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Escape from Corregidor
by Manuel L. Quezon Jr.
(Fom the late author’s unpublished memoirs.
December 8, 2001–THE last public occasion I attended with my father (I was then 15) was when my father told the UP audience on Taft Avenue that if bombs started to drop and people was killed because there were no shelters, it would be because of the Civil Liberties Union. My father had planned to build air raid shelters all over for the safety of the people but Roosevelt had asked him not to use the special powers given him by the National Assembly because of the Civil Liberties Union. I have never liked the CLU since. If widespread bombing had occured in Manila, people would have died because of the CLU. In their self-righteous so-called defense of rights, they sometimes block higher rights —and those people should have been hanged from the lamp posts.
During the speech, my father was shouting. I never remembered any of the subject matter of my father’s speeches — what 15 years old wants to sit through hour-long public speeches — at least they seemed hours long — but that speech I do recall. The smart-alec UP students laughed.
In 1941 — December 8— the war came. The day World War II started in the Philippines, my mother, my sister Baby, Jovita Fuentes and I were at our (then) hacienda in Arayat, Pampanga, just about half an hour from the Buencamino hacienda in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. As it was the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patroness of the Philippines and also of Cabiao, we went to Cabiao; we had the usual enormous breakfast of adobo, tinapa, eggs and God knows what else. I suppose Jovita Fuentes had to sing at Mass. Then we went back to Arayat, where we soon saw the smoke rising above Fort Stotsenberg, as the Japanese that had bombed it flew right over us. Jovita Fuentes fell into a ditch from fright. My mother signalled me to join her under a shrub or trees lower than her (she was only five feet tall). My sister Baby did not join us in hiding. She was one of those enviable individuals who was inmune of from fear, and bent over double with laughter at my mother and myself, hiding under the little shrub. My father was in Baguio resting at the outbreak of war — apparently he was having a resurgence of his TB, although I did not know.
That evening my father picked us all up and we we moved back to our country house in Marikina for safety. Marikina had a very well designed air raid shelter.
Government people kept coming and going. There were lots of meetings, and finally what turned out to be my father’s last cabinet meeting before evacuating to Corregidor. It was held under the shade of a large mango tree in our Marikina house, where PSBA is now.
What I was doing in the open-air Cabinet meeting I do not know but I do recall that my father got telephone reconfirmation of MacArthur’s approval of my father’s instructions — the cabinet members were to do everything to protect the Filipino people, short of swearing allegiance to Japan and the rule was followed by the Filipinos. It did them little good, as they were all tried for collaboration. Only Pres. Roxas’s amnesty saved them.
Except for our departure for Corregidor — perhaps not that — I was never told what my father intended — I was just told to move whenever we were to move.
On December 24, 1941, when we were brought to the Presidential landing to board the Mayon, the largest interisland steamer at the time, painted all white — it was obvious we were going to Corregidor. We were given life jackets. An air raid started and the ship could not move — I think the ship’s engineer was missing. But the Japanese did not know who were on board — the Philippine government. Perhaps they did not care. It was especially frightening for a terrible scary-cat like me — a terrible experience, being marooned in the bay not far from the Manila Hotel. Fortunately, no bombs were dropped on the ships. Perhaps the Japanese intended to use the ships later.
Finally, the all clear was sounded and finally we got underway. As I recall it, we reached Corregidor towards evening. The previous time my father had brought me to Corregidor, months or a year before, we were received with a 19 gun salute, in broad daylight. Now it was a humble arrival. We were brought to the hospital side-tunnel of the Malinta tunnel. At midnight Father Pacifico Ortiz, S.J., our Chaplain, said mass for us and the soldiers, in Latin of course. It was either at that mass or the New Year’s Mass that he preached to comfort us, speaking in our Lord’s words “Put your hand in mine,” referring to the darkness of the war.
Corregidor became our home from Dec. 24, 1941 to Feb. 20, 1942. If the war had not come, we should have been hearing Midnight Mass in the richly carved wooden chapel in our home in Pasay. Noche Buena was meant to be the re-inauguration of our own house in Pasay, where we were to live instead of in Malacañan. We never saw our home again, except in ruins, as was the case with our Marikina house — the Japanese or the Makapilis, or in the case of Pasay, perhaps the Americans had destroyed them.
As our Corregidor stay was prolonged, things became worse. At first we had some minutes’ air raid warning, then Cavite fell and there was no warning — shells from Maragondon would just come over, my eldest sister, Baby with her mission in life (as Nini said) of perpetually making puns, punned — May Aragon doon. The lovely presidential yacht, the Casiana had been sunk of Corregidor and US soldiers used to dive underwater to bring up bottles of liquor, champagne, etc.
I recall one air-raid that was terrifying. We were sitting outside the hospital tunnel on the small platform under a tent, where my father used to spend the day. Suddenly, siren! How we got my father inside, I don’t remember, but obviously he could still walk. But I recall my mother starting to run but with just a half-step she stopped dead and looked around for her children. Baby who was one of those irritating people who literally never experienced fear, was bent over in laughter. She had spotted Carlos P. Romulo running down the hills towards the tunnel as fast as he could, which anyone in his right mind would do. But when he saw Baby laughing, bent over, he suddenly stopped and walked. His rather foolish male pride came into operation, even though he and Baby could both have been killed. My mother shouted “Baby!” I still remember her voice and we all made it safely to the tunnel. Then the bombs started to drop closer and closer until an absolutely deafening explosion came. I thought a bomb had entered the tunnel and the lights went out. We were already in the sub-lateral we occupied, with the only light being the sanctuary lamp of the curtained-off little chapel. How long we continued sitting in the dark I do not recall.
During the raids, my father made no sound at all that I recall. He used to say that the brave man was not the one who had no fear — but the one who felt fear and still did his duty.
In the tunnel my mother prayed of course and we were comforted by the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I imagine my father prayed too, but he must have prayed in silence.
As the days went on, the shelling became more and more frequent, though I think never at night.
When my father and Don Sergio Osmeña were reinaugurated, on December 30, 1941, the ceremony was held outside one main entrance of the Malinta Tunnel. All I remember is that High Commissioner Sayre addressed Vice-President Osmeña as “Don Serjoe Osmanyo.”
On the 19th of February, 1942, Fr. Francisco Avendaño came to Corregidor to say mass on my mother’s birthday and complained to my father about the lack of food on Bataan. He also complained of the American treatment of the Filipino soldiers. One Filipino who I think was too sick to stand, was kicked by an American.
At midnight that night we boarded the submarine Swordfish. During the night we traveled on the surface, where the sub could make better speed, above 20 knots per hour. Underwater it could make only about 8 knots per hour. After a good night’s sleep, there was an alarming sound of a siren, the signal that we were submerging. On the surface the sub had moved with the waves like any other ship. The moment we submerged the sub became almost completely motionless, as there were no waves underwater. We spent the whole day submerged until we landed at San Jose de Antique. I must be one of the very people who ever received Communion under water. We were given tongue sandwiches and I threw up. The reason was the heat. Commander Smith had decided to attack Japanese troopships in Subic before picking us up (most irresponsible really) and naturally the Japanese dropped depth charges. As a result, half the air-conditioning system did not work and it was hot as hell. There were a lot of red lights meaning no smoking but the sailors were merrily smoking away.
As we were passing Mindoro, we were allowed to peep through the periscope. The sky looked a non descript color. At one time also there seemed to be sound of propellers which was alarming —possibly an enemy war ship — but it turned out to be the movement of fish tails. We remained submerged all day and surfaced after dark when the sea was quite rough. Then we approached the shore, I seem to recall there was some problem with identifying the people signaling from a boat to pick us up. If only the people on the boat had realized how close they came to being sunk, but finally we were put ashore to drive to Iloilo. I recall distinctly leaning my head and shoulders against my father’s dark brown leather jacket in relaxation, feeling safe. Fortunately during reminder of our stay in the Philippines I did not realize we were in danger all the time.
When we arrived in Iloilo later that night, we went to sleep in comfortable beds and awoke to the sound of the thin horns of Iloilo streetcars the following day. I am under the impression that we stayed at the Cacho mansion, but it may have been one of the Lopez Mansions. We spent the day there — I do not know whether my father saw any government officials. Of course, Iloilo at that time had not yet been occupied by the Japanese. Our nighttime ride from Antique to Iloilo was the first of a series of night time drives in the Philippines until we escaped.
