The Good Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon
CHAPTER XII: CORREGIDOR AND BATAAN
AT NINE o’clock in the morning of December 24, 1941, Colonel Huff, aide-de-camp to General
MacArthur, came to inform to me that, in accordance with a previous understanding, I was to leave for Corregidor at two o’clock in the afternoon. The last meeting of the Cabinet was held at ten o’clock the same morning, and we decided finally which of the government officials were to accompany me to Corregidor. To them all I revealed the agreement with General MacArthur that in order to avoid the destruction of the city and save the civilian population from the horrors of indiscriminate bombardment
from Japanese planes and siege-guns, Manila was to be declared an open city.
My last instructions to my colleagues who were left behind were that they should do everything in their power to minimize the sufferings of the civilian population. “Keep your faith in America, no matter what happens. She will never let you down.”
Every one of them wanted to accompany me, even though obliged to leave their families behind in Manila, but for lack of space and other obvious reasons, I could take only Vice-President Osmeña, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Major General Basilio J. Valdes, Colonel Manuel Nieto, my aide- de-camp, and Serapio D. Canceran, my private secretary. I advised them to be ready at the Presidential Landing at two
o’clock in the afternoon. It was a heart-breaking separation from men who, through thick and thin, for so many years had been my friends and my loyal supporters. But I consoled by the fact that I was leaving behind a people on whom I could depend to do their duty by their country, regardless of the consequences to their lives and fortunes.
In my heart of hearts, I was almost certain then that it would be a long time before we could meet again. I embraced everybody good-by and we parted. Immediately thereafter my family and my senior aid-de-camp, Colonel Nieto, accompanied me to the Palace of Malacañan. We found in the Social Hall here about fifty young girls with Mrs. Sofia de Veyra, the secretary to Mrs. Quezon, wrapping up the Christmas gifts for the soldiers, gifts which had been collected by public subscription upon the initiative of my eldest daughter Maria, with the help of her sister Zeneida, their cousins Mary Angara and Rosario Carrasco, and their friends Helen Benitez, Lulu Reyes and the Fabella girls. My two daughters immediately joined the girls and worked with them. By noon — at the usual time — Japanese bombers were flying over the city and began bombarding the Port Area in the immediate vicinity of the Presidential Landing, where, at two o’clock, we were supposed to embark. My last hours in the Palace of Malacañan could not have been more dramatic and inspiring. In that historic palace, the official residence of Spanish and American Governors- General, and then of the President of the Commonwealth, were those young girls completely unperturbed by the air raid and the bursting bombs, and attending to their self-assigned tasks. I thanked God that I was permitted to witness the patriotism, the courage, and the self-possession of the Filipino women who, throughout the history of their country, have never failed to share the sacrifices of the Filipino men. This breathtaking scene steeled my heart for the grim struggle ahead. Such a country, with such women, even though only in their teens, could never accept defeat! No Japanese planes, no Japanese Army, no Japanese Navy, not the whole combined forces of the Axis powers could ever permanently conquer the Filipino people!
By two o’clock in the afternoon, the Japanese bombers were still pouring bombs in the Port Area and on the bay. Hence, our departure was delayed. At three o’clock, although the all-clear signal had not been sounded, General MacArthur’s aide, Colonel Huff, and Major Manuel Roxas, his liaison officer, came to Malacañan to inform me that the hour for departure had arrived. It was heart-rending to part from my
wife’s sister, Emilia, who had been my lifelong pal, and her daughter Mary, my dear niece. While my wife and children were embracing and kissing Emilia and Mary, I turned to Secretary Vargas, my faithful, hard-working, able, honest and public-spirited secretary, to give him my final instructions. “God bless you, George, and lead you in the right path. You have my absolute confidence, and I am sure you will not fail me. Good-by.” Vargas merely said with suppressed feelings: “Mr. President, no matter what happens, you can count upon me, whether here in Malacañan, if the Japanese allow me to remain, or in my house in Kawilihan.” No other word was said. That was enough for two men who had worked together in good and evil days for so many years.
From the Presidential Landing, in two launches, the party headed for the S.S Mayon, nearly a mile away. Then I realized the air raid was not over, for there were still a few planes dropping bombs in the bay. They were trying to sink every ship in their view. Fortunately no member of my family noticed the danger to which we were exposed. They would have been gravely anxious, but for me, rather than for their own lives.
At last we boarded the S.S. Mayon, but the ship was notready to move. The chief engineer and his first assistant had gone ashore to take some clothes and were not expected until the evening. The captain was there. For nothing in the world would he leave his ship, since the Japanese had become masters of the air over the bay. His name, now immortal, was Captain Aguirre. When, two months later, the Mayon was finally discovered by the Japanese bombers to be transporting supplies by order of General MacArthur, this heroic man went to the bottom of the sea with his ship. I ordered the captain to sail, chief engineer or no. The ship-owner, Mr. Madrigal, my lifelong friend, was there to see me off. Under his direction, the third engineer was able to start the engines after one hour and a half of work, during which
time the bombing of the bay did not cease. If the Japanese pilots had only known that U.S. High Commissioner Sayre, together with his wife and son, members of his staff and the President of the Commonwealth, were aboard the Mayon, they would never have let our ship get away. They would
have been decorated by His Imperial Majesty Hirohito for having murdered two men whom His Majesty had designed to receive into his august presence not long before. But evidently no fifth columnists were either in the vicinity of the High Commissioner’s residence or in mine.
