here are so many stories circulating about the events that took place while the USAFFE had entered Jaro and surrounding areas. We heard that the wife of the Swiss Consul and her three children were taken outside by them. The Swiss Consul is in the hospital and is very ill. We are hearing stories of looting and burning. We also heard that civilians (some Spanish) who had taken shelter at the Bishop’s residence were also taken outside by the USAFFE, and the residence burned.
Last night we saw some fires, but fortunately they were far from us.
There are many Japanese in Jaro now, occupying what is left of the large, concrete houses. Don Ramon Lopez says to pray to God the “Americans land soon. It is our only salvation.” There is no more food coming into the city, and what little there is available, is beyond the reach of most people. A kilo of pork is 2,500 Pesos, a squash costs 1,500 Pesos. Mongo beans cost 2,500 Pesos a ganta (5 lbs.).
So many things have happened since December 22, 1944 that I do not know whether I can recall everything, but I will relate the most eventful happenings. The house next door was not burned after all, but the elderly caretaker of the house was kidnapped by the USAFFE soldiers. He was released on the eve of the 23rd and returned to the house. He was so angry that he wanted to tell the Japanese what had happened to him. We suspect he was told by the USAFFE to burn the house, but he refused.
On December 23, 1944 I was awakened around 9:30 p.m. by the sound of a terrible explosion. We jumped from our beds and crawled to Dorothy’s room, which was better fortified. We should have gone downstairs to our shelter instead, but the hand grenades and machine gunning came so fast that we had to lie down flat on our stomachs. I really thought it was the end for us when a loud explosion came from our living room! This explosion was followed by another and we determined that they had come from the Japanese garrison. Later on we found shrapnel upstairs, as well as downstairs. One of the shrapnel was found just a few inches above where Dorothy’s head was, another went through the bed. We were able to get downstairs during a lull. Shortly after we noticed a red glow on the window pane. We realized then that the USAFFE had set the house next door on fire! It began to burn quickly, while all the time the shooting continued between the Japanese and the USAFFE soldiers. During a lull, we heard a dog howl, the caretaker’s dog. Our thoughts went to him and we prayed that he was able to escape. In the meantime, we all got dressed as quickly as we could in case we would have to get out of the house. But how could we, when the Japanese were shooting at every moving object? We decided it was better to take a chance than to be roasted alive! We could call out to them in Nippongo and hope they would hear us. Thank God it was not necessary to leave the house after all, since the wind was blowing the flames in the opposite direction!
After the fire, there was no more shooting and we all retired –- not to sleep, but to relax.
At daybreak, we all went upstairs and found a lot of bullet holes in the house, plus two large ones caused by the explosions last night. Also, pieces of shrapnel and spent bullets from American guns were picked up from the floor. American guns are more powerful than the Japanese.
At 7:00 a.m. a Japanese officer and two soldiers came to the house to investigate last night’s fire. The officer told us that he could not understand why the Filipino USAFFE solders were harassing the civilian population and burning their homes, instead of fighting the Japanese. He said, “We have arms and can return their fire. The civilians are helpless.” We were all silent –- what could we say?
During these troubled times, many of the deaths and burning of civilian homes were caused by personal grudges which people had against one another. Using the USAFFE as a pretext, some unscrupulous persons settled old vendettas. Perhaps such was the case in the house burning last night.
Later during the day, the caretaker’s daughter came to look through the ruins of the house and to find her father’s remains.
Coné also went over to look and under some debris they found part of a leg and the heart, which was partly burned! The pool old man and his dog were the victims of the fire! No one will ever know whether he was killed by a hand grenade (several were thrown at the house) or whether he was burned to death!
After what happened, I decided not to remain in the house another night. That same day Roland and I went to Don Ramon Lopez’s house with a few belongings to stay a few days. On Christmas Day, Coné, Dolly and the boys, together with Dorothy and Meñing Bernas went to San Jose College to seek safer shelter. We took everything with us –- nothing is left in the house.
Dolly and Jr. are improving. Last night was quiet and we passed a restful night. We all slept in the shelter downstairs.