That night we boarded the Princess of Negros, which must have been a slow ship. We went to Guimaras on the way to Negros, but spent the day there, taking a lunch, up to the river to a house where Father Ortiz baptized an infant with me as sponsor. I never saw the baby again and do not even recall his name. We disembarked from the Princess because we might be spotted by Japanese planes. We reembarked at night and went on to Bacolod where we arrived the following morning.
Humor is always involved with our family. My chronology is shaky so I am not sure whether the following funny episode happened when we landed in Bacolod or later at some other part. My father covered his face with his usual large white handkerchief and told the rest of us to do the same, which we did or did not, depending on whether or not we had suitable handkerchiefs. Some local officials approached and greeted my father, “Good morning, Mr. President”. He got quite angry at us for not covering our faces, which he blamed for his being recognized. He did not realize that his get-up, with his jodhpurs and large handkerchief and, I think, a soft white hat, and riding whip were instantly recognizable all over the Philippines, whereas our faces were not. We (the rest of the family) had a good secret laugh over it, not openly because he would have been even angrier.
I do not know who provided the cars, but we drove to the Lizares hacienda where Sonia and Lety Lizares were staying. I do not recall whether their respective husbands Peping Coroninias and Manuel del Rosario were there, but definitely Letty’s daughters and Minnie were, and became my playmates while we luxuriated there. Luxuriated is the word, after our stay in Corrigidor and our brief stop-over in Iloilo. Sonia and Lety had known me since I was a little boy. I do not remember how long we stayed, but my father took advantage of our stay to confer with government officials, among them Gov. Alfredo Montelibano, who was the uncle and later apparently guerrilla commander of Teddy Locsin. I suppose our stay there was supposed to be a secret, though how any kind of secret can be kept among Filipinos with their wagging tongues is beyond me.
One evening we drove up a zigzag to a lovely but not large house in an hacienda owned by the Aranetas. It was called Buenos Aires a very appropriate name because it was so nice and cool. I do not recall whether we went back to the Lizares hacienda or went on to our next stop on the trip which ended up in a rest house in Canlaon Volcano. We stayed there for some time, how long I don’t recall. It seems I felt quite safe there. The rest of our party must have been there too. I remember that at some time Don Andres Soriano went on a reconnaissance flight. I suppose the plane belonged to our Army Air Corps but I can’t be sure. I think they spotted a Japanese destroyer, probably the one which finally towed away the Princess of Negros, and which ended up with the Japanese announcing on the air that my father was dead. How we learned of the broadcast I don’t know; it was very brave of Don Andres and his pilot to be scouting because they could have been shot down by the destroyer. I do not think there were many, or any, Japanese Air Force planes in the area as yet.
After sometime, for purposes of security I suppose, or perhaps my father received a message from MacArthur that we should join him in Australia, we set off again. The move was supposed to be a secret but somehow my sister Baby knew where we were going and with her predilection for punning , she said “A donde Bais.” According to my sister Nini, Baby felt her mission in life was punning. I believe Bais was in Negros Oriental and belonged then to Tabacalera or some other Spanish company.
Later —how much later escapes me– we went on our usual long caravan at night. I was in the back seat of the car with Dr. Trepp my father’s Swiss TB expert and Director of Quezon Institute. It seems my mother’s driver Pedro Payumo (“Pedro Taba”) was driving — how he managed to come along I don’t know — but I distinctly remember his asking us to keep talking as he was sleepy and it was dark but we — at least I — paid no attention and went back to sleep even though we could easily have fallen into a ditch.
It turned out that our destination was Dumaguete , which was pitch dark. There were a lot of people on the side of the road with bundles or cardboard boxes on their heads and also the church bells were ringing. It turned out that the people were alarmed by the sound of the PT boat’s engines which sounded like airplane engines. The PT boat had been sent to pick us up. We drove to the wharf and boarded the PT – boat. How we all fitted in the PT-boat, I don’t know. My mother and I entered the cabin where I put my head on her lap. I suppose the rest of the family were in the cabin but I remember only my mother and the cabin was pitch dark.
After sometime there was a loud conversation on the deck and sparks could be seen. I was scared to death as usual but after a short time the sparks and the commotion stopped and everything went back to normal and we continued the high speed trip. Later on I learned that, with the rough pitching of the PT-boat a torpedo had slipped about half way out of the deck torpedo tube, the sparks being the result of the torpedo’s motor having been started. Someone had the presence of mind to fire off the torpedo. If the torpedo’s fuse had struck the deck, the torpedo would have exploded and that would have been the end of us.
In the early morning light, we were put ashore in Misamis Oriental in Oroquieta. That silly episode of my father’s being recognized the moment we went ashore may have been then.
We went to two places, one of them being Oroquieta, where we met the Ozamis sisters and, I think , Senator Jose Ozamis also, then Governor of Misamis Oriental. Perhaps it was then that my father talked to Commissioner Teofisto Guingona, whom somehow I understood was in charge of Mindanao. I turned over to him for safekeeping the case that contained my two .22 cal rifles and my .25 cal automatic pistol. For some reason I remember the encounter as being at night and I usually have a pictorial memory.
After spending the day with the Ozamis family —very mestizo looking— we set off by car for Bukidnon and the Del Monte plantation where we arrived at night. We were put in very comfortable company houses. I was put in a room with Dr. Trepp and fell sound asleep.
The following morning I was shaken awake by Dr. Trepp saying in a loud voice, “ Nonong wake up, wake up, it is air raid.” There were twin engine Japanese planes which flew over the area and went on, but no air raid.
I had been to the Del Monte plantation once before with my father and it was so beautiful. This time it was still beautiful but there was an overpowering smell of rotting pineapples, because no one was picking the fruit. Many years later, someone wrote that, during the days we spent waiting for the Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia, we spent every day in the hills surrounding Del Monte. I have no such recollection and when I checked with my sister Nini, she had no such recollection either. She recalled something else, Americans in Del Monte, which I do not recall.
We knew we were waiting for Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia and after a few days we were roused in the dead of night and drive to the airfield where there were two Fortresses waiting for us. As we drove to the Fortresses, I started to talk and my mother told me to keep quiet —I suppose my father was very pensive and my talk was out of place.
The fortresses were new models (I knew all about practically every airplane and its various models). This model had tail turrets, the latest version. Some of us — my family and others, but I do not remember who, climbed into one Fortress and the others climbed into the other. It turned out that we were in one plane and Vice-President Osmeña in the other, I suppose to increase the chance of either my father or Osmeña surviving if anything went wrong — the planes being shot down or crashing, I suppose.
My father and mother sat on a mattress on the floor. I think my father was given oxygen during the night —the cabin was not pressurized. I do not know where my sisters sat. I sat at the radio-operator’s seat, at a table. I suppose the radio transmitter could not be used or the Japanese would have spotted us.
I had always wanted to be a pilot, but as the plane picked up speed I was not excited, I was scared. I started asking God not to allow the plane to take off, but of course it did. As the plane climbed I fell asleep with my head on the table. All through the night we were bouncing up and down –it was a very rough flight. We could not really fly very high, among other reasons because of my father’s condition I suppose. Also, perhaps there were not enough oxygen masks to go around. Through the night I slept on and off. At one point of I noticed it was raining, then I saw clouds over the ocean. My nervousness at take off was gone. As day dawned the sky cleared and finally we landed at Bachelor’s Field in Northern Australia. I did not realize from my aviation reading that touch down was a little rough, not perfectly smooth.
I remember getting off the plane and being taken to a mess-hall for breakfast, together with the rest of the party, then were set to prepare to take off for Alice Springs.
Anyway, we were transferred at Bachelor’s Field to another plane, a Douglas DC-5, a bit smaller than a DC-3 and intended to replace the DC-3, but war broke out in Europe and Douglas changed to producing twin engine bombers. KLM was always up to date and the DC-5 had been delivered to KLM. The Dutch Airline had a very reliable service from Holland to the Dutch East Indies and the DC-5 had escaped to Australia, having an auxiliary gas tank in the cabin. Aside from the Dutch pilot and co-pilot, there was a young American US Air Forces man on board, whose presence I do not understand because I think he was a machine-gunner and there was not machine gun on the DC-5.
