Category Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.

April 29, 1945

The Headquarters of General MacArthur announced today the entry of his troops in Baguio, after wiping out the Japanese defenses. It took the liberators four months at the cost of a great number of men and materials to scale the mountain, blow up machine gun nests, seal thousands of caves and exterminate their defenders, and take possession of this city. Like mountain cats, the remaining Japanese continue fighting in the eastern slopes and from the top of Mt. Sto. Tomas which overlook the zigzag. An important nucleus of resistance is the Cagayan Valley. The two Ilocos regions, La Union and part of the Mountain Province, have been liberated by guerilla forces.

Thousands of residents of this summer city had been infiltrating through Japanese defenses until they reached American lines, guided by Igorots who are as loyal as they were experts in avoiding Japanese attention, in climbing rocks and jumping over precipices. Many had died in the bombings of Baguio, others succumbed to the hardship of two months of wanderings in caves and mountains or a week on the road until they reached Tubao where they were picked up by American troops.

Recto, Alunan, Paredes, Sison and De las Alas, the ex-ministers of the short-lived Republic had been captured and detained. Manuel Roxas was liberated. Laurel, Osías and Aquino fled to Japan. We could not tell whether on their own volition or forced by Yamashita. Part of those liberated had been brought to Manila and many of them are quartered in the University of Santo Tomas. They had lost their homes in Baguio and their old houses in Manila had been destroyed.

The Army in Baguio did not commit the same systematic abuses and massacre as what was planned and executed in Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas, Tayabas and in other provinces. Either they did not receive the order or they simply failed to implement it. Of course, it was easier for the victims to evade their henchmen and elude their herodian plans in the thicknesses and ruggedness of the mountains. However, at the last hour, the wriggling tail of the dying dragon killed numerous groups of unsuspecting persons, the incapacitated, the helpless who could not save themselves in time. Hundreds, or perhaps thousands of innocent lives were sacrificed.

A number of Japanese civilians and soldiers have passed over to the American lines. Among them are Mr. Yokoyama, the Japanese consul in Baguio; Mr. Okano, the head of the Religious Section of the Army and a good Catholic who had given not a few favors to the American prisoners and to the members of religious congregations; Mr. Matsuda, a professor of Nippongo, and somebody else whose surrender or capture we are not sure about.

April 1, 1945

This martyr city spent the most gloomy but the most hopeful Holy Week in its history. The wounds of its passion and crucifixion are still open and bleeding. But the hope of resurrection hovers over its dead, its wounds and its ruins.

Manila, the city of big churches and convents, has lost many of them. Ten parishes, eight convent temples, not to mention the great number of chapels, bear the mark of the tragedy.

Religious fervor has intensified. The recent experiences have awakened many, and have changed others from good to better. Among the scorched and gaping walls of roofless temples, among rubble and ruins, the faithful congregate and take a more active part in the sacred mysteries, with greater devotion than if they had stood before altars resplendent with lights and ornaments.

The piety, firmness and simplicity of the Catholic American soldiers are a living example. The devotion and frequency with which they receive the Sacraments cannot but impress both their non-Catholic comrades-in-arms as well as the Filipinos who are non-Catholic in practice. A chaplain recounted that he had converted eighty soldiers and that he is giving instruction to twenty-five more.

In the field of combat, there are no atheists.

March 20, 1945

Our new friends repeatedly asked us if we had not feared that such human slaughter would occur; if we did not have any inkling that the Japanese would make such a bloody exit.

Frankly, neither did we foresee or at least suspect such. Had we known it, we would not have submitted to it like lambs. Never did we imagine that a human being, even if he were Japanese, could go down to such a low level of brutality.

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.

March 17, 1945

I made a double round of the devastated city. As I viewed the kilometers of ruins and rubble, innumerable mansions, palaces and hotels burned, blown up or razed, holding back my breath every time the stench of corpses became unbearable, my mind was filled with deeply engraved squadron of gloomy silhouettes, sketches of apocalyptic visions, and the chanting of Jeremiac lamentations. It is impossible to transcribe all these on cold mute and blind paper. Neither Poe with his raven, nor Dumas with his dungeons nor Blasco Ibañez with his horsemen, could capture in words this immense picture of desolation. For one who had not seen this, it is impossible to believe or imagine it. And even if believed and imagined, it could not be reproduced. Everyone, soldier or civilian, who has visited this place, repeated the same refrain: “I never could imagine anything like this. It is horrible.”

Let us trace this sorrowful route which I trekked, pointing out to the imagined tourist these fields of solitude and sadness, as if we were viewing a newly excavated Pompeii or some famous Roman ruins.

To the west of the University, along España and P. Noval, three blocks of houses were burning. Scorched doors revealed the frustrated attempt of the arsonists and their plan of total destruction. The Centro Escolar at Azcarraga and its surroundings had been razed.

I passed by Sampaloc where the two churches, convents and hundreds of houses showed marks of the devastating beasts. I crossed a pontoon bridge across the Pasig near the Rotonda. The whole of Pandacan, which before was covered with gas and oil factories, with warehouses and depots, is now a heap of burned steel and wood. I crossed more bridges across esteros. At the left, I could see what used to be the Paco railroad station, the shoe factories of Hike and Esco. The whole place up to La Concordia and to the south, as far as the eyes could see, are all debris. I proceeded through Herran. At one side, Looban, were the properties of Perez Samanillo. At the other side were the factories and offices of the Tabacalera: burned and busted walls. I cruised along Marques de Comillas and San Marcelino: the church and the seminary of St. Vincent, the St. Theresa’s College, the English Club, houses and more houses, walls and roofs as if eaten up by leprosy. We turned along Concepción. The YMCA was levelled. The Sternberg hospital was demolished. City Hall was battered at its rear portion. As we turned into Taft Avenue, we saw the Legislative and Agriculture buildings reduced to rubble. In front were the Philippine Normal School, the Jai Alai, the Casino Español, the Red Cross, the Philippine Columbian Club with their roofs blown off and their windows exuding tears of smoke and carbon. To the right were the University of the Philippines, the Ateneo, the Assumption, St. Paul, the Bureau of Science, all desecrated. In Baclaran, along Harrison, the eyes revolted and the heart broke at the sight of that sorry mess. Changing sceneries, we proceeded to the Boulevard to watch the protruding — not floating — Japanese fleet which was hinged rather than anchored to the Bay. The merchant and war vessels of the invincible Japanese forces, numbering some one hundred, peeped out of the water, some on their aft, others on their fore and others showing only their mast — all in ridiculous postures hardly worthy of sons of the Mikado. They would be there down on their knees for all eternity, as silent but eloquent witnesses, confronted with the desolation of today and the splendour of tomorrow: the desolation caused by the entrails vomited out from their swollen wombs. It was the navy which entrenched themselves behind the buildings and people of Manila, blowing up and burning both as the liberators hunted them and caught up with them. Among the dead and half-buried boats, the liberating vessels scour the bay, by now cleared of enemies, both visible and invisible.

