This day, so long expected, Manila was bombed. From practically orchestra seats in my house between two airfields, in a street lined with gasoline dumps, trucks, barracks, I could expect almost anything. But a most workmanlike job the whole performance was indeed.
For two or three days our “protectors,” as the Nips call themselves, have been telling the public that they were going to have practice maneuvers to coordinate air and ground defenses, and that the populace should not be worried at the sound of planes, gunfire, etc. All this was to last two days.
So this morning I listened to my pet stations early from four o’clock on, had my coffee, dashed off to Pasay market, exchanged the usual moans with other shoppers about the horrible prices, exchanged rumors, got extravagant and bought what the butcher said was a carabao tenderloin but which I think is horse, begged a fishhead for the cat and dashed home again, on my faithful
The house was full of mothers leaving their children for the little kindergarten school we have twice a week in my house, for small youngsters, under the direction of a refugee kindergarten teacher. The mamas and I had some coffee, and we exchanged rumors—I never dare mention my radio, I always say “I heard a rumor.” They went on their way, leaving the children happily busy at the play table.
I went out to the garden, my lovely garden, fruit of my own hard labor. Lucienne decided we’d have lima beans for lunch and started to pick them.
I climbed the ladder to get the choice ones up high, when Lucienne remarked in her fast-improving English, “look like McCoy, all those planes shooting.” ‘‘No,” said I. “Don’t you remember? It’s the day for practice with the Japanese land and air forces. If this were the McCoy, do you think I’d be standing on this six-foot ladder?” Just then the sky was a mass of planes, ack-ack. A plane burst in flames in the air, and the local radio blared out: “THIS IS AN AIR ALERT, THIS IS AN AIR
R-A-A-A-IJ-I-D,” the voice trailing out in fear. Then the power went off. And I got down from the ladder, but hastily. What a fine joke on them—wonder who thought that up, sending real American planes into a Japanese defense demonstration! It couldn’t have been coincidence.
We rushed to the children, and practically smothered them in pillows and mattresses beneath the stairway, with the teacher singing nursery rhymes to them. I rushed to find my last pair of field glasses, which were hidden in a pair of riding boots. I nearly had to dig through the boot, I had so much trouble getting them out. It was a wonderful show. Who could have had such a wonderful sense of humor as to crash the Jap party? They bombed all morning, intermittently. In our part of town it was Nichols Airfield, and it was very close. So close that the swoosh of the bombs blew our skirts sky-high if we were moving about—as I was, constantly. I had so much fun I forgot my previous worry as to whether I’d be scared or not. Pictures blew off the walls, china crashed, kids thought it was fun!
The bombers knocked off about noon, and the frantic parents came for their offspring. Many of them stayed for lunch, and the neighbors came in and pooled lunches with us. We had a real picnic. The power had gone off so we had no gas or electricity, but the charcoal worked fine and we had a wonderful time. The bombing started again a little before three, just as I was having a siesta. They bombed the piers and port area, this trip, as near as I could tell. I could see them diving very clearly—the most wonderful sight I have ever seen and the most welcome.
I went over to the Jansons’ house about six after the bombers had evidently gone for the day. Their children had been at my house but seemed to have suffered no ill effects. They have tried out their new air-raid shelter during the afternoon. My shelter has no top and is full of water—might as well be hit by shrapnel as die of
Oddly enough, the Filipinos seem elated. A little too pleased openly for everybody’s good. My crew are pleased, but jittery. No power, so since I could get nothing on the radio, I spent the evening exchanging experiences—and rumors—with the neighbors.
I went to bed to read about midnight, after trying to type the diary by light of a lantern. Bet we’ll have no burglars tonight, as we have had so frequently. of late; our street is full of soldiers, and there are four fuel trucks parked outside my gate. Spec, the wirehair, is highly nervous and is trying to convince me she should sleep on my bed. Ill try to be firm.