25th June 1945

The third fundamental policy in Japan’s new pre-invasion structure (following the wartime emergency authority and the division of the empire into eight regions) was announced today. Effective the 22nd, when imperial approval of the diet measure was granted, the volunteer military service law went into operation. Some additional details of the measure are: the term of service shall be one year; the volunteers, excluding those already in the armed forces and the physically unfit, shall be called into action by the competent ministers of state; they shall be organized by regions or by occupation. Thus “railway volunteer fighting headquarters” is expected whose main effect will be to subject railway workers to military discipline.

Our principal concern in Tokyo however was to see to it that our students are not caught between Japanese mobilization and American invasion. Already [illegible] small cities, no less than the crescendo of attacks on Kyushu, had radically changed the situation from that in spring when the students were evacuated from Tokyo “for their own safety”. As a matter of fact our students in Fukuoka had already lost their dormitory and personal belongings in a recent raid. It was to inquire after them and to explore the possibilities of a change of program that I called on Taketomi today. He assured me that his organization was doing its best for the boys in Fukuoka. Communications were badly disrupted and there was little baggage space available on the trains that were running South but he said “we are sending them shirts, shoes, mattresses, and whatever else we can through six of our men who will carry the supplies on their backs.” I offered the help of the embassy but he hesitated to accept anything because he did not want the Indonesians, Malays, and the other students in Fukuoka who have no diplomatic representatives in Tokyo to feel that they were being discriminated against.

With regard to the over-all program, he was equally apologetic. Yes, he said, the problem was being reconsidered but it took so long to get any sort of official action in Japan; there were so many authorities involved that endless conferences were necessary. The embassy, he did not have to emphasize, was not one of those authorities. What we still wanted, I informed him, was what we had asked from the beginning, that all the Filipino students be gathered in one place, preferably in Kyoto, which seemed to be safe from bombers [illegible] about Kyoto. The imperial university there, it seemed, was “prejudiced” against foreign students and from the very beginning had consented to receive only a quota which was now filled.

Our discussion was desultory and fruitless. Neither of us had any authority. I complained that the students in Gifu had been forbidden to go to church on Sundays. Ah, yes, he recalled. That was because the church there was one run by foreigners under police suspicion. I made several other requests and then, as I was leaving, I asked casually once more about our student in the north. This time, unexpectedly, Taketomi blurted out the truth. The boy had been arrested, he admitted mournfully. It was a distressing case. This “misguided” young man had somehow managed to cross to the island of Karafuto and had been caught only one town away from the Soviet border. He had been taken back to Hakodate and was now “safe” in custody. No, nobody could do anything about it. The kempei were in charge. I questioned him closely but he did not seem to be very well informed or more communicative. Apparently he did not know, or did know that I knew, that our student had made friends with a Japanese girl, bought the ticket for Karafuto through her, and almost made the border when the girl, in an access of patriotism, remorse, and curiosity, told her father who told the police.

October 3,1944 (Tuesday)

Waking up early this morning at 5:00, we proceeded to the offices of the Japan Airways, just a few blocks away from our Yamaume Hotel to board the bus that took us to the airport.

At 7:15 a.m., we again boarded our plane, and we were off in no time. This time I wore very comfortable clothing, no more the thick layers of khaki which I wore from Fukuoka to Taihoku. (I wrapped all my extra clothing in a furoshiki [cloth wrapper], together with a bottle of mass wine which I was bent on bringing home.)

Our plane did not fly very high. I noticed there were clouds above and below us, and we must have been flying at 15 or 10 thousand feet above the sea. I again went to sleep to the drone of the twin motors which already sounded like music to my ears after flying so many hours.

Philippine Land Ahoy! At 10:00 a.m. we sighted Philippine territory. We were flying quite low (about 5,000 feet) parallel to Luzon. At about 10:15 a.m., a wireless message was received that we would be flying over San Fernando (La Union) at 10:33, over Arayat at 11:06, and would land at 11:23 at Manila. Excitement took the better of me from then on.

Looking through the window, I beheld for the first time my country from the skies—an actual bird’s-eye view of the Pearl of the Orient Seas. The vast ricefields of the Central Plains of Luzon spread under us like a beautiful lawn, the network of roads looking like narrow pathways cutting across this wonderful garden-island of Luzon. We passed close to the dented peak of Arayat Mountain, and 20 minutes later beautiful Manila spread under us. San Sebastian Church, the City Hall, University of Santo Tomas, Quezon Institute—these were the most conspicuous buildings from the air. We were now flying at about 1,000 feet, and we could see people and vehicles moving about. At exactly 11:23, we landed at Nielson Airport which just about a week ago (September 21) was the target of bombs by American planes.

The hangars and buildings were hit, and many planes were still fresh in their wreckage. Nobody was at the airport to meet us but the employees of the Nippon Airways who went about their job unmindful of the grim aspect of Nielson Airport after the recent bombing raid. The staff officers who were our co-passengers rode special cars while we waited for a bus to take us. Waiting for the bus was an ordeal. There we were back in Manila but practically strangers with no one to talk to but the Japanese employees (there were only 2) of the airport who kept assuring us that a bus would come to take us. I could not even phone as I planned, as all electrical installations had been wrecked by the bombs.