We continued our tour through Malate and Ermita. What used to be luxurious hotels and beautiful mansions now appear denuded, roofless, revealing their interiors, tattered and bleeding. Others which were of stronger materials, appear intact but their internal wounds are so serious that their interiors are torn down, as if abused by seven heavy spirits. Hotels, clubs and official residences which were the last bulwark of the suicidal assassins look like the Egyptian tombs of three hundred years ago. All the warehouses and offices of the Port Area are in ruins. Only the new Customs building is partially usable. I did not even attempt to cast a glance towards Fort Santiago, this dungeon of torture and martyrdom of thousands of heroic souls during the past three ominous years; these infernal dragons which during the month of December and January last, had devoured hundreds of illustrious lives so mysteriously; these crematories where more than two thousand men of Intramuros died of thirst and hunger during the past month. Resolutely, I entered the walled city, with a holy fear and a revolting feeling, thinking about the victims and the henchmen. Heavens! This was the abomination of desolation of the holy city. The lordly ancestral mansion of families belonging to the noblest lineage in the Philippines, the Colleges, convents and churches of three centuries of history, the hospitals and government edifices founded by the first Captains General were nothing more than mounds of dust being blown by the winds — the dust of the centuries.

In the midst of this jungle of corroded and desecrated walls the church of San Agustin still stands. It is providential that this temple, the oldest in the Philippines, the only structure that withstood the earthquakes that rocked the city from 1645 to 1880, the imposing and historical building around which the social and official life and history of the Spanish Philippines evolved since 1606 when it was completed by the Augustinian Antonio Herrera, son or nephew — it is immaterial which was which — of the divine Herrera who was immortalized in the Escorial, tomb of Legazpi and the first captain generals, this artistic monument of times past, remains standing on its feet and that its wounds could easily be healed. It is a drop of balsam in the sea of bitterness which drowns the whole religious and artistic soul.

The Cathedral, the churches and convents of the Franciscans, the Recollects, the Capuchins, the Jesuits, Sta. Clara, which made the City of Legazpi sacred; the hospitals of San Juan de Dios and St. Paul, the College and Abbey of Sta. Isabel, municipal building, the headquarters of Spain, Fort Santiago, and other monuments and relics … fallen leaves shaken by the savage wind. The University of Benavides, with greater destruction than the temple of the Sun, is like the pyramids. The thick walls are like a ring broken into pieces; only a small part remains intact. Its fortresses are in ruins.

Saddened by the tour I made of this sorrowful way, I left the sacred place. I turned my gaze and it pained me to see the skeletal remains with its dented head towering over the ruined fortress. It was Letran.

I crossed the river through one of the pontoon bridges built over the foundations of the former Jones bridge. The zapos, as our Mexican friends called their enemies, did not respect either God or Mammon. The whole of the commercial district from Quezon Boulevard to the sea, and from Azcarraga to the Pasig had been dynamited and burned. I cast my sight through the length of the Escolta, Plaza Cervantes and Dasmariñas, then cruised along Rosario, turned to Rizal Avenue — all a jungle whose cedars and oaks showed their mutilated trunks, burned, blackened and divested of all verdure and foliage, and whose shrubs had been chopped off: such was the view presented by those modern skyscrapers and the old Chinese establishments. The breadth of a giant — a portentous machinery recently imported — was blowing over those pulverized and dislocated bones, charred and smashed, flying all over the vast ossarium, and prophesying, like another Ezekiel — over the numerous skeletons both metaphoric and human. In the manner of a great restorer, it infuses the breadth of life into the remains capable of renovation, reviving what appears to be a recently excavated mausoleum, and collecting the ashes, burying them with glory.

I went into the district north of Azcarraga and I was surprised to see an area of two kilometers, as long and as wide as an airfield or a football field. It was the district of Tondo, burned by the soldiers of Yamashita, Japanese and Filipinos, and levelled by the motorized spades of MacArthur. In the midst of all these, lay the skeletal remains of a Church.

The pearl was polished and cleaned, but it had lost the greater and the better part of its luster. More than two-thirds of its area carried the mark of the apocalyptic beast. The official count has not yet been completed, and already seventy-five thousand buildings have been reported destroyed. The loss was estimated at two billion pesos. This estimate included only the fixed assets. The cost of others is incalculable. I noticed that in these devastated areas were situated the more sumptuous residences, banks, flourishing business houses, factories and the best equipped offices. All these were a total loss. What the Japanese did not steal, the fire devoured. What the fire did not devour, the bombs pulverized.

Behind the devastating plague of the Japanese marauders was an army of parasites — the looters and opportunists — who, hardly had the demolition troops blown up a building, preyed on whatever was saved from destruction, more violently than the fighting men. Many of them paid highly with their lives in the hands of their competitors or by stray bullets or by booby traps or bombs, planted by the retreating Japanese. But they could not be contained.

Those who saved their lives had only their lives to save. They lost their property and belongings, one or all the members of their families and, in many cases, one or more parts of their bodies. It was as if an anarcho-communist revolution had broken out devastating houses and properties. Like death, it was a major cause of the loss of property. There were no poor nor rich: all that was left were mendicants. Those who were rich before were now poor, and the poor of some years ago became rich for a while and are now poorer than before. The rich had given up their wealth in the material sense, and had grown the wiser morally and spiritually. Those who were not poor in spirit had been impoverished in both senses. How public morality has degenerated! Less of heroes, more of the timid, much more of the coward. The unfortunate travellers who were left alone by the Japanese thieves after divesting them, were further robbed by others of what they had been left with. Others died on the way. Only a few who went through, having been saved by some Samaritan who at the expense of life or death, came to their rescue. Each one showed his true color. The gold was melting, the tinsel piling up in dumps.

If not for the limitless generosity of the US Army, we all would have died of hunger. They fed those who did not have anything to eat nor the means to obtain it. They fed and clothed those who had lost everything. Those that they employed, they paid with a good wage, selling them food and clothing. The government did not have a single centavo in revenue, nor were there any prospects of having any within several months. The PACU was spending some half a million pesos a week merely for salaries and wages in the city.

Manila, March 6, 1945

I returned to Manila, this time for good. These officers were so accommodating that they were willing to go two hundred kilometers just to please us. But, in order not to absent themselves from their posts during their tour of duty, they travelled during the unholy hours of the night. Never had I experienced such cold weather in the Philippines. It reminded me of Siberia. Our host, a phenomenon that he was a captain at 24 and weighed 280 pounds, had to put on his leather jacket. With my frail body and with my tropical garb, I was shivering all over.