All the while, and until the last Japanese bomber disappeared from the sky, everybody on board, including Commissioner Sayre and I, had our life-belts on. No, there were two who did not wear them: my aide-de-camp, Colonel Nieto, and my daughter Maria, who put on her life-belt only when her mother commanded her to do it,-but, at the first chance, she regularly took it off again, until caught without it by either her mother or by me. At six-thirty I was hungry, and asked that dinner be served. Our whole party took their seats at the tables, but the Commissioner and his family and party did not seem to have any appetite. I insisted that they join us, fir it might be our last meal. The argument carried the point, and we all enjoyed the banquet. There were cocktails, wine, soup, fish, meat, a variety of fruits, dessert and coffee. It was perfect, but it proved to be for us all the last example for many a week, not only of a feast, but even of a simple, well-balanced and sufficient diet.
At dusk, we arrived at the pier of Corregidor, at the very spot where, with Major General Kilbourne, I had landed in 1935, to be received with a gun salute and a regimental guard of honor. This time only the commander of the Fortress, General Moore, and his aide-de-camp, were there to receive me. After taking me into his car, General Moore said: “You came just late enough to escape the bombing of Mariveles Bay. A French ship anchored in that bay was sunk half an hour before your arrival.” Good luck seemed to be with us. We escaped two bombings, one at the start, and another at the end, of our trip across Manila Bay.
General Moore showed me to my quarters in the tunnel. I was to stay with the male members of my staff in the same lateral to which High Commissioner Sayre and his staff were assigned, and my wife and daughters were to share snother lateral with Mrs. Sayre and the American ladies. Each lateral had but one shower, one toilet and one wash basin for its occupants. There were also two small houses
not too far from the tunnel, one for Commissioner Sayre and the other for me, which we could use when there were no air raids. General Moore apologized for thus piling us in a single, long, but narrow corridor, dark and without fresh air. As proof that this apparent disregard for our comfort and health was not due either to lack of courtesy or desire on his part properly to accommodate us, he informed me that the
Supreme Commander of the USAFFE, General MacArthur, his Chief of Staff, General Sutherland, his aide-de-camp, Colonel Huff, the Quartermaster General, General Drake, the Adjutant General, Colonel Seals, the Chief Health Officer, Colonel Smith, and Major Roxas, the liaison officer, were also to share with us the same lateral. All told, there would be twenty-eight of us in that place.
I thanked General Moore and begged him not to worry about me. In a light vein I reminded him of the fact that I had been an insurrecto, well trained by actual experience to stand the hardships of war. “This is a first class hotel,” I remarked, “compared with those habitations during my days as a guerrillero against your army.” General Moore appreciated the joke. He thought, perhaps, that I would miss the splendor
and comfort of Malacañan Palace. As a matter of fact, I did not. I was even grateful that in some insignificant way I could thus share the ordeal that our own soldiers at the front were going through at that very moment.
Before midnight of the same day, General MacArthur, with his wife and son, his Chief of Staff, Major General Sutherland, Colonel Willoughby, chief of the Intelligence Service, Colonel Seals, Adjutant General, Colonel Huff, his aide-de-camp, and many other officers arrived at Corregidor aboard the steamer Don Esteban.
The following morning General MacArthur and I had our first meeting in Corregidor, a practice which thereafter we followed every day, and sometimes more than once a day until my departure from the Fortress.
It was Christmas Eve, which Catholics celebrate with a midnight mass. At 1 2 o’clock that night, my family and party and I heard mass inside the tunnel with an improvised altar. When the priest read “Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis,” the heavenly song sung by the angels almost two thousand years before sounded in my ears with an almost ironical tone. Glory to God on high and on earth peace to men of good will. Peace! Where were the men of good will when in all parts of the globe men were butchering one another at that solemn hour? Did the Divine Child who descended upon the earth to preach brotherly love die in vain?
After the midnight mass it is customary among Catholics to wish everybody Merry Christmas. Who could give expression to that wish when all of us were sunk in the depths of grief? I kissed my wife and children. “Good-night, sweetheart, good-night, Dad”, and each went to bed.
It was an awful night, for I coughed all the time. From the beginning of the war my malady had gone from the bad worse. The lack of fresh air and humidity of the tunnel had an immediate effect upon my bronchials. But although awake, I refused to think. I closed my mind tightly and allowed no thought to come in. The decision had been made and I was determined to face its dire consequences. To ruminate
over the past — peaceful, happy, and steady progress of my people — or to remember the dear ones whom I had left behind would be a self-inflicted torture hard to endure. To look to the future was of no use. Victory, of course. Of this I was certain. But when? God only knew. In the meantime, for those who were in Corregidor or Bataan, including my family, there were only two alternatives — death, which was
perhaps the less dreadful of the two, or long captivity in the hands of a ruthless enemy. All of that was in my subconscious mind, but I would not let it come up into my consciousness.
The following day was Christmas. I was dumb and stupid, but managed to appear unconcerned.
At eleven A.M. General MacArthur came to make a call. He and his family, with some members of his staff, had arrived in Corregidor several hours after us, quite late that night. He was going to occupy General Moore’s house at the top of the hill and locate his office in another house near-by. He had left all the necessary orders for the declaration of Manila as an open city and had sent for the Japanese Consul General (then in detention) in order that the Consul might communicate this fact to the General in command of the invasion army.
