About 10 A.M. we saw Carl go out the gate to join Major Wilson in receiving orders and release from Major Ebiko and Yamato, who at last satisfied his correct soul by turning us over with all the proper formality. About noon Carl came back and we were all called into the main corridor. We crowded about the small office space, then someone said, “Gangway.” We all pressed over to one side as the clank of hobnails and sound of heavy feet came from the stairs. The eight soldiers had received their orders to come down from the roof. This was the most dramatic and exciting moment of all. It pictured our release more vividly than anything could. They had been persuaded to withdraw so that our danger would be less. They were giving in that much and were leaving Bilibid. They filed through the narrow lane we left, they and we silent, their faces looking sunk and trapped. The corporal’s fat face was sullen and defeated. One short, beady-eyed, pleasant fellow looked at us with a timid friendly grin—a good sport to the end. With machine-gun bullets and grenades in their hands, they trooped out the door, joining the still jaunty Formosans at the gate. They all went out without a backward look, and the gate stood open behind them. We were alone—and turned toward Carl who read the Release. We cheered and then Carl took the hand-sewn Baguio American flag out of the drawer and held it up high. The crowd broke up and began to move away singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” I went out the front door and around in our door at the side where June was trying to tell Jerry, who had his face in his hands, his head bowed. I put my arm around his shoulders, and the three of us sat there with tears running down our cheeks for quite a long while, not saying anything.
Jerry earns camotes [for extra work details], which help the family meals. He seems to like the garden and has his second wind like Bede. I have mine and wish June would get hers.
I sat up reading pages of my toilet paper — Women in Love . There are many pages of majestic writing.
Jerry says it is funny that three of us should get B-2 deficiency when he hasn’t had it yet. I tell him he has had the other kind, B-I, far longer than we have had ours. I don’t talk about a lot of things but I know them. He looked at me and didn’t say a word, for he had just been examining his swollen ankles, rubbing his aching hands.
June and Bede were still empty when they finished lunch, though the beef broth was good and sautéed radish better than it sounds with Jerry’s pickled onions. What would we do without Jerry’s versatility, his constantly sprouting ideas and practical efforts? I can do nothing but conserve the little strength I have, on a dirt couch, reading Durant on all the Chinese philosophers.
Ten of us including our two families and Carl filled our dugout, eating until we couldn’t sit up, to celebrate June’s 15th birthday, with Peg’s wonderful cooking and Crouter contributions.
At roll call Bernie whispered to me, “If you hear any good news I think you can believe it this time.” Later I heard of a Cherbourg landing of our forces. The New Guinea advance is carrying them 400 miles ahead. Still later we heard the Tribune of June 7 had admitted landings all the way from Le Havre to Cherbourg. At last, at last, the invasion of France from England –many times rumored too soon.
We have 2 eggs apiece these days, while we have the cash and they can be bought. We are storing up internally.
June and I were sitting on a bench taking sun bath when along came Bunshiyocho Tomibe, as he likes to be called. He came up from the hospital with Saito san, passing us. I said. “Ohayō gozaimasu” (Good morning) to which he bowed and replied, “Ikaga desu ka?” (How are you?) I answered, “Genki desu, arigatō gozaimasu” (well, thank you). He said something which I did not catch and Saito pointed to the sky. Finally I caught that it was sun-bath and said, “Hai” (yes). He bowed as he did at each gozaimasu, for politeness always delights the Japanese especially when it is their own variety, which they understand. Then they beam. He turned to June and I told him “musume” (daughter). He looked at her, then back at me, then her again and exploded with, ‘”Sa! Sō desu ka!” He asked, “Ikutsu desu ka?” I thought he was asking her age but I guess he wanted to know how many children I had. However, I broke down into English. Suddenly he raised his head. tense, asking in a clipped voice, “What are those children calling out over there?” We watched a line of them tramping along waving one arm up and down, shouting what sounded like “chop, chop, chop” to me. They were very young ones and I explained they were playing a game called “Follow the Leader” where the first one raised his arm and everyone else did the same; leader climbed a small hill, every one followed. He seemed to understand and calmed down at once. It was not until later that I realized he probably thought they were saying, “Jap, Jap, Jap.” We were on the verge of an international incident! It appears that the Sunday School teacher, in dramatizing Ruth and Naomi, had given the children small cardboard scythes with which they were going “chop, chop, chop.” Carlos, our Italian, says all Americans use nicknames, never full titles and he hates it—being a Wop or a Dago. Anyhow, I like the Bunshiyocho. He is a fine person and I never think of him as Japanese or myself as American when we speak to each other.
