The diary is not doing so well. The days dash by so quickly. It will be a month tomorrow since we in Pasay first saw those glorious paratroopers in our streets. Those husky, lusty boys, those wonderful lads.
That had been a rough time, those days between the taking of Santo Tomas and the arrival of the paratroopers. A reign of terror. But we forget so easily. But the destruction of the city we can’t forget, for it becomes more and more apparent.
Our whole war was spent waiting, it seems to me. We didn’t see much real fighting, only troop movements,
guards everywhere, stores of war matériel everywhere, and everywhere the Japs, but no real fighting or bloodshed after occupation that we could see until the end. So the murder of helpless civilians and the wanton ruin of a great city came as a terrible blow to us all. It was ignorance, on our part, of what was going on and so we were surprised—at least I was.
Life is complicated. I haven’t any money and almost no furniture. The few things I saved I have moved into this house. There are no lights, no water, no gas, no telephone.
The war has moved out to the Maraquina hills, and the guns boom day and night. The Japanese have gone
into the hills. They are fighting from the caves, and it will be a hard job to clear them out. There is still heavy
fighting in other parts of the Islands. It is only a question of time, but each day sees casualties among our men
that break our hearts. Many of our young paratroopers whom we saw that first day are dead.
The resuce of the Los Baños internment camp took its toll of them. That was a great deed, and in the real
nick of time. Long after Santo Tomas was freed, and the first internees started on their way home, Los Banos was still in the hands of the Japanese. When at last it seemed that rescue was near, the Japanese lined
them up for execution, two thousand odd of them. But the guerrillas and the paratroopers, acting together, converged on the camp, and in a pitched battle, saved the internees and took them away on ducks—those
queer amphibian vehicles. As one friend told me the other day, she was more frightened getting on a “truck
that ran into the water” than she was of the Japanese! She was used to the Japs! No question here of lack of support from the guerillas.
It is a wonderful Army, from our first loves the paratroopers, through the engineers, to the men who are on the real fighting front, who sometimes get in to see us!
All our houses are wide open to all of them. We have a little rum and red beans and rice which they seem to
like better than their own wonderful rations. They often bring me tins of food, saying always: “We can’t eat the
stuff.” But often when they stay to eat with me and I’ve made a snappy meatloaf (with fresh tomato sauce) out of the canned pork and gravy and the beef and gravy, they smack their lips and say how good it is. I never tell them until after the second helping that it’s their own Army rations.
I have the young Swiss couple living with me. They lost all their belongings in the last days of fighting in the Malate area. A couple from Santo Tomas have joined me, too. They want to see what happened to their mines in Surigao before going back to the States. And a dear friend of mine, Kay, now in the Red Cross, showed up the other day and has moved in with me, bringing another girl with her. It makes quite a household. Our great problem is guests! We dine at seven-thirty, the Army eats at five and then goes calling afterward. So we are always embarrassed when the boy announces dinner when we are all assembled on the terrace with our callers. I usually ask them up to the dining room to have coffee with us, but they always look at the decently set table, and the inevitable rice and beans being nicely served, as if they could eat again, so they do! Now we just cook for about twice as many as our family, knowing it will be welcome.
The girls have ration cards, so they turn them over to me to use, and I can buy good American staples once
more. I even made a pie the other day, in my charcoal stove. It was a little tipsy, but it was a pie! I have a huge
round pottery thing over a charcoal fire, on which I cook—I have two house boys with me, but as cooks they
aren’t so hot. However, they can clean!
This poor house was a mess—the lovely tinted walls bore horrible fingerprints of Japs, and the bathrooms
were unspeakable. We have a well in the garden here, and an artesian well nearby, so have to carry water for
the baths. Minor troubles, these. The place is cleaned up now, and the bullet holes don’t matter—the rains are
far off yet.
We really have fun. All the correspondents come to see us, and the Army and Navy come frequently—I can’t
sort out rank, so I only ask that they leave their rank elsewhere.