Meanwhile, the American and Filipino troops were retreating to Bataan, fighting a delaying action so as to reach the Peninsula with their full strength. The orders were being carried out magnificently and to the letter. The Philippine army was writing history. The General was certain that he and I would be proud of our handiwork. That was all for the present. He would see me every day at the same time and at any other time that there was some important news. At noon, there was a Christmas dinner, turkey for everybody, including the soldiers. Our lateral was in the hospital located in the tunnel, and we ate our meals in the dining-room for the doctors and nurses. We were served after them. The sight of the turkey gave me almost a thrill. Not that I cared for the meat of this bird, for I do not, but because it momentarily
changed my mood. After all, the prospect did not look so bad. The U.S.A, I thought, must be well provided to stand a long siege. I was in high spirits during the dinner, and the wine I had brought from Manila toasted our triumphal return to that city in time to celebrate in Malacañan the birthday of my wife, February 19th.
After dinner we went out of the tunnel for a breath of fresh air. The view of the deep blue sea and the green Mariveles mountain on that glorious, sunny December day was extremely exhilarating. Before I realized it, my mind was dwelling upon memories of a long and distant past — my days spent as an insurrecto on the trip of this very Peninsula, and my surrender in Mariveles. Would the Army, fast concentrating in Bataan, meet the same fate and surrender to the enemy as I had done forty years earlier? This thought brought me back to the realities of the situation which we were confronting. I went to my lateral to shut, not only my eyes, but my mind, again. I took a siesta and then played bridge until suppertime.
Another bad night with much coughing, and the 26th of December arrived.
After breakfast, Dr. Trepp and General Valdes, the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army (and at this time acting Secretary of National Defense), who were staying in my lateral, and had heard me coughing on the two previous nights, suggested that I send some one to Manila to get all the medicines that I might need. Dr. Trepp is a native Swiss who had acquired Philippine citizenship. He is a lung specialist whom I took to Corregidor because of the recurrence in December of the year before of my tuberculosis. General Valdes, like the late General Wood, is a professional physician who had served in a First World War in France as Army doctor, and who later became an officer of the Constabulary, next Chief of that organization, and upon formation of the Philippine Army succeeded General Paulino Santos as Chief of Staff.
On December 27th I sent my aide, Colonel Nieto, to Manila to get the required medicines.
My long association with Colonel Nieto first began at the time of his graduation from my alma mater, the College of San Juan de Letran. He had been a fine track athlete and perhaps the best football player of his day in the Philippines.
It is traditional in San Juan de Letran for the Dominican friars who conducted the college to tell the undergraduates of the student lives of those who have preceded them and later distinguished themselves in their careers. After my election as Resident Commissioner to the United States, and particularly upon my return to the Philippines in 1916 after the passage of the Jones Act, the professors of San Juan de Letran had spoken proudly of me. The whole student body went out to join in the public welcome which on that occasion was tendered me, and they formed a guard of honor in front of the college building when the Quezon Gate was opened in the old city wall facing the college. There I met
After the completion of his studies, Nieto offered his services to me. He was not interested in the salary, for his father, an old Spaniard who owned who owned landed estatesin the tobacco provinces of northern Luzon, had enough with which to support him. Of course, Nieto received a salary when I appointed him secretary of the Senate, of which I had become the President. From the time that he entered the public service he had always been by my side when he thought there might be any risk to my life. After my election as President of the Philippines, he was sent to the Officer’s Training Camp in Baguio, where he graduated with distinction and was commissioned as Captain of the Philippine Army in the Reserve Corps. Later I called him to active duty as aide-de-camp. Nieto knows no fear. During the whole time that we were on Corregidor he never ran for the tunnel when bombs were bursting around us, and his loyalty has been such that I always felt that he would give his life to save mine. Some people, jealous of his prowess, have called him, disparagingly, my bodyguard. As a matter
of fact, I never did have a bodyguard. Even as President of the Philippines I was accustomed to walk around in public without a policeman or secret service man, or Nieto, or any one, by my side. On one occasion, my friend Roy Howard of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, who saw me alone in the midst of a large group of all kinds of people, advised me against it. I may say that it is not lack of fear, of which I have plenty, as I have discovered to my discomfiture on many instances, which caused me to be seemingly careless about my personal safety. Rather, it is my conviction that if a public man is marked to be eliminated, no amount of police, bodyguards or anything of the sort can save him, as history has shown again and again. Furthermore, I know the psychology of my people. They would have resented, as evidence of lack of confidence in them, their chosen President’s always being surrounded by armed men. On the other hand, the Filipino returns lavishly, with a loyalty that knows no bounds, the affection and confidence of those whom he has elevated to high office. Of course, when there was real need for haste, motorcycle policemen preceded my car to open the traffic. On formal occasions either a cavalry or motorized artillery escort accompanied my car.
