(Note: In the book this is under the heading June 16, 1942 but here it is dated July 27, 1942 as the entry describes a period from June 16 to July 27, 1942 inclusive)
So many things have taken place since I last wrote. On June 16th we started our cross-country trek, taking with us 25 men to carry our supplies, three dogs, a cow and calf (belonging to Dorothy and Meñing Bernas), two birds and the three cats. We left on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and walked for 11 km (approx. 9 miles) to a house where we planned to spend the night. We spread our mattresses on the bamboo floor, while the porters slept outside on the ground. The next morning at 6:30 we started out early after eating breakfast and trekked across the mountains, down into the low lands. We walked all day and finally reached a school house where we intended to spend the night. The school was situated on top of a high hill. We were so tired from walking all day that when we reached our destination, and saw the inviting lawn before the schoolhouse, we all sprawled out on the cool grass. The porters cooked their own meal, while John (our cook) prepared supper consisting of rice, some canned sausages and hard boiled eggs.
On June 18th at 6:00 in the morning we continued our trek – the last lap of our journey. On the way, we had to pass a barrio where about 500 Chinese were living. They had evacuated from the city. As we were approaching the barrio, two Filipinos came running out to us to warn us that there were Japanese in the barrio searching for firearms. There was nothing for us to do but wait in a nearby nipa shack. Since it was almost noon, we ate our lunch. At 2:30 we sent a man out to see if the Japanese had left and fortunately for us they had. Half an hour later we were on our way. As we walked through the Chinese community we were told by some Chinese ladies to hurry as the Japanese might return. I assure you we did not let any grass grow under our feet! What a spectacle we must have made! Two American ladies with four children, 25 porters carrying supplies, Adelino (the houseboy) urging the cow and calf to run – everyone running through the barrio!
The last part of our long trip was easier and we had better walking as it was all flat land and we finally arrived at the farm at 4:00 p.m. You can just imagine how excited and happy Coné’s folks were to see us! I had lost 4 lbs.. on the way and Dorothy lost 5 lbs.. We made the trip in 21⁄2 days, and we were told the distance was 85 km. Jr. hiked all the way, and also Dolly, but Millard and Roland were carried in hammocks. Our little dog, Budigoy, got so tired towards the end that he jumped into one of the hammocks and was carried the rest of the way. What a smart dog!
A few days after we arrived at the farm, we heard that a robbery had taken place near the area we had lived in. One man was killed and the robbers were able to get 5,000 pesos and some supplies.
As the days go on, there are so many robberies taking place in the countryside, that many evacuees are returning to the city. Since most of the houses in Iloilo are burned to the ground, the only place left to live in are the towns of Jaro and La Paz, adjoining towns.
We heard that Dr. Ledesma was robbed, but no one was hurt. A band of 19 men came up to the house and demanded all his money. He opened his safe and gave them 69 pesos – all he had at the time.
After these band of robbers left the Ledesma house, their next victims were the Gustilo family. Coné’s nephew (Porfirio Blancaflor) is married to one of them (Fanny). During the robbery, Fanny’s father was killed, so was her mother and a brother. They were tied to chairs and the house was set on fire. One of Fanny’s brothers (Johnny) was able to get loose and escaped, although he was wounded. He was able to reach a Japanese outpost and inform them of the robbery. The Japanese immediately sent out some soldiers, but when they arrived the house was almost in ashes and the robbers had fled. Nothing was left of Fanny’s parents and brother, but the charred bones!
Another victim of this same band was Judge Mapa who was killed by them.
The Japanese Army, as well as the remnants of the USAFFE, have stepped up their pursuit of these band of robbers and we have heard that many of them are being caught or shot. One band was apprehended and the leader shot about 3 miles from our farm.
Millard has been complaining of headaches for some time – I think it’s his eyes. Dr. Bernas has heard that the train going from Pototan to Iloilo is running again, so I have decided to take Millard in to see Dr. Jalbuena, who is an ear, eye, nose and throat specialist. On July 27, 1942 at 5:30 in the morning the five of us (Dr. Bernas, Dorothy, Millard and I) started out for Pototan in a bull cart to catch the 10:30 a.m. train. On arriving in the town, we had to pass two Japanese sentries and we bowed to them in the traditional Japanese way. As we left them, I heard one make the remark in English, “They are Americans.” When we reached the train station, we were met by several Japanese officers and all our baggage was searched. One of them I recognized as Coné’s former patient. I started to bow to him, but he extended his hand, so I shook hands with him. He tried to make it easier for us by telling the officers who we were. He asked about Coné and when I told him, he felt very sad and said, “Too bad, too bad he has surrendered”. He rode on the train with us for several kilometers, still explaining to the Japanese who we were. He then told us that we would have to go to the main headquarters in Iloilo. So instead of leaving the train at Jaro, we had to continue on to La Paz, where we remained for several minutes. Eight Japanese soldiers came over to us and looked us over. They told the Japanese in charge of the station to have us wait until the military police came for us. Many people gathered around us and stared, but the Japanese Station Manager sent them away, and while no one was around, he advised us not to show any fear, as the Japanese did not like it. He then told us that he, too, was a former patient of Coné’s and had been operated on for gall stones.
