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.

 


June 26, 1945, Tuesday

It may be asked: If the conduct of the Japanese is as reported above why did we serve in the Japanese regime and later in the Philippine Republic?

I had good reasons for not accepting any position in the Japanese regime. Aside from my past relations with America and the Americans, and the position I had held with the Philippine government which would make my acceptance of any position under the Japanese regime improper, I had plans which I could carry out only as a private citizen. I was Director of Marsman & Co. and President and Vice President of various Marsman enterprises, like the Coco Grove Mining Co., Marsman Trading, Insular Drug, Cardinal Insurance, Marsman Lumber, etc. Immediately before the war, Marsman & Co. further expanded its enterprises, by buying American Hardware and the Food and other departments of Pacific Commercial Co. There were also many new industries and businesses planned. Such was the condition of Marsman & Co. when the war broke out.

The offices of the Marsman enterprises were in the Marsman Building at the Port Area. It was right next to military objectives. From the second day of the war, Manila Bay was bombed including the Port Area. A favorite target was Pier 7, considered the longest in the world, located probably less than 100 meters from our building. Bombing continued almost everyday until the day before the entry into Manila of the Japanese Army on January 2, 1942.

I used to go to the office regularly although I did not have to. Employees were dismissed after 11:00 a.m. as it was noted that air raids commenced after that hour; nevertheless, I and other executives would remain in our offices and continue working as if nothing was happening. The bombs fell around the building. It might have been a military target as Admiral Hart, the Head of the American Asiatic Fleet, and the Navy General Staff had their headquarters in the Marsman Building. We had somebody in the building watch for Japanese planes and sound the alarm. We would all run down to the air raid shelters whenever he gives the signal; and when the planes were overhead, we would all lie down, cover our ears and open our mouths. I used to sit next to Admiral Hart in the air raid shelter located in the first story under the stairs. The building was also surrounded by layers of sandbags. Luckily, the building was never hit. There was only one bomb that fell behind the building about five yards away. All the windows of the building were shattered. I found several shrapnels inside my office which was on the 4th floor from which I got a good view of the pier.

In my house, we built no shelter at all. We used to hide on the first floor on both sides of the stairs which was located at the very center of the house. We lined the walls with sandbags and placed boards and many other things on the second floor directly above us. No bombs fell near us but we could hear the detonation very well so that at times, they sounded like they fell just next door to us. We save planes dive down and drop bombs on Nichols Field.

I never go out during an air raid. But I was caught in the streets twice when this occured. The first time I was luckily in front of the Bay View Hotel, a nine story reinforced concrete building. It seemed to be a safe place. The bombs fell in the bay near the hotel. The second time, I was in real danger. A special meeting of the Chamber of Mines was called and generally, either Vice President Ohnick or myself attended. We had agreec that Mr. Ohnick would attend that morning. The meeting was a special one called to discuss a very important matter concerning the mining industry. At the last hour, Mr. Ohnick decided not to attend and I had to rush to the meeting at the Pacific Building. This was the 27th of December, 1941. The meeting was hurriedly held and adjourned. I had sent my chauffeur to the bank to get some money and when after the meeting my automobile was not back, I had to borrow the automobile of the attorney of the company, Mr. Amando Velilla. I forgot to give directions to Mr. Velilla’s chauffeur not to pass through Intramuros (the Walled City) to go to Escolta but to go on to Padre Burgos St. outside Port Area. He drove through Intramuros, across the Malecon Drive and the air raid sirens sounded. Following instructions, we had to leave the car and seek shelter in the Myer’s Building. I entered a small compartment which had been converted into a very poorly built shelter. There were other people there, but they did not know me. Bombs fell all around. I heard the sound of an airplane which seemed to be flying very low. The moment I heard the sound I hit the floor, closed my eyes, covered my ears, and opened my mouth. Forthwith, I heard something heavy drop; then the building shook as the bomb exploded. The building was hit and shrapnel flew all around. When I dove, those around me laughed; they thought it was funny. I came through unscathed while many of the people around me were hurt. It was indeed a very narrow escape, but my satisfaction was that it happened while performing a duty for the company which had extricated me from financial difficulties. The Myer’s Building caught fire and burned down. The experience made me very cautious.

The City of Manila had already been declared an open city; nevertheless, the Japanese planes continued dropping bombs. To protect people residing in the nearby municipalities, like Pasay, San Juan, Caloocan, these were also included in the open city.

It was on December 28, 1941 when Japanese planes bombed the Treasury Building and the Philippines Herald offices located in a building on the other side of the former moat and wall around Intramuros, about opposite the Legislative Building. We were then having caucuses of both the members of the Senate and House to agree on the organization. When the siren sounded we ran to the shelter in the cellar. We were in the shelter until after three o’clock without anything to eat. It was very hot and crowded inside. The Herald had just written a strong editorial against the Japanese. It was also the time that the Church of Sto. Domingo and the Letran College were destroyed.

In connection with the advance of the Japanese and the occupation of Manila, it was in the morning of the 8th of December that the war began. I remember the date very well as that is the feast day of my hometown, Taal, Batangas, and we were about to leave that morning for Taal when we heard the news in the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor. A few minutes afterwards we heard the bombing of Baguio. At 12:30 p.m. the bombing of Clark Field was reported and at 3 o’clock that same afternoon Nichols Field was attacked. Nichols Field was only a few kilometers from my house at Malate so that the war was brought next door to us. As I said, although there was bombing almost everyday I continued going to work especially since I noticed that the other executives were always present at the office. Very few of the Filipino personnel came. We continued holding meetings of the Boards of Directors of the Marsman companies as usual, but many times they had to be suspended to go to the shelter on account of air raids. I remember that one of my last acts was to sign dividend checks declared by the Coco Grove, of which I was the President. Before the coming of the Japanese we took steps to have our gold bullion taken to Corregidor where the USAFFE was going to make its last stand. We also endeavored to send all the moneys of the Marsman companies to the United States. I remember that our last meeting was at the University Club and we left some of our papers there. While there, I telephoned to arrange the sending of money to the United States.

Before going to the office, I would generally inquire from General Francisco about the situation of the advancing Japanese Army.He told me confidentially that the situation was very bad; that the Japanese were advancing very fast. I also informed my American friends and I advised them to withdraw as much of their deposits as they could. They refused on account of the official communique from the General Headquarters to the effect that “Enemies repulsed; no change in front.” About the 27th of December, I told them the Japanese had already passed San Pablo, Laguna, almost 100 kilometers away. It was then too late for the Americans to withdraw their money and they became very angry.

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was absolute blackout throughout Manila. We passed terrible nights. Oftentimes, we heard revolver or gun shots. We understand that it was to enforce the blackout. The guards also shot at persons moving suspiciously or signaling, or at the places where the signaling was coming from. We actually saw many such signals, evidencing the presence of spies and fifth columnists.

