January 17, 1945

I won’t write lying down tonight. The same breakfast except that I starved myself last night and saved a few pieces of camote to mix with the mush. It improves the flavor. Of course, I had tea, and that helped. Lunch — a ladle of thin soup made of camote leaves and vines. Looked like very dirty dishwater and tasted — well, we’ll let it go. Use your imagination. Tonight, we had a stew made of camotes, ground kidney beans and rice. It was good, but as usual, lacking in quantity.

Here are a few quotations on prices of the few things one can buy in the canteen. Soy sauce ₱55.00 a beer bottle full; cinnamon ₱33.00 90 grams; Vinegar ₱33.00 a beer bottle; Pepper ₱36.00 90 grams; Garlic ₱43.00 150 grams. Nothing else. They say that the canteen will close soon.

We have another scandal and the Japs are all riled up. A newspaper man by the name of Eisenberg went over the fence last night and they haven’t caught him yet. They took the man who slept next to him and put him in jail.. It may make things harder for the rest of us. Time will tell. He wanted to get away and get his story of the starvation in the camp back to his paper first. Well, that seems rather selfish. He could get the whole camp into trouble, say, another cut in food, which we just can’t stand. And, a lot of young men had to move from the Gym to the main building today on account of him.

Quite a lot of our planes around over Marikina, Malabon, and points north this morning. Most of the bombing was quite far north. Well, they are sure pounding them. We haven’t seen any Jap planes for several days now and that is a welcome relief. Our camp Generals and optimists have them in Angeles, Pampanga and paratroopers holding the Calumpit Bridge. Well, I hope that it is true.


December 17, 1944

Landings in Mindoro.

Heard people talking about it in street-corners yesterday afternoon. The news spread like wild-fire: landings in Mindoro, Mindoro, Mindoro.

The Japs are stumped. American planes had complete dominion of the air over Luzon. They kept flying over Manila all day yesterday.

From the morning of December 15th to the evening of December 17th, Americans were in the air, bombing, strafing, reconnoitering. Traffic of trucks, movement of troops and supplies, were completely paralyzed. Bridges in Calumpit and Pampanga were bombed. Japs couldn’t move around in their cars, trucks, trains and boats.

Not a single Jap plane flew up to challenge the Americans.

Many and varied comments from people yesterday: The bombing was very accurate. The American planes circled over targets many times before dropping bombs. Japs have spread their dumps in private houses. Guerillas have given information to the Americans. Accuracy was important. They had to hit targets in between residences of civilians to minimize destruction and casualties. I saw an American plane flying just above the rooftop of our neighbor’s house. It flew very low.

Radio reports that 245 Jap planes were grounded in the Luzon area.

This morning in church the people forgot about the non-stop three-day raid, talked about the landings in Mindoro. Many people that were already depressed by the ‘delay’ in Leyte because of the Jap stand in Ormoc coupled by the bad weather, had happy faces in church this morning.

Consensus is that the Americans will finish with Mindoro in “a couple of days” and then “they will land in Luzon proper before Christmas.”

Some think: “New Year’s” …Happy New Year!

People believe landings will be effected in Batangas. It is very near Mindoro. “You can swim across,” said someone.

Personally, I believe the Mindoro landing is just a feint. A diversionary move. Main effort will be exerted in the eastern coast of either Tayabas or Camarines.

MacArthur now has the Jap Commander-in-Chief guessing. “Where will Mac land?” is the question today. Second question: “When will he land?” As far as I am concerned, I don’t care where, I only care for the ‘when’. I am damned tired of waiting.

Greatest surprise to most people has been the Japanese admission that landings have been effected by Americans in Mindoro. This is a great change in their news dissemination policy. Previously, they kept quiet about such landings. Now they have announced it as soon as possible.

Japs probably realize that they can no longer fool the people. You can’t talk of “Japanese aerial superiority” when Americans skylark without a single Jap interception. You can’t say there are still no landings when you hear the roar of cannons.

Japs probably want to prepare the people’s mentality. They want to prepare them for the big thing: the landings in Luzon.

Japs have not yet admitted Leyte campaign is finished, because they keep saying that their para-troop units have captured several aerodromes in Leyte.

Meanwhile food prices are going higher and higher. The masses can no longer afford the food. No rice. No viands. Only vegetables at prices that are fantastic.

The people say: “Never mind all that… as long as they return!”


November 7, 1944

Evacuees from Manila told us that last Sunday, the 5th of the month, was a record peak in the number and intensity of bombings. From sunrise to sunset some ten waves of bombers sowed their explosives over predetermined targets. A dozen pairs of ships were among their victims, aside from various gun positions. Yesterday, the 6th, was an exceptional day. It was the first time that the Curtiss effected nocturnal bombings, two hours before dawn. One of the trucks in our convoy was able to escape, although riot completely unscathed, a furious bombing over the airfield near Mabalacat.


