A heavy snowfall did not help to cheer us up. All of us were in a bitter mood. Vargas has definitely rejected the proposition that, due to the possible suspension of funds from Manila, he be put on the Japanese government payroll. “It would put me in the position of a querida,” he exclaimed. And he added: “I don’t love the Japanese government that much.”
A ranking officer from the war office had dinner with him last night. With the help of numerous military maps he took the trouble of bringing along, he explained Yamashita’s strategy in the Philippines. His version was substantially that given in every newspaper in Tokyo: a strategy of “blood-letting” or attrition from mountain positions dominating Manila, Clark Field, and the gate to the Cagayan valley in northern Luzon. Cagayan will be Yamashita’s Bataan.
In the diet the fall of Manila led the lower house to pass a nagging resolution calling on the Koiso government to get going.
The events are developing kaleidoscopically. The Philippine government, reduced to the bare minimum, that is, to the members of the Cabinet—the multitude of government employees are without work to do, just idling—has been moved to Baguio by General Yamashita. As we are only few, we will have a grand time of it. They are coming as political detainees so as to be nearer to Formosa. At least so they believe. The official force is being sugar-coated by the phrase “preventive protection”, which does not, however, succeed in deceiving even the unsuspecting. More than a month ago, two guards were placed at each of the houses of the ministers in the guise of Japanese police. Only Speaker Aquino had the guts to dispose of them. Angrily and firmly he told them to leave the house or he would leave them, together with all the responsibilities on their shoulders. He hit the cord at its strongest point and the guardians left. The President, with his Filipino guard, settled down at the Mansion House. Yamashita, likewise, installed his headquarters in this mountain retreat.
Manila has lost to Baguio as the capital of the Philippines. Could it be that they intend to declare this an open city as General MacArthur did three years ago today? This is the speculation of the optimists, with no other basis than their valid imagination. Or could it be that they shall convert this dead end alley into another Bataan? This is what some Japanese, who showed us proof that Baguio is being reinforced with 150,000 soldiers, are circulating. Could they be planning a semblance of defense, and if it turns out bad, they would escape to the north and, if they could do it which surely they couldn’t—they would make a run for it across the channel separating us from Formosa? This seems to be the more sensible opinion, or so it sounds, although what sounds in the meantime, are the cannons, the bombs, the mortars and all the heavy hammers of war.
A spirited exchange of fire woke us up last night and alarmed the whole neighborhood of these mountains from exactly 1:00 to 3:00 A.M. The discharge of rifles, pistols and machine guns thundered through the valleys and hills, resounding with the echoes of a real battle.
We suspected the aggressors to be the guerrillas of the surrounding mountains who, on orders of some over-zealous subordinate officer, wanted to make a show of force. Thousands of armed but peaceful rebels roam these mountain ranges, awaiting orders from the High Command in Leyte to commence the offensive. Some of them whom we chanced upon in the streets, revealed to us the names of their leaders and commands, and estimated that their force which was augmented daily with new recruits from La Union and Ilocos was somewhere between 30,000 to 40,000.
A few weeks ago, a team “kidnapped” the wife of Pres. Osmeña in this city and escorted here to one of their hideaways where she stayed until she could depart for Leyte—historians did not divulge the route taken—where she joined her husband. We learned later on, however, that Doña Esperanza stayed with the guerrillas until she was brought to Dagupan after the landing of her husband in Lingayen.
Everyday we hear firings of guns of all calibres, but never have we experienced anything like the one of last night. Because of this, the police searched all houses. Some families were given four days to leave the city, others were given a month. The Army did this on the pretext that the city was overpopulated and the shortage of food has become alarming. These two extremes met on a tangible reality. That there exists a conflict between them was the fault of the civil and military authorities: the civil authorities are at fault for their insistent campaign to depopulate Manila, inviting them to this mountain retreat and guaranteeing their existence and subsistence; the military authorities are to be blamed, on their part, for posting bandits rather than sentries at all entries and thoroughfares leading to Baguio. These hungry hounds, on the pretense of looking for arms and guerrillas, search those who are transporting foodstuff, seize whatever catches their fancy, sometimes partly, and sometimes wholly.
