Welcome to My Site
If this is your first visit, welcome! This site is devoted to my life experiences as a Filipino-American who immigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1960. I came to the US as a graduate student when I was 26 years old. I am now in my mid-80's and thanks God for his blessings, I have four successful and professional children and six grandchildren here in the US. My wife and I had been enjoying the snow bird lifestyle between US and Philippines after my retirement from USFDA in 2002. I have also posted some of my favorite Filipino and American dishes and recipes in this site. Some of the photos and videos in this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on infringing on your copyrights. Cheers!
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Chapter 1: Childhood Memories of the Japanese-American War in the Philippines, 1941-1945
General MacArthur Returns Memorial, Leyte Island, October,1944
I am writing this blog for the benefit of my children and grand children and the new generations of Filipinos who have no knowledge or memory of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. It was 13 days before my 7th birthday when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in the morning, Sunday , December 7, 1941. That same day in the evening, Japanese planes had taken off to attack several targets in the Philippines. The Japanese had planned six landings: Bataan, Aparri, Vigan, Legaspi, Davao and Jolo Island. For the sake of clarity in this narrative, here are the important dates of that war:
December 7, 1941 Sunday Morning Bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
December 7-22, 1941 Start of Bombing of the Philippines and Japanese landed in several places in the island.
April 9, 1942 The Fall of Bataan and the Death March
May, 1942 The Fall of Corregidor and General MacArthur fled to Australia
October 1944 General MacArthur landed in Leyte " I Shall Return"
September, 1945 Japanese Surrender
July 4, 1946 Philippines Independence from US
When Japan started bombing the Philippines, I was in 2nd grade at the Jaro Elementary School,Iloilo. When my family heard of the bombings, we all panic and decided we moved from the city of Jaro, a most likely bombing target to our farm in Barotac Viejo, least likely target for bombing and Japanese occupation. Barotac Viejo, my mother's ancestral town is a small town about 60 Km North of Jaro, Iloilo City.
I remember every one in my family was in chaotic mood and within a couple of days we packed all the essentials we could take and the rest of our household goods we left behind at our residence in Arguelles Street. I remember clearly my mother ordered all her china and sterling silver buried at the backyard of our house. We left all the furnitures and household goods that were heavy and cumbersome.
( Later we found out, our house was bombed and all the china and silver were stolen)
The house was 80% demolished and all the furnitures were either destroyed or stolen.
So for a while we settled in a small farm house of one of our tenants in one of the distant barrios of the town. As war progressed and we heard Japanese forces have penetrated most of the big cities in the Philippines and are starting to occupy even small towns, my father who was a captain and dental officer for newly organized Philippine Guerrillas- a resistant movement, decided to move to the jungle in the interior of Panay Island. I remember we walked for 3 days in the jungles, creeks and mountains just following a small path. My parent's tenants create a path for us with their bolos or machetes. We found a hidden valley with a creek with crystal clear water. Our tenants started building a bamboo and nipa hut, an out-door kitchen and a dining area. Using a bamboo sledge and a water Buffalo, our tenants brought us about 20 sacks of rice, salt, sugar and a few spices. In the jungle we started to clear areas where we could plant vegetables, corn and sweet potatoes. We also started to raise chickens and ducks for eggs, pigs for protein and goats for our milk.
One of the most traumatic experience, I had was the night our tenant helper killed a python about 30 ft long. It was in the middle of the night, and it was very dark. Suddenly, we heard our two pigs squealing with fear. My father instructed our helper to investigate the pig pen area. With just a kerosene lamp our tenant could actually see the python strangling one of the smaller pig. Our tenant helper then started attacking the python with his machete and a big log. After about 10 minutes of struggle, our tenant was able to kill the python but our small pig was dead. The incident was a blessing in disguise, since that whole week we had protein in our diet. Our tenant after the incident commented in the local dialect( Napatay ko an man-og sa hadlok) translated literally as "I killed the python with Fear". This incident confirmed that the jungles of Panay island are filled with pythons, mosquitoes and other wild animals ( pigs and deer).
My pets were the chickens and the goats. One of the chicks, I raised personally and even slept with me. He got attached to me ( fingerprint) and kept following me where ever I go. That chicken believe I am her mother. My mother tolerated it, since there were no other kids in the jungle except my younger brother. To keep us from being bored, my father home schooled us ( me and my brother as well as two of my older cousins). Every day for almost 4 hours, we were taught arithmetic, spelling and history. We were lucky to have brought with us a few books in Philippine and US history. Every now and then our tenants would bring us additional supply of rice and tell us news of the extent of the Japanese occupation.
