We have lived a lifetime in the three days since I last wrote. I guess it was three days. I’m not sure. Since we were awakened at 2:30 one morning to be told it was the last chance to get to Manila before roads closed, the telephone has been ringing every five minutes, telling us facts, rumors, facts, rumors—and denials. I couldn’t begin to put down all we heard and had denied.
The blowing of Naguilian and Zig Zag [Kennon| trails down from our mountains was loud and clear and near, and then came the sound of Balatoc mine oil tanks going up in smoke which hung over the valley all morning. The sound of guns from Lingayen was clear—and not to be denied.
We finally settled on joining the Americans at Brent School in a sort of voluntary concentration so we would be all together. It was a terrible day. There was panic in the air, in the trees, and in the ground!
When it came to leaving home and good-bye to Nida, I said “We’ll be seeing you,” and started to leave the kitchen. There was silence behind me and I was too near the breaking point to turn around, but I did. Nida looked
so bowed down that I went back and put my arms around her. We both burst into tears and she clung to me sobbing, “Oh Mrs. Crouter, I don’t want you to go away or anything to happen to you. | have been so happy with you all these years. I don’t want to lose June and Bedie!” We kissed and comforted each other like sisters till I finally broke away and ran out to the car still in a flood of weeping.
At Brent there were a number of air attacks and the trek down the steep bank to their shelter was too exhausting so we found a smaller hole to crouch our sixth grade room to crouch in. Later we merely stepped outside our sixth grade room to crouch by a tree trunk on the thickly wooded slope.We had brought mattresses and blankets, several cases of food, and two sacks of rice among other things.
We had divided our rice and tinned goods with our servants. Nida and the other women all ran down to stay near an Igorot barrio, as they are terrified of the Japanese, but Ismael and another boy have stayed faithfully by the house. We told them to take down our name off the tree and move into the house. There are 17 of them now, still working on Red Cross materials! A tiny stray kitten appeared, mewing, so we fed it.
We spent the night on mattresses on the floor of the school, devoured by mosquitoes, children crying and adults wondering in wakeful hours how soon the enemy would arrive.
In the morning we went home for breakfast, stayed for lunch and tea out by the garage. It was heavenly to have one more day of respite at home, away from tired mothers with howling babies.
The less said about the town officials the better. The day of the panic they all left town, returning the following day. There was looting of Japanese stores but the Police Chief finally checked it even though the police were
missing. We were near the scene and the humming of the mob was not pleasant to hear. They ran off with sacks of flour and Sugar over shoulders and boxes under the arm.
Christmas morning still no enemy had appeared. We opened our packages in the damp dawn on the floor, Jerry gave me slacks and a white sweater. The children had slacks, blouses and jackets. We came home again at noon and had turkey down at Bacanis’, marred by two alarms which left us breathless from tearing up the hill to the shelter.
l finished packing up twenty-eight hospital bags and gave them out to American and Filipino soldiers at the hospital on Christmas day during raids. It was worth all the effort to see their faces light up. One boy, in a group
of about eighteen with malaria and wounds in a crowded ward, called as I was leaving if I could get them each a toothbrush and toothpaste. I promised to try. Jerry drove me to a Chinese store between raids and I made the purchases. The Chinese in the stores were pleased that we had not left Baguio with so many others. When I handed the bundle to the nurse to give out to each one, the boy who had made the request turned to the others with a triumphant sweep of the arm, calling, “There, what did I tell you? See? The Red Cross can do anything!”