Today, very early in the morning, we dropped anchor at an isolated cove of Burias where we saw another sailboat anchored, to make inquiries. We asked if there were Japs in Masbate. We were assured there was not a Jap on the island, not even in the capital. With this encouraging information, we weighed anchor, raised the sails and caught the breeze and headed straight for the town of Masbate. We had to get water. The breeze was good to us that day – very good. By noon we were approaching Masbate Bay. But we decided, for reasons of security, to make further inquiries from a fishing village near the capital.
As we approached the fishing village, all were on the alert for the slightest sign of Japs. We couldn’t take chances in spite of the assurances given us in Burias. We were tense with watchfulness. At 200 yards from the beach, my father suddenly said it was strange that nobody, not even children, were to be seen. Nor was there any smoke from the huts, I added. And all the windows were closed. A strange feeling crept over all of us. All of a sudden, my father shouted to the crew, “That’s a ghost town, turn back.” We all jumped to fix the sails. As we were crossing the Bay of Masbate, subdued by our ominous experience, the air was suddenly rent by a whing! — then another and still another in rapid succession. I looked at the main sail. There were holes in it. Without waiting for another whing – the arraiz veered the sailboat out to the open sea. Thanks to a good wind and to our choice of a sleek fast boat, we were out of range of that machine gun in no time.
But we had to have water. So a few miles further south, we decided to take a chance and stopped at a place where there was only one hut and some children playing.
As the anchor was dropped, I waded to the beach. Then as I was between the sailboat and the beach, I saw a man come out from behind a coconut tree, then another, then another and still another – all armed with rifles. My heart beat fast but I easily recognized them as Filipinos and my faith in my countrymen gave me confidence. I was sure they couldn’t be anything but alert guerrillas. As I hit the beach, I was immediately surrounded. I looked around and decided I had picked the leader. Facing him, I stretched out my hand and said: ” I am Lt. Misa of the Marinduque Patriot Army on my way to GHQ at Leyte.” The leader without giving his name, shook my hand and made inquiries as to who were on board the sailboat and what we wanted. I told him we needed water.
While his men were helping my men get water, he asked for my identification. He took it and read. Then he said it looked okay to him but that he was sorry only his CO could decide. I would have to see the CO and establish my identity. I told him it was okay by me and asked him to take me right away. He answered he was sorry again but it just wasn’t that easy. The C.O. was 20 kilometers north of Masbate, which was occupied by a now beleaguered Jap garrison. I told him I couldn’t wait much longer for I had to proceed. Once more he said he was sorry but it would mean trouble if I insisted, and that he would do all he could to facilitate my trip to HQ. He explained I had to sail back to a point between there and Masbate and from there walk around the town and pass no man’s land between the Japs and guerrillas and then hike some 20 kilometers to HQ. “Well,” I said “if it must be done, how about doing it right away?”
The leader, a lieutenant, ordered one of his men to board the sailboat to guide us. One of us in the sailboat was for hijacking the guide and taking him with us to Leyte. But I disapproved the idea.
It was decided that I would make the hike to HQ alone and save my father the hardships of a forced hike. He was to wait for me in the sailboat.
From the time I went ashore, I was turned over from one guide to another in a system possible only in a highly efficient organization. When night came, one of the guides insisted that we sleep it out in one of the guerrilla outposts. But I refused. I wanted to finish the business of identification as soon as possible. I demanded that we keep going. It was pitch dark and raining and we had to climb hills. My guide was wonderful; he knew every hole, every tree on the trail and went as fast as if on level ground. I had to exert every effort to keep up with him or I might get lost or caught in no man’s land, which we were fast approaching.
Suddenly, the guide stopped. He said we were now about to cross the Jap line and must be careful. It seemed hours as we shuffled along till suddenly, as if from nowhere, I heard the metallic sound of a rifle being loaded. My heart jumped. The guide said in an undertone: Lalawigan. It was the password. Then a soldier came out from nowhere and said we could go ahead. We had passed no man’s land without realizing it. At daybreak, we reached the home of a former Masbate representative, now turned into a guerrilla post. From there, word was sent to the CO who was still farther ahead. By nine in the morning, the messenger returned and said I could proceed.
The young CO, Major Manuel Donato, was a teacher before the war broke out. He was in Bataan. After the surrender, he found his way back to Masbate, there to organize the finest and most efficiently run guerrilla outfit I have ever seen. In some places along the road, I saw nipa and bamboo barracks erected by his men. He had the unanimous support of the people.
Major Donato met me in camouflage over-all, something I had never seen before. After I showed him my identification papers, and he approved of them, he kindly offered me breakfast. Then he displayed a small arsenal that some Alamo Scouts had brought in two weeks before – carbines and Tommy guns and rations and-ah! Camel cigarettes! When he informed me that he had radio communication with Leyte, I asked him please to have President Osmeña informed that my father had reached Masbate en route to Leyte. GHQ was notified by Major Mondoñedo through a radio at Pagbilao of our trip before we left Marinduque.
He told me that our sailboat was sighted from far away and was being watched. The place we called a “Ghost Town” was really one. Only a machine gun and its crew stayed there, as the place dominated the entrance to Masbate by sea, and if we had attempted to land there we would either all have been killed by machine gun fire or arrested. He informed me that it was the Japs from Masbate that fired on us. Then having promised to comply with the request, Major Donato gave me a note addressed to his command to give us all help. I thanked him and started on the long way back.
On my return trip, as I was approaching the outskirts of the town of Masbate, I heard the drone of planes. I looked up and scanned the skies. There, high up in the clouds I saw a speck, then another and still another. The number of planes increased with the intensity of the sound. As the planes came out of the clouds, they disclosed a huge and beautiful formation of what I discerned were Flying Fortresses – 27 mighty messengers of death. The planes made a slow circle over the town of Masbate and then proceeded north, but only for half an hour.
Those 30 minutes were a period of grace, and/or warning. They came back and in one concerted action, let off all their bombs over the town of Masbate.
For a minute, explosions tore the air. The next minute showed columns of smoke from the beleaguered town. A Jap seaplane that landed for repairs that night before was destroyed by machine gun fire from the guerrilla team that took advantage of the commotion.
I arrived back at the sailboat to find that a friend of the family, who fortunately was there, had provided us with dried meat and replenished our exhausted rice supply.