The mountains to the east of Bamban were still shaking under the thunderous pounding of our friends in the 43rd Division. Without giving enough time for rest and the disposal of casualties suffered in Rosario and the road to Baguio, the High Command transferred part of the Division to Zambales and part to Camp Murphy in New Manila for a mopping up operation of Clark Field and Antipolo.

That night, when I heard their cannon rumbling, I whispered a prayer for our liberators, our best friends who up to this time were still with me, the bravest and the most generous.

February 27, 1945

The last night I spent in Manila was the first that was exempt from the thunder and lightnings of war. I returned to my rural residence, From 7:30 in the morning to 7:39 in the evening — the return trip was not as enjoyable and as fast as when I left. Inhaling dust, I watched the interminable caravan of vehicles going towards Manila. Each time, we stood amazed by the numerous war equipment produced by the Americans and landed here by the army.

Some 25 kilometers north of Manila, I saw by the bridge of Meycauayan a dozen of Japanese prisoners, withered and starved. They had just been captured while awaiting a chance to attack the Americans who would pass by the bridge. Such attacks were frequent — on bridges, in encampments, always at night and suicidal, with hand grenades or bayonets. The damage they caused was insignificant in comparison with what they suffered. But, either on their own will or upon orders, they had to die, killing in the process. It was easy for them to die, but they found it difficult to kill. For what could they do with their antiquated arms against automatic rifles which could discharge thirty rounds or more? They were searching for immortality and they found it. They wanted death and glory — not death or glory — and the G.I.’s gave it to them wholeheartedly. It was an insatiable thirst, this suicidal and destructive fanaticism. It was so irritating, inexplicable, exciting and the cases involving it so typical, crude and frequent that we always tended to deal on this sempiternal topic without exhaustion. And the more we delved into it, the more we found it inexplicable and unpardonable.

In Calasiao, I saw a vast expanse of land surrounded by wired fence. I was told that it was a concentration camp for those captured in the northern sector. The prisoners could be seen walking, working or resting. The police had to be on watch, not to prevent their escape but to protect them from being attacked. They knew that if they escaped, they would not only be unable to find anyone to give them refuge, but they would certainly be cut to pieces either by the guerillas or by their countrymen.

The American Army took few prisoners. The Filipino Army turned in only dead ones. Sometimes the MP’s had to defend the prisoners from the infuriated populace.

A war correspondent gave me an account of the following interview he had with a captured official:

“Who do you think will win the war?”

“Japan”, grunted the ill-humored Japanese.

“How will Japan win, with such a tremendous inferiority of arms?”

“Japan can never lose.”

“You mean Japan never loses?”

“Never.”

“Not even in games?”

“Not even in games.”

“Did you not lose all the games, some ten years ago, against an American team which went to your country?”

“No. The Yankees made more points, but they lost the games. They did not know how to bow, how to laugh and how to greet. They made more goals, but they lost the contest.”

February 25, 1945

Corregidor and Bataan of historic memories were taken with relative ease. History did not repeat itself. The small but epic peninsula was cleaned of Japanese by an American division which two weeks earlier had landed in Subic. Troops also landed on Corregidor from the air and from the sea in a simultaneous landing screened by squadron fire. The air drop operation was very difficult as the small island did not have sufficient landing areas. Never had there been such a big casualty in so small an operation. The invaders had to finish off the seven thousand defenders, with only some twenty prisoners taken.

What end did the Japanese High Command want to achieve with their plan of suicidal extermination of the troops, either by their own hands or by the hands of the invaders? If a handful of valiant soldiers would take after Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans, that was understandable. But that hundreds of thousands or that the whole Army would be sacrificed for a national objective, only fanaticism or desperation could explain. What would the military leaders achieve through the extinction of almost the whole masculine population and great part of the feminine population of the country? To kill a number of thousand enemies at the expense of millions of their own soldiers, sacrificed to the Imperial idol! In many occasions, groups of soldiers wanted to surrender, but their officer prevented them at gunpoint. The few who had been captured, yielded to force or against their will or their officers were powerless to intervene.

The civilians who escaped the murderous claws of the Japanese were able to save themselves either fortuitously or through the intervention of some good-hearted Japanese — we have to do justice to some of them who saved others at the risk of their own lives — and always by a providential act of the divine mercy which knows how to counteract the most notorious plans. Both the annihilation of the civilian population and the mass suicide of the Japanese army and people had been premeditatedly planned by order of the Imperial government which wanted to drown national defeat and humiliation in blood. After my disaster, the deluge, but a deluge in which even the saving arc of civilization would perish — that is, if the arc would be capable of saving anything. Such was the plan of these Oriental fanatics. War is hell. Men are transformed into demons converting the earth into an infernal fire.

What faith can we have in science, in civilization, in humanitarianism? Or in other deities of modern paganism which have despised the true God in its search for its messiah among self-manufactured idols? Someone started believing that all is futile, all: men, ideas, culture… even religion. Could it not be pride, concupiscence, effeminacy that had unleashed this deluge of passions, afflictions and punishment over prevaricating humanity? Would that the Lord leave the triumphal arc of salvation soon, and that he would not turn away from men!

In all the battlefronts, the bloody scenes witnessed in Manila were reproduced. The Army of Yamashita was divided into five sectors, each one isolated from the others, thrusting back and forth with impotent strokes like the dying quivers of a severed reptile’s tail. The main body of the Japanese Army was bottled up in the mountains of the north by the American divisions which were operating from the Balete Pass and the P. Villaverde road up to Aringay, passing through the hills between Rosario and Baguio. This body was separated from the rest of the Japanese troops when the American 6th and 25th divisions cut through the north of Nueva Ecija until they reached the opposite coast near Baler. There was no other way left for the invincible Army of Yamashita but a desperate annihilation, shielding themselves behind the mountains and the populace. From cave to cave, they were hunted and exterminated like dangerous animals. Many were dying of hunger, sickness or misery. Others were found emaciated, naked and so weak they could not even lift their arms.

February 24, 1945

The final and thorough attack on Intramuros was effected yesterday. After the artillery assault, the most thunderous and terrifying we had ever heard over this locality, armored cars and amphibian tanks crossed the river along that area and landed via Santa Clara in the Cathedral plaza, advancing up to the center of the Walled City. At the same time, other units hopping through the rubble of the walls at the south of the Victoria Gate, despite heavy casualties, penetrated along the once narrow streets now in ruins, until they joined the amphibian forces.

Towards the afternoon yesterday, the first liberated residents of Intramuros arrived. I talked to some of them. They were completely rattled and shaken not because of wounds or weakness but more because of the horrible scenes that they witnessed and the savagery which they had been subjected to.