Baguio, November 6, 1944

I decided to come up to Baguio, partly for reasons of health, and partly to lessen the burden of the Seminary community. Food shortage in Manila has reached alarming proportions, and as I am unemployed by force of circumstances, I am more of a burden than a help. (I have to confess, however, in foro interno, that the nervousness caused by the bombings has a lot to do with my decision.) I accepted the invitation of two families—that of Tomás Morató and that of Mr. Pratts, who, with their whole families, organized a caravan of 60 persons in three cars and six wagons loaded with utensils and supplies. The trip, even in these tempestuous times, was a pleasant one, full of exciting adventures.

We left with the group of Mr. Pratts on October 31, composed of three wagons and a car. Not knowing that the Philippine Constabulary outpost in Balintawak has been reinforced with Japanese police, we passed without stopping. The first three vehicles were able to go through in spite of the pointed guns of the sentry, but the last one had to stop when the Japanese sentry was about to fire at it. The outpost officer shouted and threatened the passengers, slapped the driver three times on the face and ordered the examination of the luggages and the search of the owners, who were ordered to line up to be slapped on their faces. Mr. Pratts, on learning what had happened, turned back and showed the papers authorizing the trip, thus saving the passengers, including Father Sádaba and the famous Spanish comedian, González Anguita, from the slaps.

After two hours of delay, the convoy proceeded without further incidents. Activities went on as usual in Bulacan, we noted. Pampanga was desolate, with abandoned fields and empty towns. There were very few people in the street aside from the military, and the houses were uninhabited, except those occupied by the Japanese. Families who were able to evacuate had gone to Manila, Baguio or to towns far from the main thoroughfares. First they were driven away by the Communists, then by the marooned troops, and now by the bombings. During this three-day journey we observed that Pampanga has remained the most desolate among the town of Luzon.

We arrived at the Bamban River on the boundary of Tarlac. We found that the bridge had been swept away by the strong current. As the night was fast approaching and we did not dare encamp at night in the ghost town by the road, we decided to spend the night in Minalin, a town eight kilometers from San Fernando where a friend and a countryman of mine, Fr. Daniel Castrillo, was the parish priest. We were thinking that we could take the Nueva Ecija Road on the following day, and since we made a complete turn, we would be hitting the Baguio road in Tarlac. We did not consider the hosts, namely the guerrillas.

Fleeing from Scylla (the Japanese), we ended up on Charybdis. Hardly had we set forth on the soil of the open neighborhood which was awed by such an usual caravan and had not seen a motor vehicle in many months, when a guerrilla contingent came to the convent to investigate what kind of guest we were.

Satisfied with our innocuous characters, they guaranteed our safe stay among them. Everyone, including the guerrillas, respected Fr. Daniel, who had given away almost all of his belongings and provisions to help those who are in need.

They asked us for paper and a typewriter ribbon for use in transcribing the orders, notices and communications they received by radio. They told us that in one of the last air raids, an American pilot bailed out of his damaged plane, landed near this town and was harbored by the guerrillas. The first thing they salvaged was the radio transmitter and receiver.

After the first group of guerrillas, a second group from another town came. Then another, and still another, until almost all groups from the different parts of the whole province had paid a visit during the whole night. The first groups were courteous, the others were rather aggressive. We were surprised at how fast the news of our arrival had spread. Fr. Daniel explained to us that the guerrillas had a well-organized system of espionage, runners and network. They are now unified and better-disciplined after the purge of radical and undesirable elements who, in the past, had been committing atrocities. Such atrocities are no longer being committed now, or if ever, very infrequently. They collect the harvests, either from the farms or from the warehouse, leaving the owners with two or five sacks of rice for planting anew. In a place near Minalin, several thousands of young men equipped with rifles, have assembled for training. The Japanese are masters of the principal roads, but the towns and barrios far from the roads are controlled by the USAFFE. As of now, each group respects the others in armed peace. Officials of the national government, the mayors and the constabulary are acting like the three proverbial monkeys. They see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.

The first group of guerrillas who came to visit us wore medals and crucifixes around their necks. Other waves that followed had their guns strapped on their shoulders. Some were aggressive and rude, who wanted to have the whole caravan in hostage, together with the vehicles and baggages to bring them to the mountains. Fortunately, the rest of the guerrillas objected, especially those from the town, and so we were spared an unpleasant and unfortunate fate.