As we walked out to the DC-5, a smartly dressed Dutchman in a KLM uniform saluted. My father asked him “how do we fly?” and the Dutchman answered — “About 3,000 meters” (about 10,000 feet ) which apparently disturbed my father. He asked the next smartly dressed Dutchman the same question and the man, apparently the Captain, answered “We fly as Your Excellency wishes.” which pleased my father. Apparently some agreement was arrived at and we took off. This was in the morning and as the air started to warm up unevenly, I had one of the bumpiest flight have ever had.
My mother sat beside me and I tied a white hanky over my eyes. Every time the plane bounced my mother called out — “Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,” or “Corazon Sagrado de mi Jesus!”— I would lift the blindfold from my eyes to see if we were about to crash. We were flying over the Australian desert, with rocks all over the place. I finally started to sing hymns to my mother to calm her down. All through the flight, there would be a slight increase and then decrease in the vibration of the engines and I could see that the propellers would be rotating smoothly and then slightly roughly and smoothly again. I turned out that there was a slight nick in the propeller, how acquired I can’t guess. This went on until we landed at Alice Springs five hours later. We made a slightly rough landing in Alice Springs. When we got out of the plane, it turned out that the men were wearing sun helmets with long veils over their faces because there were large horse flies all over the place, a phenomenon I had never seen before and have never seen again. They were what we call bangaos and would not be driven away. If you tried to drive them away, you might squash them with your hand.
Vice-President Osmeña’s Fortress did not land after us. As it took longer to arrive, someone —I forget who— urged my father to continue our flight but he flatly announced that we would not continue until the Vice-President arrived. Our original Fortress had continued the flight with us and looked for the Vice-President’s Fortresses, but to no avail. Night fell and we stayed at a small inn. My mother and I saw a cat catch a small mouse, which disgusted us. All through the night we could hear drunks throwing up.
The following morning we had breakfast and our Dutch plane took off to search for the Vice-President’s plane. In a very short time the DC-5 returned followed by the missing Fortress. It seems the Dutchmen were better pilots than the Americans. While our original Fortress had no trouble finding Alice Springs — possibly by following our little twin-engine DC-5, the Vice-President’s place was lost. At least the pilot had enough sense to land in the desert before running out of fuel. Then the Americans spent the night firing off flares and rockets. When the Dutchman found the Fortress, it took off for Alice Springs. Finally Don Sergio was able to continue with us, to Adelaide this time. It was another five hours’ flight. This time, I sat beside my sister Nini, to get away from mother’s exclamations. I did not overcome the fear of flying then instilled by my mother for years.
When we landed in Adelaide towards evening we spent the night. The following morning we went to a church to give thanks for our safe flight. As we came out, my father had his first encounter with Australian English. Perhaps we were the first non-Caucasians those Australians had ever met and they were very friendly and also curious. They asked “Did you come today?” which they pronounced “to-die.” I am sure he was able to figure the question out right there but later on he embellished the exchange by saying that he had answered, “I came to live, not to die!”
We took an overnight train to Melbourne. During the day, I saw a plane overhead, and for the first time since Dec. 8, I was not afraid. The following morning we arrived in Melbourne where we were met by Gen. MacArthur.
We heard of the fall of Bataan on April 9, my sister Nini’s birthday, in Australia
However, discussions started in our government over going to the States. I do not know whose idea it was originally, but my father wanted to stay in Australia, I suppose to return more quickly to the Philippines after liberation. Don Sergio Osmeña wanted to go to Washington and when my father disagreed he said: “Send me.” I don’t know why it was decided that our whole group should go to the States — perhaps MacArthur urged it, to pressure Roosevelt to send more aid quickly to the Philippines. We sailed for the States on the President Coolidge. The Coolidge had been converted into a troopship but some twin cabin had been left in their original condition and the dining room and lounge had been left untouched. It seems there was some kind of band because there was dancing in the evenings.
At the beginning of the voyage — I had no map and thus did not realize what a long voyage it was to be — we were escorted by a New Zealand warship. Sometime later, the escort duty was taken by a US navy ship which accompanied us until we reached San Francisco. As usual my roommate was Dr. Trepp. We were a large number. From the Philippines we had lost one member of the party, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos who had insisted on remaining in Mindanao — he was finally executed by the Japanese for refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese and for maintaining his loyalty to the United States.
However, while we were sailing to the United States, I still thought we would be going home anytime. During our voyage, we had one little exciting episode. We started to zig-zag violently; probably they had detected a submarine. But after a while, the zig-zagging stopped. It was probably a false alarm or, the submarine being under water and therefore very slow, we outran it. The rest of the voyage to the States was uneventful. Finally, we passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, which was still undergoing its finishing touches of paint when we went to the States in 1937. We were safely in port.
We were taken to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, considered one of the best at the time, where we stayed for about a week. This time my roommate was Col. Jaime Velasquez. There were newsmen swarming outside my father’s suite and when they knew who I was, they started to interview me but one of our group stopped me.
After some days in San Francisco, to give us a rest from the voyage I suppose, President Roosevelt’s special railroad carriage (called the Ferdinand Magellan) was sent for us and attached to a transcontinental train. It was a four or four and a half day train ride to Washington.
The start of a journey has always excited me. We had to drive to Oakland, CA, to catch the eastward train there. When we arrived at Union Station in Washington, DC, at the exit to the Station there was FDR standing beside his car and we were photographed in memorable poses. I was so moved my lips were trembling. We were driven to the White House where we had lunch and dinner. We were entertained by President Roosevelt who was a great raconteur. Mrs. Roosevelt kept walking in and out and when I met her in a corridor, she smiled “The mail, always the mail.” She seemed terribly tall, as did every one else, which is no wonder since I was only 5’2”. We spent that night at the White House, where I was put in an enormous (to me) bedroom alone. I had the impression it was the Lincoln Bedroom but I may very well be wrong.
The following morning we were taken to the eighth floor suite of the Shell Oil Company at the Shoreham Hotel, where we stayed for a time. Then we moved to the Pat Hurley estate in Leesburg, Virginia, about forty minutes from Washington, where we stayed for the summer, until our permanent quarters at the Shoreham, were ready.
Before deciding to stay at the Shoreham, we took a look at a Waldorf Towers suite way up — the Waldorf is about 34 stories high. Since my father was terribly acrophobic, the project was dropped and thereafter whenever we went to New York we stayed at an 8th floor suite at the Waldorf.
On Corregidor my father was always outdoors in a tent, away from the dust in the tunnels, but of course he had to be active when we went to the Visayas then Australia via Mindanao; and then in the United States, having settling down in Washington, he resumed a normal life, which was a mistake. His condition worsened. Dr. Edward Hayes, the doctor who had treated him in the Monrovia Sanitarium in the thirties, came to Washington and the plan was for us to go out to California. Unfortunately, my father changed the plans.
When I graduated from high school in June of 1944, my father was already bedridden in Saranac Lake, New York.
By the first of August, 1944, a month and a half after my eighteenth birthday, my father was dead.
(from the Free Press Century Book)
World War II in the Philippines:
The lasting effect on the Filipino people
By Alfonso J. Aluit
FOR a people without experience of war, World War II came as the crucible for Filipinos, the ultimate test for the individual and the nation, a test of the effectiveness of the institutions of government and religion, a test of faith in truth, justice, and freedom, in fact a test of all the beliefs Filipinos subscribed to.
The Japanese invasion in December 1941 had no precedent in the memory of most Filipinos of that period. The American invasion in 1898 had been a reality only to disparate groups in the country. The Philippine-American War was not of a national character, having been limited to certain areas in Luzon and the Visayas, and was but endemic in nature in Mindanao.
But World War II, which lasted from December 1941 until the last Japanese commander came down from the hills in August 1945, was a national experience the reality of which was felt by every Filipino of every age in every inhabited region of the archipelago.
How did World War II affect the Filipinos, and how have the effects of war influenced Philippine life and civilization in thereafter?
