The enemy dropped thousands of leaflets over the city. Uncle Sam was depicted as a Death’s Head in repulsive caricature. Underneath the picture in large letters there was one word: “Destiny.”
My neatly folded morning paper was reassuring until I unfolded it and read the headline: “City Awaits Occupation. Avoid Hostilities When Foe Arrives.” The fires at Pier Seven and Port Area were beyond control, and millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise went up in smoke while bonded merchandise continued to be looted by hundreds of people.
The U. S. quartermaster stores were the first to be opened to the poor, followed by commercial stores in the Port Area.
Traffic was tied up for miles with an endless procession of pushcarts, bull carts, bicycles, carromatas, carretelas, and automobiles filled with radios, typewriters, expensive rugs, adding machines, barber chairs and other equipment from bonded warehouses.
Many people set up shop on the sidewalks and bridges to sell these articles at ridiculously low prices.
Tonight it was Catesy’s turn to guard the large wholesale-and-retail drug firm where he worked from looters. I pleaded with him not to go, since the enemy was on the outskirts of the city. But nothing would change him.
“Youre guarding the store from looters! What a laugh! So that the Japs can have everything neat and intact!”
I stormed and raved. But it was no use! All the other American employees had taken their turn in guarding the store nightly, and it was his hard luck to have his turn fall that night.
With Catesy downtown, the suspense of waiting was more fearful. Sophie, Henry and I wandered from room to room with Rags whimpering at my heels. Adoracion and Catalino talked in whispers as they squatted in the corner next to the kitchen door.
Then, just as the sun set, the Japanese entered the city!
The victory parade on our street, which was Mabini, seemed unreal, It was as ridiculous as an old 1911 film. Yet they were our conquerors, and our beloved Stars and Stripes were replaced by their Rising Sun flag.
It was a shabby and poorly equipped army that passed down our street. They rolled by in four trucks and a half dozen or more bicycles led by a lieutenant. The soldiers who followed wore badly tailored uniforms, and their boots were dusty and oversized.
We weren’t impressed. We could only marvel that these badly equipped men were a part of the mighty Imperial Japanese Forces.
There were very few people on the streets. Most of them, like us, watched the victory parade from behind shuttered windows. But the Spanish mestizos across the street from us stood on the sidewalk, and as the soldiers passed they shouted, “Banzai!” while the soldiers enthusiastically returned the salute.
We heard a tumultuous cheer, like the roaring of thousands of lions, coming from the direction of nearby Rizal Stadium, where apparently a more impressive parade had been staged. At the sound of the loud ovation, a cold fear stabbed our hearts. Had the Filipinos already abandoned us?
Now that the enemy was here, some of our tension lessened. But where was Catesy? I tried to reach him by phone, but the line was dead, and I knew that the Japs were in the downtown section.