I don’t like this place. Yes, it’s safer and bombproof but the air is damp and stuffy. Give me the cool mountain breezes and the starlit skies of Bataan anytime.
The general has been relieved of his command. He has been assigned to a more important, delicate and interesting job. He will be made head of the Military Intelligence Service.
His main mission will be to secure information regarding the enemy in the occupied regions of Luzon. The service will be under the G-2 section of MacArthur’s staff.
Corregidor is a wreck. The docks have been bombed and rebombed. The chapel is partially destroyed and nothing remains but the cross and the altar. The area around the Post Exchange has been leveled by fires due to incendiary bombs and the cinema house has been razed to the ground.
In the little harbor, I saw the Casiana lying quietly under the water with only the insignia of the Commonwealth Government afloat. Had many happy hours in the good old days in the presidential luxury [yacht]. That’s where I first met Morita when she arrived from the States.
First person I saw this morning was Vice President Sergio Osmeña. He wore a white “cerrada” and he had black shoes. He looked thin, bored and worried. When he saw me he asked: “When did you arrive?” I said “Just now, sir with Gen. de Jesus and Major Lamberto Javallera.”
The Vice President asked: “How is it in Bataan? Is it safe? I am thinking of going there. When is the best time?”
I told the Vice President that the best time to cross the Bay would be either early in the morning or late at night to avoid enemy raiders.
General Basilio Valdes then arrived. He was carrying a towel and a piece of soap. The general had just taken a bath. He said: “To take a bath here, you have to go out of the tunnel.” Toilets in Corregidor are out in the open.
The general was anxious to hear news about the boys in Bataan and he told me to give his regards to several of his friends in the front.
“Who are you with?” he asked.
“With Gen. de Jesus, sir.”
“Where is he now?”
“Conferring with Col. Willoughby, sir.”
“Tell him to see me before he leaves.”
“Have you taken your breakfast?”
“I had coffee, sir in the gunboat. When we were crossing the Bay, a Navy gunboat stopped us, sir. The Captain said it was not safe to approach Corregidor very early because the coast artillery might fire at our launch. So he invited us to take coffee with him and that was perfectly all right with the general and I because we were not able to take our dinner last night.”
In the breakfast table, I saw Major Carlos Romulo and Lt. Col. Manuel Nieto, aide to President Quezon. Romulo was growing a small moustache, a poor imitation of Adolf’s. He was slightly thinner and his eyes showed lack of sleep.
He told me to find out if his eldest son, Carlos Jr., was in Bataan. “If he is there,” he pointed out, “he is probably with Gregg Anonas.”
I assured Mr. Romulo that I would do my best to look for Baby although I don’t think he is with Gregg’s bunch because I would have seen him.
Romulo said that he was sick and tired of the canned stuff in Corregidor and that he misses the “pesa” and “adobo” he used to eat at our home and with the Vasquez family.
He also told me that before he left for Corregidor he called up my dad and told him to take care of his family. “I wonder how they all are in Manila,” he said.
He said he heard that my general was going to head the Military Intelligence Service. “In that case,” he said, “you are going to have operatives in Manila. Could you arrange to have a man find out how my family is?”
I promised Mr. Romulo that I would attend to that matter personally if the general takes me along with him. “If I remain with the 51st, I won’t be able to find out for you.”
Mr. Romulo was in the press section of MacArthur’s staff under Col. Diller. I think he should be made chief of that section because he has the most experience in propaganda.
He told me he was busy censoring the news reports of the foreign correspondents in Bataan and Corregidor and writing the scripts for the Voice of Freedom everyday.
After breakfast, Col. Nieto brought me to the President’s lateral. In one corner, I saw Mrs. Quezon seated on a bench between Dr. Cruz and Fr. Pacifico Ortiz S.J. Mrs. Quezon embraced me and she’d wanted to know how I was and if life in Bataan was very hard because of the bombings. Fr. Ortiz who was my logic professor in the Ateneo said: “I’m glad to see you, Phil.”