The nights were dark and gloomy. I remember that we passed Christmas without the usual celebration. Some in our neighborhood tried to sing the Christmas carols, but they seemed in our ears like songs sang in necrological services. The thieves were also active. I remember that while we were downstairs on account of the air raids, a thief entered the second floor of our house. We heard the bathroom window creaking and we immediately ran upstairs and turned on the light in the room next to the bathroom. We found the door of the bathroom closed and we suspected the thief was still inside. In the meanwhile, the air raid wardens with an American Army officer were yelling from the street ordering us to put the light out, otherwise they would shoot. I quickly ran down to explain to the officer that there was a thief inside the bathroom. The officer went upstairs. Standing behind the closed bathroom door, he yelled to the thief to come out. He then broke in the door with his revolver. He found nobody: evidently, the thief had jumped out the window. There were practically no people going around at night. The cinematograph were open, but we never went.

In the day time, there were many people in the streets. During air raids, the air raid wardens were kept very busy. These are paid employees and they were very strict in the performance of their duties. The warden in front of our house, a man by the name of Emilio, was especially efficient. We noticed that the white people were reluctant to obey him. I remember an incident which I witnessed. The warden ordered a white couple to stop because there was an air raid; but they continued on their way. The warden ran after them to stop them. An American officer happened to be around and he drew his revolver and threatened to shoot the warden if he insisted. The warden, fearing for his life, let the couple go. When the officer drew his revolver, I immediately ran to my house to get my revolver. My intention was to shoot the officer if he shot at the warden since the latter was merely performing his official duty.

People were very careful about letting in anybody into their houses, even those caught in the streets during an air raid. Doors were always kept closed and locked. The reason for this was that there had been cases where bad elements took advantage of air raids to rob the houses.

On or about December 28, 1941, Pres. Quezon, Vice Pres. Osmeña with Secretary Santos, Col. Roxas and Gen. Valdes fled to Corregidor. For several days before and after their departure, there was a heavy movement of American and Filipino troops fleeing Manila as it had been declared an open city. They went north to Bataan where they were to make their last stand. It was about this time when I received an order from the U.S. Navy to turn over the Marsman yacht anchored in front of the Yacht Club to the Navy, and another order from the Army to blow up all our dynamite cache in Camarines Norte, and all our oil. We had just received a consignment of over 4000 cases of dynamite and in preparation for the war our two oil tanks, one of which was the biggest in the Philippines, were filled up.

On that same day, my son Tony who had finished training in the Cavalry Camp at Parañaque, and who was a Sergeant-Major in the Philippine Army Reserve received an order to join his regiment. He had been waiting for it; all his other classmates had received theirs. He prepared to comply with the order. I noticed that he was very, very anxious to do so. He envied his classmates, especially Apostol who only the day before left without him when his order did not come. Apostol never came back. Tony’s instructions were to report to the military headquarters in Pampanga. But when he arrived at the train station, the last train for the North had left and so had the last police bus that took reservists to their destination. Upon Tony’s insistence, I went to Malacañan to inquire and there I met Maj. Gen. Guillermo Francisco. I inquired from him as to how Tony could report for duty. He answered that the orders given to Tony and others which were issued on about December 9, 1941 had already been cancelled.

Before the Japanese entered Manila, I as a Senator-elect and as such a high government official, discussed with Speaker Yulo, Mr. Vargas and other officials what we should do. Should we hide from or present ourselves to the Japanese military authorities? After due discussion, and following instructions allegedly given by Pres. Quezon, we decided to stay. However, I expected that we would immediately be called by the Japanese and as I did not want to be one of the first to be called, and as I wished to know first what the Japanese would do to the Filipino officials, I decided to go into hiding. I went to New Manila and hid in the house of Doña Narcisa de Leon on Broadway Avenue. I changed my name and everybody was instructed to call me by that name and not divulge my identity. I went there in the afternoon of the 29th of December. I was very well treated Mrs. de Leon who is our “comadre” and in fact by the whole family. They certainly took good care of me. Rizal Day, December 30, passed and for the first time since that day was made an official holiday, there was no celebration. The Japanese were expected to arrive and enter Manila on December 31, but they did not come.

For the first time, I was not with my family when the New Year was ushered in. Like Christmas, there was no celebration of any kind. The usual fanfare and family reunions were conspicuously absent. There was a lot of speculation as to when the Japanese would enter Manila and what they were going to do.

By the second of January, 1942, when the Japanese had not shown up, we learned that the Japanese contingent coming from the North was somewhat delayed and that coming from the South was waiting. I called up Mr. Ohnick and told him I was hiding and asked his advice as to whether I should stay in hiding. He answered that I better just stay home. So in the afternoon, I went home. I left my revolver in Broadway as I was afraid that if I were to encounter the Japanese I would be searched, and if found with a revolver, I would be shot. It was a memorable short ride home. At any time, I was expecting to meet the Japanese and I wondered what I would do. I passed through España St., Quezon Avenue, Quezon Bridge, Arroceros St., Plaza Lawton, Taft Avenue and San Andres St. I met no Japanese, but I saw spectacles which gave me a glimpse of the moral fiber of the Filipinos. It foreshadowed what was to come later -the shameful conduct of many of our countrymen of robbery consisting in illegal confiscation of goods, soulless profiteering on goods, including foodstuff, and rampant bribery of the police and other agents of the law who were charged with the prevention of illegal traffic of commodities and sale at prices in excess of those fixed by law. I saw big crowds all along the streets and at first I did not know what it was all about. On España St. I met people carrying all kinds of commodities, clothing, canned goods, etc. On Rizal Avenue, I saw persons forcing open the Chinese stores and carrying out everything, including furniture. It was rampant looting. People rushed into the stores like mad dogs. I reached the other side of Quezon Bridge and there I saw a big crowd snatching everything they could get from the old Ice Plant. I could see them carrying frozen meat and fish.

On Lawton Square, on Taft Avenue, San Andres St., I saw the same thing. Some people used automobiles, “calesas” and “carretelas” to haul their loot. Many of them sold their wares right there on the street for very low prices; one could buy everything: clothing, foodstuff, furniture. I learned later that the goods came from the Port Area. Some bodegas were opened to the public. Other bodegas, however, were forced open. This was not to be regretted after all as the goods would have fallen into the hands of the Japanese. My chauffeur insisted in going to the Port Area with our automobiles. I refused to allow him to go. I prohibited all the members of my family and all those who worked for me to take any part in the looting or even to buy the looted goods. I consider it dishonest to acquire them. In fact, there was looting all over Manila. Right in front of my house they forced a Chinese store open and stole everything inside. The policemen who witnessed this looting were powerless. Some of the policemen were even seen to take part in the looting. It was a shame.

