We had abandoned all wishful thinking and hopes that a miracle at the eleventh hour would occur to prevent the Japs from taking us into custody.
At last we were convinced that it was only a question of time, perhaps a few hours, before they reached my home. My home suddenly became very dear to me, and the thought of leaving my newly furnished apartment filled me with sadness.
We packed, unpacked, and repacked a dozen times a day. Each time we took something out of our luggage, only to return it a few hours later. We had no idea what to pack. We had no precedent to follow, and if we had, our minds were too confused to follow anything through.
The morning paper was still delivered at my door, and this semblance of normalcy was reassuring. I was still kidding myself.
MARTIAL LAW AND A NEW PHILIPPINES FOR THE FILIPINOS! It didn’t take a seer to figure out the headline. Already the Nips controlled the newspapers.
The telephone rang constantly, and from our friends we learned that Americans in the Ermita section had already been rounded up. We were next. We were in the Malate section.
The British nationals who had congregated at the Manila Club, as far as we knew, were still there.
Catesy hovered around me like a worried mother hen. When he scolded me for using lipstick and powder, I was astonished. Then it dawned on me! I realized the torture and concern that he was going through. The same torture that all men were experiencing at this time over their women. He smoked one cigarette after another as he nervously paced the living-room floor. Suddenly, he asked me sharply. “Haven’t you something less becoming to wear?”
Meekly, I went into the bedroom. Sophie followed me. We removed all make-up and changed into shapeless and baggy slacks.
We ate lunch, and everything tasted like sawdust.
When the doorbell rang loudly and imperiously, Catesy went to the door, while Sophie, Henry and I stood behind him. When Catesy opened the door, Rags jumped out of my arms and scooted to her sanctuary under my bed, where she began to whimper loudly.
Two Japs and our own Filipino landlord, the latter anxious and worried, stood before us.
One Japanese was a civilian, the other a noncommissioned officer. He was less than five feet tall and had the most delicately tinted pink cheeks and the longest and most straggly Fu-Manchu mustache I have ever seen, on or off a stage.
Our midget conqueror stood before us, talking loudly and rapidly, while the questions were relayed to us by the civilian Japanese in English. Were we Americans? Were we one family? How long had we lived in the Philippines?
We answered mechanically as we stared at his ridiculous mustache. Despite his midget size, the mustache and the long sword that dangled at his side gave him a sinister and Sax Rohmerish air.
While he shouted and gesticulated extravagantly, he strutted back and forth in the living room, while his long sword made a clanking and somewhat childish noise on the cork floor.
We watched him as in a trance. Everything about him seemed absurd and ridiculous, like a character in The Mikado.
He lifted cushions off the sofa and chairs and threw them on the floor. He looked behind some of my books on the shelf, and he dashed into the kitchen to peer inside the kitchen cupboards.
Catesy and I had often discussed the possibility of Japanese invasion, but we had never believed it could happen. As long as the American flag flew over this country, we had felt safe. After all, hadn’t our own leader, General MacArthur, assured us and the rest of the world that the Philippines could be defended?
Suddenly, I was jarred back to the present as the Mikado rushed into the living room. He hopped around, looking at one bric-a-brac after another, until his attention was riveted on the Chinese horses that I loved. With one sweep of his sword, he knocked them off the shelf. No one moved or dared to pick up the pieces.
The questioning continued. Did we have cameras, flashlights, and telescopes?
When he dashed into the bedroom to look under my bed, Rags growled uncertainly. A few hours before, I had removed the Scotch and bourbon, for which I was thankful now. In a moment he returned to the living room, triumphantly displaying an army coverall which I had worn in the last few weeks at the hospital. What a yakamashi he made over that one innocent coverall!
Our kindly landlord came to the rescue by explaining that I was a civilian nurse who had worn those coveralls during the heavy bombings.
The Mikado sucked in his breath, nodded, and motioned us to stand in a group outside the front door of my apartment, while he and his party hurried to my next-door neighbor.
Since their door was partly ajar, we heard the mother of the new baby crying hysterically. This made the Mikado shout louder.
The husband was told to leave without his wife and infant, and when he joined us in the hall, his wife, red-eyed and distraught, clung to him in a last embrace. There was more shouting, and the Mikado became noticeably impatient.
“We’d better go!” cautioned the landlord nervously.
We picked up our bags and bundles and meekly followed the Japanese down the six flights of stairs, while our heavy suitcases bumped into our legs with each step we took.
The downstairs lobby was jammed with Americans and other Allied nationals. Men, women, and children were milling around, talking to neighbors or sitting quietly on their bags. They tried to appear nonchalant, but they failed miserably.
Two Japs, one in uniform, the other a civilian, conducted a disorganized and half-hearted inspection. They pawed through the bags, looking for money, flashlights, guns, cameras, scissors, knives, and other sharp objects.
Nervously, I glanced toward my bag which contained a large butcher knife, scissors, and a flashlight. There was nothing to do but hope for the best.
We wrote our names, nationalities, and apartment numbers on slips of papers; then we sat on our bags while the men chain-smoked nervously. We talked in whispers and furtively shot quick glances in the direction of the miniature men.
We waited. Finally, a few hours later, we were told that because there weren’t enough cars to take us to our destination, we could spend another night in our homes. Best of all, our bags hadn’t been searched. We were also instructed to be in the lobby at six in the morning and to bring food for three days.
We decided to repack. Somehow, that last command to bring food for three days struck a false note.
This time we discarded many items, such as clothing and shoes, from our bags, in order to have more room for food.
Into a pillowslip went ten pounds of rat cheese, two big boxes of crackers, coffee, tea, canned milk, and cocoa. Sophie and the men added another large assortment of canned meats, soup, and milk to their bags and bundles.
When it became dark, we hid a hundred-pound sack of rice, several huge hams, and several five-pound slabs of bacon on the wide ledge outside my dressing room window.
We tied money in oilskins and hid them in flower pots in the hanging airplants outside the living-room windows and in the tank of the water closet.
I gave the stub of my traveler’s checks to Catalino, and I divided the checks into equal parts and placed each in my shoes. The psychological lift of these unusual arch supporters was most comforting.
During dinner we discussed other possibilities of safeguarding our food supplies, and we decided to store the rest of our hams and bacon with a Swiss family in the building and with a Free French family living nearby.
We lingered over the fine dinner and relished every bite. Though none of us voiced our thoughts, I am sure that we all wondered when we would eat another meal in the apartment.