It was 3 o’clock in the morning; the boat started to move. We could not see anything; it was pitch black. Destination unknown.
In the dark, the events of the past days came back to me.
We left Irisan, a town about six kilometers from Baguio on April 12, 1945 headed towards Agoo, an American-captured territory in the Province of La Union. After walking four days and four nights across mountains, we arrived at Pitugan, La Union. Across the river which bordered the U.S.-liberated province, we saw our first sight of our American liberators, a group of soldiers led by a Capt. Linguist. Our happiness at seeing the Americans was such that tears streamed down our faces. “Here are our liberators!” we exclaimed.
The Captain was tall. He might not have been a handsome man but to us he was the embodiment of perfection. He shook hands with Manuel Roxas first, with Jose Yulo next, and then with me. I had shaken hands with presidents (including Roosevelt), emperors (Hirohito and Pu Yi), and princes (Prince of Wales), but I had never taken a hand with more gusto than when I shook the hand of the Captain.
Capt. Linguist was very kind and nice to us. He gave orders left and right, doing everything he could for us. The Americans helped us across the river and, although we were already in the safety zone, the Captain took all the necessary precautions; soldiers with sub-machine-guns were posted around us throughout the night while we slept before proceeding towards the town of Tubao.
Deep in our hearts we felt an unbounded feeling of gratitude. Not for a moment did it enter our minds that our liberators, for whose return we prayed fervently everyday, were going to be our incarcerators.
At 7 a.m., we started for Tubao. When we reached the town of Rizal, we were met by a military truck driven by an American. We boarded the truck and reached Tubao about 10 a.m. Here in Tubao, we saw the place where the shelling of Baguio came from. That same morning, we were taken to Aringay, to the U.S. Army Headquarters. The Americans served us lunch. For the first time since the war, we had a real American dinner with bread and butter, ham, coffee, iced tea, etc. Here we were introduced to the head of the Army operating around Baguio, Major General Carlson.
We were photographed with the General and his staff. The Filipino group was composed of Gen. Manuel Roxas, Chief Justice Jose Yulo, Minister Rafael Alunan, Minister Teofilo Sison, Minister Quintin Paredes, and myself. We were also introduced to Lt. Col. Arcing Arvey. We were asked many questions, one of which was what we thought about the postponement of Philippine independence. As the senior in our party, Mr. Yulo answered for the group—that we were opposed to the proposition. Col. Arvey asked whether we did not need time for economic readjustment. He answered, “There is no incompatibility between the two. We can have independence and economic readjustment with the help of America.”
I was elated at his response as this represented my own thoughts and sentiments. We have heard rumors that the Imperialists had sent men here—Army officers, and men in the C.I.C.—to work for the withdrawal of the independence plan. It was their plan to work through the Filipinos: they want the Filipinos themselves to petition for the postponement of independence. They cannot do it directly in America as the majority of the Americans are against imperialism. As a matter of fact, I was present in the U.S. Congress when they voted down a large appropriation for the fortification of Guam. They argued that America should pull out of the Orient. But the Imperialists want to be able to show that the Filipinos themselves do not want independence. They are absolutely wrong if they think the Filipinos will give up their lifelong desire for independence.
We stayed three days in Tubao. We were given plenty of K-rations to eat. On the morning of April 19, a car driven by an American came for us. We thought we were going to be taken to San Fabian as we were made to understand. But before we started the trip, a Capt. Donahue explained to us that we would be brought to San Fernando where he hoped we would not stay long. He was very nice and apologetic.
We were shown the April 18, 1945 issue of the Free Philippines which stated that Gen. MacArthur had announced that American liberation forces “captured four members of the collaborationists cabinet”. The article continues: “The puppet officials who fell into American hands were Jose Yulo, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Antonio de las Alas, Minister of Finance, Teofilo Sison, Minister of the Interior, and Quintin Paredes, Minister of Justice, in the quisling Laurel Cabinet.” It also quoted from the American General, “They will be confined for the duration of the war as a matter of military security and then turned over to the government of the Philippines for trial and judgment.”
We were all dumbfounded. We never expected it.
On the way to San Fernando, we passed through San Fabian, a very busy port. All roads were improved, even widened and asphalted. The roads were jammed with military vehicles, including amphibian trucks. We arrived in San Fernando and proceeded directly to the U.S. Army Headquarters. At about 3 p.m., we were told to proceed to Manila. We were not able to say goodbye to our families.
We arrived in Manila at sundown. We drove around to different places, including offices in the Government Insurance Building and the Singian house just below the Ayala Bridge. It seemed like they didn’t know where to take us. Finally, we were taken to a house in Quezon City, arriving there about 7 p.m. Since may daughter Lily, Mrs. Ambrosio Padilla, lived nearby in the San Miguel district, I asked permission to be allowed to visit her. I was rather surprised when my request was denied.
When we arrived in Quezon City, we were joined by Pedro Sabido, F. Baybay, Jose Sanvictores, Francisco Zulueta, Sergio Bayan and Proceso Sebastian. Zulueta sympathized with me; he too could not understand why I was not allowed to see Lily, especially since we spent several days in Quezon City. On April 21, Zulueta was taken ill and had to be brought to a hospital.
We expected to see Gen. Manuel Roxas who was not brought with us to Manila, but he was not among those who arrived. It is said that he was also detained but given a certain degree of freedom.
In the morning of the 24th, Ministers Claro M. Recto, Rafael Alunan and Emilio Abello, and Gen. Guillermo Francisco arrived from Baguio. Recto and Gen. Francisco were very indignant. Recto said that if he had known what was in store for him, he would have preferred to have stayed in Baguio.
