The sinking of the S.S. Corregidor, December 16-17, 1941

The S.S. Corregidor of the Compañia Maritima, which sank on December 16, 1941. Photo from Chad Hill.
The S.S. Corregidor of the Compañia Maritima, which sank on December 16, 1941. Photo from Chad Hill.

On December 16-17, 1941 (around midnight, hence the event straddling two dates), the S.S. Corregidor, an inter-island steamship of the Compañia Maritima, hit a mine off Corregidor Island and sank, resulting in a tremendous loss of life.

Here is a map of the area (click on this link for the original scan).

Detail of sketch of minefields around Corregidor island, provided by Peter Parsons.
Detail of sketch of minefields around Corregidor island, provided by Peter Parsons.

There is a very interesting discussion on the disaster, and the question of whether negligence was involved, and if so, who should be assigned blame, in the The Loss of the S.S. Corregidor thread of Corregidor Then and Now Proboards. Within the thread can be found recollections by George Steiger (an officer in Corregidor), Charles Balaza (serving in an artillery detachment on Corregidor) and others.

Here is a dramatic account by one of the survivors of the sinking of the ship, in the memoirs of Jose E. Romero (Not So Long Ago: A Chronicle of My Life, Times, and Contemporaries, Alemar-Phoenix, Quezon City, 1997 reprint):

The S.S. Corregidor Disaster

WAR HAVING BEEN DECLARED, the next day the National Assembly met at the house of Speaker Yulo to pass legislation giving the President powers to be able to cope with emergency. After that the members of Assembly were concerned with the problem of returning home to their provinces and their families. I was very much chagrined that close friends of mine had been able to take passage on the S.S. Legaspi that was making trips to my hometown, Dumaguete, via Cebu, a trip that took two days, without having difficulty from Japanese boats and planes. I was also chagrined to learn that my good friend, the District Engineer of my province who had come to Manila with me a few days previously, had been able to get out of Manila by way of the Bicol provinces and then made it to Samar and Leyte and back to our home province. A few days later, another boat was scheduled to depart for the South, including my hometown of Dumaguete. Passengers, including myself, were aboard when an hour later we were told to disembark by order of the U.S. Army, probably for fear of enemy action.

Inasmuch as the Japanese had already bombed Clark Field, Camp Nichols, Cavite, and Manila itself, particularly the Intendencia building and the Herald building and Santo Domingo Church, I thought it would be safer, being alone in Manila with my houseboys, for me to live in my office in the Legislative building. (The basement at the Legislative building had been sandbagged and was converted into an air-raid shelter.) I immediately arranged with the late Ramon Fernandez, whose boats were making trips to the Visayas, to advise me whenever any of his boats made a trip for the South, but this he never did. I had also arranged with my good friend, Salvador Araneta, who was then one of the principal owners of the FEATI (Far East Aviation Transport Co., Inc.), which owned the planes making trips between Manila, Iloilo, and Bacolod, to advise me whenever there was a chance to get on one of those planes. I was very much worried because, as already stated, I had come to Manila immediately after the election, and being very confident that in case of emergency I could easily return to my province either by a FEATI plane or by boat, I had not made sufficient provision for the maintenance of my family during my absence. In any event we had used up practically all of our financial resources during the political campaign and I had precisely come to Manila, among other things, to make arrangements to meet my immediate financial problems.

Although Mr. Araneta did his best to try to get an accommodation for me on the plane to the South, the man actually running the affairs of the FEATI was so swamped with demands for passage on his planes that even Mr. Araneta’s recommendation could not help me. One night I received a message from Mr. Araneta advising me that if I would go to Batangas that night, I might be able to get a passage on a plane. (The Manila airfield at Nichols had been bombed and was not safe for takeoff and landing of planes.) This was very difficult because the country was then under blackout orders, it was not safe to travel at night, and there was no certainty that I would get on the plane. It was the last trip that the plane made, so I missed this chance.

One day the member of the Assembly were advised that a special train was being reserved for us to go to Sorsogon. From there we could get launches or sailboats for Samar, Leyte, and our respective provinces in the Visayas. At the appointed day and hour many of us gathered at the Paco Station and we were hardly seated in the car when we were asked to come down because the Japanese had landed in Legaspi. A couple of days later, I saw my colleagues who like me had been living in the Legislative building rushing toward the Compañia Maritima office. One of them shouted to me that the S.S. Corregidor was leaving for the South. I immediately packed up the few things that I had and, together with a cousin of mine and his daughter who were living with me in the Legislative building, hied myself to the Compañia Maritima building. It was chaos there, with hundreds of people trying to get into the building to buy a ticket for the trip. A security guard, gun in hand, was at the door trying to prevent people from going into the building. I explained to him that I had an arrangement with Don Ramon Fernandez to get on the first boat going to the south, but he said that he knew nothing about the arrangement and would not let me in. My cousin, his daughter, and I left the building very disappointed when a little farther on we met Don Ramon’s nephew, Carlos, who today is still active with the shipping company. I explained my situation to him and he asked me whether I was really anxious to go on that trip. When I answered in the affirmative, he personally took me inside the office and helped me get a ticket for myself, my cousin, and his daughter. I also bought a ticket for a fellow townsman who wanted to return home but was without funds. But the danger of the trip was made manifest by our being asked to sign a waiver of any responsibility on the part of the shipping company in case a mishap occurred during the trip.

From the Compañia Maritima office and the Muelle de la Industria, we went to the South Harbor where the S.S. Corregidor was docked. There were hundreds of people and it seemed that there were many who got aboard even without tickets. I was delighted to find aboard Senator Villanueva, his recently married son and daughter, and their household help. He told me that he had been trying to contact me repeatedly the last few days, because he was anxious that we should go home together. In times of emergency like this, personal animosities among relatives are forgotten and the old family ties reassert themselves. I also met Captain Calvo of the boat, who had been a longtime friend of mine, with his pretty young wife that he had just married. He told me that I must be anxious to get back home under such conditions of danger. I told him that if he and his wife, my relatives and other people were willing to take the chance, there was no reason why I should not do the same. The boat was being located with ammunition and other military equipment for the South. I was quite nervous and I was told later that he had not wanted to make that trip. This probably partly explains why he was taking his wife along with him. I was also told later that on previous occasions, while passing the mined sections around Corregidor he had been warned that he was passing too close to the mines.

Probably the trip would not have been as risky as it was surmised. The plan was to land at the first port in the South at daybreak and from there the passengers would take sailboats or other means of transportation to the provinces which were still unoccupied by the Japanese. There were many times more passengers than should ordinarily have been allowed aboard. We stayed aboard for several hours and strict blackout was observed. Senator Villanueva and his family and I and my cousin with his daughter seated ourselves directly in front of a lifeboat as we thought we could quickly get on it in case of emergency. We were all furnished life belts and hundreds of other life belts were strewn around the deck. About midnight the boat started to leave in pitch darkness. I was half-asleep but noticed that light signals were being flashed from what I think was Corregidor Island. I was to learn afterward that the signals were to warn the captain of the boat that he was not on the right track. (The passage between Corregidor and the mainland in Manila Bay had been mined.) All of a sudden there was a dull thud and then an explosion. We had hit a mine. The boat shuddered as if mortally wounded. It did not sink immediately and the group already referred to who were seated near a lifeboat got aboard it.

Before the boat left, as already stated, we had been supplied with life belts. My companions were very prudent in having attached the life belts to their bodies, but I only held mine in my hands. A husky Spaniard had been saying that this was a bad joke we were playing with the life belts, but I told him that it was customary, even in peacetime, to have drill aboard the ships and practice the use of life belts. When we hit the mine this husky man grabbed my life belt, since he had not taken the precaution to provide one for himself. I insisted that the life belt was mine, but he claimed that it was his and proposed that we throw the life belt into the water, confident that later on, if we had to struggle for that life belt, as a much huskier man he would have the advantage. But the man from my province, whom I had helped to get a ticket on that trip and for which ticket I had paid, handed me another life belt. Again it was grabbed by another person. This faithful protege of mine handed me another one and still another one, but each time somebody would grab the life belt away from me. Remembering that I was the only one without a life belt and recalling that hundreds of life belts had been scattered on the deck in the early evening, I went down to the deck to see if I could find another life belt. At this moment, there was a second and more terrible explosion. It seemed that it was the boiler that exploded and the boat immediately sank headlong into the water. We were all drawn by the suction and had the water in those parts been deeper, we could not have returned to the surface.

