February 24, 1942

HQ, Bataan

 

Bert Misa and Saturn Velasco were here a few minutes ago. Touching sight. They looked like lost souls: thin, haggard, dirty, hungry, sunburnt. They joined as buck privates and they have to swallow everything their sergeant tells them. A private’s life is a dog’s life. Their sector is Limay beach. The poor fellows are being subjected to bombing and strafing every morning and afternoon and they only rest at night. They said: “We live underground most of the time.”

They said that Torre and Gregg are with them. Both fellows are also from Ateneo. Bert asked for a “little bit of sugar.” They complained that their daily food is nothing but salmon and lugao.

The other day Saturn found an egg. Everybody was happy but it was not enough for all of them. So they decided nobody was going to eat it.

Bert said that they pray the rosary every night. They gather all the fellows from school and those that care to join and then they pray the rosary. Gives them strength.

“After a bombardment,” Saturn said, “each one calls out for the name of the others, just to see if all are still alive.”

School-mates become more attached to each other here.

 

(later)

 

In staff meeting after dinner, the General said Japs are attempting to break through eastern sector. He stated that Japs emplaced cannons on barges pulled by motor boats and started shelling eastern shore.

Four raids this morning and three raids this afternoon. Right now there are planes flying but no bombs have been dropped yet. Our AA guns are still silent. Maybe waiting for them to fly lower.

Fred and Leonie are discussing about race prejudice. Some Americans here are too damned cocky.

 

(later)

 

Am officer of the night. Must post the sentinels.

Tried to write an article on Bataan. Couldn’t even get started.

Norman now speaking over Voice of Freedom. He reads the pep talk.

Leonie writing a radio drama. Romulo wants Vero Perfecto, Leoni, Norman and I to take part in a script depicting Bataan life in front.

Will write a script for Voice of Freedom. Will ask Leonie to fix it up.

Feeling hungry. Will pay P1,000 for a tenderloin steak. I don’t know why but I always think of steaks. Would love a cheese sandwich too.

Fred is calling Leonie and I. He says he was able to swipe a can of Condensed Milk from Major Panopio’s private supply. This will be a party, hooray.

February 22, 1942

George’s birthday. I prayed an extra rosary for him. I asked and was granted permission to go with the jitney to get supplies. My instructions were to return with the jitney. But after getting the supplies, I, with Satur Velasco, decided to proceed to the Headquarters of the Philippine Army (HPA) at Mariveles. There I met Lts. Pamintuan and Escaler who very kindly gave us a good meal, for it was high noon when we arrived at the HPA. We saw Major Fernandez who told me of the death of Lt. Vicente Fernandez, his nephew, and a former guard in Bilibid. I wrote a letter to Gonzy and George, which Lt. Escaler kindly promised to deliver when possible. I asked Captain Gutierrez, Headquarters Chaplain to please send us a Chaplain. I went to the G-2 where I located Lts. Leonie Guerrero and Buencamino. I related to them the kind of life that we led and asked Leonie if he could broadcast it over the radio so our folks back home would know that we were okay. He promised to do so. When I returned late in the afternoon, my CO was sore. He felt better when I gave him a few copies of the news bulletin that Leonie gave me. He told me that henceforth I could have no more leaves. Nevertheless, I still felt that the CO was a swell guy.

December 31, 1941

I was assigned messenger to the Battalion Headquarters. As a consequence, I was late for my first army meal. The coffee ran short. I had only bread and water for breakfast. The day was spent taking up and improving our positions along the Tagaytay ridge. Later in the day, as the Battalion Headquarters was being organized, I was taken in as an intelligence scout.

The intelligence scouts were made up of Alfred X. Burgos, Staff Sgt. Saturnino Velasco, Gregorio Anonas, Jr., Ramon Cabrera and myself. The last three were promoted from Private to Private First Class. This group stuck together during our whole service. We went through thick and thin, all as one.

At noon, permission was given the intelligence scouts to eat at the Tagaytay Hotel and Resthouse. That was the last good meal I had. At two in the afternoon, a rush order came for the immediate evacuation of the place. The intelligence scouts, left to themselves, found space in one of the trucks. The Battalion got down at the Zapote junction. There, we waited for the next orders. Home was just a 20-minute ride from the place. I was greatly tempted to sneak out for an hour but feared that the unit might move off before I returned. I would not know where to catch up with them.

We spent the time between three in the afternoon to ten in the evening sitting in a ditch cracking jokes, telling stories and imagining what a New Year we should have had if there had been no war. A New Year’s Eve in a ditch! O tempora, O mores! Then we heard continuous explosions in the direction of Fort McKinley. There was conflagration in different places in Manila.

At 10 o’clock in the evening, another rush order came. We were to leave immediately. We were not to wait for our trucks, which the Philippine Constabulary had borrowed. We were to commandeer all the trucks we needed. So, we began to stop the trucks along the road. The driver of the truck we stopped refused to surrender his truck. He said we could shoot him if we wanted but he wouldn’t surrender his truck. We loaded our guns. He immediately agreed, started the engine and we were off. The convoy commander’s car went at such a speed that we soon lost sight of it. An hour later, taking the route to Fort McKinley, we got entangled with a PC convoy. I woke up to find ourselves back in Herran loading gasoline. We were now five trucks intact. By one in the morning, we started for San Fernando, Pampanga. We did not enter Manila, but went around it. We felt heavy of heart to leave Manila – seeing that big wild fires were raging. We felt like we were abandoning our city

At 3:00 a.m., we stopped near Camp Olivas, Pampanga. Here, we were once again reunited with our main convoy. At 4:00 a.m., orders were given to start and follow the Convoy Commander. Unfortunately, our truck refused to start. Truck after truck passed us. Luckily for us, the officer-in-charge of the last truck remembered to order us to go to Pilar, Bataan. There was not a single officer in our truck. S/Sgt. Burgos was the highest ranking, we were among some 30 volunteers. We suddenly got suspicious of the truck driver. He must have tampered with the engine while we were resting.

Nevertheless, he was trying to or at least pretending to fix the motor. S/Sgt. Burgos tried to commandeer another truck. No luck. All the trucks that passed us were part of another convoy. Like a light from heaven, I suddenly remembered that we were near the Pambusco (a transportation company). I took a ride to the garage and there tried to commandeer a truck but all their trucks were out of order. I was leaving the garage when another bolt from heaven struck. A mechanic! That was it. A mechanic could come with us and fix the truck. He had but to touch the motor and it started. Alfred took the wheel, the driver was dumped in the rear and off we went. It was six-thirty in the morning.