Consequently, the people transporting food have to turn back, and the market stalls are empty. The soldiers confiscate arbitrarily, refusing to recognize the passes issued by the High Command or by Major Harada, the Chief of Police of Baguio. They laugh scornfully at those issued by civilian authorities. They would confiscate all the clothes of an assemblyman, rob another of his cigarettes and liquor, notwithstanding protests and in spite of the pass signed by Pres. Laurel and General Yamashita. What has happened to the much-lauded Japanese discipline? What is surprising is the speed with which the Philippine Constabulary is learning these bad habits.
A total of 9,000 males are included in the first draft for compulsory labor in Jap airfields, port installations and other military establishments. The names of those forced to serve have been sent to neighborhood presidents who will in turn forward the names to neighborhood leaders who will then inform the draftees to appear in a certain place at a certain time until an Army truck brings them to their working places. Stiff penalties ranging from heavy fines to many years of imprisonment and even death will be imposed on those who evade the labor conscription. Meanwhile Tribune editorial claims it is an honor to help in the defense of one’s country and that Filipino youths should be proud Japs are willing to make them work side by side with them.
Some people are asking: “Why doesn’t President Laurel complain? Why does he permit this forced labor? Didn’t he promise that he would not allow conscription? Is this not conscription? Of course, it is not military conscription but it is labor conscription and is that not worse? Under military conscription, you are at least armed but under labor conscription, you have nothing but spades and hoe’s and you work in veritable targets.”
Malacañang however is very silent. Instead Laurel gave a dinner party honoring T. Yamashita, new commander-in-chief. Yamashita pledged “to defend Philippines even at cost of my own life.” Tribune stated that Filipino leaders (puppets) were impressed at the energy of new-commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile guerrilla activities in Luzon have been intensified. There are strong rumors that a submarine landed several officers from Leyte with orders from Gen. MacArthur to give final instructions to guerrilla troops. It is also believed that guerrilla bands are being united at present under one leader for unity of command and to make efforts more effective.
Listeners over Voice of Freedom are worried because Brig. Gen. Carlos Romulo has not spoken for the last three days despite previous announcements by Voice of Freedom that the general will speak daily for the Commonwealth Government. “Has he been hurt? Is he sick? Or Maybe he returned to the States? Or is he in some battleship on way to Luzon?” nobody knows, many guess, everybody is worried. Japs are happy because he used to say a lot of things that was embarrassing for them. From Baguio however comes the news that Mrs. Sergio Osmeña, wife of President Osmeña, has disappeared with daughter. People are wondering if the Japs have taken her or if she is hiding with guerrillas or if she is now on a submarine to Leyte. People too are asking if Sergio Osmeña Jr. who has been collaborating with Japs is with Mrs. Osmeña. Guerrillas were after Serging’s neck because he was a shame to country and to his father but they have not taken drastic action against him “in deference to his father.” Reports from Pagsanjan also reveal that Mrs. Carlos Romulo and children have also disappeared. It is known definitely however that the Romulo family is at present hiding with Luzon guerrillas. One son of the general, Carlos Jr. is an officer of the underground forces.
Servants from Bay View Hotel state that “there is an American aviator, a tall fellow, in the seventh floor”. The American aviator parachuted when his plane was hit by an AA shell. The aviator said that he had been in Europe with the bombers raiding Berlin.
Lichauco house was taken by Navy. Helped them pack their things and carried several bundles to their new house. Lichauco was given two days to vacate premises or said the Navy “We will move right in with you”. Lichauco hurriedly packed his things because he has three beautiful daughters and he didn’t want Japs to live with them. People are asking: “What is the Jap Navy doing here, taking houses, instead of going out to sea?”
Just finished reading Philippine Review, a Jap controlled magazine. It claims that balance of war in Europe is in favor of Axis. It gave no reasons. I didn’t expect to find any.