After waiting about 20 minutes at the station, two soldiers with guns and bayonets attached arrived and told us to go with them. Dr. Bernas was very worried as he did not know whether we would be placed in a concentration camp or not.
When we left the station we cut across Lapus-Lapus where the Japanese had constructed a temporary bridge across the river separating La Paz from Iloilo. The USAFFE soldiers had blown up the original bridge in the early days of the war. The makeshift bridge we had to walk across was not very strong. As we walked across, we met Mr. Jara, Mr. Galatas and many others we knew. The picture we made must have convinced them that we had been caught by the Japanese and were being taken to a concentration camp. The news was all over Iloilo and Jaro in a few hours.
In fact, Mr. Jara went to Susie Gurrea’s house and told her he had met us on the way. Poor Susie believed we were in the concentration camp, and immediately cooked a lot of food to bring to us. When she arrived, she asked the guard if we were there and he said, “Not yet, they are being held at the Military Police Headquarters,” so poor Susie thought it surely was true what she had heard. She left the food there for the others. She is called the “Angel of the Concentration Camp” as she is always sending food. The Japanese allow her to do things that anyone else would be punished for. She gets away with a lot, and the Japanese don’t pay any attention to her.
While all this was taking place we continued on our way to the Police Headquarters, saluting the Japanese guards along the way with a bow. As we approached their headquarters, we saw several Japanese standing around a desk which had been placed on the porch. We greeted them, and they looked us over; then they told us to wait in the hall. We waited for another 20 minutes until another Japanese told us to follow him to a private office. When we were seated the assistant of the High Command came in. He did not speak English, so the interpreter had to translate everything. The first thing he asked for was our passports. Neither Dorothy nor I had one. We were thoroughly questioned and investigated. Afterwards he said, “I will give you both a recommendation not to be put in the concentration camp. He also gave us a pass which we were to take with us wherever we went. All in all, we were treated well; in fact, when we left two of the Japanese shook hands with us. I was somewhat amused, because instead of bowing in the usual way, they left us with a handshake. As we left, one of the officers said to me, “War is terrible” and he lowered his head as if he were in deep thought.
Millard won the heart of the High Command and he gave him a bag of raisins. He said he had a boy about Millard’s age in Japan.
After we left the Headquarters, we boarded a bus going to Jaro and arrived at Margarita Lopez’s house about 2:30, where we intended to stay. She was very happy to see us and made us comfortable. Her house is like a hotel. It seems that all her friends and acquaintances stop there.
That same afternoon we took Millard to see Dr. Jalbuena and he said Millard has a little eye strain.
Dr. Jalbuena has moved his office to Jaro, but did not take all of his instruments from his office in Iloilo, and they are now in the hands of the Japanese; also Dr. Ledesma’s x-ray equipment.
While in town we visited Susie Gurrea. She is all alone. Her only companion is Pilar’s (her niece) 2-year old baby. She has no servants. Mr. Gurrea is on their farm. He will not remain in town and his ice plant is now being managed by the Japanese. They give Susie her ice and all the fish she wants. You should hear her talk to the two Japanese that control the ice plant. One day she said to them, “I do not like your government – it is no good.” The Japanese took it very calmly and said, “Mrs. Gurrea, if we were to tell the Military Police, you would be put into the concentration camp and also punished.” Susie became very frightened and now she is careful and tries to gain their good will.
As we were told at Headquarters that we were always to report to them a change of residence, on Thursday afternoon I went back to Headquarters to let them know that we were going back to the farm in Barotac. They did not question me further and told me it was all right. The officer in charge told me to always carry my pass in order to save me any trouble.
On Friday morning at 7:30 we left for Barotac on the bus. A Filipino was driving, but we had a Japanese conductor and one soldier to guard. The conductor was also a patient of Coné. It seems that we have met his former patients all over, and they feel bad to learn about Coné.