March 18, 1945

I visited Muntinlupa, the new prison site. Not a political or criminal prisoner was left. When the Americans were about to arrive, they were liquidated without let-up, until the Chief henchman, disgusted with the sight of blood, shouted, “Always kill, kill. You go.” And so was saved a handful of prisoners who were already by the death wall, among whom were Fr. Rufino Santos and a boy of nine. Days before, a group of thirty were able to escape and join the guerillas.

Now the cells are occupied by the former prisoners of Los Baños who are being rehabilitated before being sent home. I heard the story of their liberation from their own lips. As I listened I could not tell whether I was listening to a detective story of Sherlock Holmes or to a script of a Hollywood comedy. They all tallied in the details of their accounts.

At dawn of the 23rd of February, the day the liberators entered Intramuros, the 250 Japanese soldiers who were guarding the prisoners of Los Baños were starting their ceremonial greetings to the sun and the Imperial palace and their routine calisthenics. From the skies, a hundred gigantic shadows fell on the ground like shadows of great scarecrows. Simultaneously, from the thicknesses of the mountains surrounding the camp emerged some two thousand guerillas who had posted themselves around the prison camp during the night. Their firings synchronized with the attack of a hundred and fifty tanks and amphibian trucks, catching the prison guards unaware and sending them scampering to the nearby bushes like scared rats. They burned the barracks and within a few minutes, the two thousand internees were moving out of the lagoon, the men on foot and the women and children in the amphibian trucks. At the beach, other vehicles were waiting for them. The enemies posted at nearby hills, who were still asleep, finally woke up and fired their artillery, wounding a soldier and a liberated internee while they were boarding the watercraft. They were the only casualties. The three-pronged attack was as spectacular as it was successful.

They crossed the lake and landed at Cabuyao which had been liberated by the guerillas. There were some fifteen thousand of them so well entrenched that now, after four weeks, they had not been displaced from those mountains. Among those liberated were seven Dominican priests, about a hundred members of other religious orders and more than two hundred sisters.

This movie-like comedy was preceded, five days earlier, by a Herodian tragedy which undoubtedly motivated the risky liberation of Los Baños. In the nearby town of Calamba, the subhuman beast had sacrificed more than six thousand persons. This was narrated to me by six priests who stayed at El Real. The shouts of the victims of bayonet thrusts could be heard in the whole town during the whole morning. In the afternoon, the priests were arrested together with other townspeople and were made to line up along the road. Their hands were tied and their eyes blindfolded. Then the atrocity! Shrieks and shoutings cried out to high heavens. After more than an hour, they brought the priests to the macabre scene. Their turn of judgment had come amidst the screams of the victims and the grunts of the beasts. They commended for the last time their souls to the Creator. They had assumed this state of resignation born of innocence, undisturbed by the mental sensation of the cold blade that was about to butcher them.

Suddenly the heinous act stopped but not the screamings. There was a long discussion among the henchmen, after which they were untied and their blindfold removed. They never found out the reason for their miraculous liberation. They could not tell whether they could attribute it the fact that the assassins got fed up with so much bloodshed, or whether one of them who was less blood thirsty, interceded in their favor.

A few days later, after trekking through forests and fields, they arrived at Santa Rosa.

Two Dominican priests and a Jay brother did not have the same luck. They were Fr. Merino and Fr. Diez who were in Los Baños. On the day the prisoners were liberated, they were taken by a Japanese and the American amphibian trucks could not wait for them. When the people in the mountains went back to the town on hearing the news that the Americans had come, the Japanese were in town waiting for them, and massacred them, the two Dominican priests included.

Massacre was committed in all towns of those provinces. In Tanauan, the hometown of Laurel, soldiers went from house to house before dawn and killed everybody they found either with bullets or with blows. Some five thousand were slain in San Pablo. The people of Lipa were ordered to evacuate. Those who failed to do so were killed. But for those who fled, soldiers were lying in wait to kill them on the way. There was a conservative count of 15,000 dead. Even those in the mountains did not escape the bloodthirsty vampires. They were hunted like beasts in barrios and mountains. Only those who succeeded in crossing to the liberated areas were saved from the diabolic fury of these children of Heaven. That was how the Bishop of Lipa and a number of priests of that diocese were saved.

Through the towns of Batangas and Tayabas which least suffered during the occupation, passed Genghis Khan in katana and Attila in kimono.

May 24th-99

This morn the outposts started across the river, and just as they reached the church a man came out of the bamboos waving a white flag and shouting “Espanol.” His Mauser was slung and he carried his sombrero in his rt. And flat in left. hands. A sentry met him and shook hands and bro’t him in. Poor Man! He had been a prisoner for 13 mos. And was delirious with joy. He was afraid at first and saw one of our Togalo [Tagalo] workmen and said, “Ha! Tagolo!” [Tagalo] in a tragic manner. We took him to breakfast –and how he did eat. The first bread he had had for eight mo’s. And eggs he had almost forgotten. Upstairs, while changing his insurgent uniform for a suit of white, and putting a pair of shoes upon his feet, he told his story.

13 mo’s ago he was captured, and moved from one place to another until taken to Lipa in Batangas. An American prisoner is there, and has freedom of the city, but the soldiers are not allowed to talk to him. The Spaniard was forced to fight since last March. Yesterday he went with the insurgent general to inspect their skirmishline extending from Laguna to Smith’s Run. He had been the Gen’s orderly for two weeks. A body guard of 12 men was also along. They went to the North end of line, then started back when the storm caught them and they camped for the night. He slept with one eye open, and when they were asleep, he grabbed a gun and belt and sack full of ammunition and made a leap into the darkness for life and liberty.

How the poor fellow’s sparkled and burned as he told of how they shot at him. He returned five shots then made for our church… about two miles away. He passed the Filipino trench O.K., and crawled thro’ the bushes until he discovered our outpost, when he very wisely waited until morn, for we shoot on sight. All night in the storm, sure death behind and in advance, uncertainty. No wonder he was nervous. This was the first time he had the faintest chance to escape.

We have him shaved and then he went into the Major’s office. He also said there were 5000 niggers ahead of us –300 rifles and 2000 bolomen. With trenches clear to Batangas, a distance of about 20 miles. He said we killed a Captain and two Lieuts. on the 19th, also about a doz. soldiers and one non-commissioned officer. I hope one of them was my friend of the red sash. 500 men were at the ruined church that day & ever since, so it is a good thing we did not advance that far, for there were only 17 of us. He certainly was the happiest man I ever saw –and it almost broke my heart to watch him and translate his story. A guard took him to Pasig. We had lots of shooting today at 700 to 1000 yds. On outpost tonight. Splendid grub today.