I forgot to mention that during the bombing, every time there was an air raid alarm, American soldiers were stationed in various parts of Manila to watch for parachutists. Five American soldiers were stationed just outside my house. Whenever they came, we offered them coffee.

It was in the afternoon of the 2nd of January between 5 and 6 o’clock p.m. when the Japanese entered the city. They marched down various streets, two of which were Taft Avenue and Mabini St. From Taft Avenue we could hear yells of “Banzai.” Those passing Mabini rode in trucks. We could see them very well from our house. For a victorious army, it was surprising that there was no show of pride.

The next day, the people went out expecting excellent treatment as many of them sincerely believed that the Japanese would treat us as equals and brothers. That same day we were awakened to the reality that the Japanese were not as we expected. That very first day, there were incidents due to the fact that the Filipinos were being compelled to salute the Japanese sentries. Everybody was searched for arms, which was to be expected. But the Japanese civilians were very abusive. Sometimes, although the Japanese soldier had already searched the man and found nothing, the Japanese civilian who acted as interpreter would get his watch or other things. All automobiles were confiscated without ceremony. Even civilians confiscated automobiles. I was just about to leave my house in my automobiles when my friend, Mr. Schultz, stopped me to tell me the Japanese were confiscating automobiles and his automobile had just been taken. So I went walking along the boulevard to go to the Marsman building at the Port Area. However, at the Luneta, I was stopped by a Japanese sentry. Evidently, entry into the Port Area had been prohibited.

On January 4th, an automobile with Japanese Navy officers stopped at our house. My family was scared. The civilian interpreter told me to get dressed and go with them. I was taken to the Marsman Building. I was made to wait at the anteroom of what used to be Mr. Jan Marsman’s office on the fourth floor. After about half an hour, I was ushered in. I saw a uniformed man who turned out to be the General and Chief of Staff of the Japanese Army in the Philippines. The General asked me many questions. He asked where Mr. Marsman was and whether the company was really owned by Britishers and Americans. He also told me he knew that Admiral Hart, the head of the American Navy in the Philippines had quarters in the building. He then asked where the telephone or secret communication to Corregidor was located in the building. Then the Japanese asked me for the keys to all the Marsman buildings and warehouses. I told them that I was Vice President of the Marsman Building Corporation and as such I was quite familiar with the plans of the building, and that I was not aware of any telephone communication with Corregidor. We went back to the Marsman Building where they took me all around the building to search for the communications equipment, but we did not find any. They thanked me and I prepared to leave. But before doing so I asked that I be allowed to go into my office to get a few things. They asked me for specifications and I especially mentioned the English Dictionary. My intention was that if I were allowed to get the dictionary I would then ask for other things. I had many valuable things in my office, such as important documents, parts of my diary, my collection of rare stamps, my photographs with Pres. Quezon and Mrs. Marsman, and other personal belongings. A Navy Captain escorted me to my office. But at the door, he stopped me and went inside. When he came out, he told me they would look for my things and deliver them to me at my house. On the way out of the building, I was looking all around, especially at the safes in which the companies had at least P60,000.

The next day the Japanese came for me again. We went to the Marsman bodegas near the North bank of the Pasig River. I do not know why they brought me there as I was not allowed to go inside the bodegas. I saw various trucks parked in front of the bodegas. The caretaker told me that trucks had been coming frequently and that the Japanese loaded them to the limit with things taken from the bodegas.

The next morning after the entry of the Japanese, I went to the Admiral Apartments on Dewey Boulevard. Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Ohnick were expecting to be arrested by the Japanese at any time and that same morning at about noon, somebody had telephoned me that Mr. and Mrs. Ohnick were leaving with Japanese officers. When I arrived at the Admiral Apartments, they were gone. I just missed them by a few minutes. I saw their automobile being taken by the Japanese. I tried to stop the soldiers but they did not pay any attention to me. I lingered around the hotel. I met and talked with ex-Representative Pedro Sabido and Dr. Salvador Araneta. I found that Mr. Sabido decidedly in favor of a close relationship with Japan and membership to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This is the reason why in the sub-committee on Economic Planning of the Preparatory Committee for Philippine Independence, I made him Chairman of the Committee on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Araneta, on the other hand, was decidedly against any relationship with the Japanese. It should be remembered that he was one of the most active for permanent political relationship with the United States.

The only high officials of the Marsman enterprises who regularly attended the Board meetings after the Japanese came were Mr. Welhaven, Mr. Ottiger, Mr. Velilla and myself. Von Ahren called a few times. Mr. Ohnick attended once at the San Luis office he was out of the the concentration camp for a few hours. The Japanese came once to inquire what we were doing. We announced that we were discussing our affairs. They asked whether we were licensed. We explained that we were not operating. There was an understanding in the company that we were to take care of the interests of the Marsman enterprises during this period. We held many meetings in my house on Calle San Andres where we discussed various affairs of the companies to do all we could to protect them. We decided to prepare an inventory of all the stock we had for such claims as we may later wish to make. Very little could be done as regards these two matters as it was most difficult to deal with the Japanese and they would not allow us to have access to the premises of the Marsman buildings and bodegas. I was to continue with any work that could be done for the companies as Messrs. Welhaven and Ottiger are whites and the Japanese are prejudiced against whites. Furthermore, Mr. Welhaven was a semi-belligerent as he was from Norway, the refugee government which had declared war against Germany and Japan.

I did my best to get Mr. and Mrs. Ohnick released from the concentration camp in Sto. Tomas University. I used to send a few things to them and to other Marsman men at the camp. I generally went with Mr. Velilla and Mr. Ottiger. I shall never forget those visits. Those Japanese guards were very hard to deal with. I carried a pass from Colonel Watanabe. We had to go through all kinds of difficulties to get in. My papers were scrutinized. We were usually made to wait at the gate for a long time. There we saw many Filipinos slapped and treated like dogs. We feared that our turn would come. Many times we could talk only in the presence of the Japanese. I often went to see the Superintendent since it was easier to talk to him to ask him to be allowed to talk to internees without any guard present. When leaving I generally would loiter around the grounds to talk to different people. I knew I was exposing myself to danger in doing so. One of the internees, Mr. Kelly, a high official of Marsman Company who was one of my best friends in the organization, was suffering from something which required him to go to Dr. Gonzales on Legarda St. Every time he went, he called me up. I always took him back to Sto. Tomas in my automobile where we would have a good chat along the way.

