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.


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.”


March 26, 1942

Had an important conference with Colonel Uzaki, head of the Army’s Food Division. I took up all the important matters preoccupying me.

First, the flour distribution. He stated that as long as the amount of daily release previously fixed to authorized bakeries is not exceeded, the authority to determine who should or should not receive flour rested upon me.

Second, rice distribution. Authority, he said, also rested on me. In other words, Mr. Inada must submit to me his plans for decision and action. Under the present set-up, Mr. Inada tries to do things as he pleases and in case he bungles them up, the entire corporation, including myself as Manager, will be blamed by the public.

Third, police protection. We agreed that if the Army cannot furnish us with soldiers and if we cannot, in any particular case, depend on the provincial or municipal police, then we should be allowed to possess firearms. He asked me how many we needed. I answered, “Offhand, about 10.” He said that he would make arrangements for this purpose.

Fourth, financing. I told him the necessary finances should be made immediately available because when purchases start in Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Pampanga, they should be done fast to avoid the undesirable effects of the rainy season. The colonel replied that if the funds as planned are not sufficient, the NARIC would have to buy on credit. This alternative is not so satisfactory.

Fifth, Was authorized to buy palay stored in bodegas of Ileto and Pinaod. Was told not to pay the palay deposited by Nueva Ecija producers which has already been taken by the Army, until arrangements are made with the Army.

Sixth. Asked him to secure enough fuel for us if he wants us to succeed in our work.

Seventh, I am authorized to take up matters directly with the Military Administration after consulting Mr. Fukada, Supervisor de facto. When Japanese assistants to the supervisor de facto go to the Military Administration, it is understood that they must first advise Mr. Fukada or me about it.

Eighth, All matters not otherwise specified are to be submitted in writing (copy of which must be handed to Mr. Fukada in advance) for final decision by Col. Uzaki. Heavy raid on Corregidor fortifications. General MacArthur is no longer there. KGEI said he was sent to Australia. The Japanese claim he “escaped.” They are “peeved” about his “escape.” No, not MacArthur. He is not the type that runs always. He has brave blood in his veins. We cannot judge his acts until the end of the war. Let us await the verdict of history.

 

 


February 17, 1942

Received regards from Mary. She is in Cabiao. Those who evacuated to the provinces had a harder time than those who stayed in Manila. The city was the safest place.

Mr. Takamia, Japanese agriculturist, co-worker of Mr. Abe at Mrs. Quezon’s farm in Arayat, was sent by the Japanese authorities to Legaspi and Naga together with three of our own men to handle rice sales and perhaps the purchase of palay. Mr. Takamia informed me that only part of Mrs. Quezon’s harvest was stolen. Called Mr. Nakashima’s attention to the great number of our personnel. He ordered that we continue with the personnel until further orders from the Army. Railroad traffic between San Fernando and Manila has been reopened today. That means Manila’s supply of rice will be increased. Since the Occupation to the present date, Manilans have been fed on the rice stocks in our bodegas. The rations may not have been enough, but at least it was equitably distributed. And still there are people who are angry at me for [not?] having thrown open the doors of our bodegas before the Japanese entered the city!

People are talking about the fall of Singapore. It was most unexpected. Many believed it would hold longer than Corregidor. How long will our own boys stand? Maybe if they receive reinforcements, if the convoy…  It’s all ‘if.’

Life is a big IF.


February 11, 1942

The NARIC will purchase rice in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Pampanga. I am worried about the unsettled conditions, the lack of peace and order, the dislocation of transportation, (the) shortage of fuel and the spirit of non-cooperation. But we have to succeed; otherwise, there will be no rice for Manilans.

The Army has reduced the 25 trucks requested by the office to 20, five run by alcohol and fifteen by gasoline. Only 60 tins of gasoline will be issued per week. This is the basis of the Army’s calculation: for trucks, one liter for every three kilometers; for cars, one liter for every five or six kilometers. In war, gasoline is like blood.

On or after February 18th, the Army will allow the NARIC to transport 200 tons of rice by freight cars. Two hundred tons is equivalent to about 3,600 bags of rice or 6 NBB cars and 1 J car. So far, the railroad is strictly for Army use.

Must make plans according to stations: what mills, what towns, (what) quantities of palay or rice, beginning February 18th. There must be no hitches, no delays. The use of the railroad will be a great help. We must make the most out of the privilege.

The Japanese supervisor said that we must have ready daily 3,600 cavans of rice or palay, preferably rice, to be loaded in freight cars. If we cannot fill the cars, the Army must be notified two or three days in advance. Every available space must be utilized. The Army does not want to waste even one inch of baggage or cargo space.

At present, the Army alone can procure the rice and palay in Nueva Ecija and Tarlac. They take 3,000 sacks daily. We are trying to negotiate whether we can take the rest after the Army has taken its quota. We are not sure whether the Army will agree. In war, it is always “Army first!”

The Japanese Army will be a major cause of the food shortage. At present, this fact is not yet felt. But as the months pass by, there will be less food on every table. In some, there will be no food at all. Then people will ask: “Where is the food going?” And they will know that it goes to the Army.

Can’t speak of these things publicly nowadays. It is strange, but the meaning of freedom can only be understood when one no longer has it.


December 31, 1941

A day of conflagration. Yesterday, some of the big gasoline depots started burning. At first the gasoline was being emptied into the Pasig River. But accidentally—or intentionally—the gasoline caught fire, setting the river and the esteros aflame. The houses situated along the river and the esteros particularly in the Pandacan district were the first victims of this ill-planned sabotage.

For the last 48 hours, a gigantic column of smoke has been spouting, very black in the daytime and very luminous at night. Officially, these fires are a proof that Manila has become indeed an open city with no military installations. The general belief was that the gasoline stocks were burned to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

The Japanese forces are advancing, without opposition. They are about a hundred kilometers north and south of Manila. Although the newspapers do not admit the impotence of the USAFFE to stop the Japanese advance, one can see that the only resistance offered are some strategic retreats. All the soldiers who had returned from the front and those who have been waiting to be called for the last few weeks—are sent to Pampanga. But the invaders are already in Nueva Ecija and have in fact reached Cabanatuan.

The Japanese success is attributed not only to the numerical superiority, but also to their plan of flanking and attacking the most unexpected and most vulnerable places. The American strategy consists in fortifying the Manila Bay and the Batangas Bay simply because they thought that the Japanese would land there. The Japanese, however, landed in La Union and Tayabas and, evading the fortified areas, reached Manila without encountering much resistance.

This afternoon I went to San Juan del Monte. While I was there, Dr. Domingo Fernández called up from the Manila Gas. He wanted to inform me that they were planning to set on fire the huge gasoline deposits in Pandacan.

I ran to notify the Sisters of Santa Catalina. “Don’t get frightened, Sisters,” I began telling them. “There will be a…”

Boom! Boom! As I was talking, the explosions shook the house and the glasses as if there was an earthquake of a major intensity. Immediately, gigantic columns of smoke started to rise and the fire spread to the nearby houses and factories.

 

            I returned to San Sebastian. From its high steeples I could see how most of the city and its environs were burning. The piers, the customs area, the army camps, the Military Hospital of Sternberg, the ice factory, the whole district of Pandacan and many other places were a virtual inferno.

Terror was painted in every face. Last day of the year 1941.