When the boat reached the bottom and there was no more force of suction, I instinctively swam with all my force toward the surface, and when I reached the surface after what seemed an endless effort to reach it, it seemed this was a second life for me. Right in front of me was a life belt and a piece of board just enough for me to lie down on. If ever there are or were miracles, this certainly was one. I had gone into the water without a life belt and here right in front of me was the board of salvation and a life belt. I did not realize it then, but I had ugly cut in the head which must have been caused when the boat touched the bottom and my head hit something hard. I was too weak to tie on my life belt and it was really the board that saved me. I was too weak from loss of blood, so I only hung on to the board which, as I said, was just sufficient to keep my body afloat. Fortunately, it was as long as my body so that my body covered it almost entirely, otherwise other people who were floating around without support might have tried to grab it from me. I just lay over that board semi-conscious for several hours. Fortunately, the sharks that infest these waters must have been kept away by the explosion and by the oil from the sunken ship. About four hours later. I felt as if there were some bright lights. It was one of the P.T. or so-called mosquito boats that had been sent to rescue the survivors. I looked up and one of the American crewmen threw me a life belt which was tied to a rope that he held. I took hold of the life belt and he pulled me toward the boat. I must have looked like a real mess, covered all over with oil from the boat that sank and with the blood of my head over my face. I just lay there on that boat while we were being taken to Corregidor. It was just beginning to dawn when we docked at the harbor of Corregidor. I will never forget, especially after seeing the callousness and cruelty of the Japanese later, seeing one of the American soldiers who had come to the dock to meet the survivors take particular notice of me, saying, “This man is badly hurt.” He immediately ran up the gangplank, took me in his arms, loaded me into the car that he was driving, and then rushed me like mad to the hospital in Malinta Tunnel. The others who were not so badly hurt were taken to Manila. Only about one-third of some one thousand people that were in the S.S. Corregidor were saved. Senator Villanueva and his son, my cousin and his daughter, as well as two of my colleagues, Representatives Ampig and Reyes of Iloilo and Capiz, respectively, perished in the disaster, as did the wife and children of Representative Dominador Tan. Representative Zaldivar, later Justice of the Supreme Court, survived.

In Corregidor Hospital

At the hospital in Malinta Tunnel, which I revisited later, the wound in my scalp was sewn up by a kind American doctor. Fortunately, the wound was only skin-deep and did not fracture my skull. When a Filipino nurse found out who I was, she made a lot of fuss about it and many people were soon coming to see me. (Much later when I was Secretary of Education, on a visit to Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, I was fortunate to see her again with her husband.) Two of the young officers who visited me in Corregidor were from my town and province. A medic or medical assistant, an American, took very kind interest in me. (To anticipate my story, when I left Corregidor Hospital ten days after I entered it, I was to wear his civilian clothes as I had none of my own. I gave him my address and after the war when the House of Representatives, of which I was a member, was reconvened, one day an American came to my office and greeted me joyously. When I could not quite remember him, he said, “I was the one who sewed up your head in Corregidor.” It was a happy reunion. He gave me his address in the U.S. to which he was returning and when I was Ambassador to London, I unfailingly sent him a Christmas card. I did not receive any reply from him, but after the third or fourth time I sent him a card, I got a reply explaining that the reason he did not acknowledge my previous cards was that he did not know the address of the Philippine Embassy in London, not realizing that it would have been sufficient for him just to put the Philippine Embassy as address. He told me that he was working somewhere in the Middle East and was doing pretty well financially.)

I developed a slight case of pneumonia, but thanks to the sulfa drugs that had just recently been discovered, this danger to my health was averted.

To return to my story, next to my bed at the hospital was that of Captain Kelly of the United States Navy, a man made famous by a book written in the United States by American escapee during the War, entitled They Were Expendable—a bestseller. Like many Americans in Corregidor, they were still confident that military aid would come from the United State and that the Philippines would be retaken. But this was not to be for more than three years.

During my ten-day stay in Corregidor, from December 17, the day of the sinking of the Corregidor, until December 27 when we were ordered to evacuate to Manila, many prominent officials went to Corregidor. Among those who visited me were the Commanding General of Corregidor and the U.S. High Commissioner, Francis B. Sayre, Vice-President Osmeña and his family, ex-Speaker Roxas, and Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos. President Quezon and his family, however, who also arrived at Corregidor on Christmas Eve, did not visit me. When casually one night I saw him and Mrs. Quezon, he did not even talk to me. I think he was ill and depressed when he saw me with my bandaged head and, perhaps thinking that I was more badly hurt than I really was, he simply was too depressed to talk to me. However, Mrs. Quezon who was seated next to me while we were seeing a movie just outside the entrance to Manila Tunnel during a lull in the bombing by the Japanese, held my hand and gave me words of comfort. From Vice-President Osmeña, I learned for the first time that my relatives by affinity, ex-Senator Villanueva and his son, had not survived the sinking of S.S. Corregidor, although the ex-Senator’s daughter-in-law, who was expecting a baby (and who is still very much alive), and two maids survived.

Christmas Eve was celebrated in Corregidor, and in my condition, away from my family, it was indeed a sad Christmas Eve for me. The singing of Christmas carols by the American and Filipino nurses and other personnel only added poignancy to my depressed spirit. On December 27 an order was received from General Douglas MacArthur for the evacuation of all civilians in Corregidor to Manila, as the Japanese were fast approaching Manila. The medic who took such interest in me suggested that I ask President Quezon to contact General MacArthur and get him to make an exception in my case by allowing me to stay in Corregidor. I contacted Mr. Roxas, who immediately got in touch with President Quezon and who in turn tried to get in touch with General MacArthur. However, General MacArthur was busy directing the withdrawal of USAFFE troops to Bataan and could not be contacted. Mr. Roxas urged me, however, to go to Manila. He said that I could get better medical treatment there and, besides, the boat leaving for Manila might be the last one that could make the trip as, with the arrival of the Japanese, Manila would be isolated from Corregidor. So I decided to leave.

We left again in pitch darkness, as complete blackout was ordered everywhere. I shall not forget another American soldier who took me in his car to the waiting ship and then removed his overcoat and placed it over me. After my experience on the S.S. Corregidor, to travel again in complete darkness could not but inspire fear in me, but we made the trip uneventfully. Upon arrival in the South Harbor, we were placed in a covered truck where it was also very dark. The driver had to stop at every street corner to find his way, and finally I was deposited at the Philippine General Hospital which was then under the direction of my good friend, the late Dr. Augusto Villalon. I was placed under the direct care of Dr. Santos Cuyugan, who was a specialist in wounds and burns. Because of the infection of my wound, it took about three months to heal, although it was only a superficial one

The Philippine Diary Project contains several points of view discussing the S.S. Corregidor disaster. The earliest one appears in an entry in the diary of Teodoro M. Locsin, December 16, 1941:

Today the inter-island vessel Corregidor struck a mine near the mouth of Manila Bay and sank in a few minutes. The ship was packed to the gunwales with passengers leaving the city for the southern islands, thus reintroducing the “Samarra” theme.

The number of people on board was estimated at from 600 to 1,000. The exact number may never be known. Government officials used their influence to make the ship’s agents issue them and their friends tickets. Many went up the gangplanks just before the boat sailed, thinking to get their tickets from the purser afterward, when the boat was out at sea. Each, in one way or another, properly sealed his fate.

Later in the day, I was shown a wire from a man in Iloilo asking a friend in the city to secure a ticket for his mistress on the Corregidor. The war caught the woman in Manila and the man wanted her with him. The friend, I need not say, got the ticket.

Locsin, then a young newsman in the Philippines Free Press, would have been among the first to receive important news. Others got the day after. Fr. Juan Labrador OP, December 17, 1941 mentions how most other people got the news, and details that shocked the public:

At noontime, an “extra” of the dailies announced the great catastrophe of the vessel “Corregidor”. This was the heaviest and fastest of the boats anchored at the river. It set sail the night before without previous notice. Nevertheless, it was teeming with passengers destined for the Visayas. Around midnight, it hit a mine near the island of Corregidor and in three to five minutes it was swallowed up by the black waters of Manila Bay. It cannot be ascertained how many lives were lost. The Compañía Marítima does not have a list of the passengers. Many had filtered in without paying the fare, or mounted aboard with the idea of paying later on. Only 200 passengers were rescued, and the number of those drowned is estimated at 600 to 800.