I continued my efforts to get Mr. and Mrs. Ohnick out of the concentration camp. Mrs. Ohnick was released because she was sick most of the time. Mr. Ohnick was able to get permission once in a while to be out of the camp for a few hours.  I went to talk to the Superintendent about Mr. Ohnick. I told him that I would like to have Mr. Ohnick released in view of the fact that his wife was sick. I explained to him my relationship with Mr. & Mrs. Ohnick. I said that Mr. Ohnick was the Vice President of Marsman & Company, and that I was a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Ohnick, when interviewed by the Superintendent, mentioned that his father was a pure blooded Japanese. I knew this, and I also knew that his father’s name was Oniki, but I never mentioned it. The Superintendent decided to release Mr. Ohnick to me. Of course I had to guarantee his good conduct. Mr. & Mrs. Ohnick moved to a house near the Rizal Memorial Stadium where I visited them quite frequently. Mrs. Ohnick was in very poor health.

Mr. & Mrs. Francisco were also released as Mrs. Francisco was very sick. They occupied a house in New Manila where I visited them. I noticed that their house was being watched by the Japanese police. I pitied them very much as they complained that they could not get some essential things like laundry soap. Mr. Francisco attended a few of the meetings of Marsman & Co.

Mr. Ohnick was present in various meetings in my house and in a meeting at the Marsman store and shop at San Luis St., almost directly in front of the Agricultural Building. At one time. some Japanese came and asked whether we had license to operate the store. We answered that we had not opened the store and that we were merely having an informal meeting. This store was later seized by the Japanese. In these meetings attended by Mr. Ohnick the main question discussed was whether or not we should continue the business. The consensus of opinion among us was that we should suspend operations of the company. However, upon my suggestion, we filed a petition to operate. My reason was that if we did not apply for a license to operate, they might take this as an admission that it was an enemy company. We were contending that it was not enemy property inasmuch as the majority stockholders were Mr. and Mrs. Marsman who were naturalized Filipinos. I forgot to state that Mr. Francisco, another high official of Marsman, was also present in some of those meetings. The Japanese never took action on our petition, and in the meanwhile they continued taking everything in the store until nothing was left.

It was agreed that I was to take charge of protecting the properties and interests of Marsman enterprises and that I was to act on matters that may come involving the enterprises. I was also to study future plans for the activities of the company during the Japanese regime if we ever decide to reopen.

Upon the request of my friends in the concentration camp, I suspended sending food or even visiting them. I noticed that I was being watched very closely. I remember one incident. We had a party in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Ohnick. All of them, with the exception of myself and Velilla, were Americans, Englishmen, Norwegians and Swiss. It was to celebrate the birthday of Mr. Ohnick and I went there with that understanding. The next day there was a full report about the party by the Military Police. The report stated that it was to celebrate the birthday of Mr. Marsman. It turned out that it was the birthday of Mr. Marsman and that the party was intended for him also, but I did not know this.

Because of my close relations with the Americans, the Japanese became suspicious of me. They complained to Malacañan. Knowing that drastic action would be taken against me, I desisted from visiting and sending food to the camp. My friends well understood my situation.

The Japanese Army entered Manila on the 2nd of January, 1942. Before their entry, the government made all the necessary preparations. Vargas, the Secretary to the President, which position made him a ranking member of the Cabinet, was at the same time appointed by Pres. Quezon as Mayor of Manila. He was the one charged with the painful duty of surrendering Manila. This was called Greater Manila as the municipalities around Manila –Pasay, Parañaque, San Pedro Makati, San Juan, and Caloocan– were incorporated into Greater Manila. Quezon City was also made a part of it. The purpose in creating a Greater Manila was so the whole area comprising those cities and municipalities could be included in the declaration of open city. Vargas and Laurel, got in touch with Katsumi Nihro, then Japanese Consul General in Manila. In the meanwhile, all the policemen were disarmed to prevent any incident which might result in combat with the Japanese. They were merely provided with walking sticks. Big streamers were placed along Taft Avenue and P. Burgos St. by the City Hall, warning the Filipinos to keep the peace. Vargas surrendered the city without any incident. He was told by the Japanese to continue as Mayor. He as well as Laurel were approached by the Japanese about forming a Central Government. Kihara, former Japanese Vice-Consul in Manila, took part in the negotiations. General Hayashi, an old friend of Laurel, called him also about forming a government. Aquino and Recto were approached by their friend, Kanegae. Later, Mori talked with Paredes on the subject.

Laurel was the Secretary of Justice and Acting Chief Justice; Aquino was a member of the Cabinet before the last reorganization of the Cabinet by Pres. Quezon and was slated to be the Speaker of the next House of Representatives; Paredes, Floor Leader and Speaker-elect; Recto, Senator-elect. Aquino, Paredes and Recto talked to Yulo who was then Speaker of the House and slated to be the President of the Senate. Yulo decided to consult Chief Justice Avanceña, the grand old man of the Philippines, whose views are always sound and whose patriotism had already been tested. He then called the other members of the Cabinet before the last reorganization to a meeting –Teofilo Sison, Rafael Alunan, Jose Fabella, Serafin Marabut, Jorge Bocobo. Fabella could not attend as he was sick. Later, they called all the Senators in Manila. These were Ramon Fernandez, Vicente Madrigal, Melecio Arranz, Eulogio Rodriguez, Elpidio Quirino, Arnaiz and myself.

The House of Representatives in a caucus designated the following to attend the meetings: Jose Zulueta, Eugenio Perez, Jose Veloso, Tomas Oppus, Prospero Sanidad, Alfonso Mendoza. Finally, prominent people were called and those included Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the first Philippine Republic; Ramon Avanceña, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Miguel Unson, a businessman and civic leader; Alejandro Roces, another statesman, owner and publisher of the influential newspapers. Juan Sumulong, the president of the Democrata Party was included in the list. When he was approached by Secretary Bocobo, he answered that he would consult his men. He died before he could do this. There are others whose names I could not remember just now.

Many meetings were held in the covered glorietta by the swimming pool on the left side of the palatial house of Speaker Yulo. It was an ideal place for secret meetings. Almost all expressed their opinion very freely. Each had the courage to make his conviction known. The discussion was very thorough. Everybody was aware of the gravity of the situation and the momentous decision we necessarily had to make. Some were in favor of the establishment of some form of government; others were not. We were, however, agreed on one point. Under no circumstances would we accept any arrangement unless our independence was guaranteed. We made it very clear that we would not give up the freedom for which our forefathers had lavishly shed their blood.

Evidently, the Japanese negotiators transmitted this to Tokyo as Premier Tojo, on the 21st of January, in a speech before the Diet, promised independence for the Philippines if conditions of peace so warrant and if the Filipinos understood and cooperated with the aims and purposes of Japan, such s the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

After due deliberation, we decided not to form a government, but to have an organization which would merely cooperate with the Japanese civil administration in the Philippines. The Japanese, therefore, established their own civil administration in the Philippines which had all the departments and all the attributes of a government. On the other hand, the Filipinos organized a Commission with the Chairman as its chief executive.

