Today was the anniversary of the execution of our national hero lose Rizal and it passed unnoticed. Although still an official holiday, not the slightest homage was rendered. | knew he would forgive us. We were, indeed, living in the midst of a hiatus of uncertainty and anxiety. Nobody seemed to know anything. Certainly it was not a usual experience for a people to be left to themselves, as was our case apparently. There was no need to seek for an explanation and much less for guilty parties. It sufficed me to register the anemic state which I seemed able to sensitively touch.
At mid-morning, information reached us to the effect that the authorities, both civil and military—were there any left, mayhap?—had decreed that all quartermasters, storehouses, reservoirs and the like belonging to the government and the armed forces be left open to the people at large. The objective, we were told, was to prevent any of their stocks from falling into the hands of the enemy, reportedly at the outskirts of the city. There was also the desire to palliate somewhat the straits undergone by the people these last days by reason of the war.
My father, together with my uncles and cousins, made ready to step out in order to ascertain the truth of the report.
“If the news is true, then we should contribute to the patriotic aim intended and, in passing, favor the family economic interests,” he reasoned out.
For my part, however, I chose to inhibit myself, for I was in no mood therefore. Fortunately I was afforded a good excuse when it was ascertained that there were not sufficient seats in the cars. Besides, no one insisted that I join them.
It was about half past nine when they departed, to return only long after one o’clock in the afternoon. They came back full of exuberance. They related it all to us during lunch.
“We have been to the main establishments of the Army Quartermaster and in the National Cold Storage Plant. It has been a continuous struggle in both places, then invaded by a huge crowd, who hardly respected anything, more particularly, at the storage plant where we almost came to blows defending what we had already retrieved,” my father recounted.
“\What about results?” asked one of my aunts.
“Well, here they are displayed to your eye’s content!”
Indeed, a few minutes before seating for lunch, they had left at the living room what they had brought back with them. Without seeking to be exhaustive, I can remember such disparate articles as frozen fish—several dozens of them—hundreds of thread balls, screwdrivers of diverse sizes, matchboxes, bottles of olive oil, reams of white sheets, canned goods (milk, meat, beans, soups, etc.), and a good number of pencils and notebooks. Incidentally, at the ground floor they had stored four car tires and several carpenters’ tools. It may be said, therefore, that there had been quite a “harvest.” We were next to decide what was to be done with all that was not needed to increment the family supplies.
“What impressed me most,” commented one of my cousins, “was the haste with which the establishments were emptied by peoples of all sorts without the least restraint and with fierce resolution.”
“Not only that,” my father added. “I have also been impressed, with great pain, aye with obvious repugnance, by the subsequent assaults against private stores and shops. It seemed to me that the hour of the rabble had sounded. Such shamelessness! What kind of a people are we? Must we disown them?”
A relative of ours—Gregorio Cailles—who, on this occasion, was to have lunch with us, next intervened.
“As a veteran of the First World War, I can tell you that I witnessed a similar looting wave in Paris. It was plain robbery, for then, no official authority had been given the people to invade and sack government stores and warehouses, much less private business sites. Well, it was far worse than what you tell me has just taken place. And yet there are those who would praise to high heavens the exquisite civilized manners of the Parisians!
Fortunately these words succeeded in assuaging my father somewhat.
At mid-afternoon, the male members of the household stepped down to meet with the neighbors, among them, justices, senators, assemblymen, journalists, and businessmen. The absence of any vehicular traffic allowed us to hold some sort of an assembly right at the middle of the street, to discuss appropriate measures to meet the situation obtaining, now that we were bereft of any constituted authority, not even a modest policeman.
“We have witnessed the assault against private commercial establishments, once the government stores and warehouses had been emptied. Well, now, we do not know if such has satisfied the people’s greed. If such is not the case, then we are faced with a great peril,” warned my father.
“Such peril may ensue from the avarice of some people, who may, therefore, choose to trespass private dwellings,” a senator commented.
“What, then, ought to be done,” asked a newsman.
“That is what we should now agree among ourselves,” my father replied.
“What about setting up watch hours to oversee our neighborhood until some competent authority takes over?” one of the justices present proposed.
“What weapons have we?” one of my uncles inquired.
Those present volunteered the needed information: a scarce number of guns, several clubs, knives, and even a bolo or so. It was, therefore, agreed upon that, with no fix watch turns, still all would remain on alert ready to act at a moment’s call.
For my part, I must confess I could hardly manage to sleep. I was bothered by the possibility that I might have to act violently. It was beyond me to use force against a fellow human being. My blood would simply freeze. I deemed it utterly un-Christian, no matter how just our cause. It might be the height of scrupulousness, but I
could not help it.
At length | fell asleep and, fortunately, the feared experience never materialized.