Reverting to my story: I sent Colonel Nieto to Manila aboard the presidential launch Baler and he came back the following day, the 27th. He had been to Malacañan Palace, had had a long conference with Secretary Vargas, then the Mayor of Greater Manila, and had seen Mr. Andres Soriano, who offered the one remaining plane he had for my family and me to use in order to go to Australia. Mr. Soriano’s air service was a Philippine corporation which had been operating for some time before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Under the franchise granted by the Commonwealth Government, in case of emergency the Government had the right to take over and operate the airplanes owned by the company. Upon the
beginning of hostilities Mr. Soriano had offered all his planes to General MacArthur, who, of course, accepted the offer, but allowed the company to continue the service until the Army actually needed them. It was one of these planes that was offered to me. With many thanks I declined it. Colonel
Nieto also brought a copy of the newspaper containing General MacArthur’s proclamation declaring Manila an open city. Here it is:
In order to spare the metropolitan area from possible ravages of attack either by air or ground, Manila is hereby declared an open city without the characteristics of a military objective. In order that no excuse may be given for a possible mistake, the American High Commissioner, the Commonwealth Government, and all combatant military installations will be withdrawn from its environs as rapidly as possible.
The municipal government will continue to function with its police powers reinforced by constabulary troops, so that the normal protection of life and property may be preserved. Citizens are requested to maintain obedience to constituted authorities and continue the normal processes of business.
Later in the day General MacArthur stated that the declaration of Manila as an open city had been announced, that he was getting out of the city as fast as possible the few remaining armed forces there, that a delaying action was being fought by our men to cover the retreat of the Army to Bataan. After the conference with General MacArthur, I called my War Cabinet together to transmit to them the information
just received. At this time the War Cabinet consisted of the Vice-President as Secretary of Public Instruction, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Secretary of Finance and Agriculture, and General Basilio J. Valdes, Secretary of National Defense and Public Works and Communications. Also present was Major Manuel Roxas, who, though no longer a member of the Cabinet, was always invited to attend whenever a really important matter was to be considered.
On the 27th, General MacArthur reported that the Treasury Building and the old church of Santo Domingo had been bombed despite the declaration of Manila as an open city. It may be imagined with what indignation and pain we received this cruel news. Of course, no damage was done to the government gold and silver for, with the exception of small amounts that were kept in the Treasury in Manila for use as required, the rest had always been kept in a vault in Corregidor. The bulk of the paper currency however, was kept in the Treasury for the ordinary use of the government and the people. In order to find out how much damage had been done to the Treasury, I sent Colonel Nieto again to Manila with the instructions to Secretary Vargas to send as much paper currency as possible. This duly reached us on Corregidor.
On this same day General MacArthur reported another bit of information which distressed me personally even more than the bad news of the day before. The College of San Juan de Letran and the buildings of the Philippines Herald had been razed to the ground by Japanese bombs. The College of San Juan de Letran, as repeatedly stated in this story, was my alma matter. The Philippines Herald was a newspaper that had been published, on my initiative, by Filipino capital, in the English language, to express the Filipino point of view on public questions.
A Tokyo broadcast in English, Spanish and Tagalog, addressed to President Quezon, offered the following conditions as prerequisite for the acceptance by Japan of the status of Manila as an open city: (1) that all military camps and establishments be withdrawn from Manila and the approaches to the city, and (2) that Filipino armies cooperate with the Japanese forces and cease all resistance.
Before noon on December 29th, Corregidor had its first taste of bombardment from the air. With my wife and children and a group of officers, including doctors and nurses, I was outside the tunnel when the sound of bursting bombs and anti-aircraft guns informed us that it was time to seek cover in the tunnel. Everybody moved in, but my daughter Maria was not in any hurry. Colonel Nieto had to push her in for my wife would not enter the tunnel before making sure that all the children were safe. Soon, through the main entrance to the hospital the wounded began to arrive at the hospital. I asked my wife to go into her lateral and take the girls with her so as to relieve them of the distress of seeing our casualties. While the bombing was going on, my anxiety for General MacArthur and his family was indescribable. I knew that both his house and his office were at top-side, in the vicinity of the main hospital. The latter evidently had suffered a direct hit, for some of the wounded brought into the tunnel had been hit near the hospital. There was no one who could say what had happened to the General. One of General Moore’s staff officers did report one fact which afforded some relief to my anxiety. According to his officer, there was an air-raid shelter near the house and the office.
On December 30th, the Japanese planes made their second visit to Corregidor, evidently with as much gusto as on the day before. But neither in casualties nor in property damage was their bombing so severe as the preceding one, and yet in our tunnel the effect of this second bombardment was bad. On the day before, the Japanese had directed their bombs only against top-side and while their practically demolished everything in sight up there, no bombs had fallen on “bottomside”. So the tunnel had not been in the least affected. The bombing of the 29th damaged the lighting system and broke the water pipes serving the tunnel. We were in darkness. Casualties that were brought into the hospital had to be
attended with flashlights. For some days we had to drink and cook in salty water.
The all-clear signal had hardly been sounded and some lights restored, when a long radiogram was delivered to me containing a proclamation of the President of the United States addressed to the people of the Philippines. On reading the message I was instantly electrified and thrilled. The dungeon where my sick body was lying lost its depressing gloom. I asked to be taken out to the open space, for the world was too small to contain the emotions that almost burst my heart. Indeed, I was so invigorated that I gave my wife a jolt when she saw me walking fast through the long corridor of the tunnel out into the setting sun. The receipt of the President’s proclamation fortunately took place the day preceding my inauguration, and so it was a most welcome and timely addition to the address I had prepared. Indeed, I
was almost tempted to dispense with my entire manuscript and limit myself to the reading of the President’s message.