August 30, 1998
The National Centennial: Who cares?
Filipinos will have nothing to celebrate but every reason to curse the government for yet another great waste of taxpayers’ money
by Manuel L. Quezon III
ITS logo can be seen everywhere: a stylized red, white and blue ribbon forming the number 100, surmounted by three gold stars and bearing the legend “Freedom, wealth of the nation” underneath. You can see this logo emblazoned on the aircraft of Philippine airlines, on vanity license plates, on stickers and in advertisements on television and newspapers.
The logo is that of the National Centennial, which Filipinos will be celebrating in 1998. Well, some people in government at the very least.
The Centennial and the patriotic events leading up to it are the concerns of the National Centennial Commission, headed by Salvador H. Laurel, an honest and decent man who, obviously, is not much of an executive. The commission over which he presides with well-meaning good humor is attached to the Office of the President. In keeping with the nature of the administration under which it was created, and to whose largesse it owes its existence, the centennial commission has found itself the subject of criticism for such things us fact-finding missions to observe the Tournament of Roses parade in the United States, for saying some very nice things that are then made a mockery of by its actions, and for generally allowing itself to be dragged into controversies as a result of the President’s tendency to unilaterally announce hare-brained schemes without warning his subordinates that they should expect some heat. In other words, the centennial commission is a characteristically Philippines 2000 institution, headed by people who have their hearts in the right place but who end up befuddled by the shady politicking that swirls around the administration.
The vague nature of the centennial commission’s mandate is at the root of the impression many people have that Laurel’s agency is adrift, and thus incapable of focusing its energies, much less mustering the popular support needed to make the Centennial meaningful.
Laurel’s commission is supposed to come up with programs and events to commemorate the Centennial. But what the Centennial actually is remains unclear. At first, sensibly enough, the commission said that the Centennial, which will take place on June 12, 1998, is no less than the hundredth anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence from a window of the Aguinaldo mansion in Kawit, Cavite.
Sounds clear enough. But every Independence Day since the creation of the commission—that is, the five June 12th’s celebrated since President Ramos took his oath of office—featured enormous placards and billboards proclaiming that June 12th to be the 94th, 95th, 97th, 98th, or 99th anniversary of independence.
Now there is very clearly a difference between commemorating the anniversary of the proclamation of independence and observing the anniversary of actual independence. The first is the anniversary of the particular moment in time when, with flags waving, bands playing and people cheering, Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed that the Philippines and the Filipinos were, and ought to be, free. The second is the ritual commemoration of a reality that began at a certain point and has continued existing up to the present without interruption.
So which is it? Will we, in 1998, be commemorating the proclamation of our nation’s freedom, or will we be joyously celebrating four generations’ worth of emancipation from colonial rule?
To commemorate the former would be justified and grand; to commemorate the latter would be a self-induced deception and a lie. And yet, after the simple and lucid definition of purpose made when Laurel’s commission was created, it has done nothing to clarify this issue.
And this issue is vital. If the commission cannot even figure out its true mandate, how can the nation be expected to have a sense of purpose? A nation and a people should not be made to expend their energies in a nationwide fiesta celebrating an ambiguous state of affairs. One doesn’t need a degree in Philippine history to realize that our country has been independent for only two generations, that is, since July 4, 1946. In fact, a serious case could be made for dating our independence to an event as recent as the removal of the US bases. To assert that we have enjoyed the blessings of freedom uninterruptedly since 1898 is to go against the experience of the generation that fought the Japanese in anticipation of the independence promised—and fulfilled—in 1946. A generation whose members are still very much around to challenge any claims to a century of freedom.
There’s more. Apparently unsure of its true purpose, lacking the will to grapple with the problem, content with trying to please everyone and thus alienating almost everyone, the commission has spent the past five years on the defensive, trying to wriggle out of controversies instead of taking up the initiative. It has devoted its time to planning colorful events that have fallen flat because they were extravaganzas without a crucial component: the Filipino people.
With less than a year to go before the grand finale of the Centennial effort, it would be useful to look into the other reasons why the Centennial effort has been an unqualified flop.
The master plan hinged on the commemoration of a series of events, particularly the centennial of the beginning of the Philippine Revolution and the martyrdom of Rizal.
In both of these great anniversaries, the commission immediately handicapped itself by placing too much importance on the descendants of those who participated in the Philippine Revolution, among them the relatives of Rizal and ardent Rizalists. Not that the descendants of our freedom fighters should have been ignored; far from it. It is both necessary and proper that their patriotic legacies should be honored. But in settling for organizing reunions among the families that formed Kaanak and similar organizations, the commission set itself up in a position for which it was manifestly unqualified: arbiter among the factions that started to squabble over star billing in the Centennial celebrations.
The descendants of the Katipuneros from Tondo began to fight with the descendants of the fighters from Cavite; Magdiwang and Magdalo divisions sprang up once more with a ferocity intensified by a century of familial resentments. The commission, sensibly enough for a body tasked with focusing its attention on the proclamation of independence at Cavite, featured a number of descendants and sympathizers of Emilio Aguinaldo. Only to find itself being taken to task by admirers and relatives of Andres Bonifacio. To complicate things further, contending ideological points of view that have already been boiling since the 1960s, the last time the nation focused its attention on the revolutionary heroes, come to the forefront once more. The commission accused of being cozy club of ilustrados who were pointedly playing down the importance of the proletarian revolution led by Bonifacio.
The enormous amount of energy and media attention focused on these intramurals diverted attention from the fact that other than the Aguinaldistas and Bonifacionistas, the Caviteños and the Department of History of the University of the Philippines, no one else seemed to give a damn about what was going on. This marked the derailment of the Centennial effort from what should have been its primary purpose: to excite the majority of Filipinos who cannot trace their family trees to a veteran of the Revolution so that they will be inspired to proclaim that while they may not be able to trace an ancestor to the fight for freedom, they are prepared to exult in the fact that they are around today to enjoy that freedom.
In yet another example of how close the commission came to fulfilling its greatest task—only to swerve away from it—it got as far as proclaiming 1996, the year in which Bonifacio’s revolt and Rizal’s sacrifice were commemorated, the “Year of Filipino Heroes.” This took the spotlight away from personalities and finally gave recognition to the legions of heroes whose names have been lost to us. The commission’s lack of focus made the proclamation an empty slogan.
To make things even worse, the commission ended up holding the bag for the President, who decided he wanted a tower erected in Rizal Park ostensibly in commemoration of the Centennial but actually to glorify his incumbency. The resulting furor from artistic circles, gleefully echoed by the media, alienated the commission further from the very people in the best position to help it achieve its aims. Things went downhill from there. A convocation of scholars from around the world was held in Manila to tackle the significance of the Philippine Revolution. It ended up being a convention of Rizalists who delivered papers on every subject conceivable, except on the Philippine Revolution, and, most of all, Andres Bonifacio. Which further alienated the groups already convinced that the August 1896 anniversary was deliberately being turned into a nonevent, a suspicion confirmed on the centennial of the start of the Revolution when the deputy prime minister of Malaysia was made a Knight of Rizal in an official, face-saving gesture to make up for the embarrassment inflicted by Malaysia when it convened a conference on Rizal ahead of the Philippines.
Creating a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Knights of Rizal was the least the admirers of our national hero and the government could do to thank Malaysia for its friendly interest. But it was absolutely the worst thing anyone could do as far as slighting the admirers of Bonifacio was concerned. The commission became a party to this highly undiplomatic act undertaken in the name of diplomacy, which achieved nothing internationally while making enemies of a significant section of the already small number of people who cared about the Centennial in the first place.
The commemoration of the martyrdom of Rizal was accomplished with a little more success and less bruised feelings, something owed to the long-standing cohesiveness of the admirers of Rizal than to any effort of the government, whose single strike of genius was to put the ceremonies under the direction of Zeneida Amador, who managed to pull off a moving reenactment of Rizal’s final moments.
Since the storm and stress of 1996, things have been quiet, almost comatose, as far as the Centennial front is concerned. The most newsworthy Centennial-related event was a negative one—a tongue-lashing from a fuming Ramos offended by the apathy of the tiny audience that listened to his proclamation of the Centennial theme for this year. (What’s the theme for 1997? Can anyone remember? Anyone?) A presidential scolding that Laurel mercifully missed because he was out of the country.