The most coherent account was made by Fr. Belarmino de Celis of the Convent of St. Augustine which I shall narrate here as a typical example.

On February 8, all male residents of Intramuros from fourteen years up were taken to Fort Santiago. The women and children were herded into San Agustin Church and the Cathedral. Then the Japanese made a thorough search of all houses, placing dynamite in strong buildings to blow them up or burn them later. In prison, the Spaniards were separated from the Filipinos who numbered about two thousand. After a week without food and water, they were sprayed with gasoline with the use of a hose. Many thought that it was water and therefore opened their mouth to quench their thirst. They were then burned alive. A number of them, driven mad by the fire and by thirst, were able to break the bars of the cells and jumped into the river. But they were machine-gunned by the sentries, and only two, a Filipino and a Spanish youth, were able to escape. The young Spanish, Luis Gallent, with a fractured dorsal spine, swam to the opposite bank and was picked up by the Americans.

The Spanish group (among whom were forty missionary priests) was detained in another room, where they were so crowded that there was no room to fall down on the floor. The food sent them by the women from San Agustin was appropriated by the Japanese. On the 10th, they were returned to the San Agustin Church. Both in prison and in this church, five Filipino spies who confessed their guilt, were mixed with them.

On the 18th, they were moved out to a warehouse in front of Sta. Clara, after the women were assured that the men were being transferred to a safer place, and only for a day or two. The evening of the following day, they were made to line up in the street, guarded by an additional contingent from Fort Santiago, and led to some wide concrete shelters constructed in the yard of the old headquarters in front of the Cathedral.

With their repeated and courteous protests that measures be taken to protect them from the intense shelling, they were made to enter the shelters. In one shelter, eighty were herded, in another, thirty-seven. As the caves did not have the capacity for so many, they made the most of the situation as, after all, the shelling would last only for a couple of hours. When they were all packed up and praying the rosary and receiving the absolution, the Japanese started hurling hand grenades through the port holes of the shelter. Everyone was wounded, each in varying degrees. Some were able to force the door open and attempted to escape. They were met with bullets and laughter. A good number were killed. When the shouting and moanings decreased, the entrance was sealed with earth and gasoline drums so hermetically that those who were still alive died of suffocation.

In another smaller shelter, the soldiers threw grenades through the entrance, and only those near it received the impact. Seven survivors were able to make an opening and got out of the sepulchre alive.

In the other shelter, Fr. Belarmino, with his face and side pierced by shrapnel, noted that he was not seriously wounded, but he was suffocating in that cave and tried to bore a hole at the entrance. But one of the graveyard caretakers detected the hole and sealed it. After a long while, the interred prisoner opened it anew. He had to crawl over the corpse of his dead companions. He could still hear the moanings of some who were in agony. The shells which continued falling all around caused earth and stone to fall and cover the agonizing and the dead. The corpses decomposed and were covered with flies.

Fr. Belarmino was buried alive for seventy mortal hours, dying of thirst and suffocation. On the night of the 22nd, he decided to die of bullets rather than of asphyxiation. He succeeded in removing sufficient quantity of stones and thus create a wide opening. The Father and Mr. Rocamora, the only survivors, pulled themselves, as they could not walk, they crossed the plaza of the Cathedral which was littered with broken glass and barbed wire which opened up new wounds. But they were able to reach the Bureau of Justice building. After a short rest, the priest left his companion who could not crawl any farther and he reached the convent of Santa Clara where he asked for food and water from the Sisters. The Sisters could not give him food or drink as they themselves did not have any. He advised them to leave the convent. They were surprised how he was able to reach that far without having been killed by the sentries and they begged him to go before the sentry returned and killed him. He returned to the Bureau of Justice, searched all corners and found a toilet with the tank full of water. He quenched his thirst and filled a can for his companion. They recovered their strength somehow in spite of the loss of blood, and passed the rest of the night quietly.

Yesterday morning, the siege subsided over that part of Intramuros after a very intense barrage, preparatory to the crossing of the river. There was calm for a couple of hours. Suddenly, they heard voices: “Come on, come out.” From the accent, they knew that they were Americans and they saw the heavens open. The Father, supporting himself on the wall, came out to meet them. But his companion could not move. Three sisters of Santa Clara came. Their convent was a heap of rubble where ten other Sisters were buried. The priest showed the soldiers where his companion was and they took him in a stretcher while he, supported by two soldiers, was taken to another building where he was given food and water. He told them about the two shelters full of people, but they could not cross the Plaza as the Japanese were firing at the Cathedral. He was transferred to the other side of the river and later was brought to the hospital at the UST campus where he narrated to me all these.

In another ward, I visited Fr. Cosgrave, an Irish Redemptorist. He had both shoulders pierced by a bayonet. His account was another typical one among hundreds which could be told.

Fr. Cosgrave, together with sixteen lay brothers, their chaplain and four families were living in an unoccupied portion of the De La Salle College. The four families — of Vásquez Prada, Judge Carlos, Dr. Cojuangco and his politician brother, were composed of thirty women and children, twelve houseboys, aside from the men, a total of seventy persons.

On the 7th of February, the Japanese took the Director, Brother Xavier and Dr. Carlos. They never returned. On the 12th, while the refugees were under the stairs because of a violent shelling, a Japanese officer with twenty soldiers came. Upon orders from the officer, the soldiers poked their bayonets at all men, women and children. Some of the Brothers — twelve of them were Germans — were able to get away and run upstairs. They were chased by the soldiers and were stabbed at the entrance of the chapel, others inside. Those who resisted were shot by the officer.

When the soldiers were through with the orgy, they dragged the bodies and piled them under the stairs, the dead over those who were still alive. Not all died upon being stabbed. Among them were children of two years and less.

At about ten o’clock in the evening, the chaplain, notwithstanding his wounded shoulders, was able to free himself from the heap of corpses and crawl upstairs to the chapel. He administered the extreme unction on the agonizing, himself resigned to his fate, and likewise asking pardon for their torturers. He found other corpses in the chapel. Hiding behind the altar were ten others.

On the following day, the Japanese started blowing up different parts of the College. They tried to burn the chapel, but as it was made of concrete, only the furnitures caught fire. For a while, they feared that the smoke would suffocate them. On the 15th, after four days of natural fasting and slow bleeding, the ten survivors — among them a son of former Speaker Aquino — were saved by the liberating troops.

These two preceding accounts were later confirmed by the two narrators in signed and sworn statements.

Among those who were buried alive in Intramuros were fourteen Augustinians, ten Franciscans, six Recollects, nine Capuchins (including three who died in Singalong) and two Filipino priests.

