August 6, 1945, Monday

We were visited or rather inspected by Lt. Col. Jaime Velasquez and Maj. Hanz Menzi, both of the Police Command. They seem to be ranking officers. What the purpose of their visit was, we do not know. They seemed to have been investigating our condition. Col. Velasquez is a graduate of various military schools in the United States and when the war broke out he was Aide-de-Camp to Pres. Quezon. He is one of our most brilliant officers. It had been repeatedly rumored that he had married a daughter of Pres. Quezon, Menzi is Swiss-born, but a naturalized Filipino, He was a guerrilla leader. For his guerrilla activities he was twice imprisoned at Fort Santiago. He is lucky to be still alive.

We had a long conversation with them. One thing we got clear is that we can never hope to get out of this place until after the termination of the war. We will not even be transferred to Los Baños. We appreciate their frankness. Now we can cease dreaming.

Today Sergio Osmeña, Jr., son of Pres. Osmeña, arrived alone. He came from Muntinglupa. He was detained, I suppose, for his buy and sell business during the Japanese occupation. He was very thin. He was taken to our quarters and given a bed there. Later, it was discovered that he belonged to the enlisted class and he was transferred to the quarters of that class. It was quite a humiliation. I do not know how they make the classification as there are others like him who are in our class. I was tempted to write about his case to his father since Serging, Jr. is a very intimate friend and a compadre of mine. I was also quite intimate with his father, but on second thought I desisted as I do not know what the reaction of Pres. Osmeña under the circumstances. Serging has developed a little fever. I hope he gets well soon.

He showed me the letter which I have mentioned somewhere in this diary, that he wrote when statements of his father concerning him and his brother Nick were published in the papers. In effect, the President compared Serging and Nick to his son, Emilio who was killed by the Japanese for refusing to collaborate. Serging’s letter made me cry. As I’ve said before, even under the circumstances, I do not believe I could do what Serging did. A father should be respected and loved by his son no matter what he does.

Paredes received a copy of a letter dated May 20, 1945 which Atty. Pastrana of Capiz sent Pres. Osmeña. It was one of the most convincing in defense of the collaborationists.

Rev. Enrique Sobrepeña, a Chaplain Major in the Philippine Army, was courtmartialled for collaborating with the Japanese. He was acquitted by the Court, his defense being that he was forced to do so. It was a good omen for us.

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.

January 12, 1945

Cornmeal mush with a little rice in it for breakfast. Well, the air was full of our planes this morning. They were blasting things up north of here. That helps pep us up.

I have been laying here on my bunk listening to some fellows talking about chow. They make me so darned hungry that I would eat a dish rag.

It is eleven o’clock and will soon be time for the soup. It is may of soy bean cake today. Something special. I am getting so weak I can hardly get around. We have hopes that the boys will be here on Sunday. I hope to God it will come true. This is my first experience with starvation.

Just broadcasted that there will be no soup for lunch. That is that. Well, I can smoke a cigarette and drink water.

Lots of explosions and fires this p.m. Seems that our friends are wrecking things. Story is that the guards have already left Los Baños. Time will tell. If these birds would only leave here….

Fair gravy and a small ladle of rice for supper. Very good as far as it went.

We have been under a partial blackout since August 22 and total blackout for 7 days. Only a dim light in each corner of the hall.

September 21, 1944 was a wonder day for us. That was the day we saw the first American planes. The air was full of them and they did a wonderful job.

Further notes I will put here as I guess there is no longer danger of search. August 2, 1944 orders came to turn in all money to the Japanese. That caused a scramble. August 22, 1944 Japs came without any warning and searched our room. Took field glasses, typewriter, money, books, maps, etc. Three men went to jail.

Mon. Oct. 23/44

(Bernice’s birthday) One day last week, Wednesday, I think, we heard a plane coming low over the camp. We looked and saw that smoke was coming from the engine. As it passed over the camp, the engine started to sputter, and in a few seconds the pilot winged over and bailed out. The plane landed with a crash not far away. We gave a great sigh of relief as we saw the pilot was safe. Some said it was a Jap plane. Others were just as certain it was an American and thought that the pilot escaped and was taken to the mountains by the guerrillas. On Thursday we saw a large flight of American bombers and their escort of fighters. It was a grand sight. We had “alerts” every day last week. The more planes the less food. Yesterday was Cecil’s birthday. I forgot to say that Leo’s stomach trouble and diarrhea got steadily worse, and he had to go to the hospital where his case was pronounced “amoebic dysentery”. I could not see him yesterday or today — isolated — but in a serious condition.

To return to Cecil’s birthday, we had two duck eggs from the canteen, and a scrap of bacon, so I diced the bacon, fried it with pepper berries, (grown in our garden) and garlic, added some chopped greens, and then put it in the eggs. I do not know the name of it, but the boys thought it a swell adjunct to our breakfast, of rice gruel. When we left Manila we were given a bottle of condensed carabaos milk, sweetened, so we had milk in our coffee at noon. In the afternoon I made a pudding of rice, moldy chocolate, brown sugar and some of the milk, and Cecil opened a can of Salmon. What a meal! It was a feast. We still have a little tea, and every Sunday evening, we have a few of our friends in for tea and a chat. Last night the usual ones – Henry Pickins, Dave Martin, and also Christie came in, and an extra one, Henry Bucher.  We finished off the milk with our tea, and all agreed it was a treat.

Tues. Oct. 17/44

And it is still rainy. But the garden grows right along and we have string beans and green corn. This garden track becomes more valuable to us as our food rations are being cut every week. I have a new job now. With a crew of five men I am in charge of carrying the food from the main kitchen to our barracks and then ladle it out to each person in as even distribution as possible. Rather a hard task when everybody is desperately hungry, and food is lacking.