Among the passengers were assemblymen, students from the South, and well-known families, including the brothers of the Archbishop of Cebu, one of whom was a professor and secretary of the Faculty of Law of the University of Santo Tomas; the other was a member of the Assembly. The assemblyman drowned, but the faculty member of UST was saved after swimming and floating for six hours. Those who were trapped in the cabins—women and children, for the most part—are forever buried in the bosom of the sea. Even among those who were on deck and had time to jump overboard, many were drowned for lack of lifesavers or for their inabiity to resist the current of the waves.

It was the first great tragedy of the war, and God permit that it be the last.

A young officer in the Philippine Coastal Patrol (the fledgling Philippine Navy) wrote about the tragedy as he received the news from colleagues in the US Navy. See Ramon Alcaraz, December 17, 1941:

By night time, the tragedy was compounded by the sinking of S.S. Corregidor in our own defensive minefields guarding the entrance to Manila Bay west of Corregidor Fortress.  S.S. Corregidor is one of the best among our inter-island commercial vessels with civilian and military personnel aboard bound for Visayas and Mindanao.

Loaded also are Artillery pieces, equipment and supplies of the 101st FA, and other Vis-Min Units.  From initial scant report I got from my Mistah Alano, ExO of Q-111 that participated in the rescue, he said the ship hit a mine and sunk so fast virtually all passengers went down with the ship including her Captain.  There were very few survivors.  The mined area is under the responsibility of the Harbor Defense and PT RON 3.  I should know more details about this tragedy after I talk with some of my comrades on duty then at PT RON 3.

Five days later, Alcaraz had more information about the tragedy. See Ramon Alcaraz, December 22, 1941:

I also talked with Ens. George Cox, CO PT 41 on duty when S.S. Corregidor sunk five days ago.  He said PT 41 was leading the ill fated ship at the channel but suddenly, all at once, the S.S. Corregidor veered course towards the minefields and his efforts to stop her were to no avail.  There was a loud explosion after hitting a mine, the ship sank so fast virtually all aboard went with her including the ship captain. There were very few survivors.

Events would rapidly overtake the S.S. Corregidor disaster. See December 24-25, 1941 in diaries; The Great Escape of the S.S. Mactan: December 31, 1941Evacuation of the Gold Reserves of the Commonwealth, February 3, 1942The debate on taking the Philippines out of the war: February 6-12, 1942Bataan, 1942: views of a father and his son; Life, death, decisions, during the Japanese Occupation; Diary entries on the Leyte Landing: October, 1944; and The Battle of Manila, Feb. 3-March 3, 1945 for more features on entries in the Philippine Diary Project.

 


Bataan, 1942: views of a father and his son

Victor Buencamino (second from left, second row), with his family in the Pines Hotel, Baguio, 1932. Rightmost on second row is his eldest son, Felipe Buencamino III.
Victor Buencamino (second from left, second row), with his family in the Pines Hotel, Baguio, 1932. Rightmost on second row is his eldest son, Felipe Buencamino III.

The Philippine Diary Project includes the diaries of a father and his son: Victor Buencamino, and Felipe Buencamino III. At the outbreak of the war, Victor Buencamino was head of the National Rice and Corn Corporation, precursor of today’s National Food Authority. His published diary covers the period from the arrival of the Japanese in Manila, and the first half of the Japanese Occupation.

His diary provides an in-depth look into the dilemma facing government officials who stuck to their posts despite the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Government and the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese. At certain points, particularly from January-April, 1942, he gets intermittent news about his son (who was, on the other hand, participating in clandestine military intelligence missions, even in Manila).

Particularly gripping are his entries for April, 1942, when on one hand, he is wrestling with increasing Japanese interference and intimidation –including his being summoned to the dreaded Fort Santiago, where other members of his staff had already been summoned and in at least once instance, tortured– and on the other, frantic for news about his son, particularly after the Fall of Bataan, when on the same day he received condolence messages and news his son was alive. Then, he recounted the grief of parents and his own search of the concentration camps.

Felipe Buencamino III (topmost, leaning on windshield of jeep), photo taken in Bataan, 1942.
Felipe Buencamino III (topmost, leaning on windshield of jeep), photo taken in Bataan, 1942.

As for Victor Buencamino’s son, Felipe Buencamino III, known to his friends as Philip, was a young journalist who became a junior officer in Bataan, assigned to General Simeon de Jesus and his military intelligence unit. He kept a diary from the time of the retreat of USAFFE forces to Bataan, conditions there as well as in Corregidor, which he periodically visited, looming defeat, the eve of surrender,  and then the Death March and the ordeal of his fellow prisoners in the Capas Concentration Campas well as his classmates. At times, his diary intersects with other diaries, such as the diary of Gen. Basilio J. Valdes, since Philip accompanied the General during one of his visits to the front. He resumed his diary, briefly, in 1944.

A close friend of Philip, Leon Ma. Guerrero, who was mentioned many times in Philip’s wartime diary, wrote about Mrs. Quezon and the ambush in which she was killed, in 1951. In his essay, he also wrote about his friend, Philip:

In Bataan I shared the same tent with Philip Buencamino, who was later to marry Nini Quezon. He was the aide of General de Jesus, the chief of military intelligence, to which I had been assigned. I remember distinctly that one of the first things Philip and I ever did was to ride out in the general’s command car along the east coast out of pure curiosity. The enemy’s January offensive was turning the USAFFE flank and all along the highway we met retreating units. Then there was nothing: only the open road, the dry and brittle stubble of the abandoned fields, and in the distance the smoke of a burning town. We turned back hurriedly; we had gone too far. I am afraid we never got any closer to the front lines. Our duties were behind the lines. We were quite close during the entire campaign until I was evacuated to the Corregidor hospital, and I developed a sincere admiration for Philip. He was a passionate nationalist who could not stomach racial discrimination, and I remember him best in a violent quarrel with an American non-commissioned officer whom he considered insolent toward his Filipino superiors.

On April 28, 1949, Felipe Buencamino III, together with his mother-in-law, Aurora A. Quezon, sister-in-law, Maria Aurora Quezon, and Ponciano Bernardo (mayor of Quezon City) and others, were killed in an ambush perpetrated by the Hukbalahap. The late Fr. James Reuter, SJ, wrote about it in 2005:

On April 28, 1949 – 56 years ago, Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon was on her way to Baler. With her eldest daughter, Maria Aurora, whom everyone called “Baby”. And with her son-in-law, Philip Buencamino, who was married to her younger daughter, Zeneida, whom everyone called “Nini”. Nini was at home with their first baby, Felipe IV, whom everyone called “Boom”. And she was pregnant with their second baby “Noni”.

On a rough mountain road, in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, they were ambushed by gunmen hiding behind the trees on the mountainside. The cars were riddled with bullets. All three of them were killed. Along with several others, among them Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City.

Adiong, the Quezon family driver, was spared. Running to the first car, Adiong found Philip lying on the front seat, his side dripping blood. Philip smiled at Adiong and said: “Malakas pa ako. Tingnan mo” — “I am still strong. Look!” And dipping his finger in his own blood, Philip wrote on the backrest of the front seat: “Hope in God”.

When they placed him in another vehicle for Cabanatuan, his bloody hands were fingering his rosary, and his lips were moving in prayer. This was consistent with his whole life. His rosary was always in his pocket. And on his 29th birthday, exactly one month before, on March 28, 1949, at dinner in his father’s home, he said to Raul Manglapus: “Raul, the Blessed Virgin has appeared at Lipa, and has a message for all of us. What are we going to do, to welcome her, and to spread her message?”

He was echoing the thoughts of Doña Aurora, who wanted a national period of prayer to welcome the Virgin and to spread her message of Peace. Years later, the Concerned Women of the Philippines established the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards, choosing the name in honor of this good, quiet, peaceful woman.

The blood stained rosary was brought to Nini, after Philip’s death. Many years later, she wrote down the thoughts that came to her when they gave her the bloody beads:

“We had joined my mother in Baguio for Holy Week, 1949. As we drove down the zigzag, after attending all the Holy Week services, Phil turned to me and said, ‘Nini, if we were to have an accident now, wouldn’t it be the perfect time for us to go?’ I said to him, ‘You may be ready, Phil, but I still have a child to give life to, so I can’t go just yet.’ And not long after this, his life was taken, and mine was spared.”

Her life was spared, but she felt the agony of those three deaths more intensely than anyone else. In that ambush she lost her husband, her mother, and her only sister. The gunmen riddled their bodies with bullets, on that rough mountain road. But miles away, with her one year old baby in her arms, and another baby in her womb, the gunmen left her with a broken heart. The ones she loved went home to God. But she had to carry on.

Another friend of Philip’s, Teodoro M. Locsin, whose wartime diary is also featured in the Philippine Diary Project, wrote about the murder of his friend, in the Philippines Free Press: see One Must Die, May 7, 1949:

I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.

Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.

Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side…

…As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.

After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.

Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.

He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.

When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.

He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.

A few days earlier, the other friend mentioned by Locsin —Arsenio H. Lacson on May 3, 1949— had also paid tribute to his friend, Philip:

Until now, I can’t quite get over Philip’s tragic death. He was first of all, a very close friend of mine. I saw him married, and was one of the best men at his wedding. I also saw him buried, and it is not a pleasant thing to remember.

Philip was such a nice, clean boy, friendly, warm-hearted and generous, so full of life, and laughter, that I learned to love him. Of course he had his faults, but you take your friends as they are, not as you want them to be. And Philip, for all his faults, was quite a man. In all the years that we kept close together, I never knew him to deliberately do a mean thing.

Because he was by nature easy-going and amiable, he exasperated me at time by failing to take things more seriously and using his considerable talents to point out the many evils with which our government is cursed. Actually, he was not wholly indifferent to them. He could on occasions become quite angry over certain injustices, but he had no capacity for sustained indignation, and it was not in him, to fret and worry over the distraceful and scandalous way this country is being run. Life to him was one swell adventure, to be lived and savored to the full, with very little time left for crusades. The world cannot be changed or saved in a day.

And because he was Philip, he would gaily twit me about being afflicted with a messianic itch. Relax, he would say. Take it easy. Things are not as bad as they look. In time, everything would be alright. Perhaps, he had the right answer. I wouldn’t know. But I shudder to think what would happen if all of us adopted a carely and carefree attitude and paraphrasing archie, Don Marquis’ cockroach reporter, say:

no trick nor kick of fate
can raise me from a yell,
serene I sit and wait
for the Philippines to go to hell.

The last time I saw Philip was two days before his death. Linking his arm to mine with a gay laugh, he dragged me to Astoria for a cup of coffee. We joined a boisterous group of newsmen who flung good-natured jibes at Philip when he announced that he was quitting the government foreign service to settle down to a life of a country farmer. Somebody brought up the subject of a certain Malacañan reporter who always made it a point to take a malicious crack at Philip and his influential family connections, and Philip agreed the guy was nasty. It was typical of Philip, however, that when I curtly suggested that he punch the offensive reporter on the nose, he smilingly shook his head saying: “How can I? Every time I get sore, the fellow embraces me and tells me with that silly laugh of his ‘Sport lang, Chief.’ I can’t get mad at him.”

That was Philip. He couldn’t get mad at anyone for long. He liked everybody, even those who, regarding him with envious eyes as a darling Child of Fortune, spoke harshly of him. He was essentially a nice, friendly guy. It was not in him to harm anybody, including those who tried to harm him.

And now he is dead, along with that fine and noble lady who was his mother-in-law, and that vivid, great-hearted, spirited girl who was so much like her great and illustrious father, foully murdered by hunted and persecuted men turned into wild, insensate beasts by grave injustices –men who, in laying ambush for Mr. Quirino and other government officials, brutally and mercilessly struck down innocent victims instead.

Philip Buencamino III had so much to live for: a charming, gracious wife who adored him, a chubby little son who will one day grow up into sturdy manhood with only a dim memory of his father, and another child on the way whom Philip now will never see. Handsome and talented, Philip had his whole future before him. His was a life so full of brilliant promise, and it is a great tragedy that it should have ended soon. He had been a top reporter before he entered the foreign service. With his charm and affability, his personal gifts and family prestige, there was no height he could not have scaled as a diplomat. The pity of it, the futile pitiful waste of it! A nice, clean, promising youngster sacrificed to the warring passions of men who have turned Central Luzon into a charnel house.

Incidentally, a very rare recording exists of Philip during his time as a radio commentator –and a member of the Malacañan Press Corps– you can listen to him being the emcee of sorts, in President Roxas’s first radio press conference.

Readers can access the diary of Victor Buencamino in full, or that of Felipe Buencamino III in full, as well; or, they can go through the entries for April 1942, which include other entries by other diarists who were writing at the same time.


December 24-25, 1941 in diaries

From Malacanan

December 24, 1941: Philippine Army Chief of Staff and Secretary of National Defense, Secretary of Public Works and Communications and Secretary of Labor Basilio J. Valdes, and Executive Secretary Jorge B. Vargas, watch as President Manuel L. Quezon administers the oath of office to Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who also became Acting Secretary of Justice & Acting Secretary of Finance; witnessed by Jose P. Laurel and Benigno S. Aquino, in the Social Hall of Malacañan Palace. A few hours later the government evacuated to Corregidor, where the seat of government was transferred. Behind Quezon can be seen the Rest House (now Bahay Pangarap) across the river in Malacañang Park.

The Philippine Diary Project has several entries for this and the next day, covering different facets of life:

Basilio J. Valdes: December 24, 1941 begins his day at 8 am with a Cabinet meeting; on December 25, 1941, he recounts midnight Mass in Corregidor.

Ramon A. Alcaraz: does escort duties as a Q-Boat captain, on December 24, 1941.

Fr. Juan Labrador, OP, a Spanish Dominican, tries to piece together the information he has in UST for December 24, 1941. He is better informed than most.

Teodoro M. Locsin: as a civilian, December 24, 1941 was, for him, about the effects of air-raids in Manila. With nothing to do on December 25, 1941, Locsin observes life around him, and the isolation war brings.

Felipe Buencamino III: writing as a young lieutenant in Tagaytay, rounds off December 24, 1941 among the diarists.


Thursday, November 30, 1972

On the day of the signing of the Constitution, the headline of the Daily Express was “FM tells the Military: I want Free, Open Discussions on Charter Provision.”

What lie! What double-talk! Hitler seems to be alive again! But many people were somewhat comforted by these pronouncements of President Marcos. Being allowed to open the window of freedom somewhat after having been deprived our civil rights for more than a month now, is great.

We do not really value our freedom until we are deprived of it. Then we understand why throughout the ages, men have fought for their freedom as an important ingredient of human dignity.

An air of excitement was in the air at the session hall. The delegates, in spite of everything, seemed to exude a sense of history—whether a famous or infamous one, the future will tell.

The roll call of delegates for individual signing of the Constitution in English and Pilipino was somewhat unruly. President Macapagal kept on banging the gavel, asking the delegates to sit down.

Sig Siguion-Reyna whispered, “Macapagal should have shown this force a little bit earlier, not now; I myself thought that he should have at least presided over our meeting last night if only because it was the last session, but, sadly, it was Vice Pres. Abe Sarmiento who did.”

There were some congressmen who had entered the hall. Speaker Villareal was there, and so were Congressmen Sanchez and Caram and Solicitor General Titong Mendoza (UP Law Class ’52) who had phoned the Con-Con that I had been taken into custody by the military. Yesterday, Titong told us he had a conference with Justice Undersec. Taling Macaraeg (Class ’52) about my arrest. Taling’s suggestion was for Titong to guarantee me and take me into his custody.

Sig Siguion-Reyna learned last night that our colleagues in detention are to be released for one day today during the signing of the Constitution. He said he wanted to make sure of this so he had relayed the message to President Macapagal.

True enough, before we could finish our conversation, Nap Rama, who is detained at Fort Bonifacio, dramatically appeared at the session hall. He is no longer sporting the same macho hairdo. Rather, his hair is somewhat dishevelled and bears the untypical look of not having been creamed for sometime. How un-Nap-like! He also sports a mini-mustache now.

Two minutes later, Joe Mari Velez, also an inmate of Fort Bonifacio, appeared. Unlike Nap, Joe Mari is wearing a thick mustache curved sideways at the edges. He came in a blue t-shirt, looking quite healthy.

Nap Rama’s usual swagger seemed to have deserted him. After only two months in Fort Bonifacio! Joe Mari, on the other hand, looked defiant.

Joe Mari immediately told me that the news in his camp is that I have also been taken. He gave me the unnerving information that if I have not yet been arrested I would be—very soon.

I could hardly catch my breath. I thought my ordeals are over.

Both Nap and Mari expected me to join them soon—and in the isolation stockade of Fort Bonifacio, not in the relatively more comfortable Camp Crame stockade.

My heartbeats pounded like a gong.

Nap said that they had long expected me to be detained because their information was that I was marked by the military from the beginning as an enemy of the regime.

He talked about their own ordeal. In the first two days, the military had really sought to break them. The soldiers had put barbed wire fences higher than their windows all around their barracks. Poor Nap does not know until now precisely what he is being apprehended for.

