18th — 20th January 1945

Four Japanese Catholic nuns called. They had a small cake baked for us by their Mother Superior. The icing represented the Philippine and Japanese flags. One of the nuns apologized because they had been compelled to make the cake without sugar, butter, or baking powder. Another, who had been in the Philippines, wistfully rehearsed her scant Tagalog and afterward insisted on borrowing a new textbook, Tagalog-Nippongo, brought out a few months ago by one of the Filipinos in Japan. She talked cheerfully of going back to the Philippines which, it seemed, she had grown to love. How shall one make them understand that no Japanese will ever be able to step on Filipino soil for the next generation without running the risk of being torn limb from limb?

Eddie Vargas returned to Tokyo today. All civilian communications to the Philippines have been suspended. When he landed in Taiwan, he said, the airport was still littered with the wreckage of about 70 planes. The planes taking off for the Philippines the next three days had been all shot down and finally he had been forced to give up the trip. On Taiwan he had been constantly shadowed by kempei. He was frisked once after coming from church. One particular kempei, apparently because he did not know anything else in English, kept asking his name. He barely resisted the temptation of giving a different one every time. The kempei in Fukuoka on the mainland proved to be more amenable. Eddie gave him some Taiwan candy every time he wanted to ask questions.

One of our students in Japan, a former guerrilla in the Philippines, shared some of his experiences with me when he called. One youngster in his outfit had cold-bloodedly shot down a town treasurer, in full view of his daughters, purely because the man was making himself unpleasant by too much whining on the way to their hideout where he was wanted for questioning. Another, after a raid on an occupied town, wanted to go back because he had not had a chance to kill his first man. A third, who used to go hunting cows with a heavy machine-gun, finally ended up by betting his coming bonus on the possibility that his revolver, after the half-loaded roller had been twirled, would not go off. He put the gun to his head and it did go off. The young are bloodthirsty, I thought. Possibly they do not know the value of human life.

It was the same student who told me with some relish that since the total blackouts began to be enforced, increasing numbers of women had been found dead in the sidewalk shelters in Tokyo and Yokohama. They had been raped and robbed. When he told me about it, I could not tell whether he was happy because they were Japanese or shocked because they were women. His eyes would fill and deepen and then a teasing, calculating smile would light up his smooth unlined baby’s face.

I have often wondered about Danny. He was in his teens when the war broke out (I think he still is). His father, whom he loves and respects more than any other man, works with the Japanese; he went out to kill them. They did it for the same reason; the independence of our country and the welfare of our people. Was one right and the other wrong; must one and one alone be right and other wrong; or are these shining phrases mere words, habitual disguises for the individual instinct and choice?

Danny was caught, thrown into a dungeon, tortured perhaps, then released on an amnesty (it was the emperor’s birthday). Then he came to Japan as a government scholar. Why? I have never asked him. But I have gathered from loose ends in our conversations and from the stories of his friends, that he wanted to “give the Japs a chance”. Perhaps they meant what they said; perhaps they had something worth learning and working over: a code of honor (even before the war bushido was a good word in the Philippines), the ideal of Pan-Asianism (Asia for the Asiatics, the Philippines for the Filipinos).

But it hasn’t worked out. Danny is too much of an American or too much of a Filipino or too much of both. He thinks in English (although he never could spell), he loves the boogie, he is used to asking questions and getting answers instead of a slap in the face. He hasn’t touched his books in Japan; he wanted to study architecture and they put him in an engineering school; he says he will not be “broken” by the drill sergeants who pass themselves off as teachers.

Now he spends his days making love to Niseis, collecting “military information” for future use, writing poetry, not love poetry as one would expect but “native land” poetry and “peace” poetry and “humanity” poetry in the vein of the “brotherhood of man”. For he has not forsworn Orientalism; he has cut it up and spread it out; he talks of the U.S.S.P., the United States of the Southwest Pacific, and of the “Sepia Federation” which will unite all the Malays; he talks also of writing a book on peace and how it can be found and kept.

One can see that he is no longer bloodthirsty; he can afford to talk tolerantly when he tells his stories of guerrilla murders and raids. He no longer hates the Japanese; he has lived here too long. He only despises them with a contempt that is softened with pity; “These people are crazy. They don’t know what’s good for them. But by God, a few more bombs will l’arn them.” What will his comrades in the guerrilla bands think of him now? Will they think he has gone soft, that he has betrayed them, that he has gone over to the enemy? Or will there be one among them who will comprehend something of the tortured indecision that eats at the secret heart and shakes the brooding soul of every man cursed with understanding, tolerance, and a sense of the kinship of all men?


9th January 1945

Eddie Vargas called up today by long-distance from Taiwan; he is stranded there. All civilian air travel to the Philippines has been suspended. We are now definitely cut off from home; no more couriers, no more letters, even telegrams will be difficult unless they are official and urgent.