Coné and Meñing ventured out this morning. On passing San Jose College they saw a large hole in front of the building. A hand grenade was also thrown in front of San Agustin College. We heard that a truck full of Japanese passed the buildings and that is when the grenade was thrown at them by the Army. The Army also tried to get the Panay Electric Light plant. A Japanese soldier was killed not far from our house and one near the house of Don Ramon Lopez. Dorothy said my birthday was certainly “celebrated with a bang!”
On November 1, when the shooting happened, we all went upstairs from our shelter during a lull to have breakfast, and John had on the table an embroidered, white tablecloth and a vase of red roses, with a birthday cake. Roland and Millard sang “Happy Birthday to You!”
John went to the market today (November 2), but there was very little to buy. Eggs were at 25 Pesos each, one small squash was 150 Pesos. Carabao meat is selling at 120 Pesos a kilo; no pork was to be seen. A small chicken cost 200 Pesos.
Dolly is feeling better, but quite weak. She is only taking liquids. Junior has also developed jaundice.
It is very difficult to be on a diet as we simply cannot get the desired food, and we all crave for bread, butter and all the good things from the United States. Thank goodness I still have some canned goods – I have opened 2 cans of KLIM (powdered milk) recently, as Dr. Bernas’s cow is only giving a small quantity of milk. She is probably upset by all the shooting. I also opened one can of condensed milk for Junior.
Rice today has now gone up to 60 Pesos a ganta (went up 10 Pesos in one week). Pork costs 40 Pesos a kilo, beef 30 Pesos. One can (large) of condensed milk costs 120 pesos, one egg costs P2.80. Thank goodness our ducks (8) and chickens (6) are laying. There is much hunger in Iloilo and people are beginning to show the effects of it. Don Ramon Lopez and Doña Margarita are feeding from 50 to 100 poor children a day, and since they have begun this wonderful humanitarian act, others are following his example. Don Ramon is always the leader in every undertaking which benefits mankind or animal.
Besides Mr. Lopez, the Catholic church and Baptist church have free kitchens for the poor. Iloilo and La Paz have several kitchens.
Three days ago I went to Estrella’s house which is located along the main road (about 11⁄2 miles from here) to meet Don Ramon Lopez, an old family friend. He was able to escape from Jaro. He had to leave Jaro at once as a Japanese soldier was killed in front of his house, and the Japanese were after him. He escaped during the night by crawling for some distance. He is now being held by the army for questioning and I was not able to meet with him, although he wrote me a note saying that Coné is alright and that he (Don Ramon) has been giving him ₱25.00 for his personal needs. Mrs. Lopez and family are in their house in Jaro where Japanese guards have been posted outside. I hope nothing happens to them.
I was very happy to know that Coné is safe and well as we have heard so many rumors from the grapevine (Radio Puwak) that some prisoners have been sent away and others have been shot.
I remained for two days at Estrella’s house and while I was there I met many army officers. Capt. Dolar told me that they were able to make contact with the U.S. and they were asked to give three serial numbers of three American officers in Panay to make sure the U.S. was making the right contact. They were also told that the Filipino soldiers and officers would be inducted into the U.S. Army. The Filipinos asked for arms, and the reply came that arms would be sent by planes and dropped from parachutes sometime this month. The Filipino soldiers and officers are jubilant over the idea of their being inducted into the U.S. Army and paid with dollars.
One sort of loses track of time and Sunday is just like any other day. There are no services in any of the churches; in fact, there are no people in any of the towns anymore as the towns are subject to bombing at any time.
Three days ago Ramon Lopez (a close friend) with five of his friends passed by our place. They were able to escape from Jaro by way of the sea. They were covered with mud as they had to crawl for several kilometers. He told us that the Jaro bridge is being guarded by 40 Japanese soldiers with 20 machine guns. Also the banks of the river in Jaro are being watched, and if anyone attempts to escape Jaro they are shot on sight.
Two days ago there was a skirmish outside of Pototan. The USAFFE soldiers are closing in on the Japanese.
