Since May this year when it was decreed that the family members of the officers and enlisted men of the United States Army stationed in the Philippines should return home, up to this very afternoon when President Quezon has reportedly banned all social gatherings, there hover upon the country unmistakable war clouds, neither of the making nor desire of the Filipinos. There has been an ongoing increase of military personnel and materiel. The population has been subjected to anti-air attacks defense measures and evacuation rehearsals. Periodically, “blackouts” have been essayed as protection air raids. The Civil Emergency Agency has been established. There is even a pending presidential request for special emergency powers before the National Assembly. This is due to the imminent crisis. Everything, therefore, points to the inevitable rupture of peace here.
Against this backdrop pregnant with anxiety, I held a social party at home today. I could no longer cancel it. It was to celebrate my recent election as class president of the Third Year course in the Faculty of Civil Law of the University of Santo Tomas. This was the first party | ever tendered at my residence, which my father, accordingly informed by my sister, had placed at my entire disposal by absenting himself conveniently.
At about seven in the evening my guests, which included my classmates and some neighborhood friends, commenced to arrive. Many came with their sisters. A few of them brought along their girl friends. Following the usual amenities, we soon regaled ourselves with the delights of dance music from an ortophonic, at this time, the latest phonograph model. In due time a buffet, prepared by my aunts, my sister, and my girl cousins, was served. Later, dancing was resumed.
Although everything proceeded according to expectations, a festive air was lacking.
All of us felt a war between the United States and Japan was forthcoming, where the Philippines would be inevitably drawn due to its special political relations with the United States. Unavoidably, therefore, this armed threat constituted the core of our conversations, not only because of the misfortune it might entail for our country, but also, more selfishly, due to its effects upon the young men present, for we were all of military age ripe for conscription should the need arise.
Although it seemed that almost all agreed that the war was fast approaching, yet there were some, who still had their doubts. They could not conceive that Japan would dare fight against the United States. But, even so, the general despondency was evident. In this exchange of views, my opinion was sought.
“I believe that the war is inevitable. Japan cannot with the minimum decorum accept the conditions exacted by the United States. Besides, the ABCD Coalition, set up by the United States, the United Kingdom, China and the Low Countries, has imposed an encirclement of Japan, which can find no other alternative than to break it off with the use of force, under pain of condemning herself to death by asphyxia.”
Someone interrupted me: “So you then think that war is imminent?”
“Inevitable does not mean imminent. I honestly believe that the war will not break out until April or May of next year. I think, therefore, that we shall have time to finish our academic term,” I replied.
A third guest commented: “Well, that is quite some comfort, assuming you are right.”
When the clock struck half past eleven, my father, who is a doctor, arrived. He forthwith kept himself to his private quarters. My sister, after talking to him, reservedly explained to me that my father had understood that my party would end up at eleven o’clock and not at midnight, as she had told him. He was, therefore, quite annoyed. So was I. On the other hand, I was in no mood to prolong the party.
With the discretion dictated upon by good manners, | managed to make my guests take their leave conveniently. I cordially thanked them for their presence. The “good-byes” that fluttered about in the air seemed to bring me the aroma of a definitive farewell.
When the last of the guests turned around the corner the street was left utterly deserted. The silence that ensued was simply audible, as Ortega would write. Suddenly I felt chilly. True, we were in the month of December and the evenings were prone to turning colder. Yet, I could not fail to recall the Spanish poet Jose Maria Peman when he spoke of a chill that “seems to refer to the body, but in truth is of the soul.” Was this the kind of chill I was feeling? Most certainly, yes.
| was not pleased with my party. The misunderstanding that prompted my father to closet himself; the obvious dejection amongst my guests; the alarming headlines for sometime now; the sullen peril of war almost knocking at our doors —all these have conspired to deprive me of any pleasure. To make matters worse, | could not avoid feeling a little guilty for having allowed myself this frivolity of a social party under the reigning circumstances.
I cut short my vagaries. “To deplore what Is already past is sheer loss of time,” I comforted myself. I shut the main door of the house, put off the lights and, here in the seclusion of my bedroom, I lulled myself with the murmurings of my night prayers.
Tomorrow will be another day.