Others who died of Japanese brutality were the Fathers Commissary, Guardian and Procurator General of San Francisco; Fathers Gaudencio and Carlos Castrillo, Fictor, Polo, Alvarado, Pinedo and Casares, all Augustinians; the Prior and Procurator General of the Recollects, and the Capuchin Superior. A number of my old friends, Spanish and Filipinos, were also killed.

The following figures speak eloquently for themselves: It was estimated that Intramuros had seven thousand inhabitants. All the men above 14 years were killed, except some twenty sick or wounded. The women and the children were saved because the Japanese used them to defend themselves and for other diabolic purposes. When the shelling intensified, the Japanese would bring the women and children to the churchyard and make them walk in the streets so that the American plane which directed the shelling would see them. They were thrown out into the streets when the liberators broke into Intramuros in the hope that they would be killed in the cross fire. However, they arrived in Letran and were picked up there by the Americans and brought to the rearguard. About eighty per cent were saved.

February 21, 1945

Weeks have passed since the start of a thorough attack on the south of the Pasig. The battle was bloody and although there were heaps of Japanese fatalities, there were very few prisoners. American casualties were heavy. The front line ran along behind San Luis Street, behind the Casino Español, City Hall up to Quezon Bridge. American artillery is demolishing the palace of the High Commissioner, the Army and Navy Club, the Bayview Hotel and the government buildings east of the Wallace Field. City Hall and the Post Office building also received their share of shells.

The shelling of Intramuros has begun. The Japanese are using the walls as mortar positions and defense walls. They launched a mortar attack on the tower of the UST main building, and another on the Education building.

American firing during the day is incessant, and by night, formidable. They are pulverizing the buildings between Taft Avenue and Burgos Street, and those of the Luneta. The clouds of smoke rise like a black torrent surging from the horizon and enveloping the sky. We are worried about the fate of the residents of Intramuros, trapped within its walls. We can only foresee unspeakable anguish and torture and a bloody agony in the hands of their tormentors.

The number of persons imprisoned is calculated to be around seven thousand, among whom were some forty missionaries, mostly Spanish, and some Filipino and Spanish Sisters.

The High Command, before dealing the final blow in Intramuros, appealed to the Japanese defenders to surrender in order to save so many innocent lives. Not receiving any response, they proposed the alternative of letting the civilians free with the assurance that all firing will cease for four hours. The time specified elapsed and no one went out.

The remaining Japanese troops are incessantly putting to action their plan of murder, suicide and devastation.

What are the Japanese achieving by these killings — of others and of themselves? By this destruction of the city and its landmarks? Instead of saving their faces, Oriental style, they will pass into eternity stigmatized by their barbarism and vandalism, and eternally hated by the Filipino people and nations whose citizens they have massacred.

February 20, 1945

Let us shift our view for a while from this scenario of horrors, and take a look at the Manila of the liberators, as it was narrated to me.

The American High Command has not failed to notice the vandalistic scheme of the Japanese in the attempt to save themselves with the City and with the residents of the Capital, of converting the city into a heap of rubble and killing all the inhabitants, starting with the internees in Santo Tomas.

This was confirmed by some well-meaning Japanese. The program of destruction, murder and suicide, which is being launched in the southern zone is also being planned for the northern section. Written orders to this effect had been found and brought by the guerillas to the headquarters of General MacArthur.

The Japanese did not expect the American advance forces at the approach to Manila until about the 6th or 7th of February, so that on the 3rd, it was supposed that the front line was about fifty kilometers from Balintawak. On the eve of this day, at about 8:00 o’clock, the priests and internees of Santo Tomas heard tanks penetrating through España street. They posted themselves in front of the gate of the University campus. Lights went on and illuminated the buildings. Jubilant shouts and outbursts of joy were heard from the detainees who barely perceived that their liberation was forthcoming. In a few moments, volleys sounded from within and without the campus. The tanks and machine-guns replied. A number of soldiers and guerillas who served as guides fell, among them Manuel Colayco and the young Kierulf who died later. Absolute silence. Total darkness. Then the lead tank barged in through the fence into the campus, followed by seven others and by twenty trucks loaded with troops, the first with lights on, the others without lights. They reached the front of the Main building. Another shout and welcome from the prisoners. A new discharge of fire from the Japanese defenders, and then another sepulchral silence. The monstrous caterpillars kept advancing along the sides of the building until they were positioned one at each alley. Some internees started fraternizing with the liberators and received their first cigarettes, biscuits and canned goods. Other tanks positioned themselves towards the gymnasium and the Education building.

So passed the night.

At daybreak, the capture of the Gymnasium. There were Japanese soldiers there guarding the prisoners. But they fled into the darkness. The Americans scoured the place fearing that the Japanese had hidden themselves in a nearby grassy area. But they could not be found.

Later, the conquest of the Education building. There were some seventy Japanese soldiers dispersed behind the detainees. The Americans appealed to the Japanese to surrender. No response. They were promised to be let free out of the campus. Negative. They were promised to be transported with their arms up to the Japanese lines. The Japanese conceded, and in two trucks they were transported up to the Rotonda.

That was how the campus which had imprisoned some four thousand internees, and, incidentally, occupants of the seminary, was recaptured. But they were so far the only liberated buildings together with those near Malacañang. The rest of the city, during the night of the 3rd and the whole day of the 4th, were still not re-occupied, except in the sense that the liberators were almost in the middle of the capital. But there was only a handful of American troops who had entered the enemy territory. It was a blow which was as bold as it was daring.

The First Cavalry, dismounted but motorized, had left Cabanatuan two days before. As it was left behind forty kilometers from the main body of the advance forces, it opened up a road through Novaliches and Balintawak, Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard, spitting machinegun shells against Japanese troops and trucks they encountered along the way, and penetrating almost into the heart of the city. They were about a thousand men surrounded by Japanese forces bent on defending the city. Their audacity rattle the enemy. If the Japanese had a foreknowledge of the small number of the infiltrating forces, and had they organized a rapid and decisive attack on the Americans, the liberating forces would have been annihilated. They had thirty-six hours to do it and they faltered. Thus were saved the First Cavalry, the American prisoners and the north of Manila.

In the morning of the 5th, when the Japanese initiated a disorganized attack from España street, from Far Eastern University and from Bilibid, the 37th Division had already penetrated the City from the north and from the east, joining the liberators of Santo Tomas, and jointly re-occupying Quezon City and the sector of Manila north of Azcarraga. Malacañan and Bilibid, where some one thousand two hundred seventy war and civil prisoners were detained including those who came from Baguio, were also liberated.