The bus finally came, and we had ourselves taken to the Constabulary Academy No. 1. Passing through the dirty streets of Manila, we noticed the big change that has come to the city after one year and three months. It was not the same Manila of yesteryear. We noticed that the pedestrians looked bored and pale and emaciated.

Bad News. I have always expected the worst but not what I was told. When I heard that our house at Sta. Mesa Heights had been taken over by the army just a few days ago, I thought at first it was a joke. But it was not, and soon I realized how terrible the situation in Manila had become. I tried to contact my brother Tony, Papa at the office and other people by phone but in vain. When I left the Academy at 2:00 p.m., it was literally a search for my family. This was a case of a homecoming without a home to go to; what a welcome for a homesick pensionado who has been away from home one year and three months!

Home-Coming. It was the same as when I went home from the concentration camp of O’Donnell in August two years ago. I came home unannounced and unexpected. I just went right home. Mama took me in her arms, and she cried. My sisters cried. I did not cry (I never do in the presence of people), but inside me, my heart pounded with joy. I was again back in the bosom of my family which I have been missing for so long a time since the war broke out in 1941. My chapter in Tokyo is over. Today begins a new chapter in my life. What comes next ? That is still another question.

October 2, 1944 (Monday)

Waking up early at 5:00 this morning, we started to get ready for our flight home. All dressed up, I weighed 73 kilos (i.e., 13 kilos over the normal); my handbag and portfolio weighed about 13 kilos and my main baggage 23 kilos. I carried, therefore, 59 kilos in total, instead of the limited 15 kilos for ordinary passengers. Until we got into the plane, we were afraid we would not be allowed to bring such heavy baggage, but, fortunately, we made it.

My First Plane Ride! At 8:40 a.m., our twin-engined 12-passenger transport plane took off. We (Lieuts. Duque, Sison and I) were the last to board the plane. The take-off did not last long, and, before we knew it, we were riding high up in the clouds, the mountains and fields of Fukuoka spreading under us in a beautiful panorama. We flew up and up till we were over and above the beautiful white clouds which lazily floated in the huge expanse of the blue autumn sky. Only the continuous roar of the twin motors told us we were moving, for the plane itself kept steady on its course and gave no signs of motion. It was very comfortable riding in the plane, and it was only my several layers of clothing and thick overcoat and bulging pockets that made me feel uneasy. Flying far above the clouds, I estimate we were 25,000 or 30,000 feet above the sea which I could see through the thick layer of cumulus clouds.

I went to sleep, and, when I woke up, our plane was traveling through a thick fog, and visibility was poor. At 1:30 p.m. we felt our plane losing altitude, and we could feel the rapid change of atmospheric pressure in our ears and all over our bodies. We were landing at Taihoku [Taipei] (Taiwan) airport. I got quite dizzy during the landing, most possibly because of the thick and tight clothes I was
wearing. Unexpectedly, we were informed that we would not just stop for half an hour here as previously announced but would have to stay overnight in Taihoku to fly again early tomorrow. Obviously, this change of plan was due to the foggy weather.

All first-class hotels being packed, we had to stay at the Yamaume Hotel which is rather dirty and not fit for a “returning pensionado.” But only one night—so paciencia  [patience].

From 2:00 p.m. till nightfall, we had a chance to see the principal places in Tathoku, the capital of Formosa (or Taiwan). We went shopping with the little money we had left (as we had spent all our money at Fukuoka and changed the remaining from yen to Philippine pesos). I had time to have a haircut. Formosans speak Nippongo, although their accent is different from the Japanese. They also seem to know much of the Philippines and Filipinos, and they easily recognized us as Pinoys. Mr. Otsubo, an employee of the Japan Airways, treated us at a downtown tearoom with whisky and soda and ice cream, and gave us Taiwan sweet bars to bring home to the Philippines.

Back ‘to our dirty hotel after giving Taihoku a hurried lookover, we ordered chicken soup and went to bed thinking of tomorrow and our final lap to the Philippines of our dreams. Tomorrow we shall be home at last!

October 1, 1944 (Sunday)

Still in the train on the way to Fukuoka. Missed mass and communion. Our train has been delayed 3 hours, and we nearly passed Hiroshima City unnoticed. Here Abubakar and Santos gave us castañas [chestnuts], and we took their letters and packages for home.

Hakata Station. Reached this station at 3:00 p.m., and the car and representatives supposed to welcome us were no longer there. Sent telegram to Nagasakis. Rode for the first time in jinrikshas to the famous Sakaya Inn where Ambassador Vargas, Aquino and all personages taking the plane at Fukuoka stay overnight. This inn is first-class and the best I have ever seen so far.

(Crossed Kanmon Strait this morning through the new undersea tunnel connecting the opposite tips of Honshu and Kyushu. Tunnel wide enough to peer out of window and get fresh air. Trip undersea lasted about 8 minutes.)

Alba, Mapa and Dominguez were there waiting for us. They slept with us and told us of bombings in Kyushu.

Tonight was our dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s flight. Practiced what it would be like wearing several layers of underwear, khaki shirts and pants, jacket and a thick overcoat filled with letters and small packages.

In the last-hour shopping at Fukuoka this afternoon, I bought a glasstex watch strap and sunglasses that cost me Y26. Paid a visit to the Blessed Sacrament at Fukuoka Church.