Waking up early this morning at 5:00, we proceeded to the offices of the Japan Airways, just a few blocks away from our Yamaume Hotel to board the bus that took us to the airport.
At 7:15 a.m., we again boarded our plane, and we were off in no time. This time I wore very comfortable clothing, no more the thick layers of khaki which I wore from Fukuoka to Taihoku. (I wrapped all my extra clothing in a furoshiki [cloth wrapper], together with a bottle of mass wine which I was bent on bringing home.)
Our plane did not fly very high. I noticed there were clouds above and below us, and we must have been flying at 15 or 10 thousand feet above the sea. I again went to sleep to the drone of the twin motors which already sounded like music to my ears after flying so many hours.
Philippine Land Ahoy! At 10:00 a.m. we sighted Philippine territory. We were flying quite low (about 5,000 feet) parallel to Luzon. At about 10:15 a.m., a wireless message was received that we would be flying over San Fernando (La Union) at 10:33, over Arayat at 11:06, and would land at 11:23 at Manila. Excitement took the better of me from then on.
Looking through the window, I beheld for the first time my country from the skies—an actual bird’s-eye view of the Pearl of the Orient Seas. The vast ricefields of the Central Plains of Luzon spread under us like a beautiful lawn, the network of roads looking like narrow pathways cutting across this wonderful garden-island of Luzon. We passed close to the dented peak of Arayat Mountain, and 20 minutes later beautiful Manila spread under us. San Sebastian Church, the City Hall, University of Santo Tomas, Quezon Institute—these were the most conspicuous buildings from the air. We were now flying at about 1,000 feet, and we could see people and vehicles moving about. At exactly 11:23, we landed at Nielson Airport which just about a week ago (September 21) was the target of bombs by American planes.
The hangars and buildings were hit, and many planes were still fresh in their wreckage. Nobody was at the airport to meet us but the employees of the Nippon Airways who went about their job unmindful of the grim aspect of Nielson Airport after the recent bombing raid. The staff officers who were our co-passengers rode special cars while we waited for a bus to take us. Waiting for the bus was an ordeal. There we were back in Manila but practically strangers with no one to talk to but the Japanese employees (there were only 2) of the airport who kept assuring us that a bus would come to take us. I could not even phone as I planned, as all electrical installations had been wrecked by the bombs.
The bus finally came, and we had ourselves taken to the Constabulary Academy No. 1. Passing through the dirty streets of Manila, we noticed the big change that has come to the city after one year and three months. It was not the same Manila of yesteryear. We noticed that the pedestrians looked bored and pale and emaciated.
Bad News. I have always expected the worst but not what I was told. When I heard that our house at Sta. Mesa Heights had been taken over by the army just a few days ago, I thought at first it was a joke. But it was not, and soon I realized how terrible the situation in Manila had become. I tried to contact my brother Tony, Papa at the office and other people by phone but in vain. When I left the Academy at 2:00 p.m., it was literally a search for my family. This was a case of a homecoming without a home to go to; what a welcome for a homesick pensionado who has been away from home one year and three months!
Home-Coming. It was the same as when I went home from the concentration camp of O’Donnell in August two years ago. I came home unannounced and unexpected. I just went right home. Mama took me in her arms, and she cried. My sisters cried. I did not cry (I never do in the presence of people), but inside me, my heart pounded with joy. I was again back in the bosom of my family which I have been missing for so long a time since the war broke out in 1941. My chapter in Tokyo is over. Today begins a new chapter in my life. What comes next ? That is still another question.