I first wrote my autobiography in 2008 and updated it in 2011. There are several things that changed since 2011 in my family personal lives and a few significant events that is needed to be updated. I will include more photos so the articles will be not too boring for those who have already read this post. Again, I will appreciate any comments positive or negative. I will highlights all the updates. Thanks for your time.
General MacArthur Returns Memorial, Leyte Island, October,1944
I am writing this article for the benefit of my children and grand children and the new generations of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans 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
The above video is a summary of the Japanese Invasion of the Philippines
The following article was my first gold award winning article for ViewsHound*. This was an excerpt from my original article on the subject published in the first edition of this autobiography. This biography is in its 3nd Edition of printing.
Life in the time of war is a difficult experience for a child. All school and play activities are interrupted. Survival amidst the chaos becomes a paramount goal in life. Our family had to uproot ourselves from the comfort of home and move several times to the hard life in the countryside. We had to avoid the conflict and the bombing in the city.
We chose a life of peace and quiet away from the invading Japanese troops. Due to the language barrier, the Japanese instilled order and dominance of the conquered using fear, by hurting or killing innocent civilians, resulting in the rise of the resistance movement. For every day that passes, there was the dream of peace, but during the lengthy war period, one had to expect the worst before anything good happened.
Before the war started, we lived a comfortable life in our home in the city of Jaro, Iloilo located in the central Philippine island of Panay. My father had a dental practice and we had our farm landholdings around the province. It was 13 days before my 7th birthday when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in the morning of December 7, 1941.
On that evening, Japanese planes had taken off to attack several targets in the Philippines, which was then an American colony. It was the start of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and the reign of fear was about to begin.
I was in 2nd grade at the Jaro Elementary School when Japan started bombing the bigger cities of the country. When we heard the terrifying news, my parents became concerned for our safety and decided to get out of the city, a possible bombing target.
They chose to move to our farm in the small town of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, my mother’s ancestral town 60 kilometers north of Jaro. It was a time of panic, chaos and fear over what was to happen in the city. We were about to leave our cherished home and anxiously head to the unfamiliar and the unknown.
Within a couple of days all the essential items we could bring were already packed. All the furniture and the huge and heavy items were left behind. My mother had all her china and silverware buried in the backyard for safekeeping.
We found out later that our house was bombed and totally destroyed. All the furniture were either destroyed or stolen. All the china and silverware was dug up and stolen. Despite the losses, we were grateful that we made a wise decision and survived unharmed.
For a short period we settled in a small farm house of our tenant in a remote district of town. As the war progressed, we were informed that the Japanese forces had penetrated most of the big cities in the country and were starting to occupy smaller towns. My father was a captain and dental officer of the newly organized Philippine guerrillas, an underground resistance movement to fight the Japanese. As a precaution, he decided to move our family a second time, to the jungle in the interior of Panay Island.
We had to walk for three days through the woods of the jungle, cross over numerous creeks and climb over mountains with the help and guidance of our farmer tenants. Our trek ended and we settled in a hidden valley lined by a creek with clean running water. Our tenants built us a hut for shelter made of bamboo and nipa palm, an outdoor kitchen and a dining area.
They used a bamboo cart pulled by a water Buffalo to bring us supplies of rice, salt, sugar and other spices regularly. In the valley we cleared the land to plant vegetables, corn and sweet potatoes. We also raised chickens and ducks for eggs, pigs for protein and goats for milk.
One of the scariest events while living in the jungle was when our pig livestock were preyed upon by a python snake measuring about 30 feet long. It was pitch black at night when we heard our two pigs squealing out loud in fear. My father instructed our helper to inspect the pig pen using a kerosene lamp.
He saw the snake strangling one of the pigs. He struck and killed the python using his machete and a piece of wood, sadly, our small pig also died. That whole week we had protein in our meals. It was proof that the jungles of Panay are inhabited by dangerous pythons.
We had no pet with us. I chose the chickens and the goats to become my pets. I raised one of the chickens; it slept with me, got attached to me and kept trailing me wherever I go. My mother tolerated my unusual pets because I had no peers my age aside from my younger brother.
Me and my younger brother, Erico
To continue with our education, my father home schooled us together with two of my older cousins. For four hours each day we were taught arithmetic, spelling and history. We were lucky to have brought with us a few books on Philippine and US history. Whenever our tenants brought us food supplies, they would update us on news about the status of the Japanese occupation.
Late in the war when the Japanese brutality and atrocities appeared to have stopped, we moved again from the jungle to a seaside village. We stayed at the house of another tenant. My father warned us not to talk to any stranger, and if asked, to avoid giving our real last name of Katague and instead provide an alias which was Katigbak.
There were unverified rumors that the Japanese had a list of names of all the guerrillas, which might have included my father. Some traitor Filipinos worked as spies for the Japanese by pinpointing the guerrillas in exchange for favors.
One day, we saw a platoon of uniformed Japanese soldiers armed with guns and bayonets passing by our village. My brother and I watched them march while hiding in the bushes. I knew their brutal reputation towards the natives, and I was afraid of us being seen and getting in trouble. I was relieved that nothing happened and they continued with their march to the next village.
A terrible incident happened to about 30 of my maternal relatives while we were living in the jungle. They were similarly hiding and living in the jungle on a mountain ridge next to us. They were killed by the Japanese soldiers who discovered and penetrated their location with the help of the spies.
A handicapped relative in a wheelchair was spared. During the massacre, she fell on the creek and must have been left for dead. She lived to tell the tragic story. This is only one example of many atrocities that was committed by the Japanese to the Filipino civilians.
When General MacArthur landed in Leyte on October 1944, it was the happiest day for the Filipinos, the Americans were back to save us from the Japanese tyranny. The Japanese troops started to retreat and surrender. The chance for peace in the Philippines was welcomed with excitement. The schools were planning to reopen. There was no more need to live in hiding and in fear, and to lie about one’s name. We were able to live free from the oppressors.
From the seaside village we moved to another district much closer to town where we built a bigger house. At the back of the property was a hill, and on a clear day, from the top of the hill you could see the nearby island of Negros.
We used it as an observation hill where we could watch the Japanese and American planes flying and then fighting each other. My brother and I witnessed two planes attacking each other, with one plane being blown to pieces and burning as it fell from the sky to the sea between Panay and Negros islands. It was a thrilling dogfight show to watch, although we never found out the victor.
When school reopened, we were required to take a test to determine which grade level we would qualify for. I passed the test for a 4th grade level. I was merely in grade 2 when war broke out. In short, I completed six grades of elementary in only four years of schooling. In class, I was two years younger than most of my classmates. I was thankful for the result of my father’s patience in home schooling us while living in the jungle. At last we were able to go back to our school, new home, and live the life of what was left of my childhood years in peace.
*ViewsHound is published by Publisha Ltd. It is a Seedcamp 2010 winning company, and have raised significant funding creating a great experience for readers and authors all over the world. It is an independent and privately owned company based in UK, but went out of business in 2011.
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 early-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. Please do not forget to read the latest national and International News in this site . 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!