Nap sounded desperate. Like the others, he seemed resigned to the present political situation. He will cooperate, if necessary, if this would give him back his liberty.

I inquired about his SSS loan and the reported foreclosure of his mortgage. “Yes,” he replied sadly. He has received a telegram saying he has ten days within which to pay the loan or else his house will be foreclosed. That is why his house is now for sale.

Nap did not sound bitter but he was clearly on edge. He said that it is ironical that the same reforms that we have been fighting for seem to be now under implementation by the martial law regime.

I inquired about Teddy Locsin. Teddy, Nap said, is quite bitter. Teddy says that he had fought so much for these reforms and now the military has put him in prison rather than awarding him a medal for his crusade.

Romy Capulong was with me while I was talking to Nap.

Nap gave us the shocking information that our meetings at Pepe Calderon’s place had been completely monitored by the military.

God! I gasped.

Could it be that some delegates went there with tape recorders in their pockets? After all, Romy said, in some of the meetings there were 30 or 40 delegates in attendance.

Still, I could not imagine how anyone in our Independent-Progressive group could have betrayed us.

Romy thought that it was possible that either one or two delegates who were present during one of our meetings could have done it; after all we also have counter-infiltration on the other side.

Out of sheer curiosity, I asked Romy who they were, and Romy said, “I don’t want to tell you because it might poison your mind and especially because it may not be true. But someday I will. One of these is a woman,” he said tantalizingly.

I overheard a delegate saying that Joe Concepcion and Tito Guingona were in the Steering Council room on the 13th floor and that they were waiting for President Macapagal.

“You better go down already,” Joe Feria told me. “I am just fetching Macapagal.”

President Macapagal was, for a while, busy entertaining Speaker Villareal, who had come in shortly before 11 o’clock. In the meantime that this was happening, Titong Mendoza came along looking for a copy of the new Constitution.

While Titong and I were in Macapagal’s room, I noticed former Central Bank Governor Cuaderno lying on his side on the couch, writhing in pain. Nobody seemed to be looking after him; nobody seemed to mind.

I was alarmed. I ran towards the governor and fell on my knees.

“Governor, is there anything wrong? Are you sick?”

“It’s my asthma.”

“Shall I call a doctor?” I asked. I gathered from his murmur that a doctor has been sent for.

“Air, air,” he murmured.

I opened the windows.

The doctor took long in coming. I thought it was heartless of many delegates to see him there and not to do anything to help him. Of course, they had other excitements today, but….

Then came the Convention doctor; we were not sure, however, of his competence. I was hoping that a physician delegate would come. Then Tony Velasco, himself a medical doctor, came in.

I went to the session hall looking for Dr. George Viterbo; I trust him most.

Two minutes later, Tony Velasco was in the session hall, doing what everybody else was doing—asking for the autograph of delegates. He asked me to sign his copy of the proposed Constitution. “But what, about Cuaderno? What have you done?” My concern was great.

“Oh, it is only asthma. The doctor is taking care of him. The medicine has already been brought in.”

President Macapagal was already with the detainees when I arrived. Tito Guingona and Joe Concepcion, among others, were asking him to make representation on their behalf with President Marcos.

President Macapagal kept on saying, “Yes, yes, yes, I will take it up.”

“I think tomorrow is the best time to discuss this,” I chipped in. “President Marcos will be in a good mood; this will really be good for national unity.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Macapagal nodded in agreement.

Joe Concepcion wanted Macapagal to do more than this. He kept on asking whether or not they would be allowed to see President Marcos tomorrow. Macapagal said he could get another clearance for them. Of course, he would not talk to the President about any single one of them. He could only ask that all delegates be invited—including those under detention.

The detainees present were Joe Concepcion, Tito Guingona, Ernie Rondon, Bren Guiao, Pepito Nolledo and Natalio (Taliox) Bacalzo. Nolledo was standing at the back, somewhat lost!

Joecon whispered to me that the one in most pathetic condition among them is Nolledo. He seems to be on the verge of a breakdown.

Ding Lichauco is, likewise, not in good shape. He has contracted pneumonia and was taken to the hospital this morning. He is in a pitiful state. He has no children and his wife, Nita, is now alone.

Macapagal bade the detainees good-bye. “You know it’s good to meet with you… even just to be together for a while,” he said. “But I must now go up and attend to the Convention.”

Bebet Duavit arrived as Macapagal was leaving. “Here is the man who can help you,” he said as he left.

We all finally got Duavit to promise that he was going to talk to President Marcos. When the detainees told him that Macapagal had already talked to Marcos, he dismissed Macapagal: “Wala ‘yan.” Macapagal is too proud to talk to Marcos. He only sends letters. He does everything in writing. He said that as past president of the Philippines, he should be in a position to talk to President Marcos for the detainees. Bebet intimated, the detainees should not expect Macapagal to be able to do much for them.

President Macapagal’s ego is monumental, Duavit added. When he and Macapagal were with Flores Bayot, one of Marcos’ assistant executive secretaries (who was in the session hall yesterday; Sed Ordoñez, in fact, was asking me why? What was he monitoring?), Duavit said he had told Bayot, “You tell your President that my President is arranging with the postman for the delivery of the Constitution in Malacañang.” Duavit saw Macapagal’s face light up, he was all smiles, and he seemed to have grown two inches taller.

Duavit promised to talk to President Marcos tonight and follow it up with another talk tomorrow morning.

Joecon and Tito Guingona asked Duavit to tell Marcos that they can help in the implementation of the program of the New Society.

Duavit promised to try to persuade Marcos again, as he had done in the past, to release them. President Marcos had, in fact, told him at one time that Duavit should talk to the military and tell them that he would guarantee them.

But Duavit expressed reluctance to guarantee anyone. “Baka naman e-escape kayo,” he said sheepishly.

“Why not divide the responsibility?” I suggested. “You guarantee X, Ven Yaneza guarantees Y.

            Eh, kung umescape kayo.” Duavit has misgivings.

Tito Guingona then spoke up. “Yes,” he said, “political amnesty is the best.”

In the beginning, the detained delegates present had all come from Camp Crame only and so Tito, Joecon and the rest talked about amnesty for them… because they were presumably not charged with as grave crimes as the detainees in Fort Bonifacio.

But later, Nap Rama from Fort Bonifacio dropped by. They then agreed that the amnesty should include all delegates.

Bren Guiao tried to pin down Duavit on whether he would visit them. How else would they know the result?

Duavit promised to visit them tomorrow.

Later, as we were leaving, Joecon lingered around to talk some more with Duavit. Duavit then said he would tell President Marcos that it would be good for the Rizal delegates to be released because they would especially need to get “Yes” votes from Rizal—the oppositionist district.

What a paradoxical figure this Duavit is! So much a lackey for Marcos, yet warm, possibly even affectionate towards his colleagues—even to those in the opposite side of the political spectrum. Is he a good man at heart—who is possessed? If so, he needs an exorcist! Or is he a marionette? What is he really?

Joe Feria, Naning Kalaw and I invited the detainees for lunch at the Sulo Hotel. Later, Romy Capulong and Raul Roco joined us. Still later, while we were eating, Ric Sagmit came by and spent a while with us, particularly with Bren Guiao.

Everyone has his own story. Bren Guiao said that on Saturday night, he had dinner with Tito Guingona, but Tito did not tell him then—and Bren turned towards Tito reproachfully—what he, Tito, may have already known.

Tito was with General Rialp. Tito had asked Rialp if he was in the list. They went over the list alphabetically. “Letter G… Guiao, etc., no Guingona. You are not in,” Rialp had confirmed.

But in the meantime, the name of Guiao had already been read aloud and Tito did not warn him!

When Bren phoned his house Sunday morning, he discovered that about 40 Metrocom troopers had surrounded his house. So he did not know what to do. Finally, he decided to talk over the phone with the commander. The commander said he was being invited for interrogation. So Bren answered, “I might as well meet you in Camp Crame.”

He thought he would be interrogated, then released immediately, but when he got into the Camp he was not allowed to get out anymore.

Romy Capulong and Raul Roco’s houses were raided at 10:00 o’clock on Saturday—the very first day. Romy and Raul would have been ahead of Guiao in the stockades were they not able to run out of their houses earlier that day.

It was on the sixth day—on Friday—as Tito was talking with Bobbit that he, Tito, was arrested.

Taliox Bacalzo said he was interrogated at the stockade for his radio broadcasts going back to 1949 (sic).

The detainees still kept their sense of humor in spite of their obvious anguish. They were complaining of each other’s behavior, like little children. First, they picked on Pepito Nolledo.