The good news this year is courtesy of the Armed Forces, which raised the funds for the purchase of the house where the Tejeros Convention took place. The happy event was negated, however, by the scandal associated with the “restoration” of the Malolos Cathedral.
Patriotism and nationalism cannot be conjured from people’s hearts at the drop of a hat. All the balloons and brass bands in the world will never be able to evoke feelings of pride in one’s country, of solemn appreciation for the long and bloody history of our struggle for freedom. A people must understand that a nation’s history, like our lives is a combination of the sacred and the profane, the noble and disgraceful, the silly and the sublime. Instead of fostering understanding and an appreciation of our past and its contradictions and unifying themes, what was sown was division and discord. Instead of reaping public support, the commission has found itself subjected to derision and active opposition. It has provoked discord among intellectuals and factions, without achieving the mobilization of the majority of citizens as part of the effort to render homage to our heroes.
Saddest of all, all along it has meant well.
The hollowness, the emptiness of the Centennial effort is best demonstrated by an event that was reported to have taken place recently when a new monument to Andres Bonifacio was unveiled in Manila.
A few news reports mentioned that during the unveiling ceremonies, the descendants of Andres Bonifacio and the descendants of Emilio Aguinaldo came forward and publicly declared that they were putting an end to the animosity and resentment between their two clans as a consequence of the execution of the Supremo. And that they were calling on all their friends to forgive and forget in the name of national unity.
This declaration should have been an occasion for national rejoicing. In another era, it would have been reason for a Te Deum to be sung at the cathedral. For the declaration marked one of the noblest, most admirable, and meaningful events of the Centennial period.
And yet, no further mention of it was made in the papers. NO effort was made to propagate this joyful news in the media. The commission did not say a word.
Why not? Because the event took place at a ceremony under the auspices of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim? Perhaps. A pathetic, petty reason, if true. Reason enough to understand why the Filipino people will not be filled with pride and awe on June 12, 1998. What will they have to celebrate? Pomp and circumstance at a scandalous cost, of no relevance to themselves and their loved ones, and of no consequence for a country that will be witnessing one more example of official extravagance.
To understand why no one cares about the Centennial is to understand why no one cares about the government, save those who directly benefit from it. It does not belong to the people. It belongs to a different world that feeds off us.
The reader may be tempted to ask, at the end of this catalogue of lost opportunities and squandered resources, if such an analysis isn’t counterproductive, leading to a feeling of cynicism that does nothing to salvage what must surely be one remaining opportunity to sort things out in time for the Centennial.
The answer would be: It is precisely to try to salvage something out of this sad state of affairs that harsh criticism such as this need to be made in public.
If it is important—and most people will agree it is important—to commemorate the anniversary of the proclamation of our independence, on the eve of the birth of the Malolos Republic, then we cannot leave such an important event in the hands of elected officials. It would be as futile as waiting for reforms from Spain in the time of the Propagandists. It is up to ourselves to make the Centennial meaningful just as it was up to ourselves to wrest our freedom from Spain and cajole it back from the hands of the Americans.
The Centennial of the beginning of our Revolution against Spain (which, incidentally, was the centennial of our first declaration of independence, reiterated in Kawit two years later) resulted in a marvelous musical, 1896, staged by Peta and which owed nothing to official support. It was a triumph in all respects, and lifted the hearts of the young and old, without glossing over the more sordid aspects of our freedom struggle. Watching it, one experienced in an hour and a half the exhilaration, the tearful pride, the compassion, the joy, anger and resolve that well all should feel when we think of the Revolution and the Centennial Feelings made possible by the songs and acting of a small group of young men and women. One saw what a true love for our past combined with dedication to make it mean something for people here, today, could accomplish.
So let those whose hearts and minds are in the right place take over. Stop waiting for the parade. Seek those who are doing the things that count and make people think.
As for the National Centennial Commission, its only legacy to us, besides the millions of pesos in taxpayers’ money wasted on its account, will be a concrete and ignoble one: the alteration of our flag.
On flagpoles everywhere, a new and different flag is masquerading as the emblem of our country. The color of its blue stripe is a neither-here-nor-there shade of blue lighter than that of the flag that three generations had honored; its red stripe is different, too. The proportions of the white triangle, with its sun and three stars, however, continue to be those of the flag specified by executive order during the Commonwealth, making this new flag neither a restoration of the slightly different proportions of the flag raised at Kawit nor a complete abolition of the flag we all know. These, without any enabling law, without public consultations, without even bothering to inform the very people who swear allegiance to it every morning.
The bastardized flag may owe something to the flag that went down in defeat under Aguinaldo, but it also harks back to the same flag raised at the inauguration of the Puppet Republic in 1943, and a variation of which was inflicted on a subjugated nation under Marcos. A flag dishonored through association, and whose legitimacy was long supplanted by the flag Filipinos fought for in Bataan, raised in triumph in 1946, borne at Ninoy Aquino’s funeral, waved at EDSA, and finally raised over the former US bases in 1992.
This is not the sort of legacy Salvador H. Laurel should want to leave us.
I saw the death march
by Romeo J. Arceo
“The Japanese were not burying the Filipino dead: That much was certain”
April 14, 1956–THEY started coming—through Bacolor, Pampanga, our town—on the morning of April 13, 1942. From half-opened windows in our old, small house, we looked at them—dead men on their feet, moving on in broken ranks.
It was hard to distinguish one face from another. Everyone was pale and thin and sickly—and only the really familiar faces which one can hardly forget because of ties of love and friendship were to be recognized, but only after a hard, second look.
There was Cpl. Demetrio Santos, half-carrying his sick brother, Lt. Librado Santos, in his arms…yet after the hell that was O’Donnell, it was Librado who came back. The younger one, Demetrio, did not make it.
There was Pvt. Bonifacio Mangio, our neighbor, looking more dead than alive…yet he lived through O’Donnell, malaria, and dysentery to become a successful businessman today.
One soldier made a dash for freedom across the street from where we were. One shot from a Japanese guard stopped him short…under the stairs of the house of my compadre, Marciano Manese. Later, in the evening, some neighbors headed by Rufino Torres took his body and buried him in the Catholic cemetery in town.
And near our own backyard, another soldier tried to escape. But a Japanese guard overtook him and shot him dead on the spot. Not contented, he beat him mercilessly with a big stick until his head was a broken mess. I don’t know who buried him, but he was buried there, where he fell, in a small hole unmarked by any white cross to the present day.
The Japanese were not burying the Filipino dead. That much was certain.
The next morning, when the second batch of “death marchers” arrived, a soldier with a bandaged head broke from his ranks and walked toward our house. He was saying; “Maawa po kayo. Bigyan ninyo akong kanin.” (“Please, have pity. Give me rice.”)
Even as he talked, a Japanese guard came from behind and hit him with the butt of his rifle on the head—once, twice, thrice. To this day, I can still see the look of agony in his face as he turned to rejoin his ranks, to fall on the shoulders of a comrade.
The Jap motioned to us to get away from the windows. We obeyed and peeped instead through slits in the sawali wall. By this time, the Japanese were driving all civilians away—for many had been so bold as to help prisoners escape and give them food.
By noon, rifle fire increased. More men were making dashes from their ranks. Many of the “death marchers” escaped in our town. There was only one guard for every 100 prisoners, although sometimes, there were Japanese guards riding around in trucks.
For the Americans, there were no guards at all. Apparently, the Japanese knew that should they attempt to escape, it would be very easy to pick them up. They could easily be traced because of the color of their skin.
I knew one American, Lt. Charles Naylor of Salt Lake City, Utah, then only 22 years old, who was saved from the “death march.” He used to come to our evacuation place in Barrio Potrero (Bacolor) and talk of his America. Later, he joined the guerrillas.
I don’t know if he lived through the Japanese occupation. But if he did, maybe he’d like to know that the man who took care of him, “Iso” Singian of Maliwalu (Bacolor), did not make it. The Japs came and killed him—for saving his life, I think.
