The work on the sailboat was being hurried, it was expected to be ready by dark. As I watched the men work the sails, my father approached. Pointing to a man nearby, he told me the man wanted to go with us to Leyte. He asked me what I had to say. I took a good look at the man. Under my breath, I said he looked sly to me. Father answered he would question the man further. As the man was being questioned, I watched. Suddenly I realized that I recognized a vague something about the man. I scrutinized him closely. Yes, now I was certain of it. Taking a few steps closer to my father I whispered, “Take a good look. The shirt, pants and shoes he wears are Ting’s.” (Lt. Vicente de Vera, my brother-in-law, who was sent on a secret mission to Manila. His trip was known only to a few).
My father asked the man to come with us to the house where we were staying. I sent for the teniente del barrio, who at the same time was in command of the guerrilla force there.
On reaching the house, we took the man to a room, told him to sit down. To my questions, he answered that he was one of the crew that took Lt. de Vera across Mompog strait at Pagbilao; that Lt. de Vera gave him the clothes after he disembarked. “You’re lying!” I shouted “Lt. de Vera took with him only one set of clothes and an extra pair of shoes because he intended to wear them on the hike to Manila which he had planned. Where did you get them?”
The man answered. “I stole them from him.”
At this, my heart beat fast with fear. I could not imagine Lt. de Vera giving up his only extra clothes. And then the man’s contradictions and the fact that only a few days from Pagbilao was Lucena, a nest of spies. Lucena was Lt. de Vera’s greatest hazard on his trip to Manila.
Question followed question. The man contradicted himself again. The teniente del barrio and the people gave bits of information. The man came from nowhere, had no work, gambled heavily and had lots of money .
I called two guerrillas armed with Enfields and had them watch the man as the questioning went on. Now we were almost sure this man had delivered Lt. de Vera to the Japs in Lucena. Where did he get those clothes? Why did he volunteer as one of a crew to take Lt. de Vera across the strait? What was that yellow card with Jap characters he had in his pocket? Where did he get all the money he had? Now, why did he want to go to Leyte with us?
Finally we asked him to sign the written questions and answers which were given by us and answered by him. He refused. He cried. He was gone!
Before we knew it, the man jumped over the window and made a dash for the forest. We went after him. The entire barrio population started a manhunt. Two hours later, he was found crouching in a thicket of thorns. Had it not been for Lt. Jesus Paredes, Jr., our judge advocate, who was with the party that caught him, he would have been hacked to death.
Brought back to the barrio, he was tied to a coconut tree.
“If you’re not guilty of turning Lt. de Vera over to the Japs, why did you attempt to escape?”
“Because I am afraid of the Filipinos,” he answered. I was unable to hold myself. I let go and gave him a sock on the jaw. When I got hold of myself, I turned and left. I could have killed the man as I thought of my sister and her little kid. Just before dark, Major Osmundo Mondoñedo, C.O. of the Marinduque Patriot Army arrived. The prisoner was turned over to him. But for the man’s repeated plea to spare him for two weeks, after which time he said we could shoot him if Lt. de Vera failed to return, we would have passed sentence on him right then and there. Circumstantial evidence was strong. But we feared to carry out an irrevocable sentence, lest later on we should find him innocent. Hog-tied, the prisoner was taken to the HQ for further investigation there to await the return of our courier to be sent to trace Lt. de Vera.