December 11, 1941

The day before yesterday, the ROTC Commandant informed me that General Valdes had ordered all cadets to report to their respective schools for several weeks of intensive military training. By virtue of this order the schools are being converted into military headquarters.

The announcement met with enthusiastic response from 160 students, some alumni, and some 14-year-olds who have either preferred to board and lodge with us in the College, or simply cannot return to their own houses.

For two days, the College supplied the provisions. But I had to make representations with the Commandant to provide for the headquarters, since this is what they are doing in other centers.

The University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University, San Beda College, the University of the Philippines, and other centers have been declared for military use as headquarters, staff offices and other similar purposes. At the University of Santo Tomas there were more than 2,000 cadets. They also wanted to put up a military health office at Letran, but we succeeded in dissuading them.

December 10, 1941

Tonight the few interns stayed with us because they did not have any place to go, and the Fathers brought their things down to the ground floor. Fr. McGuiness and myself decided not to bring our belongings down, since we were very tired from the activities of the day.

The siren sounded twice. The second time it did not awaken me. Morpheus was stronger than the plaintive whining of the siren.

The government has advised the people to evacuate to the suburbs. The roads teem with thousands of evacuees and military traffic. Meanwhile, all means of communication with other provinces are disrupted, and for aliens, the only way of communicating abroad is by radiogram. There is no telegraph, no telephone, no radio communications. Fr. Honorio and Fr. Diaz boarded a boat for Negros together with the eight Arnaiz brothers and a number of interns. Luckily the boat official decided not to sail.

The Philippine government and the American High Command are trying to boost the people’s morale, recounting their achievements on air and land. They promise a complete victory. Washington will send help. But there are insinuations on the possibility and the near fact that the enemy is superior, that there can be infiltrations and landing in some parts of the country. The mercury of the people’s confidence lies low.

December 9, 1941

Some boys came to school, not knowing that classes had been suspended. The Fathers and the workers went to the seashore in the school bus to get sand with which to barricade the vestibule entrance with sandbags. A van came from Calamba with sacks and more sand from Pasay. It will take us more than a week to cover the windows and doors with about a thousand sacks of sand. We took off our habits and started to work. We were helped by some students and cadets.

By midmorning, we were taken aback by American soldiers installing a big anti-aircraft in front of Letran College. Two of the soldiers, soiled and emaciated, with their rifles hanging, approached me asking for confession. I invited them to the chapel. They knelt without putting down their rifles.

After hearing their confession and giving them communion, I asked them to take a cup of coffee. They said they came from Clark Air Base. The night before and early in the morning, the Japanese raid had caused enormous destruction. They could not tell how many American planes were burned or how many pilots, mechanics and officers were killed. Casualties were heavy on their side. They were scared, but they left Letran physically and spiritually relieved.

Other camps in the outskirts of Manila—Nichols, Murphy, McKinley—have suffered similar destructions. Fires can be seen from all over the city. From our roof, they look imposing. Witnesses inform us that many houses are burning in Baclaran.

In the afternoon, the anti-aircraft gun in front of Letran College was removed, to our great relief. The same thing is happening in other places where pieces of artillery had been installed. The military placed them, removed them. There seems to be widespread confusion in the military organization. Cars, trucks and buses ply about with a seeming lack of direction. The military have begun commandeering vehicles for the transport of military personnel. They pay well for their use or purchase.

The infernal barking of guns continued throughout the night. One could not tell whether they were firing at the planes, at people, at the lights, or at ghosts.

Heaps of bamboo poles were being burned during the night. They were arranged like fans and inverted cones. As they burned, they presented a pictureque and beautiful sight, if one was in the mood to enjoy the spectacle.

We were told that the youth would be called to active duty, especially those who had already been trained in college and those who had complied with military training in cadres. Many want to be reactivated, and they have volunteered. Most of them were told to wait. The country is in danger and the youth are anxious to defend her, but their services are not accepted. Here is an enigmatic irregularity that is hard to explain.

December 8, 1941

After breakfast, I read the Daily Bulletin, the only newspaper published on Mondays. The Bulletin carried no news of special interest. At seven in the morning, Señor Alberto Guevara called me up. He had just heard over the radio that Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese planes. That was the first news of the war.