Joecon said that in the first two nights, Nolledo would suddenly go up to his fellow prisoners and ask, “By the way, are you a spy?”

Bacalzo swore that one night, Nolledo came to his bed and stared at him for three minutes without speaking. He (Bacalzo) got scared. After three minutes, Nolledo asked Bacalzo, “Brod, are you a spy?” Bacalzo was terribly shaken!

There was a near fight in the camp. Nolledo was at the lower bunk while the hard-hitting columnist Louie Beltran was on top. One day, Beltran’s watch got lost. He searched everywhere, swearing and cursing as he went. Finally, he found the watch in the bag of Nolledo. Apparently, the watch fell down from the upper bunk and fell right into the open bag of Nolledo.

Nolledo was peeved by the remarks of his friends about him.

“Joe Concepcion’s behavior was worse than mine. He was always crying during the first two days” he attacked.

Joecon blushed. When his children came, one of them rushed to him and cried, so he started wailing also, he explained.

Joecon said that one of the worst things that can happen to a man is to lose his freedom.

I was reminded of my note to Raul Roco on his birthday a couple of weeks ago—that we are prone to take our liberty for granted; it is only when we are denied it that we realize the real value of personal freedom.

Joecon, who is a close friend, then turned towards me and said complainingly that he now realizes who his real friends are…. I did not even visit him!

Of course, they all know that I was interrogated; that I was in the secondary “list,” that were it not for my long friendship with Enrile, I could have been in the stockade with them.

Joecon admitted that the officers of his corporations have been going there for meetings with him every week. I had also learned from Vicente (Ting) Jaime, that Joecon has been getting passes because his mother is sick. Also, at one time, he had procured a pass to attend a board meeting of his company.

The detainees feasted as on nectar and ambrosia. In no time, we had cleaned up the plates. We horsed around for a while in an atmosphere of complete carefreeness.

This was the first time they have had a good meal in weeks. Also the first time that they were in an air-conditioned room.

Tito Guingona complained that the terrible thing in the stockade is like being in a sauna, he said; the gym is as hot as hell!

I asked then why Conception Industries did not install an airconditioning unit there. Of course, Joecon said, if they would allow it for two months, he would have it done. But the gym was so huge.

I told Joecon I did not recognize him because he no longer looked like a bouncing baby. He had lost at least five kilos. Besides he was not wearing his famous two-way transmitter in his belt anymore.

He said that he was dictating on his Philip machine but even that was taken from him. And he was heartbroken because his two-way radio is no longer allowed.

Bobbit Sanchez came later and said that he had talked to Duavit for some few minutes more after we had left. Duavit was supposed to have said he was going to see the President today and tomorrow and the detainees should have an answer one way or the other in 15 days. In any case, Bobbit said, possibly, after the ratification of the Constitution they would be freed.

Joecon wailed “No, no, no, that is too long. Tell us if it is 15 days, it is 15 days. Then at least we can hope. Magpapasko ba naman kami doon?

Joecon then proceeded to mention that he knew someone who was going to commit suicide during the first few days because of the loss of his liberty.

Bobbit reported that Joe Mari Velez refused to be included in the proposed amnesty. He left him in the session hall waiting to be called because he wanted to deliver a speech. Even if there is hardly any audience anymore.

But, he said, the session was already over last night, he would certainly not be allowed to speak. Indeed, it is foolish and senseless waiting to speak when the session is over.

Bobbit said that Joe Mari said he would stay in the stockade even if it meant staying indefinitely. Joe Mari is very bitter.

One of the delegates whispered that part of the bitterness lay in the fact that Voltaire Garcia had voted “Yes” in the transitory provisions when he could have voted “No” because he was only under house arrest (after he had already been released from the stockade).

In fairness, however, I knew that Voltaire fell ill in the stockade; I had seen how pale and thin he was when I met and embraced him upon his release.

“I am worried about Voltaire”, I had told Ding afterwards.

“So am I,” he said. He had watched Voltaire as he entered to vote.

Raul Roco said that we should really understand that the environment of Joe Man and Nap Rama in Fort Bonifacio is different from that in Camp Crame. In Bonifacio there is a group of defiant people like Ninoy Aquino, Pepe Diokno, Chino Roces, Teddy Locsin. This is the reason Joe Mari is defiant; he has been influenced by his environment.

Taking a cue, Joe Mari made a doomsday statement. Based on their reading of history, he perorated, they would either be executed or they would one day seize political power.

“Correct, correct,” Bobbit Sanchez nodded in assent.

“Except that Nap Rama seems to have a different frame of mind,” I teased. “Nap has acquired a Camp Crame mentality. He has shed his Fort Bonifacio mentality.”

“True, true,” the naughty Bobbit blurted.

Poor Nap flushed and we laughed freely. What was it Thomas Gray had written in his Elegy in a Country Churchyard?

            We look before and after
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught…

Nap quickly recovered his composure and took over with a vengeance. Last night, at 12:30 past midnight, he had received a call from President Macapagal. Awakened by the call, he abruptly got up. This is it, he thought. I’m going to be executed. He fell on his knees to pray.

Of course I remember that Nap was a seminarian. I could imagine him reciting his Hail Marys:

Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee….

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour…

Joecon butted in. He recounted how President Macapagal had called him up after the call to Nap. The result was that he had hardly slept because Macapagal talked for three hours—until 3:30 in the morning. Either Macapagal was incoherent or he was just too sleepy, Joecon confessed, but he didn’t understand what Macapagal was talking about. That was why he rang up Joe Feria to find out what this was all about.

Joecon added that Nolledo had excitedly woke up Ding Lichauco.

“Ding, Ding, si Macapagal.”

Ding jumped out of bed. “Nasaan ang punyetang Macapagal?”

Nolledo explained that Macapagal was on the phone talking to Joecon. Several minutes later, Ding got up again and shouted, “Nasaan siya? Nasaan ang punyetang Macapagal?”

Joecon explained that it was Macapagal who was arranging for this one-day freedom and they should be grateful.

All the delegates then started their litany of complaints against Ding, his picayunes and foibles. Affectionate complaints against a comrade in suffering?

Ernie Rondon quipped that Ding Lichauco is so used to royalty he had decorated his bed with different varieties of blankets so that his bed looked like a royal bed.

They were all afraid to get near him, they said, because he is irritable. (Not to mention the fact that he was a boxing champion at Harvard?)

            Katakot-takot ang punyeta at punyetero,” Joe Concepcion and Taliox sighed. “Talo pa si Quezon.”

They were picking on Ding now, but all of them respect him as a patriot, a nationalist, one of those rare guys who really have the courage of his convictions. At the back of their minds they all knew this and respect Ding for it. But this did not deter them from getting more and more juvenile.

“I am one of Ding’s friends but many times I can not talk to him.” I was now contaminated by their degenerate mood. “Do you know that at one time, when I was with Joe Romero at CEPO, Ding appeared? Upon seeing his friend, Joe, without any provocation, he said: ‘Romero, if the revolution should succeed, your head will roll.'”

“I’m sure he was kidding,” I added, “but do you know how Joe took it? He was visibly unnerved.”

“But wait.” I was not yet through. “Upon seeing me also there, he went on with his offensive: ‘Also your head, Caesar.'”

“But enough of his good qualities. Let us talk of his foibles.”

Little Bobbit was a teen-ager again, in his barkada mood.

“Okay,” one of the detainees said. “Do you know that whenever Ding received his food, he would eat without making any gesture of sharing it with the rest of us?”

“This is only a cultural pattern; after all, he had spent seven years at Harvard, where this is the norm,” I was now defending Ding.

Still, barbarian Taliox from the wilderness of Cebu could not understand this. In a burst of mischief, he said: “But then when somebody else is eating I notice that Ding would even steal some cookies from this somebody.”

“Oh, come on.”

Everyone laughed.

Poor Ding. These friends had to make merry. And they just happened to pick on Ding because he was not present. They seized the opportunity of making fun of him because they would otherwise have been afraid to say these things to his face.

In the process, our friends forgot their sorry plight—for a moment, at least. Indeed, for a moment, they were like little children. And the rest of us, too.

My heart went out to these friends. They were a pathetic sight. We had fun, of course, while it lasted. It was really a celebration—a celebration of their temporary freedom. And I was happy that we made them happy, thanks to Joe Feria and to Naning Kalaw, who had taken the initiative to organize this dinner.

Our eyes were moist as we escorted them back to the long line of Constabulary guards who were all heavily armed, as if Joecon and Taliox, Bren and Pepito and Tito too—these harmless peacemakers—would not run away at the explosion of a bawang firecracker.

