9th December 1941

They woke me up for a poor man’s breakfast of coffee and bread. It looked like everybody had had a good night’s sleep; not I, however. While the rest of the household attended to their domestic chores, I went out for a walk about town.

That early hour of the morning presented me with bare streets. Many of the houses were still closed. Following a quick stroll along the main street, I roamed close to the outskirts of the town. The day was bright and a light breeze made for a cool atmosphere. Shortly after, some people started showing up, most probably, I surmised, to go about their daily tasks. | met some peasants with their beasts of burden making their way to the field. A few women headed for the nearby river to do their washing, with dirty linen piled in large baskets. I could not see a single young man. There were, to be sure, some small children who roamed gaily from place to place. Casually I chanced upon a classmate. His presence somewhat relieved me of the deserter complex that had assailed me. But, my comfort soon faded away, when he told me that he was returning to Manila in the afternoon. I felt a strong urge to do likewise. Before coming here yesterday, I had posted on the main door of our house in the city a message to the military authorities to the effect that the male members of the family had absented ourselves temporarily to help evacuate our women and children, but that we were soon to return to make ourselves available to the military command in case we were to be called to the colors. Had we been Called by now? If so, how did I stand? A coward? A deserter? Since I did not know the answer, I| was assailed by worry and shame.

I went back to the house. My depression was marked. When I reached the house, my aunts asked me to meet with the representative of the Civil Emergency Agency in connection with a questionnaire referring to our status as refugees. I did so, supplying her with the pertinent data on the number and personal circumstances of the women and children in our group, besides giving her concrete information on our resources, in kind and cash, to
enable her to make an estimate of how much aid we might be in need of from the government. With her mission duly accomplished the Agency representative departed.

Shortly before lunchtime, once again the municipal cyclist, with the aid of a trumpet he blew occasionally, appeared. He ordered us all to step down and seek shelter under the nearby shady trees, for it was reported that enemy planes were approaching, although their point of destination was not known. We all, therefore, went down save for my ailing sister and the lady owner of the house, who could not leave their beds.

From our hiding place in a moment we heard a distant rumbling as if coming from a beehive. | scanned the skies. From afar, at quite some altitude, I caught sight of some planes painted white flying in neat formation, duly aligned in triangle-form. I was able to count up to nine aircraft. By all indications they appeared headed for Manila.Filled with serious concern, we all joined in common prayer beseeching Divine protection, particularly for our relatives in the capital city. Not long after, the planes vanished from sight. We were told that we could now return to our houses.

At about three in the afternoon –long past our lunch– two young men arrived from Manila. They were relatives of the owner of the house, although I could not ascertain whether sons or nephews of hers. Still filled with terror, they told us that the bombing last night had for its military objectives the Nichols air base and Fort McKinley, both in the outskirts of Manila. They imagined that many must have been killed or injured, aside from the huge fires caused by the air raid. They complained that the air-raid alarm sounded only after considerable delay. Was it due to some sabotage attempt? They informed their kin that they no longer intended to return to Manila. I disdained such an attitude, which I deemed unworthy, for the tinge of cowardice it entailed. Certainly, I kept this reaction to myself. I could not help but suspect that, perhaps, their dark story of the bombings had been purposely exaggerated, precisely to seek to justify their decision to seek refuge here. On the other hand, with no knowledge of the facts, I must admit that possibility they might have been telling the truth. Chi ló sa?

Close to five in the afternoon, my father and other family members arrived from Manila. Once gathered at the living room, my father eloquently described to us the air raids of last night and this morning. The latter attacked the naval installations at the port of Cavite., not far from Manila. There was fear of heavy damages and countless casualties. My father next praised highly the serene deportment my brother and one of my cousins, both being the youngest in the household.

“They are every inch full-fledged men! At no time did they give the slightest signs of nervousness or fear. What is more, with the fullest of calmness, they joined us in watching the fight and maneuvers of the enemy planes, absolute masters of the skies.”

| noticed that both my brother and my cousin began to light a cigarette. When I advised my brother to take note of the presence of my father, who prohibits him to smoke, he explained, “Father has already given me his consent. He has told us that smoking is convenient to help us control our nerves.”

A full-fledged man, indeed!

Then my father announced, “We have decided to spend the night here. We have earned the right to a quiet rest.”

Greatly pleased we soon partook of dinner sparingly and fast, taking advantage of the few minutes left before the compulsory “blackout” set in.

Once more gathered together, under cover of darkness, our comments and stories burst out in disarrayed exchange.

“I cannot understand why our planes do not take off to wage combat against the enemy,” wailed my father.

One of my uncles butted in, “Could it not be due to the Japanese air raid against the Clark air base, in the province of Pampanga, where the American Air Force had its aircraft stationed, as was made known in this morning’s communique? The damages must have been quite heavy, even if no such reference is made in the said communique.”

But one other uncle commented, “Let us not forget this morning’s rumor to the effect that the planes destroyed during the air attack against Clark base were mere decoys made of bamboo and nipa, to fool the Japanese, who swallowed it hook line, and sinker. The real planes have previously been flown to Mindanao for safety, upon orders of General MacArthur.”

My father—and | joined him-—found the explanation a bit too elaborate, particularly if we take into account that, as a matter of fact, the Japanese were now ruling our skies and showering death and destruction with impunity.

Then, we moved on to consider the other war fronts.

“What is truly magnificent is the reported actuation of Gen. Vicente Lim in the southern front. He is giving high proofs of his excellent training at the West Point Academy. Besides, as a true native of Batangas, his personal bravery is, indeed, impressive. I can visualize him with his perennial cigar, ably and serenely directing his
troops in battle,” exclaimed my father with genuine pride.

Someone objected, “But, when are we to hear of any offensive action on the part of our forces? The communique merely reports that our troops are holding the line. Not a word about attacks against the enemy!”

Another added next: “All these may occasion adverse pessimism which is, truly, unhealthful for our cause.”

My father cut them short, “Let us not court defeatism. We should have full confidence in General MacArthur, who has his military skill well-established and has repeatedly shown his true devotion for our people.”

During all this time, my uncle Victor, my father’s brother, had remained silent. I could understand him. His Japanese wife and his two daughters were still in Osaka. The Japanese authorities did not allow them to accompany him on his return to the Philippines some months ago, after being practically expelled as an alien, following 30 years of residence in that country. As a Filipino—in all his years in Japan—he never renounced his Philippine citizenship. Undoubtedly he was on our side; yet, as husband and father, I asked myself, would he not feel inclined towards the country of his wife and daughters? A difficult situation was his, indeed, I must confess.

It was almost midnight when our group broke up. As we made ready to retire, I availed myself of the opportunity to have an aside with my father.

“I want to return to Maniila with you tomorrow. I must go back to my work at the Court of Appeals. But, above all. I can no longer stand this absurd and shameful here in the company of women and children. After all, they are now well settled. Please, I do not relish to continue appearing as a coward or deserter,” I insisted emphatically.

Fortunately my father was full of understanding and acceded to my request without the least hesitation.”

While each sought a corner to sleep in, I managed to prop a chair against the wall by way of a bed.

This time I found no difficulty in falling asleep

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