develop the story until one of them let him know where Bedloe’s is. He’s been feeling pretty badly about it.


Tuesday, August 23, 1943

Your package was most welcome and the santan jam was welcome as sugar… But no notes or anything and its tough when the British are receiving anywhere form one to 2 dozen letters apiece. I’d just like to hear enough to tell me that I can marry you anytime. Maybe next time! Dr. Leach is on the repatriation list and has promised to tell my NY boss all about things here. I hope he does so. We had hot cakes with your jam today and we’re stuffed—it’s good to be that way once in a while, Bill and I are hungry most of the time. We stuff with rice but it doesn’t do much good after an hour or so. I’m still at 152 lbs. or slightly less and have an idea that you’ll have to take me out of this place before I ever gain any weight. If s hard to believe that I’m 15-20 lbs. under what I was 2 years ago. Eggs 30 cents apiece, peanuts 35 cent half pint and fellows stood in line for half an hour to buy one banana for 5 cents.