President Roosevelt’s proclamation had at last broken wide open the doors of my conscious mind. After the receipt of the message, I held a Cabinet meeting and read it to them. Giving vent to my feelings, I told my colleagues that the sacrifices our country was making were not in vain. There was a future so brilliant and full of promise — no, not promise, but certainly. The Philippines would not only be independent and free, but its independence and freedom were to be protected and safeguarded by the “entire resources in men and materials of the United States.”
The 30th of December, 1941, was the date set by law for the end of my first and beginning of my second administration. At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the ceremonies of my second installation as President of the Commonwealth were held. A platform had been improvised in the leveled clearing outside the tunnel used as the officer’s mess. Upon this platform the United States High Commissioner was seated on my right, the Supreme Commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East, General MacArthur, on my left, Vice-President Sergio Osmeña to the right of the High Commissioner, and Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, of the Supreme Court, to the left of General MacArthur. In front of the platform in the first row were my War Cabinet, the Commander of the Fort of Corregidor, General Moore, the Commander of Artillery, General King, the Quartermaster General, General Drake, and my family, behind there were the high ranking officers of the United States and Philippine Armies, my staff, doctors and nurses, a few American ladies, and the Filipino laborers of Corregidor led by Civil
The ceremonies were solemn, indeed, to me more solemn than those of my first inauguration, despite the fact that at that historic event of November 15, 1935, a brilliant and distinguished audience had assembled in full force.
On this my second inauguration, there was no adornment but the American and Filipino flags flying on either side of my chair, and before me only a limited audience. Yet, once again I say, it was more solemn than my first inauguration —nay, it was dramatic.
The Government to be inaugurated faced a life and death struggle. In 1935, my inaugural address was concerned with policies and plans for the future, to be carried out under the reign of peace, emphasis was laid upon the gratitude of the Filipino people for the boon they had received from the hands of the United States in the establishment of the Commonwealth and in the assurance that by 1946 that government would be succeeded by an independent Philippine Republic. Those expressions of gratitude were now being put to the crucial test. And we had true and kept the faith. The Government, our Army, our people all over the Philippines, even to the farthest corner, were now giving testimony of the reality of those expressions by their suffering, their losses, and with their lives.
Chief Justice Abad Santos administered the oath of office and I felt the burden of my new responsibility to be incomparably heavier than when confronted only with economic, social, and to a certain extent, political, problems. These, although enough to test the capacity of men better qualified than I was, now seemed to have passed into insignificance as compared with the one single problem lying ahead — war and war only, to face with required fortitude, determination and courage far beyond what I had been given by my Creator while in the womb of my mother.
After taking the oath, I delivered the following address:
“On November 15, 1935, I took my oath of office as first President of the Philippines under the most favorable auspices. The Philippines was at peace and the Filipino people were happy and contented. At the inaugural ceremonies held in the city of Manila, there were present high dignitaries of the Government of the United States, and a vast multitude of Filipinos deeply grateful to America and thrilled with the vision of a bright future.
“Today I am assuming for the second time the duties of the Presidency under entirely different conditions. We are in the grip of war, and the seat of the government has been temporarily transferred from the city of Manila to a place in close proximity to the headquarters of our armed forces, where I am in constant touch with General Douglas MacArthur. All around us enemy bombs are dropping and anti-aircraft guns are roaring. In defenseless cities and towns air raids are killing women and children and destroying century-old churches, monasteries, and schools.
“Six years ago, there was every reason to believe that the Filipino people would be able to prepare themselves for independence in peace and without hindrance. In my first inaugural address, I outlined a program intended to lay the foundations for a government that will, in the language of our Constitution, promote the general welfare and secure to the Filipino people and their posterity ‘the blessing of independence under a regime of justice, liberty, and democracy’
“Our task of nation-building was in progress when suddenly, on December 8, 1941, the Philippines became the victim of wanton aggression. We are resisting this aggression with everything that we have. Our soldiers, American and Filipino, under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, one of the greatest soldiers of out times, are fighting on all fronts with gallantry and heroism that will go down in history. In the face of frequent air raids which are causing so much death, suffering, and destruction, our civilian population are maintaining their morale. Despite the enemy’s temporary superiority in the air and on land and sea, we have been able check the rapid advance of the invading armies. America and the Philippines may well be proud of the heroic struggle that our forces are putting up against the invader.
“At the present time we have but one task — to fight with America for America and the Philippines. To this task we shall devote all our resources in men and materials. Ours is a great cause. We are fighting for human liberty and justice, for those principles of individual freedom which we all cherish without which life would not be worth living. Indeed, we are fighting for our own independence, these liberties and these freedoms, to banish fear and want among all peoples, and to establish a reign of justice for all the world, that we are sacrificing our lives and all that we possess. The war may be long-drawn and hard-
fought, but with the determination of freedom-loving peoples everywhere to stamp out the rule of violence and terrorism from the face of the earth, I am absolutely convinced that final and complete victory will be ours.