Today we three younger boys had our turn of wood carrying again. There is a lack of transportation, and from 30 to 40 men must go up on the mountain each day to carry wood down. It was very wet and muddy today. We have “alerts” and “air raids” frequently now. Sunday we saw a large flight of our planes go over. It was a beautiful sight. I wish the end would come soon.

Our conversation often turns to food these days. Actually I never saw so many ribs before in all my life. Willie is very thin, and although Leo is not so thin, he has much trouble with his stomach. There is absolutely no choice of food now. Take the little there is or leave it. Often after meals, unless we are in a hurry to go to work, we sit and talk of food — good food. Willie will often mention that he would like some good toast, and we have had no bread for about two and one half years. Then that sets us off, and we go all through the various breads, to pies, to cakes and then back to the butter and through the milk products, cream, cheese etc. I would like some beef, mashed potatoes and gravy.

We think of macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with cheese and tomato sauce. We run the gamut of salads, from raw vegetables to fruit. We think of pancakes and waffles. We yearn for a drink of milk, one bite of an apple, fried chicken. We ask each other if such things exist anymore. Pie ala’mode is mentioned, and some one is so far gone they ask, “what is that?” Our mouth waters when we think of peas, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, beets, roast beef, lamb chops, and remember we have not seen any of these things for months, yes, for years. Candy, chocolate, honey would be the food of the gods to us. One would like a dish of strawberries and cream, another a peach cobbler. How about a sunkist orange or a Washington Delicious apple? And the prune, humble prune, I would mortgage my life for a mouthful.

A few days ago I was reading a story about a boy who lived on a cattle ranch in the U.S. Incidentally it told of his breakfast. He put a large hot cake on his plate, slid two fried eggs from the platter on the cake, and then put another cake on top. I could not continue the story. It was impossible!

Tues. Oct. 10/44

Last Saturday, the seventh, as I was raking and burning some leaves by our quarters, the news was passed along that the two camps were to be thrown together, and also that mail was being distributed — some for me. I had two messages from Bernice, nearly a year old, two messages from Lora Jean, and later on a message from Arvilla Turner. They were short, but worth their weight in gold to our hearts, and spirits.

The reason for putting the two camps together is that the military wants the gymnasium, where many men are quartered, for a hospital, and these men are now being transferred to our camp along with others. In our barracks we have a variety of newcomers — eighteen Dutch priests, two families of Italians, and six single men. I was appointed on the housing committee with several others, and we had quite a difficult time shuffling the different ones around so the different families, sects, sexes, and nationalities would fit.

Our garden is doing nicely. We have had many messes of string beans, and twice we have had green corn. Our tomatoes are doing nicely, too. I helped Willie put up a trellis for them. Cecil and I went up on the hill back of the camp last week to carry wood for fuel for our camp kitchen. Many men went. We had a nice view out over the lake. Things are getting tough, food is getting short, and tension is increasing. We have only two meals a day now.

Sun. Sept. 17/44

It is ten a.m. and raining. Has been raining hard and often for the past two or three days. Gardens not damaged much yet. We have been having blackouts, but they were lifted last night. Rumors are to the effect that Mindanao is being bombed, shelled and attacked. We boys keep quite well, although losing in weight slightly. Food ration was not too bad this past week. Twice we cooked beans to augment the fare. Some say we shall be out of here by October or November. Most think about Christmas or New Year. We often think of our friends in Manila, as we hear that conditions are hard there, and that many are evacuating. I wonder if they are having their meetings this morning. We will go up to the chapel now to hear Dave Martin. We will have our Meeting at one-thirty.

Sun. Sept. 10/44

Just got back from the Church Service. Mr. Sanders, a Presbyterian, spoke to us about unity. He was lamenting the lack of love and harmony among the religious bodies. He hopes that ultimately all will be “one”. I am sure it will be, but perhaps in a way different from what he has in mind.

We turned in our money last week. We have canteen days three times a week. Yesterday they sold eggs, bananas, and native limes. Eggs are four pesos each. Our allowance of food from the kitchen was cut down again last week and this week more so. Today for lunch we are to have fried camotes and vegetable soup. One ladle each.

Sun. Sept. 3/44

Three weeks since I wrote last! I am glad time is going so quickly. We had much rain last month, which was good for our gardens. Willie has corn, beans, and over-ripe tomatoes in the kitchen. I have two kinds of beans, and Cecil has a small garden, too. I still work for Mr. Eaton and we have made everything from frying pans to grind stones. Tomorrow I am to work on the communion rail for the Episcopal chapel!

Two weeks ago the Japanese could give us no wood for our kitchen, so we had to have our food cooked in the lower camp. It was slim fare, and it started a flurry of garden making. Once or twice this past week we had slims, too. (Fried rice only). The water situation is a headache, too. Sometimes it comes on nicely for a few days, and then inexplicably it will go off, and we have to carry water for everything.

The night patrol has not yet started, but I have a new job in the way of teaching. I have four boys whom I am teaching first year high school composition and literature.

We have had to give a report of our finances several times. Now, we hear that all our money will be taken tomorrow and placed in the Taiwan Bank (Japanese). We may draw fifty pesos per month to spend in the camp canteen. When we learned of this we placed special orders through the canteen and paid for them. Yesterday we were fortunate to receive ten kilos of red beans. They cost us P. 325.00. More than seven dollars a pound!

We heard Bishop Binstead in the service this morning. Willie is to speak in an evening service some time this month. It is raining a little which will be good for the gardens. Cards were passed around yesterday for us to use for sending out messages. We have received a few notes from the States since coming here. I had one from Ardis, one from Iona, and one from D. Hilton. Mighty nice to have them!