The Japanese began their program of destruction. They placed cans of gasoline and mines in big buildings of the Escolta, and surrounding streets, and destroyed fire engines and equipments. They blew up and burned buildings, and the uncontrollable fires razed the whole of the commercial district from Azcarraga to the Pasig.

On the 6th, the Americans positioned themselves along the Pasig River. The whole northern region was thus liberated, although small groups of Japanese continued burning clusters of houses and forcing the Filipinos under their control to do the same. On the 7th, the battle of the Philippine General Hospital shelled the north of the city, especially the University of Santo Tomas which suffered fifty to sixty hits, mostly on the construction of P. Ruaño, the principal target of the Japanese guns. There was a lamentable number of casualties, some forty dead and three hundred wounded among the recently liberated. In the Education building, five were wounded. In the Seminary, there were only two slight casualties, a priest and a househelp. The attack lasted forty-eight hours.

The Japanese blew up the four bridges across the Pasig. On the 7th, further beyond Malacañan, five battalions of the 37th Division crossed the river in tanks and amphibian trucks and, after fierce fighting, they opened up a path through the cleared areas of Paco and the Gas factory. The Japanese defenders started converting each house and building into a fortress, burning them and killing their occupants when they had to abandon their posts.

In the meantime, the 11th Airborne Division, after a successful landing in Tagaytay, advanced until they joined the first wave at the southern approaches to the capital through Baclaran and Nichols Field. They mopped up these areas, destroying one hundred Japanese fighter planes and capturing seventy-five pieces of artillery and one hundred and twelve machineguns. They then proceeded towards Pasay. The cavalry made a second crossing of the Pasig through Sta. Ana. After a bitter house-to-house fighting, they drove back the Japanese from the hippodrome and from Makati. They then joined the 37th Division near the Paco Railroad station, and the 11th Airborne at the north of the Polo Club.

With these reunited forces, the Japanese defenses in Manila have been isolated and pushed back in Singalong, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Intramuros and the Port Area. American advance is slow. They are not employing the air force and they use the artillery with moderation for the sake of the civilians. The soulless defenders entrench themselves behind houses and concrete buildings, devoting their time more to arson and murder rather than in fighting the liberators. The Americans, in a rapid execution of strategy, were able to save some seven thousand refugees at the General Hospital before the vandals could effect their diabolic plans.

February 18, 1945

The evenings are a nightmare. They bring a rosary of shocks produced by powerful guns which, from New Manila and Grace Park, strike at Ermita and Intramuros, shaking the air, the earth, the doors and the nerves. Projectiles fly over our heads, whistling their funereal song of destruction. We cannot look at them: we can only follow their trajectory with our ears. Mortars from the Far Eastern University and the Osmeña Park batter the eardrums with metallic poundings. Machine guns, crackling like coffee grinders –Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac! rattle in, from behind, at the sides, in search of Japanese snipers. The fires from the Japanese side which reach our vicinity add to the confusion. A mortar hit the tower of the main building where the Americans had set up an observation post, and from which General MacArthur observed enemy lines this morning. Others fell on the Education building and on the intern’s garden. However, there were no casualties.

But more shattering than the dissonant harmony of war engines is the news about the tragedies suffered by survivors who escaped from the southern part of the city. The accounts are so terrifying and so macabre that my spirit was filled with infinite bitterness, and I wept with tears of pain and indignation. From the sadness and sympathy arose an impotent anger against the infernal forces which vented its desperation and hate among the civilian populace. So many families of acquaintances and friends exterminated. So many mutilated. So many who escaped the Japanese hell lost everything but their lives. The hospitals –the few old ones which still remain, and a number of improvised ones– are filled with the wounded, whose hands or feet or body are perforated with bullets or shrapnels. Many are searching desperately for their lost loved ones. Manila is a picture of sadness impossible to describe.

The Japanese plan of attack against the defenseless Manilans is as diabolic as it is organized. Its defense strategy consists in positioning themselves behind the civilian residents, and as the conquerors advance within a dangerous distance, they flee or burn the buildings and retreat a few blocks backwards. They machinegun the residents who attempt to put out the fire or run for their lives. The only way to save themselves is to jump into a ditch and stay there. Anyone who raises his head is fired at. They stay for four to eight days without eating or drinking, tortured by a rabid thirst. I was told of cases where persons, dying of thirst, drank human blood mixed with mud.

In many cases, the soldiers would approach the ditches and kill the occupants with bayonets. That was how they killed the De La Salle Brothers –Irish and Germans–, the Padres Paules of San Marcelino among whom were Fr. Visitator Tejada and Fr. José Fernández, and Irish Fathers of Malate, together with the evacuees in their buildings. The same fate fell on fifty others, almost all of whom were Spanish, who took shelter in the Spanish consulate. Aside from being attacked with bayonets, they were also attacked with hand grenades. Only a little girl escaped alive.

Another way of liquidating the people is by herding them into a house and setting fire to it, at the same time hurling hand grenades inside. Anyone who attempts to escape is shot.

There were frequent cases where soldiers threw hand grenades into the ditches or air raid shelters, and those who attempted to escape were hunted like animals. In order to economize on bullets, the assassins usually would tie entire families to post or pillars and kill them with bayonets. It was not rare that a hundred or more persons were lined up and machinegunned.

In the shelter at the German Club, some four hundred persons of different nationalities were attacked and massacred by drunken soldiers. Only about half a dozen escaped. The young Enrique Miranda, son of Telesforo Miranda Sampedro, told me that his mother and five brothers were taken by the Japanese. He did not know what happened to them. We learned later that their bodies were found mangled –those of his two brothers, in the street. Enrique said that he was made to kneel down and they hit him on his neck. He lost consciousness. He came to his senses when a soldier was prickling him with the point of his bayonet to find out if he was already dead. He tried to bear the pain and feigned death. The soldier covered him with earth. He was able to bore a hole through which he breathed. Later, he squeezed himself out and, bleeding all over, he hid among the stones until he was found by the Americans.

In Singalong, the Japanese marines gathered the men to send them on forced labor. The men were made to line up and were herded on groups of ten into houses where their heads were cut off. As those who were in the streets could not hear anything, they entered the houses confidently, believing they were only to register their names. A son of Mr. Ynchausti, among others, escaped, but was badly wounded.

It was providential that in almost all cases, someone among the victims was able to escape and was able to relate the fate of his companions.

The Japanese installed machineguns on the towers of the Paco and Singalong churches, not to counterattack the approaching Americans but to mow down the residents –men, women and children– who might attempt to flee. The Remedios Hospital and the San Andres agricultural school, where thousands of escapees had taken shelter, were shelled with mortars and even Japanese anti- aircraft guns. Many, however, were also killed by American bombs.