“Soon after the outbreak of the war, I received a message from the President Roosevelt expressing admiration for the gallantry of our soldiers and the courageous stand of our civilian population. Yesterday, the President of the United States issued the proclamation which, I am sure, will hearten our fighting men and thrill their soul of every American and Filipino in this land. This is the proclamation:
‘”News of your gallant struggle against the Japanese aggressor has elicited the profound admiration of every American. As President of the United States, I know that I speak for all our people on this solemn occasion. The resources of the United States, of the British Empire, of the Netherland East Indies, and the Chinese Republic have been dedicated by their people to the utter and complete defeat of the Japanese War Lords. In this great struggle of the Pacific the loyal Americans of the Philippine Islands are called upon to play a crucial role. They have played, and they are playing tonight, their part with the greatest gallantry. As President I wish to express to them my feeling of sincere admiration for the fight they are now making. The people of the United States will never forget what the people of the Philippine Islands are doing these days and will do in the days to come.
“I give to the people of the Philippines my solemn pledge that their freedom will be redeemed and their independence established and protected. The entire resources in men and materials of the United States stands behind that pledge. It is not for me or for the people of this country to tell you where your duty lies. We are engaged in a great and common cause. I count on every Philippine man, woman and child to
this duty. We will do ours. I give you this message from the Navy: the Navy Department tonight announces the Japanese Government is circulating rumors for the obvious purpose of persuading the United States to disclose the location and intentions of the American Pacific Fleets. It is obvious that
these rumors are intended for, and directed at, the Philippine Islands. The Philippines may rest assured that while the Untied States Navy will not be tricked into disclosing vital information, the fleet is not idle. The United States Navy is following an intensive and well-planned campaign against Japanese forces which will result in positive assistance to the defense of the Philippine Islands.’
“My heart, and I know the hearts of all American and Filipinos in this country, are filled with gratitude for the reassuring words of the President of the Untied States. My answer, our answer, to him is that every man, woman, and child in the Philippines will do his duty. No matter what suffering and sacrifices this war may impose upon us we shall stand by America with undaunted spirit, for we know that upon the outcome of this war depend the happiness, liberty, and security not only of this generation but of the generations yet unborn.
“Mr. High Commissioner, may I ask you to convey to the President of the Unites States our profound gratitude for the noble sentiments expressed in his proclamation. The Filipino people are particularly grateful for his abiding interest in our welfare and for his pledge to assure and protect our freedom and independence.
“General MacArthur, there are no words in any language that can express to you the deep gratitude of the Filipino people and my own for your devotion to our cause, the defense of our country, and the safety of our population. I trust that the time will come when we may express this sentiment to you in a more appropriate manner.
“To all American in the Philippines, soldiers and civilians alike, I want to say that our common ordeal has fused our hearts in a single purpose and an everlasting affection.
“My fellow-countrymen, this is the most momentous period of our history. As we face the grim realities of war, let us rededicate ourselves to the great principles of freedom and democracy for which our forefathers fought and died. The present war is being fought for these same principles. It demands from us courage, determination, and unity of action. In taking my oath of office, I make the pledge for myself,
my government, and my people, to stand by America and fight with her until victory is won. I am resolved, whatever the consequences to myself, faithfully to fulfill this pledge. I humbly invoke the help of Almighty God that I may have the wisdom and fortitude to carry out this solemn obligation.”
Then the United States High Commissioner read a congratulatory message from President Roosevelt which had been sent some time before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
After this, General MacArthur made a few remarks which were deeply felt by all present.
After the inauguration there was shaking of hands —strong, expressive, significant, hand-clasps. But none dared utter the word “congratulations.” I hope not one of those present pitied me at that moment. I could not have borne it. Instead, the shaking of hands and the expression of their faces evinced confidence which was encouraging and inspiring. God knows I needed it.
On December 31st General MacArthur reported that his troops had fallen back to a line reaching within thirty miles from Manila. On the north our forces had readjusted and shortened their lines.
On this same day the National Treasurer, Mr. Apolinario S. de Leon, came with more paper currency and reported that Pio Pedrosa, one of the most trusted, efficient, and loyal servants of the Government, had been seriously wounded on the occasion of the bombing of the Treasury. With Treasurer de Leon came Mr. Franco, the Chief Electrician of the Bureau of Public Works, with a recording apparatus to make a record of the inaugural address which was to be broadcast from Manila, for Corregidor did not as yet have a broadcasting station.
By eight o’clock in the evening of January 1st , the aide of General MacArthur came on behalf of the General to request that I join him at nine o’clock that same evening that at the house he was occupying not very far from the tunnel. At the appointed time I found there the General, his Chief of Staff, Major General Sutherland, the Chief of the Intelligence Service, Colonel Willoughby, and the United States High Commissioner, Mr. Sayre. At once it was evident that something serious was in the offing. General MacArthur read aloud to those present a telegram which he had received from Washington to the effect that if my evacuation could possibly be accomplished, I should be taken to Washington and function there as the head of the Commonwealth Government in exile and as the symbol of the redemption of the Philippines. The telegram further stated that if I was willing to be evacuated and in the opinion of General MacArthur this was feasible, the General should effect it with the best means available to him or with the
assistance of the Navy. Then General MacArthur read his proposed answer in which he stated that my evacuation was too hazardous to be attempted, that my departure would undoubtedly be followed by the collapse of the will to fight on the part of the Filipinos, that exclusive of the Air Corps which had no planes, there were only about 7,000 American combat troops, the rest being Filipinos. The telegram ended with a statement that both Mr. Sayre and I, having been informed of the contents of General MacArthur’s answer, had expressed our concurrence.
