I was assigned messenger to the Battalion Headquarters. As a consequence, I was late for my first army meal. The coffee ran short. I had only bread and water for breakfast. The day was spent taking up and improving our positions along the Tagaytay ridge. Later in the day, as the Battalion Headquarters was being organized, I was taken in as an intelligence scout.
The intelligence scouts were made up of Alfred X. Burgos, Staff Sgt. Saturnino Velasco, Gregorio Anonas, Jr., Ramon Cabrera and myself. The last three were promoted from Private to Private First Class. This group stuck together during our whole service. We went through thick and thin, all as one.
At noon, permission was given the intelligence scouts to eat at the Tagaytay Hotel and Resthouse. That was the last good meal I had. At two in the afternoon, a rush order came for the immediate evacuation of the place. The intelligence scouts, left to themselves, found space in one of the trucks. The Battalion got down at the Zapote junction. There, we waited for the next orders. Home was just a 20-minute ride from the place. I was greatly tempted to sneak out for an hour but feared that the unit might move off before I returned. I would not know where to catch up with them.
We spent the time between three in the afternoon to ten in the evening sitting in a ditch cracking jokes, telling stories and imagining what a New Year we should have had if there had been no war. A New Year’s Eve in a ditch! O tempora, O mores! Then we heard continuous explosions in the direction of Fort McKinley. There was conflagration in different places in Manila.
At 10 o’clock in the evening, another rush order came. We were to leave immediately. We were not to wait for our trucks, which the Philippine Constabulary had borrowed. We were to commandeer all the trucks we needed. So, we began to stop the trucks along the road. The driver of the truck we stopped refused to surrender his truck. He said we could shoot him if we wanted but he wouldn’t surrender his truck. We loaded our guns. He immediately agreed, started the engine and we were off. The convoy commander’s car went at such a speed that we soon lost sight of it. An hour later, taking the route to Fort McKinley, we got entangled with a PC convoy. I woke up to find ourselves back in Herran loading gasoline. We were now five trucks intact. By one in the morning, we started for San Fernando, Pampanga. We did not enter Manila, but went around it. We felt heavy of heart to leave Manila – seeing that big wild fires were raging. We felt like we were abandoning our city
At 3:00 a.m., we stopped near Camp Olivas, Pampanga. Here, we were once again reunited with our main convoy. At 4:00 a.m., orders were given to start and follow the Convoy Commander. Unfortunately, our truck refused to start. Truck after truck passed us. Luckily for us, the officer-in-charge of the last truck remembered to order us to go to Pilar, Bataan. There was not a single officer in our truck. S/Sgt. Burgos was the highest ranking, we were among some 30 volunteers. We suddenly got suspicious of the truck driver. He must have tampered with the engine while we were resting.
Nevertheless, he was trying to or at least pretending to fix the motor. S/Sgt. Burgos tried to commandeer another truck. No luck. All the trucks that passed us were part of another convoy. Like a light from heaven, I suddenly remembered that we were near the Pambusco (a transportation company). I took a ride to the garage and there tried to commandeer a truck but all their trucks were out of order. I was leaving the garage when another bolt from heaven struck. A mechanic! That was it. A mechanic could come with us and fix the truck. He had but to touch the motor and it started. Alfred took the wheel, the driver was dumped in the rear and off we went. It was six-thirty in the morning.