After breakfast, I read the Daily Bulletin, the only newspaper published on Mondays. The Bulletin carried no news of special interest. At seven in the morning, Señor Alberto Guevara called me up. He had just heard over the radio that Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese planes. That was the first news of the war.
One of the Fathers came up with an “extra” of the Daily Bulletin. But the “extra” added very little to the scanty information we had. It was reported that Japan had declared war on the United States moments before Ambassador Kurusu delivered to Secretary Hull the answer to the demands of Roosevelt. Hull replied that those were the greatest bunch of lies the world had ever heard.
We are beginning to realize that we are engulfed in the whirlpool of war. There is excitement, there are telephone calls, sirens, plans, scamperings, panic-buying of food, clothes and other provisions. Speculations and projections run big. Everybody is playing prophet. Would they attack? No, they would not dare. If they do, it would be by air from Formosa, Hainan, in aircraft carriers. Landing places would be Lingayen and Batangas, but they are fortified. By sea, it is impossible to pass through Corregidor. Evacuate the capital: to Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Bicolandia, Visayas. Manila will be mercilessly destroyed. Wait for developments.
Thus it was on the day of the Immaculate Conception.
By midmorning, the Director of Private Schools announced that all classes are suspended until further notice.
But when will this further notice come?
I attended the Provincial Council to discuss emergency and urgent matter. The Father Provincial had just arrived by car all the way from Aparri, as the boat he was supposed to take was late. It was providential though. The boat was later bombed and sunk by Japanese planes.
The other Fathers who felt more secure in the provinces or with friendly families have been allowed to receive money from and live with them. It was feared that the government would order the evacuation of some districts, Intramuros among them. The suburbs are considered safer.
As Chairman of the National Basketball Committee, I presided over the meeting scheduled for today. The members of the Committee unanimously decided to suspend the national championship games which were to start the day after tomorrow. The teams from Cebu and Iloilo arrived yesterday; they were sent back home. There could be bombings during the games and we wanted to avoid a possible catastrophe.
Came night time. There was complete black-out. We slept in our rooms on the fourth floor. Two Fathers volunteered to keep watch for the night and to give warning in case of an air raid. It was necessary though, as the siren was situated at the Post Office, about 200 meters away.
We were awakened before midnight by its shrill, doleful sound as if it were announcing gloom which the nocturnal planes would sow. The vestibule and the receiving room were converted into shelters. One hour in the shelters and back to bed.
At three o’clock there was another signal. We scampered down in total darkness, feeling the wall with our hands, taking care that we and the boarders would not slip.
The planes could not be seen. We only saw a small red star like a wandering ruby among the others which were gilded and immobile in the sky.
Then an airborne fleet, like buzzing bumble bees made known its presence. The searchlights ripped the thick mantle of darkness that enveloped us. A frantic volley of shots deafened us. The CEA fired their pistols, the cadets and recruits fired their guns. Artillery and antiaircraft guns thundered, dominating this infernal macabre orchestra with their barking.
The planes continued their majestic flight at a comfortable altitude that permitted them to enjoy the sight of the dogs which below were barking at them with fury.
There were sounds of bomb explosions. We calculated where they fell. Each one of us suddenly became an expert in localizing these deep rumblings. We were hearing them for the first time in our lives, but we indicated the places being bombed with the accuracy of veteran warriors.
And so ended the first day of war, with a greater noise and din than New Year’s eve. Beautiful was the perspective the god Mars showed us!