There was a profound silence after the reading of the telegrams, the one received and the one to be sent. After a pause, I told General MacArthur that before giving assent to his proposed answer, I would have to lay the matter before my War Cabinet, discuss it with them and then make my own decision. At once there assembled in conference Vice-President Osmeña, Chief Justice and Acting Secretary of Finance Jose Abad Santos, Acting Secretary of National Defense and Public Works and Communications General Basilio Valdes, and my unofficial adviser, Major Manuel Roxas. I informed them fully of the contents of the telegram received form Washington, but said nothing of the answer proposed by General MacArthur.
The unanimous opinion of the Cabinet was that the invitation to evacuate to the United States should be
accepted if it could be done without serious risk to my life, for they thought that the Filipino people would want me to be saved from falling into the hands of the enemy or from being killed. Then, and without referring to the statements made by General MacArthur in his proposed telegram, I asked them if they did not think that my departure at that time would dishearten the Philippine Army and weaken their determination to fight. The Cabinet thought just the contrary, that is, if the Filipino generals were informed of the reason for my departure and especially if they could be assured that my trip to America would mean that timely arrival of help from the United States, then the effect of my trip upon the morale of the Philippine Army would be good. In any event, the Cabinet opined that the important thing to determine was the feasibility of my evacuation, that if this could be done in relative safety, the Filipino generals and their commands would feel strongly in favor of it. My colleagues were sure that the Army shared the people’s desire to have the head of their government and their leader where he would be free from the encircling grip of the enemy. Major Roxas offered to go to Bataan and explain the whole thing
to the Philippine Army. Then they asked me the opinion of General MacArthur as to the hazards of the trip. I told what General MacArthur stated in his proposed answer to Washington regarding this matter. Whereupon the Cabinet decided that I should refuse to make the trip for they were very hopeful that before Bataan and Corregidor were forced to surrender, sufficient help would come for the American
and Filipino forces to take the offensive and drive the enemy out of the land. It should be borne in mind that the general belief among the Filipinos, both civilians and soldiers, was that Bataan and Corregidor had sufficient supplies of food and ammunition to resist six month’s siege, and few doubted that within the time America would be in command of the seas and, therefore, able to send all the help necessary to beat back the invading army. For my part, I knew that at that time my evacuation to America could be made in comparative safety. Full control by the Japanese of the sea-lanes between Manila and Australia had not yet been established. I could have left on a surface ship from Corregidor to Mindanao, traveling at night. From Mindanao I could have flown to Australia, making the regulator stops, for the airports in Celebes, Borneo, and the Dutch East Indies had not as yet been taken over by the enemy. As an alternative plan I could then have gone in a submarine to Panay and from Panay to Mindanao on a surface boat and from Mindanao to Australia in one continuous flight on a bomber as I did two months later. But neither to my War Cabinet nor to General MacArthur did I express this thought. I kept it to myself.
Moreover, I was doubtful if help could come in time even with my presence in America. To me it was clear that if I accepted the invitation to evacuate there would only be one certain result — my safety and that of my family. Bearing in mind the proposed answer of General MacArthur, I saw that the Supreme Commander of the USAFFE was convinced of the need of my presence in Corregidor at that time, and I
felt strongly that it was my duty to defer to his judgment. There was thus but one course for me to take. In the presence of the Cabinet I dictated the following letter to General MacArthur:
I have carefully considered the telegram of General Marshall… I have come to the conclusion that in so far as the suggested trip to the United States is concerned, I have no preference. I am willing to do what the Government of United Sates may think will be more helpful for the successful prosecution of the war. My immediate concern is to secure prompt and adequate help from the Untied States, because our soldiers at the front and the Filipino people in general have placed their trust in this indispensable help. …
It will be seen from the above letter that I did not directly decline the offer to evacuate. I felt the decision on this matter in the hands of the Government in Washington, but I did emphatically state that my only concern was to win the war and I was ready to do anything that Washington might consider necessary to achieve this end. I did stress, however, the need for immediate relief.
My letter to General MacArthur was transmitted verbatim to the War Department. With this addition, he sent his telegram exactly as he had read it to me.
On January 2nd, General MacArthur informed me that the withdrawal of our forces to Bataan would be successfully completed in a day or two at that he thought that I should address a proclamation to the Filipino Soldiers. I agreed that that was a magnificent idea and we discussed the question of making use of the proclamation of the President of the Unites States to the people of the Philippines. By this time,
I had noticed that President Roosevelt had used the words “your independence will be redeemed” (Italics mine), and I asked General MacArthur if he thought that the word “redeemed” had been used advisedly to indicate that the President had already come to the conclusion that the Philippines was
lost as no possible help could reach us on time to save our situation. The General, while not expressing a positive opinion, suggested the possibility that the transmission of the presidential message might have been garbled. I decided that being in doubt as to the exact intent of the presidential language, I should not quote the President literally. So I used the word “preserved” instead of “redeemed”, which, while
not necessarily implying a promise of timely succor, could not be construed as meaning that all hope for help must be abandoned. Such a construction might weaken the fighting spirit of the men in the front.
