There was a steady trek of people trying to get near the Commandant’s office in order to be pronounced unfit for concentration life, and fortunately many of the frail, the sick, the aged, the pregnant, and mothers with young children were granted permission to live outside.
Before applying for permission, they were cautioned by our ever-alert Central Committee that they must have homes intact—that is, not looted or commandeered by the Japs—and they must have plenty of money to meet the sky-high living costs. Furthermore, they had to have good outside contacts among neutrals, Spaniards, and Filipinos.
The empty spaces in the rooms caused by the exodus of these adults and children were most gratifying to those remaining. Though our room monitors repeatedly warned us that more internees were expected from all parts of the islands, we continued to spread out.
Surreptitiously, we spread inch by inch until we had gained a foot or more in our castle.
Many children, especially those with only one parent in camp, were sent to outside orphanages, convents, and homes of friendly neutrals. Mothers with more than one child or with extremely young children were moved from rooms that were occupied by adults.
Most of the mothers and children were housed in the Annex, the long frame building to the rear and left of the Big House.
Just to pass the Annex on the outside was a nerve-racking experience. Such bedlam and confusion I had never heard or seen. No wonder the poor mothers were tired, wild-eyed, and irritable.
Children, accustomed to the constant attention and attendance of Chinese amahs and Filipina ayahs since infancy, ran wild, and the inexperienced mothers seemed to have little or no control over them.
Children who once had been well-behaved and controlled were now wild, restless, and buoyed with excitement because of the many playmates and unusual surroundings. They galloped through the long corridors and the grounds outside, screaming like savages, and Lord help those who got in their way!
Those children with both parents in camp were naturally better behaved and supervised, but the mothers who had the responsibility of looking after two, three, or more children while their husbands were fighting in Bataan, Corregidor, or elsewhere, were having a tough time.
The morality committee had its own peculiar problems.
We had been asleep in our room for several hours when we were brutally awakened by loud talking. The ceiling light had been turned on, and someone was flashing a light in our eyes. Fifty-five of my roommates sat up dazedly to stare at a Japanese soldier and one of our American men, standing in the middle of the room.
The American cleared his throat and read from a piece of paper in his hand, “The Japanese Commandant issued a proclaimation that there will be no display of affection between married or unmarried couples before any of his junior officers. Not so much as a kiss or a hand squeeze, or the morality squad men will swoop down on the offenders.”
When the intruders left, lights were turned off, and when the buzzing of my roommates had ceased, I lay back on my bed and pondered for a long time about these Japanese.
What strange people according to our standards! Many of their public baths and toilets were for both sexes. Their Yoshiwara or red-light districts were models of decorum and cleanliness, and they were sanctioned by the government. In front of each establishment there was a brilliantly lighted marquee, like in our own movie houses back home. Adorning the walls and billboards were pictures of fancy girls, so that the prospective customer could choose his lady before entering.
In the big-city drugstores in Japan, for all the world to see, were strange-looking aphrodisiacs and still stranger-looking contraceptives openly displayed in the windows with their hair tonics and aspirin. But to kiss or hold hands in public was strictly forbidden!