When I arrived home this morning from the office. I greeted my father who was reading at the dining room. He informed me that my younger brother and one of my cousins of about the same age as the former, had been called to the colors. I rushed to see my brother. I found him busy with his baggage.
“Do you know the front you are being sent to?” I asked him.
“We have not been told. For the moment, I must report to the military command quartered at the San Juan de Letran College.”
He next added that our cousin had been ordered likewise, only that he was to report at the Adamson College. Both institutions were located in the district of Intramuros, where were also found the Court of Appeals, my place of work, and the San Juan de Dios Hospital, to which my father was affiliated.
Once through helping my brother with his minuscule luggage, I proceeded to see my cousin, also engaged in the pertinent preparations with the aid of his father, who was unable to restrain his anguish and sorrow. I sought to give him some encouragement, but without results.
In due time, both took their leave from my father. The other cousins, who happened to be home, joined us in bidding the two farewell. My father merely shook hands with both would-be combatants and, taking advantage of the presence of the others, stated, “Our country has called you in her hour of need. As worthy Filipinos and full-fledged men, comply with your duty. Let this apply to all the others here, in case you are also called to the colors. Be assured that | shall be the first to denounce any one of you who would shirk from this patriotic obligation.”
And he added nothing more. Instead, he went back to his seat and resumed his reading.
For our part, we all went downstairs with my brother and cousin. It was with great effort thatI| mustered the conflicting sentiments invading me and I confined myself to giving both a big farewell hug. My other cousins deported likewise. Not so with my uncle who, after embracing my brother, tenderly held in his arms his own son—the youngest, incidentally. I had to intervene, for I realized that there was no more time to lose. Finally, both my brother and cousin walked away to board the tramway at the end of the street, bound for their destination. When both were already quite afar, my uncle screamingly beckoned back his son. The latter rushed to him and. once again, they tightly embraced each other. I feared that such would never end Therefore, I interceded once again to bring it to a definite close. Following a last kiss and heavily sobbing, my uncle rushed inside the house. I bade both good-bye once more. They hurriedly boarded a streetcar then passing by.
I climbed up the house, after my brother and my cousin were no longer In sight. When passing in front of my uncle’s room, I found him on his knees before the image of Jesus of Nazareth which his wife had hidden in her dresser, precisely to keep it away from the sight of my uncle, who for years had been estranged from the Church
and touched by a rabid anticlericalism. The scene was so unprecedented therefore, that discreetly I stopped to watch him. I overheard his broken voice amidst copious tears: “My Lord, I promise to return to the fold of the Church and to receive the Sacraments should my sons be spared in this war. Forgive me my sins; do not punish me on my children.”
Reservedly I managed to step away without being seen. The rest of the day my uncle kept to himself in his room.
The following morning, on my way to the office, I first passed by the San Juan de Letran College, which had been turned into a garrison. The main entrance was protected by sandbags and there was an armed sentry at the gate. Since sentry was an acquaintance of mine, he let me in. I asked for my brother. In no time, he showed up. He told me he was in perfect shape. We could hardly exchange some words, for he had to attend to the chores assigned to him in his new status. I took my leave, with a promise to call on him whenever possible. I did so in succeeding days, although, on certain occasions, I was unable to talk to him, but I managed to get information about him from the guard on duty Thank God, I was never given any bad news. In regard to my cousin, however, we never came to know anything, although we imagined he must be doing well as well, for nothing adverse about Adamson College –his quarters– had so far been reported.
On my visit this morning I was able to greet some of my former professors –Spanish Dominican friars, all of them. They wore khaki clothes, their distinctive white habits now discarded. I found them busy with the menial tasks demanded by the upkeep of that part of the College, which the military authorities permitted them to continue occupying. When briefly conversing with me, they exuded exquisite discretion, for they were not unaware of their double condition as religious and aliens. They showed great concern for me and my family; I too, expressed great interest in their new condition. But we went no further.
When I left the College converted into a garrison, where, nevertheless, by military concession, these Dominican friars still resided, I could not help but ask myself whether this arrangement did not violate international law. Indeed, how was the College to be classified now? Was it a military garrison or a civil residence or, what is more, a religious site? May it be said, perhaps, that this innovation rendered the College a legitimate military objective justifying enemy attack? I had no answers.
Some other digressions assailed me, once back home: If my brother and my cousin—both of the first reserve—had been called to the colors, was it because our professional army was insufficient in number? If we, of the second reserve, were eventually to be called to the colors too, such would certainly be a bad omen, not precisely
for the effects upon us personally, but because it would mean that the war progress was adverse to our cause.
But, let us not anticipate events.