There were two other Americans who were saved. But in mid-1943, there were caught by the Japs in Barrio Talba (Bacolor), some five kilometers from the poblacion. Two more Americans who escaped showed up in town some time in 1943 and asked for shelter in the residence of the parish priest Msgr. Andres Bituin. The town policemen heard of their presence and surrounded the house. The two Yanks shot it out and made good their escape. In the shooting, Judge Arturo Joven was killed by a stray bullet.
There were several sons of Bacolor who escaped from the “death march.” Like M/Sgt. Juanito T. Bognot. He made his dash for freedom in Guagua five kilometers before Bacolor. On reaching Sta. Rita, he changed to civilian wear and started walking to Bacolor…to help his comrades escape. We convinced him to go to the barrios and hide…there were already many of his townmates who were braving danger to help our boys, whether natives of Bacolor or not.
Bacolor’s example of the famous “Sullivans” of America, the Samia brothers, did not all make it. Two of them, Federico and a physician whose name I don’t quite remember, died in Bataan. Both were lieutenants. Their younger brothers, “Edong” and “Dedy”, returned home. “Dedy” is dead now, a victim of a disease he first contracted in Bataan.
It might be mentioned that their two other brothers, Eleazar and the youngest in the family whose name I don’t remember, were killed by the Japanese during the occupation period for guerrilla activities. Thus, the Samia family lost five young boys in the cause of freedom and democracy.
But our town also had its casualties.
There was a young boy, Abelardo David, who answered his country’s call to arms before Christmas 1941. He didn’t have to go and fight—as the war was already very much on and the USAFFE forces were in retreat. But like the good soldier that he was, he reported for duty. Everybody waited for him to come back.
But he was long in coming. He died fighting in Bataan.
There were other young boys like him who died. Like Segundo Angeles, Ricardo Torno, Federico Samia and his medic brother, Leopoldo Malig, another Malig, “Goito” Joven, Miguel Santos, a certain Gopez from barrio San Antonio, and a brother of Bishop Alejandro Olalia.
Demetrio Santos and Paulino Manese died in Camp O’Donnell.
In honor of these young boys who gave their lives for our country’s cause, Councilor Emerito L. de Jesus today plans to enlist the aid of his fellow councilors and other town officials headed by Mayor Adriano Puno into sponsoring a move for the construction of a monument—that the memory of these boys who upheld the glory of Bacolor may live forever.
In passing, it may be mentioned that many others were saved from the “death march” in Bacolor.
Porfiria Gutierrez of Potrero (Bacolor), in whose house we evacuated, opened wide her house to a young man, whom we knew only as Juanito, a native of La Paz, Tarlac. He spoke neither Tagalog nor English. He died of malaria and dysentery four days after he came, and we buried him in the Potrero cemetery.
It is likely his folks do not know yet of his sad fate. But should they come to read this article, I would gladly give them the story. In La Paz, Tarlac, there may only be one missing Juanito.
There was Domingo Talento of Camarines Norte whom Ruperto Mercado saved. He finally married a Bacolor girl. There was also Sgt. Celestino Samalca of Bohol who was saved by the Navarros. He married their daughter. And the incumbent chief of police of Bamban, Tarlac, was saved in Bacolor, too.
There were many others.
Today, little white crosses dot those spots where our soldiers fell and died…all along the death march route. But there are still places unmarked by white crosses—where some soldiers are buried unknown. They may be lonely, lying there all alone, forgotten and unknown.
October 15, 1955
Footnote to a slogan
by Frederic S. Marquardt
ON AUGUST 10, 1943, in MacArthur’s headquarters in Brisbane, Australia, Courtney Whitney, then a colonel in charge of the Philippine section, sought permission to use the slogan, “I Shall Return—MacArthur,” on articles to be infiltrated into the Japanese-occupied Philippines. MacArthur responded, in a penciled note at the bottom of a memo, “No objection.”
But if there was no objection in Brisbane, there was plenty in Washington. In November 1943, I was asked to head up the Office of World Information in the southwest Pacific. I agreed on the condition that General MacArthur, whom I had known in prewar days, actually wanted me in Australia. When he sent a favorable reply to the Pentagon, I began preparing for the trip. It was January 1944, before I could get my shots, select the men who were to go with me, and receive a thorough briefing on what the OWI had to offer in the way of psychological warfare. Late in December (1943) I stumbled across the “I Shall Return—MacArthur” file in the OWI headquarters in New York.
From the file I learned that shortly after Whitney got his clearance for the slogan, he asked the OWI in Sydney to produce substantial quantities of cigarettes, chewing gum, chocolate bars, and sewing kits. All were to be carefully packaged and would bear the “I Shall Return—MacArthur” slogan along with the crossed Philippine and American flags. Mike Stivers, who was head of the Sydney OWI office, asked New York OWI to deliver the goods. Then started a series of orders and counter-orders that must have set a record.
Every time the production people in New York were ready to award an order for, say, ten thousand packs of cigarettes with the slogan on them, the policy people in Washington would stop the order. Washington OWI claimed it was against national policy to build up a single theater commander. New York OWI simply wanted to get the job done. The resulting orders and cancellations must have made the purchasing officer dizzy.
The real objection in Washington, of course, was that MacArthur was a potential candidate for the presidency. No one with any standing in the Roosevelt administration wanted to be responsible for anything that might result in MacArthur’s aggrandizement. The fact that the propaganda was to be used among Filipinos, who would not vote in the American elections, did not seem to make any impression on Washington.
I decided I would go to Australia until this issue was settled, and, if it was settled adversely, I decided I would not go at all. I had no political interest in the matter, but I knew that Whitney had struck on the best possible slogan for use in the Philippines. Each time the slogan “I Shall Return—MacArthur” turned up in the Philippines it would be worth more than a million words poured into radio transmitters beamed at a country in which there were very few short wave receiving sets.
After several requests for a top-level conference, I met with Robert Sherwood, who was director of the overseas branch of OWI, and Joe Barnes, who was in charge of the Australian operation. As persuasively as possible I told them of the magic of MacArthur’s name in the Philippines, and of the need for a slogan that could be understood by 18 million Filipinos speaking scores of different dialects. Both Sherwood and Barnes knew enough about the ways of publicity to concede the truth of my argument. But they expressed doubts about the advisability of boosting a commander in any single theater. I pointed out there was no comparable situation in any other theater. They said MacArthur might not survive to return to the Philippines. I said I had a hunch he would be around for a long time to come. They said we might not go back to Japan by way of the Philippines. I quoted Roosevelt’s “There are many roads to Tokyo. We shall neglect none of them. “Finally Joe Barnes turned to Sherwood and said, “Bob, I think Fritz is right. Let’s O.K. the Sydney request.”
“O.K.,” said Sherwood. Then to me he said, “At least you ought to get credit for this when you get to Brisbane.”
When I got to Brisbane I found Mike Stivers had done what any sensible man on the scene would have done. He went ahead and used the slogan on locally produced chewing gum and non-meltable chocolate bars specially produced for the tropics. He produced Volume Number I of Free Philippines, with MacArthur’s picture and the “I Shall Return” slogan on the cover. There was one mistake on it. The Philippine flag showed the blue stripe at the top, in spite of a convention that in time of war the flag is turned upside down and the red stripe is on top.
I never told Sherwood and Barnes that their decision was late if proper. Nor did I tell MacArthur or Whitney of the foot-dragging in Washington. We went ahead and got the other supplies from the United States, and Whitney sent them into the Philippines through Commander Chick Parson’s submarine fleet. The Free Philippines magazine ran through 10 numbers. The final issue had one major change. The slogan was changed to “I Have Returned—MacArthur.”
As history has shown, the political impact of using the slogan was nil so far as the American vote was concerned. I did convince a lot of Filipinos that the United States would keep its word. It sparked the only effective guerrilla movement in the Far East, and one of the most effective in the entire world.
On one occasion, General Whitney had a little trouble with his radio network. Lt. George Rowe, an ex-Manilan who served in the Navy during World War II, volunteered to man a radio station and weather bureau on Mindoro. He was outfitted in Australia, given a group to work with, and told to select the call letters for his proposed Mindoro station.
The central radio transmitter for all of the guerrilla stations was located at MacArthur’s headquarters and used the call letters ISRM. The significance was clear. The letters meant “I Shall Return—MacArthur.”