Raul Roco, as usual, pretended to be nonchalant.

“At least, these guys do not have to pay for their gasoline,” he said. He had the look of a shyster as he laughed. Typical.

Tito Guingona, however, looked so forlorn. He was a study in brooding silence. He was desolate.

“Everyone is in revelry, Tito,” I comforted this man who has been a sincere and gallant partner in our struggle for decency, fairness and freedom. “You alone seem so despondent.”

Tito lifted his eyes and spoke his parting words: “Do not forget us, Caesar.”

“Forget? Tito, how can we forget?”

Our hearts went out to our colleagues as the soldiers came forward; they were to be returned to the stockades.

“Do not lose hope!” Joe Feria, Naning Kalaw and I chorused as we waved at them.

Not lose hope? Did we really mean what we said? But today, the 30th of November, 1972, did we not really lose hope ourselves? On this day of infamy, did we not bury our dreams?

The Con-Con is over. Finished.

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith,” Paul had written to Timothy. But as for us, did we tight the good fight, really, or did we simply capitulate?

The Constitution has been bastardized. Authoritarianism has been legalized—but surely not legitimized! Where is that acceptance by the population of rulers imbued with superior moral, intellectual and political capabilities which Antonio Gramsci says, is the hallmark of legitimacy?

Up to now, our democracy, at best, has been a fragile one. But even this as yet imperfect—because clientelist and elitist—democracy has been cruelly snatched from us by this coup from above. Will the political institutions of this fragile democracy someday be restored, perhaps even nurtured to ripen into an authentic democracy? But democratic institutions can only be sustained if they are part of a democratic culture; even free institutions may not create a free society. Can we look forward to a time when the next generation may be able to cure the defects of a facade democracy and really see a participatory society with the incandescent idea enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence—that all men are created equal—at least approximated?

But even these reflections should be set aside for now. At the moment, one anxiously wonders whether this dark night of repression that has descended upon all of us will last for a long period? Or is this going to be a mere aberration in our 70 years of constitutional development—a nightmare whose memory will vanish soon enough?

But vanish it, perhaps we should not. For if we fail to remember our past, pride will dominate our politics and history.

I now close this diary of the Con-Con which depicts the strands of a complex fabric of contradictions—of indecency, bad taste, dishonor, betrayal, cowardice—compounded by some acts of selfishness, too, even of sparks of courage among a few.

Our actuations in the Con-Con reflected vividly the tragedy of man in his pride and his vulnerability.

I remember that 27 years ago, the philosopher Karl Jaspers had addressed his fellow Germans in searing terms, whose words I can not now exactly recall: “We did not go into the streets when our Jewish friends were led away; we did not scream until we, too, were destroyed. We preferred to stay alive on the feeble, if logical ground that our death could not have helped anyone… we are guilty of being alive.”

I feel guilty of being free; thousands are in the stockades, some of them tortured. And two of the “super-radicals” at our Asian Leadership Development Conference (ALDEC)—with whom I had some violent quarrels on the night that martial law was declared—have been shot and killed, I heard.

Could a certain respect for higher principles above our own personal existence have saved our people from so much pain and suffering? Don’t ethical and moral dimensions in political decision-making count anymore?

Should not our people—perhaps the next generation, who knows?—not confront our national guilt someday?

Will this story of guilt and betrayal someday be unravelled and the judgment of history brought down upon our heads? I, for one, hereby vow that at the very first opportunity, when the dawn of freedom shall have brightened again the skies of our darkened land, I will have this diary read by our people. They have a right to know how their delegates performed and behaved at the Con-Con during the decisive last three months of its tragic life; our development, whether for progress or retrogression, is blurred enough by too much anonymization.

Withal, some halting doubts assail me as I close the Con-Con story: What if martial law was not declared? Could the Con-Con have framed a Constitution that would have brought about basic changes in our social structures, minimized inequality in wealth and political power? Could we have conquered massive poverty among the people or accelerated growth that would ameliorate the harshest aspects of poverty of the present and bears the seeds of decreasing inequality in the future? If those of us who call ourselves democrats have had our way in the Con-Con, could we have ushered in a more just society, a more participatory polity?

I do realize even as I close this diary that this is one of those great “ifs” in history. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder: Could the Con-Con really have effected a social revolution through constitutional means in response to the desperate need of our people for greater social justice, if only some of us, myself included, had stood up for the harder right instead of the easier wrong?

Of course there is no way to test the big decisions of history, as the Czech writer, Milan Kundera, says, because there is no way to go back and see what the opposite choices would have brought. Indeed, how can we know for certain that those of us who had experienced detention or been suppressed in the exercise of our freedom of expression during the Con-Con would not follow after the footsteps of our oppressors if it should happen that someday it may be our turn to wield political power? Would we not, then, precisely fulfill the role set by Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed?

I do not really know what to think of these things; perhaps I can never know. Indeed, often in life we have to face serious and difficult questions where no one really knows the answers. But it does not really matter, as Max Frisch has once said; the important thing is to raise the questions nevertheless. Then, in the end, everyone must answer in his own way. Some, no doubt, would answer with their own lives.

Manila. Three hours past midnight of November 30, 1972.


Sept. 23, 1972, Saturday

Marcos Diaries 1972_139 Marcos Diaries 1972_140 Marcos Diaries 1972_141

 

(1)

12:20PM

Sept. 23, 1972

Saturday

Malacañan Palace

Manila

 

Things have moved according to plan although out of the total 200 target personalities in the plan only 52 have been arrested, including the three senators, Aquino, Diokno and Mitra and Chino Roces and Teddy Locsin.

At 7:15 PM I finally appeared on a nationwide TV and Radio broadcast to announce the proclamation of martial law, the general orders and instructions.

I place them in Envelope XXXV-C

I was supposed to broadcast at 12:00AM but technical difficulties prevented it.  We had closed all TV stations.  We had to clear KBS which broadcast it live.  VOP and PBS broadcast it by radio nationwide.

The broadcast turned out rather well and Mons. Gaviola as well as the usual friends liked it.  But my most exacting critic, Imelda, found it impressing.  I watched the replay at 9:00 PM.

 

(2)

Sept. 23rd (Con’t)

Malacañan Palace

Manila

I have amended curfew from 8-6 to 12-4.

Arms bearing outside residence without permit punishable by death.

Kits Tatad read the proclamation, the orders and the instructions after my talk.

Have started checking on Zone Commanders.  Gen. Encarnacion of the IV does not seem to have been systematic.  He still talks of some people like Mayor Cabili criticizing the proclamation of martial law as premature although grudgingly extending cooperation under Gen. Order No. 3 for all offices to continue functioning.

Talk to Imee and Bongbong.  London newspaper had it I arrested the opposition, no mention of communists.

And called up Sec. Romulo and Amb. Romualdez before them.  New York Times at least was sure handed and spoke of martial law after the attempt of assassination of my Secretary of National Defense.

 

(3)

Sept. 23rd (Con’t)

Malacañan Palace

Manila

Ordered all wire services and embassies to be furnished the speech, proclamation, orders and instructions.


Jan. 12, 1971 1:55 pm

…Freddie Elizalde showed me a copy of an editorial which Chino Roces wanted to be pooled by all the newspapers castigating me and asking for my resignation and that of the cabinet. For good measure the editorial included the Vice-President. It was opposed by Freddie and Ugarte. And Teddy Locsin opposed the demand for resignation.

What a ridiculous spectacle Chino Roces is making of himself. He is supposed to have said that I engineered the drivers strike and am leading to a declaration of martial law as there will be violence tomorrow and in the days to come, and he predicted that at least ten men would be killed tomorrow…

…The timetable is being pushed too fast by the leftists. It may be earlier than we think.


Tuesday, February 3, 1970

01 Diary of Ferdinand Marcos, 1970, 0001-0099 (Jan01-Feb28) 67

PAGE 65

Office of the President

of the Philippines

Tuesday

February 3, 1970

12:30 AM

The threat to turn the funerals of the four dead students into a mass rally has failed so far as the parents of the victims refused to allow the dead bodies to be further utilized to inflame the youth.

There is comparative quiet although there was a scare of the students entering and burning the fashionable villages of Forbes Park, Urdaneta, Magallanes, etc, and the rich residents have evacuated. As Teddy Locsin said quoting the good book “The guilty flee where no one pursueth while the innocent are bold as a lion.

With the statements of the young student leader Villalon and the former CIS chief Joe Maristela, I am now convinced that the Liberals have planned and organized these demonstrations in preparation for an alleged revolution.