Someone smelled that Mr. Pratts had some arms. And because he could not deny it, Mr. Pratts proposed to enter into a gentlemen’s agreement with them: that he would place the two pistols on the table and they would choose the one they liked. And so they did. One of the commanders—that was how the guerrilla chiefs were called—placed his hand over one pistol and another commander placed his hand on the other pistol. When Mr. Pratts objected, they replied, “Guerrilla tactics, sir.”

After spending a sleepless night due to the continuous visits, we decided to leave at dawn before the guerrillas could notice our departure. But the town guerrillas came and cautioned us against taking the Nueva Ecija road. Their comrades from Mexico and Arayat would be waiting for us and could hold us in bondage. We asked them to accompany us, but they said that they did not have authority to impose themselves on other guerrilla groups who they described to be savages.

They insisted that we return to Manila. The town Mayor, fearful like a Nicodemus, approached us and made the same suggestion. We decided it unwise to proceed considering the danger to which we would be exposing the women, and we returned to Manila restless, hungry and besieged by the military police and by the air raids.

The search at Balintawak was a meticulous as it was vexatious, but we were spared the caresses on the face.

Three days later, armed with passes from Minister Recto and the Chief of the Military Police of Quezon City, we embarked on our second trip, this time in a processional of ten cars and trucks. Our arrangement was that once we had passed the Japanese line, we would proceed, each on his own. The passes, however, proved to be powerful talismans in appeasing the fury of the watchdogs who guarded the approaches to the city.

We arrived, unobstructed, at the Bamban River, whose bridge has not yet been repaired. The current had subsided and we could cross it. But only after waiting for two hours in the middle of the river, to give way to the interminable processions of army trucks. I could not tell if the sun scorched as much in the Sahara.

On making the ascent to the river bank, we hit upon a rock with a bang. The engine broke down. We were stranded at the edge of the compound of the Bamban Sugar Central, in company with a Japanese sentry who, with a sullen and grimacing face, ordered us to keep our

 

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We were resigned to wait the whole night for any of our companions whom we had left behind, some of them limping, others with their engines jetting out and being operated on by mechanics.

A soldier who was occupying a nearby house approached us, more out of curiosity than charity. We showed him our pass which he read and brought to his officer. The latter hurriedly came and reproached us for not having shown it to him earlier. He said he would take us to the hotel and organize a feast, with a banquet and dancing. We had no way of refusing his invitation, in spite of the fact that we did not feel like being treated to a feast by Japanese within sight of the guerrillas, who were surely in town. In a last-ditch attempt, Mr. Pratts tinkered with an unexpected piece in the engine, and it suddenly started. We left doubly glad.

A kilometer before Camp One at the entrance to the Baguio Road, we had to pass five check point. Soldiers with bayonets awaited us at each outpost. They accosted us, looked at the magic pass, and allowed us to go through. However, we were told at Camp One that the road was closed, and so we passed the sleepless night there. Three of us priests in the car of Mr. Pratts got into one of the trucks which had just arrived, leaving the car of the Pratts family. There, the full moon above us failed to evoke poetic fantasies; rather it brought back thoughts of the bombings and landings.

Unable to distract our hearing or deviate our imagination from the chirping of crickets, the croaking of frogs, the monotonous murmur of the streams, the whisper of the breeze, we went through a sleepless night.

Decidedly, I did not count either as poet or as a guerrilla fighter. Hardly had the Japanese sentry shouted “Take it away”, and we were on our way on Kennon Road. At each corner and on every bridge, we were stopped by sentries who poked their guns at us, asking for cigarettes when they found that we brought nothing worth confiscating. They seemed more like highway robbers than guardians of security. Our short odyssey ended at mid-morning on the Dominican Hill in Baguio, where we intended to stay around until the final reconquest of Luzon, if the actual lords are going to permit us.


Pangasinan, December 11, 1942

I left for Northern Luzon. Filipino policemen, by order of Japanese officials, meticulously checked all our luggages for arms and subversive documents. There has been a lot of smuggling of rifles and pistols these past weeks, and the guerilla activities were increasing, so that the Japanese have to keep a closer watch.

The trip by train was not as fast and convenient as in prewar days. Everybody had to travel by third class, sitting on hard benches, if there are any available. The first class coaches are reserved for the Japanese who threw out by force their Asian brother who attempted to occupy their cushioned seat. These Asian brothers were for the most part standing on the aisles or piled up between luggages and crates. In these days, the elegant, dandy and imperturbable share seats with the buyo-chewing common folk.

