In a radio speech yesterday, President Laurel categorically pointed out that the Republic has only one path to pursue, and that is, to extend all assistance and cooperation to the Japanese imperial government. He made this statement rather emphatically, and people tend to believe that it was motivated by the exodus of many young Filipinos to the mountains for fear of being called to active duty in the Japanese Army. They prefer to join the guerillas rather than fight for Japan.
To forestall this possibility, the Military Police, five days before the bombing, “zoned” the towns of Navotas and Malabon, and herded all the men in churches and churchyards. For three days they were kept without food and drink, while houses were searched and suspicious characters were interrogated. According to the press, thousands of guerrilla members were arrested and a great quantity of small arms, ammunitions, dynamites and short wave radio sets were confiscated.
Big posters were displayed in various parts of the city, depicting the barbarism of the American bombers, inciting the people to air their indignation and to rise in unison to fight for their independence and national integrity.
Instead the people are feeling not indignation but joy. During and after the raids, they are not angry nor fearful but trustful that the bombs would fall only on military targets, and hopeful that these incursions will put an end to their captivity and their miseries.
What really cause public indignation were the abuses committed by the Japanese after the bombings aside from those they had been regularly committing.
After the bombings, the Japanese hurriedly emptied the Port Area of their gasoline tanks and anti-aircraft equipment.
Many of the Japanese anti-aircraft batteries have been installed in residential and commercial zones, in vacant lots, on terraces of tall concrete buildings, and in front yards or campuses of schools. In some case, the anti-aircraft nests were transferred to new locations, for fear that the former sites had already been installed, so that the greater part of the city has become a military target.
The Army has started commandeering Churches and convents, at least those within the city, which up to this point had been spared. The Sta. Cruz church is being used as a storage for ammunition barracks; Binondo Church was burned, and this left the three most populated districts of Manila without churches. The churches of Mandaluyong and Diliman are also being commandeered. The convents of the Franciscans, Augustinians and Recollects are now finally occupied after a month of fruitless protests.
Yesterday we started moving out of the old UST building in Intramuros. We have transferred everything we could to the Seminary in Sulucan which is the only building at our disposal. We can not carry on with classes as they are held in one of the most dangerous zones vulnerable to bombings.
The building was needed by the Japanese. We made no resistance, but we filed a protest, and we rejected the offer of the Japanese to pay for the use of the buildings.
Similarly ejected from their convents were the Assumption Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of San Juan del Monte, the Augustinian Sisters of La Consolación, those of Looban, and the Jesuit Fathers of Polo where they had taken refuge after having been ejected from other places five or six times.
“Therefore I, José P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, presently proclaim that a state of war exists between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America and Great Britain effective on the 23rd day of September 1944 at 10:00 in the morning.”
With what forces would the Philippines sustain the war? With the moro vintas, the barges and the few sailboats which the Japanese have not yet confiscated? Or with the Kalayaan, the only plane owned by the Republic given as a baptismal gift by Japan to the President? (There were rumors that the plane had already been destroyed during the raids.) Is the Philippines going to engage the half-equipped Constabulary—of which half can handle only the service sticks—in the battlefield? Before the first combat, most of them would have passed over to the enemy side. Will the youth be called to active duty to constitute an improvised army which has no faith in the present and no ideals for the future? They do not believe in nor desire independence. Everybody knows that the declaration of war was a mere gesture, for the purpose of bringing to the fore the imminent possibility of an attack from the outside, and to give in to Japanese pressure pushing all independent nations of the Sphere to make it appear to the world that they are at war with the Anti-Axis. We are just waiting for developments.
Although the alarm sounded, the musician of the sky was actually playing its music elsewhere today.
How big were the casualties of both sides in the raids yesterday and the other day? After releasing conflicting figures, the local press adopted the data given by Tokyo, which had more precise information on what was happening here. Out of the 500 attackers, the number of American planes shot down, but the figures given seemed to be inflated. Yesterday, official sources reported that out of the two hundred planes, nineteen were shot down. Another exaggeration. The damage done in military installations was allegedly insignificant. However, anyone who saw the fires could not believe that.
More than 20 ships were sunk in the bay. The only information I have of the airfields is the report about Nielson Airbase, which I received from someone who lived about forty meters from the base. According to him, twenty-eight planes were burned, the strips were destroyed and the hangars were reduced to their framework. Several hundreds of workers and Japanese soldiers were killed by enemy machineguns. This base is the smallest among those installed around Manila. At both sides of the street along Baclaran, mounds of debris from a portion of Nichols Airbase could be seen. Fort Stotsenberg in Pampanga was greatly damaged by heavier bombs. Those who heard Radio San Francisco were more inclined to believe the figures of casualties in these three raids; namely, about five hundred planes, seventy ships, aside from the total destruction of Piers 1, 3, and 5, and the partial destruction of the monumental Pier 7.
More than two thousand port workers who lived and worked in the vicinity of the piers have taken refuge in the Cathedral where they are sheltered. The attacking forces have left them without food and without employment. Because someone ran amuck and killed a soldier, the Japanese have cordoned the vicinity of the Cathedral from all passers-by and searched a number of houses.
President Laurel has declared Martial Law over the whole Philippines, “there being an imminent danger of invasion, and such being required by public security.”