One of the Fathers came up with an “extra” of the Daily Bulletin. But the “extra” added very little to the scanty information we had. It was reported that Japan had declared war on the United States moments before Ambassador Kurusu delivered to Secretary Hull the answer to the demands of Roosevelt. Hull replied that those were the greatest bunch of lies the world had ever heard.

We are beginning to realize that we are engulfed in the whirlpool of war. There is excitement, there are telephone calls, sirens, plans, scamperings, panic-buying of food, clothes and other provisions. Speculations and projections run big. Everybody is playing prophet. Would they attack? No, they would not dare. If they do, it would be by air from Formosa, Hainan, in aircraft carriers. Landing places would be Lingayen and Batangas, but they are fortified. By sea, it is impossible to pass through Corregidor. Evacuate the capital: to Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Bicolandia, Visayas. Manila will be mercilessly destroyed. Wait for developments.

Thus it was on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

By midmorning, the Director of Private Schools announced that all classes are suspended until further notice.

But when will this further notice come?

I attended the Provincial Council to discuss emergency and urgent matter. The Father Provincial had just arrived by car all the way from Aparri, as the boat he was supposed to take was late. It was providential though. The boat was later bombed and sunk by Japanese planes.

The other Fathers who felt more secure in the provinces or with friendly families have been allowed to receive money from and live with them. It was feared that the government would order the evacuation of some districts, Intramuros among them. The suburbs are considered safer.

As Chairman of the National Basketball Committee, I presided over the meeting scheduled for today. The members of the Committee unanimously decided to suspend the national championship games which were to start the day after tomorrow. The teams from Cebu and Iloilo arrived yesterday; they were sent back home. There could be bombings during the games and we wanted to avoid a possible catastrophe.


Came night time. There was complete black-out. We slept in our rooms on the fourth floor. Two Fathers volunteered to keep watch for the night and to give warning in case of an air raid. It was necessary though, as the siren was situated at the Post Office, about 200 meters away.

We were awakened before midnight by its shrill, doleful sound as if it were announcing gloom which the nocturnal planes would sow. The vestibule and the receiving room were converted into shelters. One hour in the shelters and back to bed.

At three o’clock there was another signal. We scampered down in total darkness, feeling the wall with our hands, taking care that we and the boarders would not slip.

The planes could not be seen. We only saw a small red star like a wandering ruby among the others which were gilded and immobile in the sky.

Then an airborne fleet, like buzzing bumble bees made known its presence. The searchlights ripped the thick mantle of darkness that enveloped us. A frantic volley of shots deafened us. The CEA fired their pistols, the cadets and recruits fired their guns. Artillery and antiaircraft guns thundered, dominating this infernal macabre orchestra with their barking.

The planes continued their majestic flight at a comfortable altitude that permitted them to enjoy the sight of the dogs which below were barking at them with fury.

There were sounds of bomb explosions. We calculated where they fell. Each one of us suddenly became an expert in localizing these deep rumblings. We were hearing them for the first time in our lives, but we indicated the places being bombed with the accuracy of veteran warriors.

And so ended the first day of war, with a greater noise and din than New Year’s eve. Beautiful was the perspective the god Mars showed us!

December 7, 1941

There was the traditional First Communion Mass at Letran. The Father Provincial should have celebrated it, but the boat “Cetus” which was to bring him from Batanes this morning was delayed, so Father Peregrín de la Fuente, Prior of Santo Domingo substituted for him.

The affair turned out well, although the atmosphere was somewhat gloomy, and the talk among the relatives of the first communicants, as they gathered over the communion breakfast, carried undertones of pessimism.

These past weeks, a whirl of speculation passes through the public mind. There are those who cling to unbelief over the possibility of an impending dispute in the Far East; and others—the majority—who hold on to the certainty that the imminent tempest is inevitable.

Meanwhile, public opinion dances to the beat of radio messages carrying vague reports on the talks ensuing between US President Roosevelt and Japanese Ambassador Saburo Kurusu. Indications: war “cyclone”.

We are trying to keep an attitude of optimism, but our self-injected dose of self-confidence is too little to calm down the nerves. Now it is the heart rather than the head rationalizing, hoping instead of believing in immunity from the contamination of war. But our frail hopes stand like a deck of cards ready to flip before the gusty winds of our pessimistic convictions.