For the last five days, hundreds of civilians have been making trenches and traps for tanks alongside the road just outside of Barotac and near the bridge. Last night I was awakened by the sound of explosions not far from us. I later was told by a passing soldier that the USAFFE is dynamiting the road leading to the bridge to prevent the Japanese tanks from getting through. We are always on the alert from morning till night for fear of planes.
We have been here for 1 month. This nipa hut we are staying in is very well concealed and off of any paths. It is on a hill and we have a view of surrounding areas and hills. The dogs and angora cats love it as they have such a big space in which to run.
Every day we hear rumors and we cannot believe all, but we know it to be the truth that Dr. Caram was caught in Iloilo and compelled to work for the Japanese.
The Japanese have sent out circular letters to all the barrios for the people to return to the towns and cities. However, once you return it is very difficult to leave. If you are seen carrying any bundles you are shot on sight. The conditions in Iloilo are terrible, half of the city has been burned by the USAFFE (U.S. Army in the Far East) and the Philippine Army, so the Japanese are concentrated mainly in Jaro. They are occupying the large homes – Mr. Montinola, the Lizares mansion, and others. The water system has been destroyed twice and the men that are in concentration camps are carrying water.
The Iloilo Mission Hospital which had transferred to Calinog in the early days of the war has gone back to Iloilo and Dr. Porras is still the director. The Philippine Army considers him a collaborator and an order has been sent out to shoot him on sight, and also Tering Mijares and other civilians who are cooperating with the Japanese. A few days ago the Mission Hospital truck came out of the city to Calinog and it was shot at by the USAFFE thinking that Dr. Porras was in the truck. Instead, it was a driver and a helper – both were wounded seriously.
We have also heard that Ramon Lopez was in Jaro when the Japanese landed and was not able to get away.
Before I go any further, I want to give you a description of our hideout among the high hills. It is a two-room nipa shack nestled among the bamboo trees. There is a tiny kitchen and a dining area, and another room which is a little larger which acts as our living room and bedroom. At night we spread the mattresses on the floor and in spite of all we sleep comfortably. There are eight of us who sleep in the large room and the servants sleep in the smaller room (3 of them). The animals sleep under the house (the cow and calf, 3 dogs, and Billy, the cockatoo, with the chickens who belong to the owner of the house. The 3 angora cats and Dickie, a blackbird) sleep upstairs with us.) Noah’s Ark, Dorothy calls it. It’s a scream when all the animals begin to make noise at the same time. Dolly calls it the Madhouse of Alabidhan (Alabidhan is the name of this barrio). In spite of it all we do have our jokes.
Two days before the invasion Dr. Bernas had a front tooth extracted, and Millard lost one of his front teeth three days ago. In the course of a bridge game last night, Millard looked at Dr. Bernas and said, “I will run you a race in growing another tooth.” We surely had a good laugh as in the manner it was said it sounded very funny. Whenever we play bridge to help pass the time, Coné and Meñing (Dr. Bernas) have a gun beside them. The law doesn’t exist anymore and the bandits are running wild in the hills and countryside. The Philippine Army is also shooting the bandits. The other day we saw walking over the hill about 50 men. Among them were 11 bandits which had been caught by the Army in Passi looting civilian homes, and they were being taken to Army headquarters situated in the mountains.
Coné has been with us ever since the invasion and I am very thankful that he was able to get away from the hospital before the Japanese arrived.
Yesterday Capt. Alvarado told Coné that he had to report to the security area below the high mountains, so he is leaving tonight with the captain and six soldiers. They do not want to cross the road in daylight, as it is very dangerous. It is a 2-day hike across the country.
At the present time all hostilities have stopped as the American officers and Japanese are negotiating for a truce. Mr. Powell (now a colonel) is being detained in Iloilo as a hostage. We are very anxious to know the outcome and we will not know until Coné returns. He expects to be gone a week or so. If there is an armistice we will leave this place and move into a bigger barrio where there are more people and houses for protection from the robbers, as they travel in bands. We have to protect ourselves since the Japanese have no control in the countryside. They have established order in the city, but not in the country. In the bigger barrios, the men take turns watching out for them, and they are shot on sight.
