“. . . and Sheridan only twenty miles away.” So runs the old poem. If we had a poet in our midst, we might do a poem, somewhat like this:
With detonations far and wide
They dynamite the countryside.
We rush to look, return to shiver,
As our houses quake and quiver!
Shooting, looting little Nips,
Scooting round with aimless yips.
Haven’t they heard the news today
MacArthur’s sixty miles away!
Guess someone has told them the news, but they don’t know what to do about it. The way we live resembles a Jigsaw puzzle partially completed. One corner seems to make sense, then a portion where no piece seems to fit or to be related. That’s Manila, these days. One day there will be fifty soldiers housed in the lovely home opposite us, where the old general lived. They dig furiously, finish a couple of shallow trenches, fill the swimming pool, have a bathing party, get a little drunk, sing, steal the neighbor’s chickens, and next day they are gone. Another group digs up the garden to the rear of
us, cuts down the trees for a tank trap in a street only two blocks long, and off they go. Every walled house in the neighborhood occupied by the Japanese has a ditch just inside the wall and the Japs are busy (I can see them as I write) making holes at regular intervals in the wall at just street level. Do they expect parachute troops in reverse?
We women spend our time speculating, and we are driving poor Janson crazy, asking him what this or that noise is. The explosions are sometimes tremendous, but I can’t tell where or what. We get all tangled up, trying to figure it out by a stop watch left me so long ago by an aviator lad who was killed in Clark Field. Whatever we guess can be right, for it becomes increasingly evident they intend to destroy everything. The talk of burning this area persists, but we still can’t see much use running into the streets. Where can we go, with small children, streets full of trigger-happy soldiers, demolition going on full speed, and constant bombings? When, or where? Our walls are high, the iron gates are locked, we have food and a shelter. I’m for staying put as long as we can. It’s nerve-wracking, to put it mildly.
The Filipino boy who sometimes brings us eggs just came by to say that Tarlac in the San Fernando Valley has been taken but that the Japanese had destroyed it almost completely. Hope the little old sugar central there wasn’t burned. It was a nice spot.
There seems to be little resistance to this rush-down from Lingayen. Evidently the Japs will make a stand in Baguio, since they have moved the puppet government, along with the civilian Japanese, up to Baguio. The brave mayor of our town, Quinto [Guinto], who is also military governor since the “Crisis,” is still shouting for everyone to leave Manila. Not a train for civilians has run since October, and few for army use, since the bombings began. The poor Filipinos are no better off than we are, no place to go and no way to go.
The Jap Army’s exodus is somewhat amusing. They are going out south via pushcart and man power. But it is impressive to see them, their tremendous will power … those men—obviously hungry, badly equipped, without shoes—pushing their guns on homemade carts, singing as they go to what is probably certain death. Their belief in the divine right of kings is unbelievably tenacious and is hammered into them from birth. It is a complete mystery to me. If they believed that by fighting they were bettering themselves, that they were going to have better food, better homes, to live more fully,
it might be understandable, this fanatical devotion. But they know, even boast, that they are going to their death for the glory of the Divine Emperor!
Our fighting forces have a different set of values. ‘They are fighting because their country has been foully stabbed in the back, and they want their country to regain what was unfairly taken from it. Speed the day that we can talk with American soldiers and hear their views.
I wonder what the Japanese think, if they do think, of the merciless Juggernaut driving down from the
north, day after day, bringing their own destruction nearer and nearer.
Even after three years under them, our conquerors, I cannot take them seriously. Everything they do, their odd regalia, savors of comic opera, of a funny movie character. I see one group now, decked out in palm branches, going out Taft Avenue, looking for all the world like a moving Palm Sunday. They are bivouacked all about us and we can see all their doings.
They get up very early in the morning, roar some sort of prayer or exhortation, do some setting-up exercises very noisily, make some sort of toilet (they never seem to have many clean clothes), mill around, try to trade their cooked rice through the fence to Filipinos for fruit and eggs. I’d better take them a little more seriously. We are threatened on all sides. We keep the big iron gates locked, and wave the paper with the big seal around when they come to the peephole in the gate; but it may not always work.
The Japanese Embassy has moved from the High Commissioner’s residence. They moved rather hastily after one lone American pilot knocked off one corner of the south wing, getting eighteen of the staff in one fell swoop. The last time Janson had to go and see the embassy people, he went to their temporary quarters on Aviles only to find a sign: CLOSED. No forwarding address. Probably Baguio.
It isn’t very smart to move about town, but it sure is interesting. Pasay is full of troops, making barricades. The egg man, who is a guerrilla, says they are setting up pill-box formations of cement right outside Parañaque. Down in the Ermita district they are barricading and putting up sandbags all around the Elena apartment building, the Ateneo (a Catholic convent), and many private homes. Guess they are going to make a stand in Manila.
Filipino looters are hard at work. It is pitiful to see beautiful homes being torn down, furnishings dragged away, by vandals. The Japanese themselves took most of the good furniture early in the war, but there is still a lot left in the houses the Japanese have been occupying.
The city is filthy, there is no street cleaning, the gutters are clogged with rubbish and the sidewalks piled with litter. In one lovely shop, The Caravan, before the war Manila’s most exclusive Chinese rug and curio shop, is a horrible mess. The Japanese had looted all the stock, and used it as a barracks. They had used it for a public latrine after the troops moved, and now I hear the looters are tearing out the walls and windows. Whoever told me the Japs were a clean little people never lived around them. Such filthy personal habits were exhibited by the soldiers, even at a time when it wasn’t particularly necessary to act like pigs! All shops are closed, with few exceptions. Even the market people feel it useless to bring stuff in. The hungry Filipinos grub around for a few wisps of native spinach and share with each other the little rice they have…
It is this waiting that kills me. For us who have been seemingly free in a captive city, it is almost harder. We are filled with fear and anxiety for those inside the prisons, we agonize over the starving natives, and, mingled with all that, we have a worrying tinge or two about our own fate. And we can do nothing but wait! He also serves who only stands and waits—I don’t believe it!