As it turned out, the work of the Commission was of an auxiliary nature only. It could only decide routine or unimportant matters; all important matters, such as legislation and decision on policies had to be submitted to the Japanese Administration for approval.

Why did we accept such an arrangement? The following were our main reasons:

(1) To be assured of our independence whatever the result of the war might be.

(2) To be in a position to help the people. We knew the record of cruelty and brutality of the Japanese in China as many films had been shown in Manila depicting the atrocities of the Japanese. In our own country, slapping, unjustified arrests, illegal confiscation of private properties, and many other forms of abuses, had already become a common everyday happening. What could we do? We, who had repeatedly received the confidence of our people, could not forsake them precisely at a time when they had great need of us. Our personal interest should be of no account; no sacrifice is too great if dedicated to the cause of the people. We accepted, not necessarily because we were sure we could do much for our people, but in order to place ourselves in a position to help. Whether we succeeded or not only history will judge. Passion now runs high that even the most obvious might be overlooked.

(3) But our principal reason was that if we did not accept, the administration would fall into the hands of men like Artemio Ricarte, or an irresponsible person like Benigno Ramos. We are not sure that Ricarte is not a patriot. His record as a revolutionary figure points to his greatness and patriotism. But he was already over 75 years old. Somebody would have to govern for him, and history tells us that a government directed by another man behind the scene is dangerous as it generates the most iniquitous acts or acts of oppression by the government. His conduct in connecting himself with the Makapili has proven that our fear was well founded. Furthermore, Ricarte lived in Japan and was pro-Japanese and there was no one in our meeting that welcomed Japanese influence in the Philippines. Why did we think Ricarte might be head of the government? Because he came with the Japanese Expeditionary Forces and from the very beginning he was proclaiming that he was in favor of a dictatorship.

If not Ricarte, we were sure that the head of the government would have been Benigno Ramos, the head of the Makapili. He is so well known that it seems unecessary to describe him. Suffice it to say that he was an ambitious man and a degenerate. The only thing he thinks of is how to exploit other people. The many cases of “estafa” were the best proof of this assertion. He is a man without moral principles. He would not hesitate to kill to attain his purpose. The number of people killed by the Sakdals and the Makapilis is proof of this. In a government under Ramos, the people would be driven to start a revolution for they would not tolerate such indiscriminate killings,  Many of Ramos’ men –Sakdals– were killed by their own countrymen; in fact they had to concentrate themselves in places under the protective wings of the Japanese. The Filipino would have been the victim as Ramos would have been aided by the Japanese Army.

A government under Ricarte or Ramos would be used by the Japanese to commit cruelties and murders of the Filipinos.

(4) The last reason, which is no less important than the previous ones, is that we felt we were merely complying with the instructions of Pres. Quezon. These instructions are stated somewhere above. Whether we have complied faithfully or exceeded our authority, only history will decide. It should be remembered that the instructions contain no detail and all we could say for the present is that all our acts were done in good faith. If at times we apparently had exceeded our authority, it was exclusively for the purpose of avoiding a cataclysm, a great misfortune. In those instructions, Pres. Quezon foresaw the danger in leaving a government open to men like Ricarte or Ramos.

But I should reiterate that the Commission organized was not a real government. All its acts were merely delegated or had to be approved by the Japanese civil administration. We had hundreds of cases where we tried to do something or to do it in a different way, but the Japanese just did things or had them done in accordance with their whims and desires. The Office of the Director-General in the Japanese Administration was really the head of the government. It was occupied by Gen. Hayashi, and leter by Gen. Wachi.

When it was certain that a Commission was to be organized, somehow it got into my head that I may be appointed to the Commission. I wanted to avoid it by all means. As Vargas was the one dealing with the Japanese, I sked him not to have my name considered at all. Upon my insistence, he promised. He even showed me the proposed list wherein Yulo was suggested for Commissioner of Finance. When the list came out my name appeared. I became, to use a vulgar expression, groggy. My wife cried as she knew what that meant. She feared we would be in constant danger; she really hated public service as during my 29 years of service I got nothing but disappointments. I immediately went to Vargas to see whether I could decline. Vargas answered emphatically that I could not, unless I wanted to endanger my life. I consulted Mr. Ohnick. He understood the situation. He advised me to accept it, but to resign after three months. I consulted Vargas again and he said that he was aware of my situation, that he would help me get out after three months. I therefore asked for a three-month leave from Marsman & Co., which was granted. Such is the story of my acceptance.

After three months, I asked Mr. Vargas to allow me to resign. He said that it was not yet time. I asked and obtained another month’s leave of absence from Marsman & Co. At the end of the month, Mr. Vargas asked me to stay. He told me that it was for my own safety as he was sure the Japanese would consider my resignation a hostile act.

Mr. & Mrs. Ohnick were taken to Sto. Tomas again when the Japanese, for reasons I do not know, recalled all former internees, including the old and sick, to the Sto. Tomas concentration camp.


April 29, 1945

The Headquarters of General MacArthur announced today the entry of his troops in Baguio, after wiping out the Japanese defenses. It took the liberators four months at the cost of a great number of men and materials to scale the mountain, blow up machine gun nests, seal thousands of caves and exterminate their defenders, and take possession of this city. Like mountain cats, the remaining Japanese continue fighting in the eastern slopes and from the top of Mt. Sto. Tomas which overlook the zigzag. An important nucleus of resistance is the Cagayan Valley. The two Ilocos regions, La Union and part of the Mountain Province, have been liberated by guerilla forces.

Thousands of residents of this summer city had been infiltrating through Japanese defenses until they reached American lines, guided by Igorots who are as loyal as they were experts in avoiding Japanese attention, in climbing rocks and jumping over precipices. Many had died in the bombings of Baguio, others succumbed to the hardship of two months of wanderings in caves and mountains or a week on the road until they reached Tubao where they were picked up by American troops.

Recto, Alunan, Paredes, Sison and De las Alas, the ex-ministers of the short-lived Republic had been captured and detained. Manuel Roxas was liberated. Laurel, Osías and Aquino fled to Japan. We could not tell whether on their own volition or forced by Yamashita. Part of those liberated had been brought to Manila and many of them are quartered in the University of Santo Tomas. They had lost their homes in Baguio and their old houses in Manila had been destroyed.