Rowe, with a sly exhibition of navy humor, asked that his stations be assigned the letters IHRR. But Whitney figured out the meaning of those letters—”I Have Returned—Rowe.”
Lieutenant Rowe was given another set of letters. But he had the last laugh. When he established his station on Mindoro he called it Camp Nimitz, after the commander in chief of the American navy forces in the Pacific. Whitney was too far away to do anything about this exhibition of lese majesty.
There is one amusing epilogue to the “I Shall Return” story. After Luzon had been liberated and the Philippine campaign was coming to an end, the OWI closed up its office in Brisbane. Like the army, it no longer needed Australia for a base of operations. The Australians, so happy to see us come, were equally happy to see us go. They were naturally anxious to get their country back.
The OWI rear echelon—we were quite military for a bunch of civilians—packed up the furniture and files. One unused bundle of “I Shall Return—MacArthur” leaflets was tossed on to the truck heading for the pier. It fell to the ground, and a passing pedestrian beat the OWI man to the broken bundle. He picked up a leaflet and read, “I Shall Return—MacArthur.”
“I bloody well hope not,” said the unhappy Aussie.
Ah! Money! Money!
May 10, 1947
Men, Women, children, Aye, Even the Educated Professionals of Northern Luzon are Afflicted with the Hunt-For-Hidden Treasure craze: the Burning Desire to Become Rich Quick.
By Ramon Silen
Agoo, La Union
IF you see a group of men with picks and shovels and crowbars at dusk way up North these days, one to ten they are not on their way home from their places of work, but ten to one they are on their way to search for hidden money. The hunt-for-hidden-treasure bug has so terribly bitten the people that even women and children spend sleepless nights digging here and there in earnest search.
The craze started way back in the latter part of 1945, two weeks after the liberation of Baguio from the Japs. Two GIs came down to the lowlands, with their jeep loaded with boxes, to visit the girls whom they had befriended before their final and successful drive into the summer capital. The women thought the boxes were stuffed with eats and drinks as had always been the case before when American friends visited them. But they were in for one of the biggest surprises in all their lives.
The boxes were taken to the house of a young lady by the name of Itang. After a few minutes the other girl friends of the GIs came in. When the boxes were finally opened black and moldy objects greeted their eyes. The girls looked at each other questioningly. Frank, one of the Americans, picked up one of the objects, and let it fall on the wooden floor, with a clinking sound. “Ah! Money! Money!” chorused the girls. In no time at all the girls each had a handful of the coins. With their bill-like fingernails they scraped off the rust and mold on each coin. They were all silver pesos!
Tarnished Silver Pesos
The GIs exchanged the coins for paper bills at the rate of P100 rusty and moldy silver coins to P60 paper money. All the women in the barrio ripped open the seams of their skirts, and brought out all their paper bills which they had successfully hidden from the Japs. Yet the soldiers were able to dispose of only one box of their coins out of the five they had. They drove farther south to Pangasinan to “visit” their other friends. While the people were still busy cleaning their coins one of their neighbors, a young man named Mateo, arrived home from Baguio. He at once rented the big house of Lacay Itong, the next house to Itang’s, for P100 a month. He converted it into the soon famous and successful “Bamboo Bar” in barrio Cadael between the towns of Aringay and Agoo. The formerly poor Mateo was now a rich man. Reliable sources stated that while he was scampering for shelter in the outskirts of Baguio he fell into a hole, which turned out to be a gasoline drum half-filled with silver coins. That was the source of his original capital.
Several groups of young men hurried up to Baguio to try their luck, but they all returned home empty handed.
Hardly had they settled down when another story of the same kind revived their burning desire to become rich quick: One late afternoon a GI drove his six-by-six truck to a schoolhouse in Camp Spencer, Luna, La Union, and parked it near two gasoline drums supposedly filled with rusty nails. A group of schoolboys on their way home saw the truck and swarmed around it. The driver called the bigger boys in the bunch to help him load the drums onto the truck. That done the boys waited for the American to give them some cigarettes, candy, or chewing gum. He dug inside one of the drums with his two hands, jumped off the truck, handed something to the boys, and then drove off.
The boys could hardly believe their eyes. He had given them tarnished silver pesos.
He Keeps On Digging
Here is another story, still hot from the grape-vine-telegraph: Three high school boys with a map, crowbar, candle, and matches went inside their school grounds one night. The map, the story goes, was given to one of them by a Jap PW whose friendship he had won in the early liberation days. By following the directions in the map their first strike with the crowbar made them richer by P15,000. Half of the amount was in PNB notes.
The following story came from the fisherfolk of Cabaruan, a barrio of Sto. Tomas of the same province. On a moonless night two men were idling away the young evening hours along the seashore. A ship at sea was “gunning” its searchlight into the skies over the land as it sailed toward the shore. The LCT beached and a group of men with shovels alighted from it. They dug in the sand near by. After ten minutes they struck a gasoline drum. they brought it out, gave P100 to each of the two men who had helped them, and then sailed away.
The teaching profession has also a tale of its own although not as encouraging as the others. A teacher in the town of Naguilian, La Union was pruning his fruit trees one morning. He saw a small piece of wood with Japanese characters on its nailed to one of the trees. He invited his confidantes and showed them the sign. None of them could decipher the Jap characters.
He forgot all about it for some time. But when an American friend of his dropped in at his home for a visit he remembered the thing. Both of them went to the tree where the sign was. After reading it again and again the visitor offered P45,000 in cold cash to his host to allow him to dig the buried treasure in his yard. After getting the treasure he would return the land to him free. The poor teacher rejected the offer thinking that he would do the digging and searching himself.
The once flat yard of the teacher is now full of deep and ugly holes. He keeps on digging and digging, but the treasure is as illusive as that one at the foot of the rainbow.
This story from Sta. Maria, Pangasinan, is a most discouraging one. Six men in that town struck a land mine while searching for buried treasure, and all six of them were blown into bits.
Only a week ago I met one of my friends, a principal of a big central school. He was all frowns. I asked him what the matter was.
“To hell with those crazy people!” he muttered. “One of the cement posts of our school gate is now tilting at thirty degrees, and it’s about to fall down because its bottom was excavated last night. All the breadfruit, orange, cayamita, and avocado trees in our school yard have been uprooted. If I only knew their names I’d sue them in court for trespassing on and damaging public property.”
The following morning I was with a group of professionals chit-chatting in front of the municipal hall in a northern town where my principal friend was assigned. Soon a lawyer joined our group.
“How was the hunt last night?” a doctor in the bunch asked the lawyer.
“Well, no luck so far. But, who among you can say that Engineer C (one of those in the crowd who was smiling and nodding with approbation) and I may not strike a drumful of money tonight?” he challenged.
Yes, Gentle Reader, even the educated professionals are very much at it. And worse. You bet!
False rumors and false hopes
by Gregorio Borlaza
Sustained a nation in its darkest hour
April 5, 1947–FRANCE fell in about three weeks after the start of the German offensive. Thailand fell in a matter of hours, and Singapore, reputed to be the impregnable Gibraltar of the Far East, fell much sooner than generally expected. But Bataan and Corregidor stood for almost half a year, giving the Allies precious time to prepare Australia as the base for the reconquest of lost Pacific territories and the ultimate defeat of Japan.
What made it possible for this little country, with its small Fil-American army lacking in food and ammunition, totally cut off from the outside world, and completely divested of air and naval protection and support, to stand so long against a huge, fanatical army riding on the crest of sensational, if temporary, victory? Loyalty to American, of course, and devotion to democracy and age-old consecration to the cause of liberty. But, in no small measure, also due to the false rumors and false hopes cleverly conceived and ingeniously spread among the people under the very nose of the enemy.
Shortly before the actual fall of Bataan, for instance, rumor said that the Fil-American soldiers were preparing for a grand victory parade in Manila. Several miles of convoy had been sighted; the ocean was dark with ships of all descriptions as far as the eye could see, and our troops were poised for a grand counter-offensive.