Very few persons escaped unscathed from the southern xone. There were countless wounded and it was almost impossible to attend to them all in spite of the fact that the doctors and nurses, both Americans and Filipinos, worked beyond their limits. The suicidal and homicidal plan of the Japanese, according to superior orders, was to exterminate the whole population and annihilate themselves. Survivors attributed their survival to a miracle and to a special favor of Providence. Many promises and vows were made and each escapee had his heartrending tragedy to tell.

The savagery displayed by the Imperial Army is as brutal as it was unexpected or, better still, it is doubly brutal for being unexpected. There were fears, and it was expected, that the Japanese would not hand over the city on a silver platter, but we could not believe that their ferocity would reach such a point of diabolic savagery.

The phantom of hunger not only hovers over the people. It holds the people captive in their claws. There is nothing to buy in stores and marketplaces. And where there are goods, there is no money with which to buy them. The occupation money has been reduced to what it is –scratch paper. The new Victory bills which the U.S. Army brought along, are still hardly in circulation. Those fortunate ones who live in the liberated zone have exhausted the supplies of rice and mongo. Parents and friends of escapees from the Japanese hell who were given refuge by those in the north are creating problems of food supply.

The American Red Cross, the PCAU and the soldiers themselves try to assist the hungry people, but there are so many of them and here is just not enough supply for all. I met a number of friends whom I hardly remembered, especially those who escaped from the claws of the Japanese and who had been reduced to skin and bones. There were also those who had been wounded or mutilated. The liberating troops, as they advance step by step, house by house, perform the dual function of combatants and Samaritan, gathering the survivors, assisting them with their own rations and transporting them to the rearguard. The wounded are transported by the Red Cross, the officers of the chaplains to improvised hospitals at the north of the Pasig. The able bodied travel in the way they could, searching for the members of their families who were separated in fleeing from Japanese fire and vandalism. Hungry and thirsty, they roam the streets as souls in agony, broken and ragged, pale and sweating under the heat of the sun, looking for people they know, and recounting their own horrors and those of others.

Manila, February 15, 1945

A provost official –one of the many new friends with whom we had been fraternizing– offered me a trip to Manila in his jeep. I accepted willingly, in order to have a personal knowledge of what is happening in the Capital.

We left at 7:00 in the evening and we were at Balintawak by midnight. It was a very fast trip by the standards of these times. All the bridges had been blown up by the Japanese and had been replaced by pontoon bridges constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The way these soldiers are working is admirable.

We did not attempt to enter the city. Shelling was very intense. We spent the night in the jeep, parked in the middle of thick grasses. I did not sleep a wink as I watched the shrubs and grasses move, not by the wind but by some snipers. I heard the thundering booms of the guns and the whistling flight of shells as they rent the air over our heads, while in the city, vast columns of smoke were rising and big fires were raging.

At the break of day I entered the main gate of the University for the first time in three years. I found the Seminary filled with refugees. Most of them came from this northern sector of Manila where several blocks of houses had been burned by fire caused by Japanese, or started by Filipinos who had been paid or forced to burn them. The Education building has been converted to a hospital for civilian casualties who came from the south in uncontrollable influx.

The internees are still living in the main building in other smaller ones. They were huddled in rooms and corridors, but free, happy, well fed and properly clothed. Many of them are gradually recovering from their skeletal countenance and their cadaveric paleness due to starvation under the Japanese regime.

During these past months, some eight to twelve internees were dying daily; the others are so weak they cannot stand on their feet. The beehive activities on the campus, with the incessant buzzing produced by the movements, the coming and going of soldiers, internees, refugees and vehicles are in contrast with the sepulchral silence of this place.

February 10, 1945

We received some evacuees who passed through fields which were not yet liberated. They told us that there are thousands of them in Alacan, a barrio of San Fabian where they are attended to by the Red Cross and the PCAU. They were fleeing from the Japanese soldiers who devoted themselves to pillage, rape and murder of people who fell into their hands. The people are fleeing to the mountains, looking for occasions to cross the line of fire.

We also had under our shelter seven Belgian Sisters from Tubao, with two missionary priests. They were picked up by the Red Cross and brought to this Sanctuary. Thousands of others are being assisted and transported to places behind the lines. We know nothing about those who are at the other side of the battlefield, and we are expecting the worst.

February 4, 1945

The advance troops of the liberators entered Manila last night after thirty-seven long months since the remaining troops of the USAFFE retreated to Bataan. We cannot tell how many districts of Manila are already liberated. News dispatches are a little confused. All we are sure of is that the first place recaptured is the University of Santo Tomas with all its residents, priests and internees. We were told that the rest of the city had been turned into a battlefield, won not amidst psalms and cheers but amidst firings and shellings “…that this city and all its people might be protected…”

The conquest of the Central Plain of Luzon was a successful one. The 210 kilometers between the Gulf of Lingayen and the City of Manila were negotiated in 27 hours instead of 27 days. Except in Bamban and Stotsenberg where the enemy had attacked from the nearby hills, the Yankee war machinery rolled through the wide open fields without opposition.

The enemy had lost the battle of Luzon when it allowed the gigantic invading equipment to land unopposed. In the open fields, the Japanese could not put up a fight. They preferred to retreat in disarray, dispersed like scared rabbits as the mechanized columns of the invaders rolled by. Yamashita’s strategy was to convert the mountain ranges of Caraballo and Zambales into another Bataan, in the manner of MacArthur’s defense three years ago. The Imperial Army was entrenched in the rugged mountains without roads and almost without any footpaths, turning each mountain into a fortress, each hill into a machinegun nest and each cliff into a trench. They dug a complex of tunnels of communications through the mountain where they hid and installed their artillery. They fired from the mouths of the tunnel to avoid being localized by the American Air Force and artillery. The Americans had to destroy these subterranean hideouts one by one. Not only did they blow up these artillery nests. They chased those who manned the guns and flushed the others out of the caves and tunnels who defended themselves like corralled beasts.

Under this mode of defense, it was not necessary to launch big battles nor heavy attacks nor fighting on a grand scale, nor mechanized campaigns. It was a work of mopping up, a fight of a group of hunters against a group of game animals. The air force, the tanks and armoured cars were hardly of any use. Only the rifles, flame throwers and hand grenades were effectively utilized. It was a slow, tedious, lousy and bloody fight.

January 31, 1945

There is no Foreign Legion in the American Army. But there is one particular group composed of daring characters who court death and who are sent on missions behind enemy lines. These are the “Rangers”. When sent on missions they do not wear the military uniform in order not to be detected by the enemy, but a special one by which they will not be mistaken for spies.