The guns roar, the house shakes, the planes cavort over my house, sometimes buzzing us a bit too low for
The pattern seems clear, Manila is the great base for an all-out victory effort. The ships are coming in, the
boulevard is piled high with great cases of supplies, there are more jeeps and tanks than I ever knew could
exist. North Harbor, so long dark, now blazes with Navy lights, and still the war goes on. We sometimes hear an Army radio, but mine is no longer functioning. There is no electricity.
We have even seen a moving picture! Something with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. There is a house near us taken over by some Army colonels and they often invite my household over to see the pictures. How wonderful they seem! Another world!
All this is almost an anticlimax, after the tumult and the shouting of the first arrival. We all thought that the taking of Manila was the end, but it seems not.
The internees are being sent home as fast as possible. They’d send me to the States, too, but I do not want to
go. So I get no help, can’t even talk the Red Cross out of a pair of shoes, nor can I get a ration card. It hurts a
little, for my home is here, my life is here—but that’s their ultimatum.
I should get a job. I haven’t any money. But I don’t know what I could do. The Red Cross is hiring some people locally. I suppose I ought to try that, for I surely am fresh out of money.
We can get no news about the prisoners who were sent to Japan. There is no trace of Edgar. He is known to have been in Bilibid and we all assume he was sent to Japan. Can only pray that he got through. And the war drags on!
The repatriation of the Santo Tomas and Los Baños internees has gone along quickly. The sick and the nurses were flown home first, and after that ships, as they became available, took the rest.
It’s an unreal world. The long wait is over and Manila is free. And what a Manila!
The Japanese withdrew on the 27th of February and a few days later I went downtown. Our town lies in ruins. Those written words seem unreal. Our Manila of the wide boulevards, the great sea wall, the tall buildings
side by side with the Nipa shacks, the world’s longest pier, the famous intramuros, the oldest white settlement
in the orient—Manila, that city of gay and kindly people, of beautiful sunsets, lies beneath heaps of ruins, rubble, dead bodies.
The skyline looking down Dewey Boulevard (called Heiweh Boulevard by the Japanese, nicknamed Heyhey
by the Filipinos) looked nearly normal from a distance. The shells of the big hotels and clubs loom up—it seems almost the same silhouette we always saw against the setting sun, those famous sunsets that even the Japanese could not destroy. But those buildings are completely gutted, only their steel frames standing.
The lovely homes that lined the boulevard are mostly gone. Here and there one stands, mute evidence to the
haste with which the Japanese withdrew from our part of town, for we were among the fortunate.
All this is evidence of the bitterness with which the Japanese gave up the city they so wanted for their
own. They must have bitter regrets that they did not succeed in the war. For this country is beautiful, life is
easy, they probably saw more food and a better life than they knew existed in their rocky, war-lord-ridden country. Here there is a lovely climate, where no one 1s ever cold—as the Japanese are cold behind those homeland paper houses—and food is easy to grow. And they had thousands of white people at their mercy behind the prison walls, to gratify their superiority complex. Of course they were savage in their disappointment in losing all this, this paradise which must have outshone even their Celestial Mikado’s heaven.
We drove past my old restaurant, where we had been so gay and happy, and worked so hard. It was a small
heap of ashes, not even one small memento remained. That part of my life is over, perhaps our whole way of living is over out here. Only time can tell.
The lovely Luneta, famous parade ground and promenade since old Spanish days, is a mess of foxholes
and trenches, barbed wire entanglements, scattered bones and equipment. All told a desperate tale of last-minute resistance.
The walled city is the saddest sight of all. It was built in the sixteenth century to withstand the onslaughts of the Malays, and the Spanish ruled the Islands from there. The Japanese had withdrawn behind those walls, using the Filipino civilians—who had remained inside either from fear or force—as human shields, and fought for three weeks before the tanks of the Americans finally crashed those ancient walls. Only death and destruction remain there.
The ruins of Fort Santiago, that dread prison where so many entered and so few emerged, is giving up some
of its grim story. There is little chance of identifying those bodies found in there. And probably no one will ever know how many Filipinos lost their lives there, for the fires ate up the evidence.
There are so many people missing, and no way of finding out what became of them.