As the situation deteriorates, the press is allowed to say more and more, are they learning to let the people down slowly? Or are the authorities trying to frighten the people of Tokyo out of the threatened capital? Now the vernaculars are saying, that the Americans have more ships in the Philippines than the Japanese have planes. So much for the “one ship, one plane” strategy.

The Asahi also carries a “special today from Manila bemoaning the fact that the Japanese could have “annihilated” the American convoy off Mindoro on the 15th December if they had had enough planes. It was, the paper said, “a serious mortification”.

But the people of Tokyo are still looking at the war as something fantastic and far-away. They are now amusing themselves with the report that the Americans are having to fall back on “artificial earthquake” plans to destroy Japan’s main cities. And when there was a full-scale air alarm this noon, there was no one in the basement, which is supposed to be the apartment air-raid shelter.

Instead our French neighbor, Yvonne, who ran away from Paris to escape the war, came rushing in, wringing her hands. She had come back from her apartment to find the gas sealed. She looked terribly thin and anxious; she brought us a present of four eggs and asked for the loan of our gas stove. “Life is so complicated,” she wailed in the way she has of repeating her English lover’s clichés. “They only do it because I’m French.” But in some respect it is her own fault. She had been warned about the limitations on the consumption of gas but she had kept her stove burning practically the whole day for days on end “to heat the apartment” and “because I drink a lot of tea”.

Of course about 70 sen worth of gas (the official limit for one person for one month) is not much but they will probably cut off her gas for the time equivalent to her excess consumption.

Poor Yvonne, life will be so much more complicated without tea.


5th January 1945

Koisos statement at the initial cabinet meeting this year is full of those circumlocutions and euphemisms that the Japanese love. “I wish to make this year a year of war victory,” he began, “but the war situation is very acute. We have won unprecedented victories in the battles off Taiwan and the Philippines but our navy has suffered losses and consumption which were not necessarily small. Subsequently both the army and the navy have been blocking the advance of the enemy through the activities of the special attack corps but the war situation on Leyte Island is not necessarily favorable to us.” The balance of “buts” is delightful. The Japanese have been told with delicate and classic subtlety that they are winning all the battles but losing the war — or rather, not necessarily winning it.


October 18, 1944

I don’t know what history books will write about this day. Maybe they’ll put it down as the beginning of the offensive for the reconquest of the Philippines. Or probably they’ll note it as just the 7th day of the naval attack on Taiwan with diversionary raids on the Philippines. To me it’s the day I had a narrow escape. A machine gun bullet struck our shelter, fortunately on the concrete side. If it had hit an inch higher, it would have penetrated the thin wooden panel and I wouldn’t be writing this now.

I don’t know how many U.S. planes raided Manila today. They looked plenty and I didn’t have time to count because AA shrapnel started raining around our garden. By the drone and by the glimpse I had, I judged there were at least a hundred.

October 18 to this tramp means nothing but several hours in the air-raid shelter, Mama nervous about Vic who refused to take cover, Neneng praying the rosary, grandpop smoking a cigar, Dad going in and out of the shelter to take a look and then to hurriedly run in when the earth begins to shake, and the dog trying to squeeze into the shelter.

Tio Charlie finally got a pass to go to Baguio. They’re all packed but they can’t get alcohol for the jitney. The Hoodoboo promised to give them but so far the promise has not been fulfilled, as most Jap promises.

It’s been raining the whole day. It’s a wonder the U.S, planes were able to fly over. Pop says the seas are very rough on days like this. The laborers who were piling Mr. Paer’s galvanized iron under the house were very happy when they saw the planes. They were scared when the shrapnel started to rain but there’s no Filipino who isn’t willing to put up with a little suffering, a little hardship in order to see the Rising Sun torn down from the flagpole.

Grandpop thinks the raids won’t stop anymore until the day of liberation. I think so too. Mama thinks “it’ll be later yet”. Mening thinks or rather hopes the Americans will pulverize Japan so we can just be freed by agreement –the easy way out. Others think these are just diversionary raids. Main objective of the fleet at present is Taiwan. Others don’t think anything. What do you think?


October 13, 1944

Manila

Tribune headlined U.S. raid on Taiwan. They claim that a hundred U.S. planes were shot down. I wonder how much damage was done. Question is now being raised as to whether the U.S. will attack Formosa before the P.I.? Or is the Formosa raid just a diversionary attack? Or will they head for the Japanese mainland immediately?

All-clear sounded this afternoon. People are disappointed. “When, when, when will they come?” is on everybody’s lips. Some think “Maybe they won’t be here before Christmas” but nobody doubts that “they’ll be here before January”.