Two of these rangers, one of whom is a Mexican friend of ours, came last night from a humanitarian assignment. They narrated that there are a hundred of them, guided by 200 guerrillas who have penetrated the enemy lines sixty kilometers towards Cabanatuan where some 500 American war prisoners are being detained. After a brief battle all the Japanese soldiers were killed. They had a hard time convincing the prisoners that they had come to liberate, not to kill them. The prisoners could not believe them. Many of the prisoners had to be carried because of their weakness. Two of the rangers and twenty guerrillas were killed in the operations. The liberated prisoners were brought to hospitals in various towns of Pangasinan until they could be transported to their country.

No one can explain why there are hardly 500 prisoners in Cabanatuan when there were an estimated 10,000 of them in 1942. How many had died of hunger, sickness or torture, or brought out of the Philippines or died in Japanese boats sunk by American submarines or planes? We doubt if any satisfactory explanation could be made on this. All we have now was a cold fact, as sad as it was eloquent.

In September of last year, after the first American air attack on Manila, some 1,500 American prisoners were loaded in a boat for Formosa. The boat was sunk by American planes and only 600 were rescued. Such is the cruel and ironic tragedy of war.

January 27, 1945

We would frequently meet soldiers who say, “I am Spanish.” Curious as to how there could be Zamorans in the U.S. Army we asked one of them:

“From what province are you?”

“From California”. And he explained, “My father was Spanish and my mother Mexican, and I am an American citizen. We’ve just arrived and we feel like talking in Spanish. Tomorrow we might be dumped into another place where there are Japanese still remaining.”

They took pride in talking about their countrymen, and we enjoyed listening to their sweet accent and diction, their picturesque expression and their language interspersed with hispanized English words.

We came across some authentic Spanish who told us he was from Sevilla or from León or from Valencia. There was even one who insisted in referring to himself as an “Asturian from Texas”.

“In the Army” one officer told us, “there are no socialists nor communists as there are no Democrats or Republicans.” Among the Mexicans with whom we chatted, there are no partisans — Toledans or pro-Tolstoy or pro-Stalin. They are all good Catholics.

Also with the expeditionary forces were thousands of Filipinos who were connected with the auxiliary services. Fighting in the first lines were the locally enlisted Filipinos, especially the guerrillas who served as links to the American forces. They are excellent combatants. Unfortunately, though, many dissident elements in Tarlac and Pampanga would pass as guerrillas and they would attack the Americans. The Army, unable to distinguish the grain from the thistle, had to dissolve all groups — Sakdalistas and genuine guerrillas alike, confiscating all arms until they could clear the area and pick out the marauders from the same elements. The communist threat is real and is transcendental.

As long as the Army is in control, they will be able to keep the different dissident groups in check. But the day the politicians return to power, the political leaders of Moscow and Tokyo will be back to fish in the confused river of politics. We know who’s winning in war. But who’s going to win in peace?

Wars can be won by force of arms; peace can be gained only by justice — justice tempered with charity. To win in the grand final battle there is a need for men, organization, equipment and supplies. To win the peace, all these are needed, directed by the powers of the spirit. The course and recourse of these faculties is charity. I do not know of any other antidote to hatred than love, nor any other antidote to avarice, pride and ambition than charity!

If hatred is to win the war, what kind of peace shall we expect? Were the millions of lives lost sacrificed to this end?

“I don’t mind losing my life”, an officer told me a few days ago, “but I would certainly want to lose it for a noble cause.”

What these soldiers have to contend with is not Germany or Japan, both of which have already been defeated, but Russia or, if we might personify, Stalin.

Manaoag, January 25, 1945

When I passed by Mangaldan two days ago, I did not see anything special. On my way back, I saw several hundreds of planes in a very wide field. The technology brought along by these Americans can convert a rice field into an airfield within a few hours.

January 24, 1945

“No man is great in the eyes of his valet.” They said that Napoleon used to say this. But the driver of General MacArthur thinks otherwise. This driver was assigned to me when I had a hard time looking for a vehicle to bring three Fathers to Lingayen. He told me that everyday, except today, he drove the General to the front line, but never did they take the same route twice. I asked him how he was able to memorize the complicated network of streets in so short a time, but he replied that it was not he, but the General, who knew the roads as well as the driver knew his hometown roads. The General was using a jeep which was no different from the thousands of others which the Army brought along. He narrated to me that once they had to cross a river across a pair of unstable wood plunks. He asked the General to get off while he drove the jeep across lest the General fell off and drown. But the General said, “If I fall, you also fall.” And he refused to get off.

The preceding night was the first time one in which the thunderous boom of 12-inch guns was heard at a distance. But a stray shell shook the house and the nerves of its occupants. Inch by inch the Americans hunted the Japanese, flushing them out of their mountain nests, some of which were settled, about 20 kilometers from Manaoag, along the length of San Manuel through Sison, Camp One, Rosario, Damortis. The sad part of it is that the Japanese are using guns which they had pulled out of Bataan and Corregidor, killing Yankees with Yankee guns.

In Manaoag, the shellings, bombings and mortar fire make us feel and live the war anew. Here in Lingayen the air force prevents us from forgetting the war. Like bees around the hive, at every hour of the day, these giant bees keep buzzing around the air field. To make matters worse, the howling of engines reached our place as the planes took off or landed. They flew so low we felt we could reach them with our hands.

January 18, 1945

One day the American troops were delayed in arriving at Manaoag in recapturing the fifteen kilometers which separated it from San Fabian. It took them one week to advance eleven kilometers to Pozorrubio. The cause was the Pugaros. The troops that landed in Lingayen went directly to Manila in forced marches which were not really forced. They could have advanced and come within a few days in an unprecedented blitzkrieg. But the Japanese had retreated to the eastern and western mountain ranges, and the liberators feared flank attacks which would isolate their vanguard from the main body of the Army. In spite of having slowed down their march, their provisions hardly caught up with them. The High Command had estimated that they could enter Manila by the end of March. Now they expected to make it on the first week of February.

There was another surprise for us since we sang hossana in praise of those who came in the name of the Lord. We feared that the Japanese air force would not give a moment of respite to the fleet and the landed troops, with successive bombings by suicide squads. At least this was what the Japanese radio and press reported every time a landing was made. The Americans just laughed off the reports of Radio Tokyo about the damage suffered by the American convoys and forces, with hundreds of ships sunk and entire divisions annihilated.

Almost every night, the air raid signal rang out, but it was seldom that a Japanese plane penetrated through, coming in a suicide attempt as it was caught between anti-aircraft fire and the clutches of some night fighters which patrolled the occupied areas. It was seldom that a desperate Japanese plane succeeded in dropping a bomb among the innumerable ships anchored on the Gulf. What happened to the zero fighters and the Wild Eagles whose exploits were so much praised by the Tokyo radio? In Lingayen, the Japanese left behind more than fifty planes, and more than 300 in Clark Field.