We must unmask these would be anarchists hiding behind children.

And now Ninoy Aquino, Manny Pelaez and even Doy Laurel have started to discredit the Armed Forces. They delivered their privilege speeches yesterday.


Saturday, January 31, 1970

01 Diary of Ferdinand Marcos, 1970, 0001-0099 (Jan01-Feb28) 63 01 Diary of Ferdinand Marcos, 1970, 0001-0099 (Jan01-Feb28) 64

PAGE 61

Office of the President

of the Philippines

Saturday

January 31, 1970

Malacañang

10:00 AM

I write this tonight having been a little occupied last night during the demonstration or riot. I am glad I was able to hold back on the repeated requests to fire at the rioters, the first request when they took over a fire truck burned it and rammed it against Gate 4 broke the lock and rushed into the compound near the new Administration Bldg, the second when they threatened to do the same on Gate 3.

Have delivered a TV speech, called all the mayors of Metropolitan Manila and Gen. Rodriguez to work out a coordinated plan. Mayor Villegas kept explaining why the MPD police did not come to help us in Malacañang (nor the fire trucks of the MFD either).

Conferred with the military (Sec. of Nat Def, Chief of Staff, Chiefs of the major services and their staffs.)

Then with the political leaders.

Most felt there should be no repression. So I have had to delay the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. We will await developments. I understand the demonstrators will hit the PNB and Metropolitan Branches next. The PCC demonstration of Prudente was called off. But I gather there will be a big demonstration next Tuesday and/or Mar. 3rd.

When they do so again, they may be armed with firearms. In the meantime I can only gnash my teeth and wait.

PAGE 62

Office of the President

of the Philippines

These are difficult days for everybody. But I pity the citizenry caught in the crossfire last night. For the rioters were sniping at the MPD, Metrocom & soldiers with .22’s.

I suppose that the people now sympathize with me, specially if these vandals continue their destructive anarchy.

But Chino Roces still seemed hostile in the meeting with the publishers when I requested support for my position in the matter of the rioters. And Teddy Locsin tonight could not see in it anything but that reform must come by violent means. I had forgotten that he had always written sympathetically of Mao Tse Tung.

We should ride this out with patience and perseverance.

Teddy apparently was warning me that if there was repression by the arrest of the leaders of the communist movement, there would be retaliation and Central Luzon would be transferred to Manila with the slums becoming the jungle.

If I let these fears deter me from fighting communism then we are lost. But I must continue to restrain myself lest we lose the support of the people by a stance of tyranny.


December 29, 1941

The war holds your problems in grateful suspension. You almost dread the coming of peace which will once more precipitate them. For the moment, they have lost their urgency. That trouble with your family, the uncompleted novel, the hopeless passion for a girl who does not love you, which had formerly so troubled you, must now stand humbly at the door while you occupy yourself with matters more pressing, of life and death. That fine emotional balance, that delicate synchronization of all your parts, that rich fulfillment you thought was so necessary to your happiness have ceased to concern you, for the reason that happiness has become, for the duration, superfluous. No longer necessary. The war has given you a breathing spell.

The war has given me what I never had before: time to read as much as I like. I had several books I bought and never found the leisure to read. I had given them up as money lost. During the last three weeks, I was able, between alarms and all-clears, to finish reading them all. The war has been an unexpected dividend.

It has changed, though, the character of my reading. I have a collection of detective novels still unread. I used to enjoy few things more than to run through their gory pages at the end of the day. Now I cannot read them.Their dismay over the killing of one, two or three people seems to me rather petty. Now.

Now I find comfort and relish in the pages of the philosophers whose conclusions may be briefly stated:

Nothing matters.

The war has also affected our drinking habits. Those who drank as a matter of habit are drinking more than ever. They drank for relief, as a means of escape from the intolerable self. Now they drink to escape, simply, the war.

Those who drank on occasion have, on the other hand, stopped drinking altogether. They drank as others read books, listen to music, collect paintings or go to the movies, to relieve boredom. The war has taken boredom away. Bombers coming over in perfect formation, glistening with death, are the equivalent of a good stiff drink. Bombs rushing through the air overhead are an all-night revel.

At the Arcade bar a man started a collection for a soldier who had just come back to the city from Lingayen and was now in a hospital for treatment of his wounds before returning to the front.

“I want to have enough to buy him a complete suit.”

When the Japanese captured the boy, they stripped him of his clothes except his underwear, leaving him shivering in the December cold. Managing to escape from prison camp, the boy reached Manila the other day, undaunted, naked except for his undershirt and shorts.

The narrator, a Dutchman who had once been district commissioner in the Netherlands East Indies, had retained his youthful admiration for Oscar Wilde’s wit. Now he concluded his little tale:

“He kept his pants up.”

What happens to a man is his private concern. It can hardly be of interest to anyone but himself. If he has a wife and children, it touches them. Otherwise, he goes alone.

But what happens today to a man is happening, in greater or less degree, to other men all over the world. The war has descended on us all. We are its heirs, joint and solitary. It cannot be disposed of separately.

We live a common life and the fate of one becomes, in time, by a new necessity, the fate of all. The order of the day has replaced “I” –precious relic from the past– with the collective “we”. We are all, under an absolute clause, parties to the act.

At the bar I heard a man complain to another about his bad luck. He had bought several yards of Irish linen some time ago and taken them to his tailor in Intramuros to have them made into suits. The suits were finished.

“I reminded myself to pass by Intramuros on the way home in the afternoon and get the suits. I never did. It was one thing or another, the days went by and the suits remained with the tailor. Yesterday, after the bombing, I went to Intramuros. There were no longer any suits. There was no longer any tailor.”

The man he was telling the story to asked him the name of the tailor. When he gave it, the man said:

“He was my tailor, too. I had two suits with him.”

The first man said he would be damned.

“I have a drink with a stranger, tell him about the suits I lost in the raid, and what does he tell me –this perfect stranger– he had lost his, too, in the same place, with the same tailor, in the same raid!”

“We are all in the same war.”

Including the tailor.

The people are taking to the war easily. They have adjusted themselves to having to walk to work in the morning, to salary cuts, to unemployment, to the possibility of death during the day. They have few possessions, and the war finds them singularly unencumbered except for the wish to survive without loss of character, to give no way to fear.

The rich and the influential are the pitiful ones. They have so much to lose! They shake for their lives, they shake for their office, they shake for their bank accounts. They read all the literature on the established methods of avoiding death and damage by bomb, bullet, and gas. They sit in a circle all day and worry over every rumor and report of disaster. They scan every threat to their security with the passion of scholars poring over a newly recovered line from the Greek Anthology.

The war freshly illumines a paradox:

One may be casual about one’s life but rarely over one’s property.

In high good humor the people are compiling a list of dishonor. With infinite malice they treasure each new story of how their lords and masters have disgraced themselves.

A prominent politician who used to set the National Assembly on fire with his oratory, when the bombs began to fall last week in one part of the city, flung himself on the floor of his office so hard he broke an arm.

A former executive, who liked to make a show of independence of spirit and about whom I had, with the careless accuracy of journalism, written admiringly in the past, made the Manila Hotel, which has the best air-raid shelter in the city, his home, careful not to leave its premises unless absolutely necessary. He was having a drink with a woman at the hotel bar when the first bomb fell on Port Area. At the thud of the bomb, he left lady and drink at the bar and scurried for shelter. The following day, the woman was having lunch with a friend in the dining-room when the father of his province passed by. Seeing the woman he had so casually deserted the day before and seeing no way out of it, he came over and made small talk as though nothing had happened. The woman, after listening to him for a while, smiled amiably.

“Gotten over your jitters now?” she asked, shattering him.

And here’s a story:

The first time Japanese bombers came over the city, students manning a machine-gun unit on top of their college building debated among themselves where the bombs were falling.

“Nichols Field.”

“No, it’s Fort McKinley.”

“It’s the Nielson air-port.”

The debate went on. American officers from another unit came over and listened to the Filipino boys argue which part of their country was being bombed by the Japanese. They broke into pure laughter when a boy of 19 put an end to the fruitless debate by declaring with a grave and judicious mien:

“The Philippines.”

This morning an army officer came to the office and offered two to one that Manila would never be taken.

“We have not even begun to use our army. We let the Japanese come through, then we cut them down. Down in the South we let Japanese trucks loaded with soldiers come up the road, then, from the hillside, we cut them down with machine-gun fire. You could see the trucks turn over and spill the bodies of the Japanese all over the road.”

They would never take Manila.