About the end of February, 1942, the people were thrilled by the “news” that General Homma, commander in Chief of the J.I.A. in the Philippines, had committed hara-kiri to atone for the undue concern he had caused His Majesty, the Emperor, by failing to bring the Bataan campaign to a quick decision. A little later, General Yamashita, hero of Singapore, came to take charge of the Philippine campaign, General Yamashita, so the rumor said, was a former classmate of General MacArthur at West Point, and as a welcome gift for his former friend and classmate, the latter (according to the rumor) sent the former a long dagger with the following message: “Should you fail in your mission, the conquest of Bataan—and I know you are going to fail—you may find it necessary to follow the time-honored Japanese tradition of committing hara-kiri. I am therefore sending this dagger with the hope that you will be so kind as to autograph it, use it in the sacred act, and have it sent to me as a souvenir of our friendship.” The Filipino masses actually fell for this and how it bolstered their morale!
During the first week of March 1942, it was bruited about that thousands of Japanese were being electrocuted daily as they attempted to cross into the American lines. It was said that MacArthur was the world’s greatest authority on the construction of electrified fortifications. He had constructed such clever devices that the Japanese instantly died if they leaned against trees, crossed streams, or walked over muddy roads. Fil-American soldiers were so equipped that they were immune to the shocks that were killing Japs like rats. Disgusted Japanese soldiers were quoted as saying, “Kohoy, kurinte; Tubig, kurinte; Putik, kurinte; Nippon sordier, patay kurinte; Bakit Hiripin Amerikan sordier, hindi patay korinte?” (Everything—the trees, the water, and the mud is alive with electricity. Nippon soldiers die because of it. Why not the Filipino and American soldiers, too?)
On March 13, 1942, we heard that Gen. Yamashita was wounded. Two days later, the people of San Pablo City were saying in hushed tones at the marketplace that he was dead! He was riding in an airplane taking a good look at the opposing lines in Bataan, and the plane was hit by anti-aircraft bullets. He was wounded in one arm which later had to be amputated in one of the hospitals in Manila. Hemorrhage followed the amputation, and a series of blood transfusions failed to save his life. This raised fresh hopes for the early reconquest of Manila, but these hopes were toned down one or two days later by a supposed statement of General MacArthur which read, “We can retake Manila in 48 hours just by changing the position of our big guns on Corregidor, but it will be an empty and temporary victory if gained before the arrival of full aid from America which is now on the way to the Philippines.”
By March 16, 1942, the Japanese High Command was rumored to have ordered the shooting of several companies of Japanese soldiers who refused to go to Bataan, afraid to die of electrocution as thousands of their comrades had died. One day, three columns of Japanese were advancing against the Fil-Americans. The middle column, upon reaching a certain point, mysteriously died before the very eyes of the other two columns. They threw their arms in the air, writhing in agony, and after a moment, fell dead. Upon seeing this, the other two columns refused to advance; whereupon, the officers at the rear ordered the soldiers who were behind to shoot those in front; at which the latter turned about and returned the fire. In this way, all the three columns were annihilated that day without our troops having to fire a single shot!
On March 19, Hitler was reported to have fled to Norway because of internal trouble in Germany. Other rumors said he had died, and the Japanese were glum at the prospect of being left alone to face the United nations.
These and many other rumors kept the morale of the Filipinos so high that they were completely unprepared for the blow that was to fall upon them early in April. When the fall of Bataan became inevitable, the masses were so surprised that they openly blamed America for having left their youth—in the flower of manhood—to their fate in the hell of Bataan. “Where are the thousands of planes promised us!” they asked. “Where are the miles of convoys? What will happen to our boys?” There was general consternation and confusion. There was almost a general collapse when Bataan finally fell.
But more rumors eventually rallied the people. Resistance in Bataan was given up to relieve our boys. There was still Corregidor which could stand indefinitely against the enemy. There were, on Corregidor, enough munitions and food supplies to last for ten years. Secret new weapons had been landed by submarines, and our garrison could engage the enemy from the impregnable bastion for an indefinite period of time. Americans had landed somewhere in Japan, according to a “dispatch” received on April 13. On May 3, we heard of big betting in Wall Street, the odds being heavily that Germany would collapse in 60 days. Meanwhile, Corregidor was shooting down a great number of planes daily with anti-aircraft guns so accurate they could draw a circle of fire around an enemy plane before hitting the bulls eye.
But Corregidor, too, was one day to fall, and when it did on May 6, 1942, rumors were no longer capable of raising false hopes in Filipino hearts. But they were no longer necessary. The foundation of the underground resistance movement had been laid. Underground newspapers were beginning to circulate. Nuclei of guerrilla organizations were rising everywhere, and the people looked upon them as the symbol of their new hope.
by Teodoro M. Locsin
“Do not cry. What is the matter with you? Show these people that you are brave…. This is a rare opportunity for me to die for our country: not everybody is given that chance.”
November 30, 1946–THE dead are many, and the heroes are innumerable. Courage, so rarely evident in peace, in wartime becomes commonplace. Men die gladly and with a will for what they call their way of life, their country, their liberty—although men have died to uphold a tyranny. The enemy, too, have their dead.
Men die in war in many ways. They die in the trenches, in cities under bombardment, in the air—a new kind of death made possible by the genius of the two brothers who launched the first plane—and in the sea, by drowning. These are the common casualties of war. They die in the hope that they would not die, that they might not be hit, that they would escape and live. They die just as they are thinking that the bullet or bomb has not yet been made with their number on it.
It is one thing to be in a trench with other men and have the enemy shooting impartially and not too accurately at all of you. It is not the same as having a gun pointed at you, and to be asked to do what that stern and terrible judge, your conscience, will not let you do.
This is the story of José Abad Santos. A Filipino, like many others. A man, like how few! Perhaps he died foolishly. Uselessly, perhaps he should have done what the enemy asked him to do. Perhaps he should have chosen life—to work in a government imposed on his people by the enemy, to collaborate with the invader for the cause now proclaimed by another man as that of “national survival.” He chose to die. Foolishly, perhaps uselessly. But bravely.
On that there is no issue.
It would have been so much easier—to live.
President Quezon took Abad Santos with him to Corregidor. There he administered the oath to office to the President as his second inauguration. He left the island fortress with Quezon and Osmeña for Negros the day after his 56th birthday.
Before Quezon left for the United States, he asked him if he wanted to go with him or remain in the Philippines. Abad Santos said: “I prefer to remain, carry on my work here, and stay with my family.”
On April 11, 1942, he and his son, José, were captured by the enemy in Cebu. When the Japanese learned that he had been appointed by Quezon to represent him as head of the Philippine government in the islands, he was subjected to intensive investigation. The Japanese blamed him for the burning of Cebu City.
Today his family knows—through an American officer who had taken part in the investigation of the Japanese officers responsible for his death—that the enemy demanded of him two things: to make a broadcast, asking General Manuel A. Roxas to surrender, and to take part and hold an important position in the puppet government.
He would do neither.
“I cannot possibly do that, because if I do so, I would be violating my oath of allegiance to the United States,” he was overheard by his son as replying to the Japanese demands.
Much of his life he had passed judgment and sentence on other men. Now he passed judgment and sentence—his last—on himself.
The Japanese took him and his son to Parang, Cotabato. They were forced to go through jungles with their baggage on their backs. He was, according to his son, all this time in high spirits. He was marching on to death for the Philippines.
The next day they were placed in a truck and taken to Malabang, Lanao. Three days later, a Japanese interpreter told Abad Santos that he was wanted at the Japanese headquarters. There he went to return a few minutes later to his anxious son and to tell him calmly: “I have been sentenced to death. They will shoot me in a few minutes.”
When his son wept, José Abad Santos smilingly admonished him: “Do not cry. What is the matter with you? Show these people that you are brave… This is a rare opportunity,” he went on, “for me to die for our country; not everybody is given the chance.”
The father and the son knelt down and prayed together. The father embraced the son. Then José Abad Santos walked with serene eyes, to his death.
The son heard the volley of shots. That same afternoon the Japanese interpreter took him to the place of his father’s grave. The Japanese, though an enemy, could recognize courage and paid tribute to it.
“Your father,” he addressed the son, “died a glorious death.”
Today José Abad Santos lies in an unmarked grave, but he lives in the hearts of his family, in the memory of his friends, and in the reverence of his countrymen.