The Army in Baguio did not commit the same systematic abuses and massacre as what was planned and executed in Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas, Tayabas and in other provinces. Either they did not receive the order or they simply failed to implement it. Of course, it was easier for the victims to evade their henchmen and elude their herodian plans in the thicknesses and ruggedness of the mountains. However, at the last hour, the wriggling tail of the dying dragon killed numerous groups of unsuspecting persons, the incapacitated, the helpless who could not save themselves in time. Hundreds, or perhaps thousands of innocent lives were sacrificed.

A number of Japanese civilians and soldiers have passed over to the American lines. Among them are Mr. Yokoyama, the Japanese consul in Baguio; Mr. Okano, the head of the Religious Section of the Army and a good Catholic who had given not a few favors to the American prisoners and to the members of religious congregations; Mr. Matsuda, a professor of Nippongo, and somebody else whose surrender or capture we are not sure about.


February 21, 1945

Weeks have passed since the start of a thorough attack on the south of the Pasig. The battle was bloody and although there were heaps of Japanese fatalities, there were very few prisoners. American casualties were heavy. The front line ran along behind San Luis Street, behind the Casino Español, City Hall up to Quezon Bridge. American artillery is demolishing the palace of the High Commissioner, the Army and Navy Club, the Bayview Hotel and the government buildings east of the Wallace Field. City Hall and the Post Office building also received their share of shells.

The shelling of Intramuros has begun. The Japanese are using the walls as mortar positions and defense walls. They launched a mortar attack on the tower of the UST main building, and another on the Education building.

American firing during the day is incessant, and by night, formidable. They are pulverizing the buildings between Taft Avenue and Burgos Street, and those of the Luneta. The clouds of smoke rise like a black torrent surging from the horizon and enveloping the sky. We are worried about the fate of the residents of Intramuros, trapped within its walls. We can only foresee unspeakable anguish and torture and a bloody agony in the hands of their tormentors.

The number of persons imprisoned is calculated to be around seven thousand, among whom were some forty missionaries, mostly Spanish, and some Filipino and Spanish Sisters.

The High Command, before dealing the final blow in Intramuros, appealed to the Japanese defenders to surrender in order to save so many innocent lives. Not receiving any response, they proposed the alternative of letting the civilians free with the assurance that all firing will cease for four hours. The time specified elapsed and no one went out.

The remaining Japanese troops are incessantly putting to action their plan of murder, suicide and devastation.

What are the Japanese achieving by these killings — of others and of themselves? By this destruction of the city and its landmarks? Instead of saving their faces, Oriental style, they will pass into eternity stigmatized by their barbarism and vandalism, and eternally hated by the Filipino people and nations whose citizens they have massacred.


February 20, 1945

Let us shift our view for a while from this scenario of horrors, and take a look at the Manila of the liberators, as it was narrated to me.

The American High Command has not failed to notice the vandalistic scheme of the Japanese in the attempt to save themselves with the City and with the residents of the Capital, of converting the city into a heap of rubble and killing all the inhabitants, starting with the internees in Santo Tomas.

This was confirmed by some well-meaning Japanese. The program of destruction, murder and suicide, which is being launched in the southern zone is also being planned for the northern section. Written orders to this effect had been found and brought by the guerillas to the headquarters of General MacArthur.

The Japanese did not expect the American advance forces at the approach to Manila until about the 6th or 7th of February, so that on the 3rd, it was supposed that the front line was about fifty kilometers from Balintawak. On the eve of this day, at about 8:00 o’clock, the priests and internees of Santo Tomas heard tanks penetrating through España street. They posted themselves in front of the gate of the University campus. Lights went on and illuminated the buildings. Jubilant shouts and outbursts of joy were heard from the detainees who barely perceived that their liberation was forthcoming. In a few moments, volleys sounded from within and without the campus. The tanks and machine-guns replied. A number of soldiers and guerillas who served as guides fell, among them Manuel Colayco and the young Kierulf who died later. Absolute silence. Total darkness. Then the lead tank barged in through the fence into the campus, followed by seven others and by twenty trucks loaded with troops, the first with lights on, the others without lights. They reached the front of the Main building. Another shout and welcome from the prisoners. A new discharge of fire from the Japanese defenders, and then another sepulchral silence. The monstrous caterpillars kept advancing along the sides of the building until they were positioned one at each alley. Some internees started fraternizing with the liberators and received their first cigarettes, biscuits and canned goods. Other tanks positioned themselves towards the gymnasium and the Education building.

So passed the night.

At daybreak, the capture of the Gymnasium. There were Japanese soldiers there guarding the prisoners. But they fled into the darkness. The Americans scoured the place fearing that the Japanese had hidden themselves in a nearby grassy area. But they could not be found.

Later, the conquest of the Education building. There were some seventy Japanese soldiers dispersed behind the detainees. The Americans appealed to the Japanese to surrender. No response. They were promised to be let free out of the campus. Negative. They were promised to be transported with their arms up to the Japanese lines. The Japanese conceded, and in two trucks they were transported up to the Rotonda.

That was how the campus which had imprisoned some four thousand internees, and, incidentally, occupants of the seminary, was recaptured. But they were so far the only liberated buildings together with those near Malacañang. The rest of the city, during the night of the 3rd and the whole day of the 4th, were still not re-occupied, except in the sense that the liberators were almost in the middle of the capital. But there was only a handful of American troops who had entered the enemy territory. It was a blow which was as bold as it was daring.

The First Cavalry, dismounted but motorized, had left Cabanatuan two days before. As it was left behind forty kilometers from the main body of the advance forces, it opened up a road through Novaliches and Balintawak, Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard, spitting machinegun shells against Japanese troops and trucks they encountered along the way, and penetrating almost into the heart of the city. They were about a thousand men surrounded by Japanese forces bent on defending the city. Their audacity rattle the enemy. If the Japanese had a foreknowledge of the small number of the infiltrating forces, and had they organized a rapid and decisive attack on the Americans, the liberating forces would have been annihilated. They had thirty-six hours to do it and they faltered. Thus were saved the First Cavalry, the American prisoners and the north of Manila.

In the morning of the 5th, when the Japanese initiated a disorganized attack from España street, from Far Eastern University and from Bilibid, the 37th Division had already penetrated the City from the north and from the east, joining the liberators of Santo Tomas, and jointly re-occupying Quezon City and the sector of Manila north of Azcarraga. Malacañan and Bilibid, where some one thousand two hundred seventy war and civil prisoners were detained including those who came from Baguio, were also liberated.

The Japanese began their program of destruction. They placed cans of gasoline and mines in big buildings of the Escolta, and surrounding streets, and destroyed fire engines and equipments. They blew up and burned buildings, and the uncontrollable fires razed the whole of the commercial district from Azcarraga to the Pasig.

