June 2, 1942

More deaths in O’Donnell.

A mother heard her son was badly in need of medicine. She begged the authorities to let her see her son. After several days, her pleas were granted. She arrived in the prison camp with a doctor. When she saw her son, the last had just closed his eyes.

People are angry at Filipino high officials. Why don’t they make strong representations with the Japanese authorities? Why don’t they say bluntly, frankly, sternly that if as the Japanese claim, they are our “liberators,” then why don’t they free our sons and brothers and fathers and friends from the concentration camp?

My wife’s cousin broke into the house late last night with tears in his eyes. He received a crumpled sheet of paper from his son in camp. The boy was asking his father for medicine. He was very ill. My wife’s cousin wanted to find out if I could secure a permit to bring medicine for his son. “Surely,” he said, “there is nothing wrong in sending medicine to a dying son.” I brought him to Mrs. Vargas. She will try to use her influence. But maybe, it will be too late. I feel it in my bones.

A man came to the house this morning begging for alms. He was pale and thin and unkempt. He extended his hands tremblingly.

“Please, sir, can you give me some money? I would like to buy some medicine, sir.” His whole body was shivering.

I noticed his eyes. They seemed to be gazing nowhere. His eye sockets were yellow. But his eyes were piercing, penetrating and yet they looked dazed, unearthly.

I looked at his feet. They were swollen and his ankles were bandaged by black, dirty rags. They were feet that had walked and ran and had been soaked in mud and water.

He spoke haltingly, hesitatingly: “Sir, I am hungry. They did not want to give me food in the house over there. They told me I am strong enough to work. Please, sir, could you give me some food?”

This man, I thought, was no ordinary beggar.

“Who are you? I asked

He did not want to answer.

“Do not be afraid” I assured him.

And he told me his story.

“I was a soldier in Bataan. I escaped and walked through the mountains and the fields until I reached Manila. But when I arrived in my house, my family was no longer there. I do not know where they are. I cannot reveal to people that I am a soldier. The Japanese might arrest me.”

And then he opened his shirt. He had six wounds in his body. He was awarded the silver star for gallantry and the purple heart for his wounds.

I stood before the young veteran. Before me was a Filipino hero.

 

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