I do not know just when you will receive this letter, but I know it will interest you and the folks to know what we have done since the outbreak of the war.
On December 8 (1941) we listened in on the radio as usual and when we heard the shocking news that Pearl Harbor was bombed, you can imagine our feelings of shock and disbelief! After breakfast Coné immediately went downtown and bought plenty of supplies; when he came home we began packing and by afternoon most of all our furniture had been taken to Dorothy’s (Bernas) house – even the birds were evacuated. As you know, they live in Jaro, a suburb of Iloilo City. That same day we all went to live with Dorothy and Meñing, who made room for us in their small two-bedroom house. We felt it was safer there than in the city.
As the days passed, we felt a little calmer until December 18. That morning I went with Coné to his office (in Iloilo). Ramon Lopez stopped by for his liver extract injection and remarked, “There is a rumor that Japanese planes are headed for Iloilo.” We did not pay much attention to this, as there are rumors every day.
At 12:15 p.m. we headed back for Jaro. During the course of our conversation while we were eating lunch, Meñing (Dorothy’s husband) said, “There is a report of enemy planes sighted and headed south for Iloilo or other places.” He had no sooner uttered these words when we heard a drone of motors. We immediately rushed out to see, but clouds were covering them and were a perfect camouflage. As they came closer and lower, we saw three formations – a total of 36 planes. We rushed for the shelter that Coné had prepared downstairs. The planes circled and began machine gunning over the Philippine Central College (3 miles from us) and flew over us. We could hear the bullets hit the roof. Then we heard bombs exploding – many targets were hit, but some objectives were missed. Fort San Pedro was missed, but a bomb fell on the road in front of the military hospital.
The hangar was a direct hit, two small planes were inside, a large one inside. Mr. Grant, one of the pilots, was taking his siesta when he heard the planes. He tried to get his plane up, but in doing so, he was terribly machine gunned, and the three planes were totally destroyed.
The Sacred Heart School was machine gunned and bombed and the Free School across the street from it for the poor children was a direct hit. Fortunately, the school was closed because of the war, but several nuns were wounded and a girl who lived with the nuns and a classmate of Dolly was killed. All the bombing seemed to be concentrated around the beach area and the oil deposits across from Dr. Ledesma’s house. The deposits were a direct hit, but most of the oil had been taken out. The railroad and round house was strafed, and instead of the men lying flat on the ground, they stood up and ran. Many were killed – around 24 or more, according to Mrs. Allen.
Yater Allen, his brother and the family made a dash in their car and made a run for our place, as I had met Yater the day before and told him Coné had made an air raid shelter at Dr. Bernas’s house.
Soon after the Allen’s arrival, Olive, Leon and the children came. Olive was the color of death as a bomb fell very close to their house. She was barefooted and did not have time to put on her shoes. When the bombing started they jumped into their car and started towards our house. After the bombing, the planes began to machine gun and strafe. They had to stop and get out of their car and run into a store for fear of being hit. Many people were caught on the main street and unprepared. Ed Mercado’s little nephew was killed; he was cut across the stomach and lived only for a few hours. Two of Ed’s sisters were also badly injured by flying debris. They are now both out of danger.
The owner of the “La Editorial” (Mr. Apellaniz) lost two of his children. They were playing in the yard when the bombing and strafing took place, and were badly cut up. The bombing took place mostly along the beach area, but the machine gunning was all over.
A little later after the Allen’s and Olive Tirol arrived at our house, along came Mr. Rodriguez and Pam (his wife) and the children. He was covered with blood as the little girl was cut by flying glass. Mr. Rodriguez thought it was the end as one bomb after another fell near his house. He and Pam were in a state of collapse.
We were so frightened that the planes would return, but there was no more bombing until December 30 and by that time most of the people had evacuated to the country.
So far Iloilo has been bombed four times. In the last three bombings, there had been no casualties as the people had learned their lesson and they were not going to be caught again.