On the 6th, the Americans positioned themselves along the Pasig River. The whole northern region was thus liberated, although small groups of Japanese continued burning clusters of houses and forcing the Filipinos under their control to do the same. On the 7th, the battle of the Philippine General Hospital shelled the north of the city, especially the University of Santo Tomas which suffered fifty to sixty hits, mostly on the construction of P. Ruaño, the principal target of the Japanese guns. There was a lamentable number of casualties, some forty dead and three hundred wounded among the recently liberated. In the Education building, five were wounded. In the Seminary, there were only two slight casualties, a priest and a househelp. The attack lasted forty-eight hours.

The Japanese blew up the four bridges across the Pasig. On the 7th, further beyond Malacañan, five battalions of the 37th Division crossed the river in tanks and amphibian trucks and, after fierce fighting, they opened up a path through the cleared areas of Paco and the Gas factory. The Japanese defenders started converting each house and building into a fortress, burning them and killing their occupants when they had to abandon their posts.

In the meantime, the 11th Airborne Division, after a successful landing in Tagaytay, advanced until they joined the first wave at the southern approaches to the capital through Baclaran and Nichols Field. They mopped up these areas, destroying one hundred Japanese fighter planes and capturing seventy-five pieces of artillery and one hundred and twelve machineguns. They then proceeded towards Pasay. The cavalry made a second crossing of the Pasig through Sta. Ana. After a bitter house-to-house fighting, they drove back the Japanese from the hippodrome and from Makati. They then joined the 37th Division near the Paco Railroad station, and the 11th Airborne at the north of the Polo Club.

With these reunited forces, the Japanese defenses in Manila have been isolated and pushed back in Singalong, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Intramuros and the Port Area. American advance is slow. They are not employing the air force and they use the artillery with moderation for the sake of the civilians. The soulless defenders entrench themselves behind houses and concrete buildings, devoting their time more to arson and murder rather than in fighting the liberators. The Americans, in a rapid execution of strategy, were able to save some seven thousand refugees at the General Hospital before the vandals could effect their diabolic plans.


February 18, 1945

The evenings are a nightmare. They bring a rosary of shocks produced by powerful guns which, from New Manila and Grace Park, strike at Ermita and Intramuros, shaking the air, the earth, the doors and the nerves. Projectiles fly over our heads, whistling their funereal song of destruction. We cannot look at them: we can only follow their trajectory with our ears. Mortars from the Far Eastern University and the Osmeña Park batter the eardrums with metallic poundings. Machine guns, crackling like coffee grinders –Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac! rattle in, from behind, at the sides, in search of Japanese snipers. The fires from the Japanese side which reach our vicinity add to the confusion. A mortar hit the tower of the main building where the Americans had set up an observation post, and from which General MacArthur observed enemy lines this morning. Others fell on the Education building and on the intern’s garden. However, there were no casualties.

But more shattering than the dissonant harmony of war engines is the news about the tragedies suffered by survivors who escaped from the southern part of the city. The accounts are so terrifying and so macabre that my spirit was filled with infinite bitterness, and I wept with tears of pain and indignation. From the sadness and sympathy arose an impotent anger against the infernal forces which vented its desperation and hate among the civilian populace. So many families of acquaintances and friends exterminated. So many mutilated. So many who escaped the Japanese hell lost everything but their lives. The hospitals –the few old ones which still remain, and a number of improvised ones– are filled with the wounded, whose hands or feet or body are perforated with bullets or shrapnels. Many are searching desperately for their lost loved ones. Manila is a picture of sadness impossible to describe.

The Japanese plan of attack against the defenseless Manilans is as diabolic as it is organized. Its defense strategy consists in positioning themselves behind the civilian residents, and as the conquerors advance within a dangerous distance, they flee or burn the buildings and retreat a few blocks backwards. They machinegun the residents who attempt to put out the fire or run for their lives. The only way to save themselves is to jump into a ditch and stay there. Anyone who raises his head is fired at. They stay for four to eight days without eating or drinking, tortured by a rabid thirst. I was told of cases where persons, dying of thirst, drank human blood mixed with mud.

In many cases, the soldiers would approach the ditches and kill the occupants with bayonets. That was how they killed the De La Salle Brothers –Irish and Germans–, the Padres Paules of San Marcelino among whom were Fr. Visitator Tejada and Fr. José Fernández, and Irish Fathers of Malate, together with the evacuees in their buildings. The same fate fell on fifty others, almost all of whom were Spanish, who took shelter in the Spanish consulate. Aside from being attacked with bayonets, they were also attacked with hand grenades. Only a little girl escaped alive.

Another way of liquidating the people is by herding them into a house and setting fire to it, at the same time hurling hand grenades inside. Anyone who attempts to escape is shot.

There were frequent cases where soldiers threw hand grenades into the ditches or air raid shelters, and those who attempted to escape were hunted like animals. In order to economize on bullets, the assassins usually would tie entire families to post or pillars and kill them with bayonets. It was not rare that a hundred or more persons were lined up and machinegunned.

In the shelter at the German Club, some four hundred persons of different nationalities were attacked and massacred by drunken soldiers. Only about half a dozen escaped. The young Enrique Miranda, son of Telesforo Miranda Sampedro, told me that his mother and five brothers were taken by the Japanese. He did not know what happened to them. We learned later that their bodies were found mangled –those of his two brothers, in the street. Enrique said that he was made to kneel down and they hit him on his neck. He lost consciousness. He came to his senses when a soldier was prickling him with the point of his bayonet to find out if he was already dead. He tried to bear the pain and feigned death. The soldier covered him with earth. He was able to bore a hole through which he breathed. Later, he squeezed himself out and, bleeding all over, he hid among the stones until he was found by the Americans.

In Singalong, the Japanese marines gathered the men to send them on forced labor. The men were made to line up and were herded on groups of ten into houses where their heads were cut off. As those who were in the streets could not hear anything, they entered the houses confidently, believing they were only to register their names. A son of Mr. Ynchausti, among others, escaped, but was badly wounded.

It was providential that in almost all cases, someone among the victims was able to escape and was able to relate the fate of his companions.

The Japanese installed machineguns on the towers of the Paco and Singalong churches, not to counterattack the approaching Americans but to mow down the residents –men, women and children– who might attempt to flee. The Remedios Hospital and the San Andres agricultural school, where thousands of escapees had taken shelter, were shelled with mortars and even Japanese anti- aircraft guns. Many, however, were also killed by American bombs.

Very few persons escaped unscathed from the southern xone. There were countless wounded and it was almost impossible to attend to them all in spite of the fact that the doctors and nurses, both Americans and Filipinos, worked beyond their limits. The suicidal and homicidal plan of the Japanese, according to superior orders, was to exterminate the whole population and annihilate themselves. Survivors attributed their survival to a miracle and to a special favor of Providence. Many promises and vows were made and each escapee had his heartrending tragedy to tell.