Filipino-American Guerillas-a resistant movement against the Japanese, 1942-1945 Photo from ibiblio.org
Late in the war when the Japanese war atrocities appeared to stop, we decided to move from the jungle to a seaside village and stayed at the house of one of our tenants. My father instructed us not to talk to any stranger, and if asked what our names, we do not give Katague as our name but Katigbak. Rumors have circulated that the Japanese have commandeered a list of all guerrillas, and my father's name is in that list. There were a few natives that work as spies for the Japanese- known then as collaborators. One day, we saw a platoon of Japanese soldiers in uniform complete with guns and bayonets passed by our village. The whole village was agog with excitement. My brother and I also watched hiding in the bushes. I was trembling with fear that one soldier will see us. Fortunately, the soldiers continued their march to next village. That incident of actually seeing Japanese soldiers was one of the highlights of my experiences during this Japanese war.
Japanese soldiers killing Filipino civilians and raping the women.
A scary and frightening incident occurred to my mother's relatives at the time when were hiding in the jungle. My mom's cousins family of 30 individuals ( children, cousins, aunts, brothers and sisters) were also hiding in the jungle on a mountain ridge next to us. We heard that they were all killed by the Japanese soldiers who were able to penetrate their hideouts with help of spies collaborating with the Japanese. Only one member of the clan was spared. She was handicapped and in a wheel chair. During the massacre, she fell on the creek and was mistaken for dead and was left alone to tell the story.
When I was in graduate school, I was often asked by friends if I harbor resentment to the Japanese because of the atrocities they have committed. My answer is a resounding no. My family never did experience a personal attacked by the Japanese. However, my mother in law has never forgiven the Japanese for killing her sister who was a nurse in the Philippine Army. One of my classmates in Illinois, whose father was killed by the Japanese will not seat in the same table in the school cafeteria with other Japanese students.
When General MacArthur landed in Leyte, that was the happiest day to all Filipinos. The Japanese started to retreat and peace in the Philippines was welcome with excitement. The schools were planning to reopen, so from the sea village we move to another barrio much closer to town. In that barrio, we built a much bigger house. In the back of the house, there was a hill. On a clear day you could see the next island of Negros. It was also an observation hill for us. We could watch Japanese and American planes "dog fight" during a clear day. My brother and I actually saw two planes attacking each other and one plane blown to pieces and burning as it falls from the sky to the sea between Panay and Negros Islands. What a thrill! We assume, it is a Japanese plane since the Americans are winning all the battles at this stage of the war.
Me and Eric, my younger brother-This picture was taken on my 11th birthday, December 20,1945.
When schools reopened, we were required to take a test, to see what grade level is our current knowledge. I passed the test for a 4th grade level, although I was only in second grade before the war. So, I completed six grades in only four years. I was two years younger than most of my classmates. This was the result of my father's drilling us every day with arithmetic, spelling and history while we were hiding from the Japanese in the jungle.
On July 4, 1946 the Philippines was granted independence by the US. In 1947, I was freshman in our local high school. In 1951, I graduated valedictorian of our high school class, then later enrolled at the University of the Philippines. In 1955, I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Chemistry. A year later I passed the Board Examination for Chemists, 3rd place nationwide. In May, 1957, I married the former Macrina Nieva Jambalos from Boac, Marinduque. We are still married and yesterday was our 52nd wedding anniversary.
Our Wedding Day, May 8,1957(I look so thin, my friends call me Pancit-local name for rice noddles)
Note: I was born in Jaro, Iloilo on December 20, 1934. I was a sickly child having had polio until I was two years old. Luckily, I recovered only with a slight limp on my left foot. My parents informed me that I was a precocious child since I started reading local magazines when I was only three years old. By the time I was 5 years old, I mastered playing mahjong and pangingue ( a card game similar to gin rummy) with adults in the neighborhood. I remember clearly, that we live in big house at Arguelles Street where my father has his dental office. The front yard has several plumeria trees( kalachochee)and a big mango tree at the back. I was 7 years old when the American- Japanese war started with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Picture of Me(left) and my younger brother, Erico taken on April 2, 1937 in Arguelles Street, Jaro, Iloilo. I was a shy boy, very dependent on my yaya( nanny) at that time according to my Mom.