Air raid. I can hear the roar of U.S. planes. There goes one explosion. Quite strong. Must have hit an oil tank. Sound of planes diving. Sort of gets into your nerves. Dogfight, perhaps, strafing. Machinegun sounds like corn being dropped on a tin can. Dolly is shouting. She says there is a plane in flames and it can be seen from the kitchen window. Ack-ack. Sounds like a big door being slammed right against your ears. Mama is calling grandpop. The old fellow does not like to go in the shelter. Subcannon. Sounds like punching bag. More ack-ack. Shrapnel raining on cement court beside house. More bombs being dropped. Vic still outside watching planes. He says “It’s the sight of a lifetime. U.S. planes are diving very, very low.” More bombs. Earth and house shaking. No more Jap planes flying. Japs beside house are ringing a bell, some sort of signal. There goes the air raid siren, late again. Tia Mameng taking her breakfast in shelter. Mateo is outside chasing the horse. Five planes now circling over Murphy. Strafing. Hard to see planes right now. Sun is just above horizon. View from my window is very beautiful. Green fields, nipa shacks, carabaos wallowing in mud pools, Australian cow right beside Vic’s mare. Only ones absent are the birds. They fly away when they hear the planes. Panfilo is shouting. Says he saw a man trying to steal fruits from backyard. Thief must have thought we were all hiding in the shelter. Told him not to run after the fellow. He must have been hungry. A lot of hungry people these days. Sun is above trees now. I like the morning air. Exhilarating. Rooster is crowing. I wonder if the white leghorn has laid an egg. Eggs cost ₱15 each. More detonations but very distant. Planes are probably hitting Cavite. Slight breeze blowing. Birds are back on tree outside my window. They are flapping their wings. My favorite “maya” is chirping her usual song. Raid’s over.
Had a poor breakfast. Rice and dried fish. Had a Jap visitor, a new neighbor. He belongs to the Propaganda Corps and he censors Philippine Review articles. He claims the Americans be surely defeated in Leyte. He admitted aerial superiority of U.S. but said Jap suicide unit will take care of U.S. carriers. MacArthur has landed seven divisions in Leyte already, he said. Japs also have seven divisions, he explained. “And since our lines of supply are shorter and America’s very much longer,” he opined. “MacArthur’s forces will be either driven off or annihilated.” He praised Gen. T. Yamashita “who conquered Singapore and has new ideas on aerial warfare.” Marshal Terauti is in charge of Indo China, he said. The Jap said that [Indochinese] are cooperating much more than Filipinos. No guerrillas there, he added. He revealed that very little food supplies came in nowadays from Southern regions for Jap Army. He deplored hunger now prevalent in Philippines. “This is due” he said, “to pre-war economic dependency of Philippines with United States.” He also admitted superiority of American production. “But” he added, “with Japanese spirit, we shall surpass them in near future.” He disclosed that Jap textile factories like Kanebo and others are now producing planes. Our conversation was interrupted by sound of strafing.
Air raid alarm was sounded and he ran to our shelter even before the women. I stayed outside and watched the planes. They dropped bombs over Manila bay at Jap ships. Tribune just arrived. Claims Mac forces completely surrounded.
Judging from the movement of troops, tanks and artillery guns, and from the waves of winged motors, the campaign against Bataan is going to take on gigantic proportions. It will not only be an offensive campaign but also a decisive one. According to Radio San Francisco, General Yamashita, conqueror of Singapore who is directing this campaign, has sent an ultimatum to General Wainwright, new USAFFE Chief, giving him the alternative either to surrender—in which case he would be treated in accordance with international law—or to see his defenses pulverized and his troops annihilated.
Towards evening in the crepuscular horizon, we witnessed a squadron of bombers silver-plated by the rays of the setting sun, flying towards Corregidor, we saw huge columns of smoke rising from the island. It was the first time we saw very distinctly such a spectacle.
Today, Palm Sunday, we saw an unusual display of tanks and other kinds of war material being transported to the north. Are they preparing a final attack on Bataan? Radio San Francisco announced that General Yamashita, conqueror of Singapore, is directing this campaign.
For the last several days, however, we heard the rumors that General Yamashita was wounded in battle and had died in a Manila hospital. Names of well-known doctors were mentioned as having given General Yamashita blood transfusions. Just rumors.