Next day, Wednesday, April 25th, we were all photographed and fingerprinted. I felt humiliated. We were all bitter, and we broke into tears. Generally, however, we thought that even this forced detention was better than our situation in Baguio where we were virtual prisoners subject to the dangers of bombing, shelling, and above all massacre by the Japanese Armed Forces.
In the afternoon, we were fingerprinted and photographed again, Gen. Francisco included. The morning photographed and fingerprinting session was for the Military Policy Command; the afternoon session, for the Counter Intelligence Corps.
When we arrived in the house in Quezon City, I was interrogated by two gentlemen, a Mr. Stanford and a Mr. Hendricks. I was questioned not only about myself, but also about others in the party, and other persons. I was asked about Secretary Kalaw, Mayor Guinto, Vice Mayor Figueroa, Vicente Madrigal, Leopoldo Aguinaldo, Sergio and Nicasio Osmeña, Fiscal Mabanag and Camino Moncado. I tried to make a correct and just appraisal of them.
In the following days, from April 25 to the 27th, I was questioned repeatedly. I was asked by Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Stanford about the Philippine currency taken from banks. I prepared a statement in reply to all their questions. In my report I also mentioned about the seizure by the Japanese authorities of the Philippine National Bank funds in Baguio.
After a week of separation, I received for the first time letters from my wife and other members of my family. They arrived in Manila last Sunday, April 22. My son-in-law, Ambrosio Padilla (Paddy), and my brother-in-law, Jose Lontoc, drove all the way from Manila to Tubao to get them. My family is now staying in an “entresuelo” in the grand old house owned by Paddy’s mother located in Rodriguez Arias St. In the letter, my wife wrote that on the way to Manila, they passed by Paniqui, Tarlac, to the house of my other son-in-law, Ramon Cojuangco. Ramon confirmed the death of my daughter, Natividad (Neny). I became almost desperate. When we were taken to the U.S. Headquarters in La Union we met some friends from Manila who were officers of the USAFFE. One of them was Major Nakpil who told me of Neny’s death. Before this, I refused to believe it.
My eldest daughter, Lily, and her family were all in good health. I have a new grandson, born during the battle for liberation of Manila. I have two grandchildren now, the other being Josie.
I also learned about the burning of all our houses. But we would have preferred to lose all if only Neny could have been saved.
Mr. Stanford is a very friendly and understanding gentleman. He promised to do all he could for us. He is a Republican and freely expressed his opinion. Naturally, he opposed many of Roosevelt’s policies. Among other things, he said that all allied nations must be made to defray the expenses of the war.
The next morning, we were all happy, having heard from our families and knowing that they were back safely in Manila. At about 11 a.m., an American Lieutenant came to advise that we were leaving at 12:30 p.m. All of us became very sad. We did not know our destination. I tried to get permission to be allowed to go to the house of the Padillas because it was just nearby. My request was denied. At 1 o’clock, a harsh looking Captain came in a big truck. We were ordered to board the truck. The Captain followed us in a jeep. We were escorted by American guards with rifles. We were told not to talk to anybody.
The truck headed for Quezon Boulevard, and when it turned right on Azcarraga St., we all thought we were being taken to the Bilibid Prison. But we drove by the Bilibid Prison and went straight along Azcarraga St. to the North Port. We heard the Captain asking for directions to Pier 8. We were lost for a while; we even went beyond Tondo Church. Finally, we got to Pier 8.
We were left in the open truck for two hours with the sun blazing down on us. We could have been allowed to leave the truck to be in a shady place since the whole place was under the control of the Army. Here we got an inkling of what kind of treatment was in store for us. The Filipinos around who apparently recognized us, looked at us with sympathetic eyes. Apparently, the delay was due to the fact that we waited for the four trucks loaded with prisoners from Bilibid Prison. Among the prisoners we recognized Gov. S. Aquino of the 3rd District, Gov. Urquico of Tarlac, Hilario Camino Moncado and Francisco C. de la Rama. Later, we found out that the two leaders of the Hukbalahap, Luis Taruc and Casto Alejandrino, were also with them.
At about 3 o’clock, we were ordered to board a landing barge. Gov. P. Sebastian had a heavy load, so I helped him. The barge took us to a boat of 7,000 tons capacity named Lewis Morris. We were ordered to go down to the hold of the ship. It was here where we found out that there were many other detainees, about a hundred of us. We were herded in a place too small for us—crammed in the boat’s hold, about 20 by 20 meters. It was hot. We howled in protest. Overhead, someone removed the wooden trapdoor. It became a little cooler. We were all very thirsty. Moncado saved the situation by managing to go up on deck. How he did it is still a mystery to us. I surmised that he used a human pyramid to reach the opening. He was away for a very long time and we feared that he had been caught. To our surprise and jubilation, he appeared and handed down buckets of water to us.
All expressed indignation. We did not deserve such a treatment. Recto said if he was assured that his family would be taken care of, he would rather die. Gen. Francisco said that after having served the Philippines and America, he could not understand why he was being thus treated. Yulo, the coolest headed among us, said, “I will never allow an American to cross the threshold of my house.”
Later, we learned unofficially that we were going to the Iwahig Penal Colony.
We were served breakfast at 9 a.m. At about 11 a.m., the boat stopped. We were allowed to go up on deck. The air was very refreshing. We saw a convoy of over 50 ships.
We were only allowed on deck for one hour after breakfast. Lunchtime came; we were very hungry. No lunch. After 2 o’clock we were told that we were to be given only two meals a day. Then at 4 o’clock, we were told we could go up on deck again for one hour. Finally, at 5 o’clock, they served us our supper of canned salmon. It was abundant.