The studentry clamors for action. Protests run high against pro-American loyalty, and the youth challenge the Americans to hasten their Filipinization and demonstrate their Filipino interests. Many aliens have lately expressed their desire of becoming Filipino citizens; however, they have not taken the final step because of widespread sarcastic comments of their being fake citizens and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

This provoked the Marxists in the Spanish community. Availing themselves of their rights under democracy, they showed their true color, chanting in resounding off-tunes, their hymns and praises for the Soviet land. How times have changed! Only a few months ago, they would have sounded like heresies worthy of the stake.

The United States have been storing up on war supplies for about a year now. She is arming all her warships, erecting fortresses, constructing air strips and calling all her reserves to active duty. But how is it possible to mobilize an army capable of confronting such a war-thirsty power as Japan?

The Philippines shares Washington’s apprehension on the yellow threat. The government is intensifying the military training of college and university students. The Armed Forces have been integrated into the American Army under General Douglas MacArthur. Agencies for civil defense are being organized and there are black-out drills for the eventuality of air raids, and practices on how to extinguish incendiary bombs and how to escape from demolition explosives.

However, there are no air defenses to support these preparations. A little over a week ago, President Quezon himself said that the civilian population is completely defenseless in case of war, and he expressed his fears of the possible loss of lives and property that an air attack could occasion.

In the meantime, Japan is stepping up her armament program in utmost secrecy. Furthermore, she has tightened her policies against the few remaining aliens in her territory—especially against the Anglo-Americans—virtually driving them out of her shores. In Formosa, she forced the Spanish Dominican missionaries, the only aliens in that neighboring island, to leave all mission areas. She imposes a rigorous restriction on correspondence with other countries. All these are positive indications that Japan is preparing a campaign far superior in scope to her war in China four years ago.

The Americans continue trying to create the impression that the samurai sword has become blunt after Japan’s interminable feudal wars in the recent past. They believe that Japan is incapable of sustaining a war on a grand scale. But we know that American propaganda is painting the international scene in two very different shapes: the rosy hues to express American might, and the dark tints to dim the perspective of her enemies.

The fact is that it is impossible to determine the power of Japan. She is working out her enigmatic plans with a sphinx-like political and military diplomacy which operates silently but feverishly, not with the tongue, but with the eyes and ears.

Both sides keep flinging mutual threats and denunciations. The United States was saying that she could no longer tolerate Japanese incursions in the Far East. Japan complained against the homicidal mania which had taken hold of the Anglo-Americans and wanted to wipe out their Caucasian arrogance. The Americans responded that the East Indies and the occupation of Siam and part of China were not illusions but real facts. Japan threatened that she would destroy not only the ABCD bloc but everything else she might find necessary to destroy in order to set herself free from the noose of American tyranny.

The Mikado immediately sent a messenger pigeon of peace: Kurusu, one of Japan’s most able diplomats, flew from Manila to Washington to negotiate a peaceful solution. The question perhaps is: can he find a third alternative solution to the dilemma of expansion and retrocession with which his country is faced?

Roosevelt announced the categorical, severe and humiliating conditions under which he was willing to re-establish normal and friendly relations with Japan. Will Japan accept such conditions? Will Japan offer counter-proposals? Will an intermediate and satisfactory solution be found due to the demands of both sides?

Perhaps the most perplexing issue is whether Kurusu was sent to negotiate with a sincere desire to resolve the conflict in the Pacific, or whether his mission was a mere dilatory tactic to give Japan the necessary time to complete her plan and necessary preparations for an attack, so that, like a crouched lion, she could deal the mortal blow.

The people is speculating about all these questions: will there be a war between America and Japan? Paradoxical but true. The question has been asked and formulated on so often that many are taking it lightly.

The other day, President Quezon told some 2,000 cadets and government officials assembled at the State University campus: “Any moment now, the bombs may fall in your midst. Where are the shelters? Where are the military defenses?” The “learned” crowd roared with laughter. It was a very surprising and jocose reaction.

The President was not only surprised, he was terribly irked and added with more resolve: “Yes, gentlemen, we might, at any moment, now, hear the whizzing of bullets and the bursting of bombs.”

The assembly continued laughing. It seemed that everybody is crying “Wolf! Wolf!” but nobody cares. The wolf will come when we least expect it. Are we going to be caught unaware?