The savagery displayed by the Imperial Army is as brutal as it was unexpected or, better still, it is doubly brutal for being unexpected. There were fears, and it was expected, that the Japanese would not hand over the city on a silver platter, but we could not believe that their ferocity would reach such a point of diabolic savagery.

The phantom of hunger not only hovers over the people. It holds the people captive in their claws. There is nothing to buy in stores and marketplaces. And where there are goods, there is no money with which to buy them. The occupation money has been reduced to what it is –scratch paper. The new Victory bills which the U.S. Army brought along, are still hardly in circulation. Those fortunate ones who live in the liberated zone have exhausted the supplies of rice and mongo. Parents and friends of escapees from the Japanese hell who were given refuge by those in the north are creating problems of food supply.

The American Red Cross, the PCAU and the soldiers themselves try to assist the hungry people, but there are so many of them and here is just not enough supply for all. I met a number of friends whom I hardly remembered, especially those who escaped from the claws of the Japanese and who had been reduced to skin and bones. There were also those who had been wounded or mutilated. The liberating troops, as they advance step by step, house by house, perform the dual function of combatants and Samaritan, gathering the survivors, assisting them with their own rations and transporting them to the rearguard. The wounded are transported by the Red Cross, the officers of the chaplains to improvised hospitals at the north of the Pasig. The able bodied travel in the way they could, searching for the members of their families who were separated in fleeing from Japanese fire and vandalism. Hungry and thirsty, they roam the streets as souls in agony, broken and ragged, pale and sweating under the heat of the sun, looking for people they know, and recounting their own horrors and those of others.


Manila, February 15, 1945

A provost official –one of the many new friends with whom we had been fraternizing– offered me a trip to Manila in his jeep. I accepted willingly, in order to have a personal knowledge of what is happening in the Capital.

We left at 7:00 in the evening and we were at Balintawak by midnight. It was a very fast trip by the standards of these times. All the bridges had been blown up by the Japanese and had been replaced by pontoon bridges constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The way these soldiers are working is admirable.

We did not attempt to enter the city. Shelling was very intense. We spent the night in the jeep, parked in the middle of thick grasses. I did not sleep a wink as I watched the shrubs and grasses move, not by the wind but by some snipers. I heard the thundering booms of the guns and the whistling flight of shells as they rent the air over our heads, while in the city, vast columns of smoke were rising and big fires were raging.

At the break of day I entered the main gate of the University for the first time in three years. I found the Seminary filled with refugees. Most of them came from this northern sector of Manila where several blocks of houses had been burned by fire caused by Japanese, or started by Filipinos who had been paid or forced to burn them. The Education building has been converted to a hospital for civilian casualties who came from the south in uncontrollable influx.

The internees are still living in the main building in other smaller ones. They were huddled in rooms and corridors, but free, happy, well fed and properly clothed. Many of them are gradually recovering from their skeletal countenance and their cadaveric paleness due to starvation under the Japanese regime.

During these past months, some eight to twelve internees were dying daily; the others are so weak they cannot stand on their feet. The beehive activities on the campus, with the incessant buzzing produced by the movements, the coming and going of soldiers, internees, refugees and vehicles are in contrast with the sepulchral silence of this place.


February 4, 1945

The advance troops of the liberators entered Manila last night after thirty-seven long months since the remaining troops of the USAFFE retreated to Bataan. We cannot tell how many districts of Manila are already liberated. News dispatches are a little confused. All we are sure of is that the first place recaptured is the University of Santo Tomas with all its residents, priests and internees. We were told that the rest of the city had been turned into a battlefield, won not amidst psalms and cheers but amidst firings and shellings “…that this city and all its people might be protected…”

The conquest of the Central Plain of Luzon was a successful one. The 210 kilometers between the Gulf of Lingayen and the City of Manila were negotiated in 27 hours instead of 27 days. Except in Bamban and Stotsenberg where the enemy had attacked from the nearby hills, the Yankee war machinery rolled through the wide open fields without opposition.

The enemy had lost the battle of Luzon when it allowed the gigantic invading equipment to land unopposed. In the open fields, the Japanese could not put up a fight. They preferred to retreat in disarray, dispersed like scared rabbits as the mechanized columns of the invaders rolled by. Yamashita’s strategy was to convert the mountain ranges of Caraballo and Zambales into another Bataan, in the manner of MacArthur’s defense three years ago. The Imperial Army was entrenched in the rugged mountains without roads and almost without any footpaths, turning each mountain into a fortress, each hill into a machinegun nest and each cliff into a trench. They dug a complex of tunnels of communications through the mountain where they hid and installed their artillery. They fired from the mouths of the tunnel to avoid being localized by the American Air Force and artillery. The Americans had to destroy these subterranean hideouts one by one. Not only did they blow up these artillery nests. They chased those who manned the guns and flushed the others out of the caves and tunnels who defended themselves like corralled beasts.

Under this mode of defense, it was not necessary to launch big battles nor heavy attacks nor fighting on a grand scale, nor mechanized campaigns. It was a work of mopping up, a fight of a group of hunters against a group of game animals. The air force, the tanks and armoured cars were hardly of any use. Only the rifles, flame throwers and hand grenades were effectively utilized. It was a slow, tedious, lousy and bloody fight.


February 2, 1945

[Separate sheet of paper dated]

Febr. 2nd (1945)

1st Friday and Communion – A spiritual happiness & joy which gives strength far beyond mere physical strength – Hope and charity –

There are reports – fairly reliable – of landings at Nasugbu Batangas 2 days ago and at Subic Bay 3 days ago – Nasugbu is to the South on the West Coast – Subic to the North on the West coast – the Subic landing aims at the capture of Olongapo, the naval repair

[separate sheet dated]

Feb 2nd (con)

base, the cutting of the communication of the Japanese forces resisting our advance over the mountains from the Zainbiales Coast, and our advance from Olongapo over the mountains to the East to cut the Japanese retreat into Bataan– The Musugbu landing will aim, of course, at the Cavite naval base, at cutting off a possible Japanese retreat to Teinate & Maic (?) & this evacuation to Bataan– And incidentally, after passing the Tagaytay ridge, will turn towards Manila.

Again these landings to the North & South of Manila Bay, the terrific bombings of Corregidor,

[Separate sheet dated]

Feb 2 (con)

Cavite Naval base, Fraile Island may be the prelude to an advance by task force into Manila Bay – the mines will have to be cleared and there are many wrecks in the harbor –

Gradually, the Japanese are being forced to decide what to do in the South – In a short time, any troops they have there will not be able to join the Northern forces –

 

Skewtch from the last entry in Holland's journal.
Skewtch from the last entry in Holland’s journal.