Mrs. Quezon brought me to President Quezon. The President was wearing a white shirt and white riding pants, a striking contrast to the khaki of the soldiers in the Rock. He was carrying a short whip. He looked thin but smart and snappy. The President said that he was glad to see me fighting for my country. He said: “I was in Bataan too during the revolution as an aide to Gen. Mascardo. I know every nook and corner of that place. I got malaria there too.”
Fr. Ortiz then brought me to a small altar in the President’s lateral. “Better pray first and give thanks,” he said. While I was praying, Nonong Quezon came from behind and he slipped a couple of chewing gum packages in my pocket. Then Nonong obliged me with a comb, soap and towel, “to look decent,” he said. And then he cracked: “Sorry, I can’t lend you my toothbrush.” I retorted: “I didn’t know you had one.”
That was the first time I looked in a mirror since Silang. I guess I must have been very dirty because Ah Dong, the President’s valet, asked me if I wanted to take a bath. The people in Corregidor are all very neatly dressed and their uniforms are well pressed. There is no dust, no fighting here in Corregidor. Chinese servants serve the officers during meal time. There are electric lights, fans and even refrigerators. Each and every officer has a decent bed with cushions and mattresses. I even noticed that the shoes of the officers here were shiny. In the main entrance of the tunnel, they even have a barber shop and near the hospital lateral is a library. In some of the empty tables, I saw several officers and nurses playing cards. Outside the tunnel, on the benches overlooking Manila Bay, I noticed several lovebirds talking in whispers. There is no war here in Corregidor except for occasional bombardments at noontime. Japs are at present concentrating forces in Bataan. I suppose they’ll attack this place afterwards.
Next person I saw was Baby Quezon. She was wearing blue slacks and it made her look sleek. “I thought you remained in Manila,” she said. Then came Nini. She was neatly fixed up, the usual pigtails and an ugly looking pimple on her nose. She said Miss Labrador, the nurse, woke her up and said that I was around but that she thought it was just a joke. Both girls asked me to join them for breakfast and so I had a second breakfast. During the breakfast, Agatona, Mrs. Quezon’s maid came along and she asked me to give a letter to her cousin in Bataan and she pinned a miraculous medal on me. Nini then gave me a crucifix and Fr. Ortiz blessed it.
At about noontime, I walked with Nini to the hospital lateral. Then suddenly the lights went out. The tunnel walls began to shake. Japs were dropping 1000 pounders. Air inside tunnel was pressing against the lungs. More bombs dropped. Detonation reverberates louder in tunnel than outside. Nurses started mumbling prayers. Salvos of AA guns shook cement under our feet. Then I saw a flashlight. It was Mrs. Quezon. She was looking for her children. Nini said: “We are here mama.” Mrs. Quezon was afraid Nini and Baby were out in the open and felt relieved. There we were —Mrs. Quezon, Nini and I— cramped between soldiers and laborers who rushed inside the tunnel when the raid started. It was the equality of war. Then came the parade of the wounded. Filipino soldiers were rushed in on stretchers. There were cries of pain. Many were unconscious. I saw Fr. Ortiz giving blessings, hearing last minute confessions. He was here, there, everywhere. I saw an American whose leg was covered with blood being rushed to the medical department. Gen. Valdes who is an expert surgeon was busy assisting the wounded. The raid continued. I tried to remain cool even as the tunnel shook with the detonation of bombs and the firing of AA guns, but inside I was getting afraid. I kept telling myself it is safer in the tunnel, not like in Bataan. But I guess fear is contagious and there something about the tunnel that makes one feel asphyxiated.
After the raid, everybody started talking about the convoy. Officers were asking: “When will it arrive?” Some said” “By the end of the month.” But Mr. Romulo whispered authoritatively that he had inside information “the convoy is very near and may be here in a week’s time but keep that under your hat, pssst.”
It’s ten o’clock now. I guess it’s time to sleep. I can see Justice Abad Santos putting on his pajamas right now and Vice President Sergio Osmeña is fixing his bed. I’m writing this on the upper deck and Fr. Ortiz is praying below me. He says its time to go to bed.
We are leaving for Bataan early tomorrow.