But I digress. Back to the Bay View
At times when there were no troops
around. I would wander around empty rooms. I came upon a large bound
book, opened it up and it contained the Sunday colored comic strips of
Tarzan. There must have been a year's worth. Spent hours reading it and
looking at the pictures. Funny how in those circumstances one can find
escapism in such a trivial thing. I wondered if the Japanese had a
Tarzan fan club.
At times I would look out the window.
This was probably about six stories up. The view was of Manila Bay (we
were in the Bay View Hotel - get it?) The first time I looked out I saw
a Filipino with his hands up on the beach approaching Japanese soldiers.
When he got into range they shot him. He dropped instantly. I recognized
the man as a guerrilla. Before all hell broke loose, during the quiet
part of the occupation, he used to have me and my friends bury Molotov
cocktails by designated coconut trees. . Had we been caught with these
we would have been shot on the spot, well maybe after a little torture
to tell the Kempei, where we
had obtained them. Another fun thing we did was to walk by the
ammunition dump with a perambulator, steal gunnery shells and hide them.
We had no basement so I kept them in an areaway beneath our house. Being
boys we thought we were great spies. Maybe the Japs didn't want to stop
boys in drag. At any rate we were never stopped. What a dumb thing to
No food either. I scrounged around. Found
a couple of crates of hard biscuits (I think that this is what is
referred to as hardtack). That was our bread and water for about a week.
Ere long the Japanese started taking the
young girls out of the rooms to rape them. The older women would cross
themselves and lament "She is such an innocent girl. she has never
missed a day of mass." The girls were usually shoved back into the same
room by these gentlemanly escorts. The process was unrelenting. I did
not witness these atrocities of course. In time some of the people, who
had been scrounging for food said they saw a soldier raping the corpse
of a dead girl. By then having accepted these Japs as animals, this
bestiality did not surprise me.
Earlier looking for the hardtack, I
opened a door and saw several lances leaning in a corner. I recall
thinking, the Americans have such superior weapons, these people have
confiscated my bicycle, people's pushcarts, now they are going to fight
tanks with spears. I never told anyone until now about those lances.
My sister, Nan hid laying down behind my
mother, my seven year old brother, Mike and myself. With my mother
acting crazy the Japanese did not near us and did not see her. This
comes to mind because after what seemed like days hiding her I
remembered the lances. By now I was no longer frightened. Once I
accepted as fact that I would die all that mattered was that I die
quickly. Given the choices of being burned alive, shot with a rifle or
bayoneted, I wanted a mortar shell explosion in the back -- not a dud.
This would be final. No shell, no Joe in an instant. I will never know
if I would have gotten the lance and tried to kill a ravaging Jap at
that time. Today I would not, not because my act would ensure my death,
but also that of everyone else in that room. I even recollect figuring
if I should hide him in a closet or throw him out of a window. (Wouldn't
have been feasible anyway, they entered the rooms in pairs.)
After about a week, the building was
burned. I am certain that this was set off by the Japanese, since mortar
and howitzer fire could not put a dent in the walls of this building,
built to withstand earthquakes. Smoke coming up the halls. The building
was designed so if you took a cross section there could be a square
within a square. The center square was empty. If round it would be the
hole in a doughnut. Smoke was coming up this hole.
The Japanese would not let us leave. I
remember the next sequence vividly. My mother, who was in her 30s at the
time had some knowledge of Japanese psychology. Perhaps acquired during
the frequent interrogations by the Kempei at Fort Santiago. She spotted
the Japanese office in charge. Said to him "Number one man say no can
go." Whatever his reason, I presume it was to "save face", this officer
said "I number one man, go!". And without any further ado we started
streaming out of the building into the shelling outside. The entire
Ermita section was now rubble. Although we said that the incoming shells
were "trench mortars," using WW I terminology an American veteran
recently told me that if we heard the whistle of incoming fire these had
to be howitzers, that mortars were silent.