The fields offer nothing of interest to the sight of the inconvenienced train passengers. Central Luzon is hardly planted with sugarcane. There is more of rice, but most of the fields have been left uncultivated, especially in Pampanga, the province most pillaged by bandits. In Tarlac, some fields are planted with cotton, a new breed introduced by the Japanese. It is not known what results this crop would yield in this uncertain climate. Certainly, the appearances are not encouraging.


August 1, 1942

While Manila and the surrounding towns enjoy peace—more neronic than octavian, though—in many provincial towns, anarchy and violence reign. In those towns where the Japanese have not established a garrison and there are plenty of lawless men, there is no security in the fields nor in the lives of the inhabitants, especially the rich ones. Town mayors who do not enjoy the support of the authorities or of the Constabulary cannot command obedience. Besides, the Constabulary is still unarmed, and any group of dissatisfied or hungry townsfolk could attack, rob or kill any undefended family. There are no fast vehicles or telephones or telegraphs through which assistance could be sought.

Considering such a situation, the provinces are by no means enviable. They are caught between Scylla & Charybdis. Many well-to-do families have fled to Manila where there is better protection. But in so doing, they had sacrificed their lands and businesses. Pampanga, Pangasinan and the Ilocos provinces in the north, and Bicolandia in the south, are under the constant threat of armed elements who call themselves remnants of the USAFFE, usurping the name of such a glorious organization. In many islands of the Visayas, there had been a patriarchal peace until the Japanese occupied them about two months ago. The Japanese withdrew to the capital, leaving the rest of the islands in a state of pandemonium, at the mercy of armed men who terrorize the defenseless inhabitants.


Baguio, May 3, 1942

Father Provincial offered me a seat in the car bound for Baguio to transport supplies. This trip which we used to make in four hours now took us nine, aside from the four days of preparation and securing of permits. What delayed us most were the stops and inspections at the police outposts. They examined—without reading, for evidently they did not understand—our passes and permits to purchase alcohol, use the car and bring supplies.

At the Villasis bridge, the Japanese sentry asked for a “sigarettu”. I offered him one but he snatched the whole pack without even a word of thanks for it.

We counted no more than three cars along the way. Where have the thousands of cars gone—those confiscated by the Japanese? We met a number of trucks loaded with goods and soldiers. Some trucks were driven by American prisoners.

Bulacan is intact, so it seems, and its streets are animated. Pampanga, meanwhile, is severely damaged, with the town of San Fernando and the north of Angeles burned. A great many sugar cane plantations were also burned. Tarlac and Pangasinan are deserted, with very few houses inhabited. Nobody—neither person nor animals—can be found in the streets. These towns which were once teeming with children, carabaos, dogs, chickens, and other animals, are now desolate, and the fields, razed, without a harvest. One would think an evil hand had transformed these green fields once so fertile and so populated into the Sahara Desert.

The bridges which the USAFFE had blown up in its desperate retreat, were replaced with improvised ones. I cannot tell how many of such bridges were built over dry river beds. We still have to see how many of them will be able to withstand the first typhoon.

People are hiding in remote barrios or in the mountains. Some of them return to their homes during the day, but go back to their hiding places at night for fear of the abuses of the army and the nocturnal pillages of armed bandits who burn and kill indiscriminately. Groups of communists, bandits or Sakdalistas who had accumulated arms left behind by the troops retreating to Bataan are increasing in number and ferocity.


April 4, 1942

Commencement of NARIC purchasing operations in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Pangasinan.

Said Col. Uzaki on this occasion: “I wish to impress upon you the heavy responsibility that rests on your shoulders as the vanguards of your organization. It is incumbent upon each and every one of you to do the best to purchase a large quantity of rice and palay in a short time, for which purpose you will be custodians of considerable sums of money.”

He promised to supply all provincial employees with food, housing and a per diem of ₱1.00, irrespective of nationality besides rice rations.

A ₱1,500,000 account has been arranged with the Bank of Taiwan. Must immediately send ₱150,000 for Cabanatuan and ₱150,000 for Tarlac. The damage in the Cabanatuan compound due to the bombing in the first weeks of the war must be repaired.

Missing Pagulayan in the office. He was a great help. There is news that he may be executed. I refuse to believe it. Some people enjoy spreading alarming stories. I dislike gossipers and alarmists.

Saw a soldier walking with a monkey perched on his head. There must be some truth in the Darwinian theory.


April 2, 1942

Heard a good one. A Japanese soldier lost his way in Pampanga. He asked a farmer: “Which is the road to Bataan?” The farmer told him to take the highway on his right and then to turn left when he sees a mountain. The soldier expressed his gratitude and then asked: “By the way, which is the way back?” And the farmer naively answered: “Never mind that, soldier. Where you are going, there is no going back.”