Yesterday, the sky was filled with dark clouds. Today the horizon is even darker and gloomier. We had a reveille, and although the enemy came behind the thick clouds, the siren operators were not as sleepy as they were yesterday. At 7:15, the whining signal shook everybody out of bed. In fifteen minutes, the infernal blasts of engines, anti-aircraft guns, bombs, machineguns and guns filled the air. The vanguards burned the gasoline depot in Pandacan and riddled the Neilson Airfield in Makati. The main corps of the American attackers worked on the ports, the piers and the warehouses of the Port Area. A wave of planes attacked the premises of the Japanese Embassy (formerly of the American High Commissioner) where a very powerful anti-aircraft battery was installed, thus burning part of the building. One of the planes dropped its bombs behind the Binondo Church, razing a whole block of Chinese houses. A strong wind caused the fire to spread rapidly to the La Insular cigarette factory. The Oriente Building, the general headquarters of the Constabulary where some anti-aircraft guns are furiously firing, was also burned, and so were the Church and convent of Binondo. These three historical treasures were offered in a fiery holocaust to the implacable fury of Belona, the sultaness of Pasig. The three buildings were constructed during the Spanish era. The Oriente Building was a hotel, the biggest and most sophisticated during the past century. The La Insular building was constructed in 1888 by Don Joaquín Santamaría, founder of the tobacco factory of the same name. The Arabesque facade, unique of its kind in Manila, were imported from Spain. The Binondo Church on the other hand, was reconstructed after the earthquake of 1863, through the Chinese whose help was solicited by the Dominican fathers. It has actually been the parish of the Filipino residents of the district and of the Chinese Community in Manila.
They have arrived!
At 9:30 in the morning and 2:30 in the afternoon, without any siren warnings to those who after so many exercises were caught unprepared, several squadrons of American planes appeared from the East. They came at a very high altitude. Then they descended, speeding past the clusters of bursting anti-aircraft shells until they were a few hundred meters from their targets releasing their bombs and returning to their formation, some gradually, other perpendicularly depending on how they were being trailed by barking anti-aircraft guns. Sometimes they were in a chain-like formation as they plunged into a dive, or they converged in several groups over their targets. They had set fire to a number of ships anchored at the Bay, and to planes at the Nichols airfield, Grace Park and San Juan del Monte—the four cardinal points of Manila. The American planes were either long or short or small in size. The bombs were likewise small, and did not produce as much noise as did the Japanese bombs, but the vibrations caused, and the shaking of floors and walls, were greater. The hum of the engines was ominous. I could not determine the speed. Anti-aircraft batteries creating a horrifying noise were scattered all throughout the city.
Damage was great. According to the press, a hundred civilians were killed. If the figure was correct, it did not include the hundreds of Filipino workers who, together with the Japanese soldiers, were killed in the airports and in the ships at the bay. Many were killed by the cascade of anti-aircraft shells, and others by the shells which exploded upon falling back to earth. There was a literal rain of bullets and shrapnel all over the city.
In the evening, fire was blazing in the Bay where the damaged ships were burning. The light and detonation of explosives could be seen and heard for many kilometers around, and the grand finale of one of the explosions was a little fantastic and moving, like an earthquake of an alarming intensity. The explosion was heard 90 kilometers away.
Immediately after the all clear signal, rumors spread like wildfire, that Lipa, Tarlac, and Vigan were bombed and that the Americans have landed in Davao, Basilan, next to Zamboanga, or in Batanes; that three American Fleets are in the southern, eastern and northern approaches to the Philippines, each of which is supposed to be much more powerful than the whole Japanese Navy. Other similar rumors are circulating. The Official communique, however, announced that there are air raids over Mindanao and the Visayas, presently being extended to Legazpi and Ligao in Albay where the American planes are deliberately bombing non-strategic persons and places.
American landings have been made in the Palau islands and in Morotai of the Celebes group, east and south of Mindanao. The only resistance encountered were the Japanese garrisons on land. The Japanese air force no longer dare to meet the American pilots. And the Americans are advancing in giant leaps from island to island, from coast to coast. With what interest we followed these movements, and with what avidity we analyze the maps—we are learning our geography—to calculate the month and the date on which the old masters would return! However, those who are impatient are becoming desperate in the face of the cautiously slow pace of the advance, as they were worried about the countermoves. Meanwhile, imminent hunger is driving the people to despair.
We are running short of all things, especially food. A cavan of rice costs three thousand five hundred pesos; a kilo of meat, at a peso each; camote at twenty five pesos a kilo; and Baguio beans at one hundred pesos a kilo. At these stratospheric prices, what will the daily wage earner and the employees buy with their six or ten pesos a day?
Yesterday, after filling the air with whining which nobody understood, the sirens sounded the air raid alarm signal for the first time since December, 1941. The Japanese rushed as fast as they could to the shelters constructed for their exclusive use, hiding there until the all clear signal was sounded. The students, ordered by their teachers to assemble on the ground floor, were showing signs of joy which they could hardly contain. The people from their windows or from the streets, with festive countenances, scrutinized the distant skies hoping to find their liberators. The internees, obeying very strict orders, were enclosed in their rooms or remained in profound silence. Only some convulsive laughters could be heard, characterized by hysterics from those who had been desperately waiting, for the last three years for the coming of their compatriots. I was straining my ears to listen to the echoes of one explosion.
But the liberators did not come. And the Yankee bombs did not disclose their explosive and destructive force which the Japanese have been fearing first of all. Are their blasts so powerful that no reinforced concrete building could withstand them? Will they explode with deafening force? We were advised to dig holes one meter deep. They are said to be the safest and easiest shelters to construct, but almost no one builds such trenches voluntarily. The people believed that Manila will be respected. At most, the places to be bombed are those along the piers and the periphery of Manila where the airfields are situated. Besides, the soil of Manila is low, and diggings are certain to yield water. The Japanese warden wanted, but did not order, that diggings be made. The prisoners were complaining that they would have to make three hundred meters of trenches for the four thousand or more prisoners and they do not have the necessary tools. There are other reasons of course.