At the end of camp there is a mud-ball battle between small boys. Three months of vacation and the boys are tearing all over the place, yelling, taking prisoners and tying them up—as though being captured were not enough. What instincts we have for imprisoning one another—even at the age of five!
After lunch my name was on the Board. At the office I received P200 from the gold “blob,” and P480 from N. Baloli which is Marie—or is it Nida again? Twice they have saved us from despair. We have now about 800 on hand, enough for two months.
I went to see Bedie move up to 8th grade. One more year, then high school. Sometimes there are only three study books to a class.
Church Scott feels low. He said he couldn’t see anything funny about the Japanese anymore, couldn’t even laugh over the masticator story. He is so equable, with such balanced humor, that times are bad indeed when he is low. Everyone is hungry all the time. Meals are less and less. No vegetable for my bag for three days, only enough to put in stews for camp. Many are losing their sense of humor and out of funds which should be here. June wakes up ravenous.
Helga hemorrhaged for 20 days, terrible headache, low blood count and is taken to the hospital. But in spite of low morale and hunger the open house under the house was a success. It showed how something can be made from nothing. Some said they had no materials. Well, neither did we, for our neighbors built two of our walls from runo and old tin. For the first time we are in the “smart” class with a smart dugout, cosy and colorful for bridge games and coffee parties, if one is able to hold them. We have arrived, in practically the last word in Concentration style, with artistic den or studio or whatever Bohemia wants to call it. A Shangri-la in the earth literally! It saved my health and sanity that first week, smart or not.
Meanwhile the Japanese turn nasty. They had heard the children call them Japs and complained to Carl. Now the Chef, asked where some supplies came from, replies that the Japs brought it in. He is overheard by the buyer and reported. It grows into a major incident. The Chef is called to the guardhouse, given a tongue lashing, nearly half a day tries to explain it is a slang term, but to no avail. He is threatened with three days in the jail room at guardhouse (two or three recently built), finally made to write an apology. The Committee was called to a meeting about it and about our attitude of fading out when a General comes, etc. They complain that we don’t like them. What do they expect after poor treatment. Denki told them bluntly that as we grow more hungry and tired, ill and nervous, we would grow more disagreeable, blame them, blame the Committee, for no food, no housing etc. Evidently the General gave them a raking over and being nervy and jittery anyway they pass it on to us as they have done before. This happens to all people.
Little Walter got up at four to do guard duty with his Dad. The family are proud of him and it was an excellent idea. Sheba has another new sweater with a big-needle weave of yellow and brown mixed this time. Last week it was bright yellow. June says that Sheba will go mad if she runs out of wool, for she sits up in the dark knitting by the outside light until nearly midnight. When I cannot sleep, I often hear her needles clicking and she goes outside and back again sometimes. But there is no sound of tumbrils! I think that she will just unravel and re-knit when her skeins run out. Today she laughs her light superior laughter as she listens to a row over space outside the door. Then she says, “And there is a war going on! Who would think it? That is about space too—isn’t it a coincidence!”
After breakfast I went over to Peg’s to lie down as Elizabeth was having her bed swung to make table space and dressing corner curtained beneath the bed. My head couldn’t take the hammering. At Peg’s I began to get cold, hands and feet, poor circulation all over. Peg made me an eggnog and she and June managed to find two hot water bags. I drank gallons of water. I did not feel like fainting at all, just stopped as in shock. It was merely very low vitality. Afterward, June said, “Mummie, you look lots better.” I said, “Why, how did I look before?” and she answered like an adult, no longer my little girl, “You were pinched and drawn, lines in your face and head, your eyes looked bad, your mouth pulled and strained.” She saw all that fight for control when balance is slipping and one holds on by a thread. I began to come back just as Jerry came with coffee and an anxious face. Before noon, I came “home” quietly and we reveled in pot roast with gravy on the rice, a flavor to it that we haven’t tasted in months, making me want to weep again. The doctor came and said I must go slow, that I did need meat and a lot else.
The dentist says every doctor in here should be paid for his services after the war. How about waitresses, moppers, dishwashers and ditch cleaners?
June says the little kids stomp about saying “God damn” over and over. Buddy on potty remarks, “I hope God will give me a good specimen today.” Buddy really voices the Dysentery Prayer.