On the 3rd of January, I issued the following proclamation:
The people of America and your own countrymen have been thrilled by the gallantry with which you have been defending our country. I am grateful and proud for the resistance you have offered against such tremendous odds. You have performed deeds of heroism and valor which will live in the history of these stirring days. The service that you are rendering to your people and your country, to say the least, is the equal of that rendered by our fathers who fought and died in the battles for our liberty.
The President of the United States, speaking for the Government and people of America, in a recent proclamation addressed to the people of the Philippines, solemnly pledged that the freedom of our country will be preserved and our independence protected. He asserted that behind that pledge stood all the resources of America in men and materials. You are, therefore, fighting with America because America is fighting for our freedom. Our salvation will depend upon the victory of American and Filipino arms.
America will not abandon us. Her help will not be delayed. The enemy’s temporary superiority in the air, on land and on sea cannot last much longer. We must resist further advance of the enemy until assistance arrives and I trust it will be soon. The outcome of the battle of the Philippines will depend in very large measure on your firm and unyielding resistance.
I am aware of your sufferings, your privations, your sacrifices, and the dangers to which you are exposed. All these weigh heavily upon my mind, but I am consoled by the fact that I am sharing with you your trials
and tribulations. Indeed, right now bombs are falling near me just as they must fall around you. But we cannot allow them either to daunt our spirit or weaken our determination to continue fighting to the bitter end. We must stand by our plighted word, by the loyalty that we have pledged to America, and by our devotion to freedom, democracy, and our liberty. We are fighting that the Filipino people may be the masters of their own destiny and that every Filipino not only of this generation but of the generations to come may be able to live in peace and tranquility in the full enjoyment of liberty and freedom. Your duty — our duty — is to fight and resist until the invader is driven from our land. You must not give up a foot of ground when the battle joins. You must hold in place — and hold — and hold.
On January 6th, at the usual time of our conference, General MacArthur told me that the withdrawal of our forces in Bataan had been successfully completed without any serious loss either of life or material. Later in my conversation with Americans and Filipinos in command of our retreating forces, I formed the opinion that in this retreat General MacArthur out-maneuvered and outwitted the Japanese generalship.
In that retreat, too, the men in command in the front lines proved their mettle and their ability to carry out the orders of the Supreme Commander. In this conference, General MacArthur also informed me that he was going to Bataan with the idea of staying there as long as it might be necessary. With great diffidence and as much diplomacy as I was capable of, I voiced the general feeling among Americans and Filipinos in Corregidor that General MacArthur should not take chances and risk his life, for if he were lost the consequences to the morale of the fighting mean would be incalculable. For the first time, I repeated to General MacArthur the story told me by his orderly how he, the General, had almost lost his life in the first Japanese bombardment of Corregidor’s top-side. In a rather light vain General MacArthur answered: ” The Japs have not as yet fabricated the bomb with my name in it,” and then more seriously, he said, “Of course, I understand what you mean and I also know that I have no right to gamble with my life, but it is absolutely necessary that at the right time the Supreme Commander should take these chances because of the effect all down the line, for when they see the man at the top risking his life, the man at the bottom says, ‘I guess if the old man can take it, I can take it, too.'”
I asked General MacArthur to take with him Major Roxas so that Roxas might talk to the Filipino generals.
“Not this time,” the General answered, “for I do not know as yet exactly the situation at the front, and since Roxas is not a trained and veteran soldier, the trip might be too much for him. When the situation is stabilized, it might be the occasion for sending Roxas.”
The following day, General MacArthur, with his staff visited the front, and when we met again he told me that there was no reason for immediate worry, that he felt confident that he could hold Bataan and Corregidor for several months without outside help, that the morale of our forces was high, that those Filipino reservists who had only had five and a half month’s training, had become veteran in less than one month actual fighting against a determined and superior force. Although this report could not be more
encouraging, it plainly implied that we could not stem the flood of Japanese assault indefinitely. More and more I realized what would be the inevitable result unless help from America was forthcoming. I could no longer take the same fatalistic mental attitude that I was able to assume in the first days of my stay in Corregidor. I began to worry about the soldiers at the front. In the Philippine Army there were the
best of the youth of my country, the sons of the rich and influential Filipino families, partaking equally with the sons of the lowliest, in the hardships and the casualties of the war. As days passed by, with the bombs dropping on Corregidor or not, this thought weighed more heavily upon my mind —and my conscience. After all, although the Tydings-McDuffie Act or Independence Law, provided that during the transition period of the Government of the Commonwealth, the President of the United States could muster into the service of the Federal Government all the organized forces of the Commonwealth, the Philippine Army had been of my own creation. Neither President Roosevelt nor any department of his government had made the slightest suggestion to me that I create an army to fight with America for America and the Philippines while the American flag was flying over the Islands. Had I not created the Philippine Army, only the Philippine Scouts, a part of the United States Army and the Philippine Constabulary under my command, with a limited number of officers and men, would have been subject to call by the President of the United States when war broke out. Therefore it was evidently my responsibility to God and my people that thousands of my countrymen would die and the survivors perhaps be taken as prisoners of war, if, because of some insurmountable obstacle, the aid from America could not arrive on time. Not only this but it was also upon my initiative that the whole Filipino people had rallied to the standard of America and offered everything they had in manpower and resources in defense of the American flag. Of course, I knew that this was our duty, a duty imposed by our gratitude to America and our sworn loyalty to her. And I also knew that the Filipino people felt this double obligation as strongly as I did. But, withal, I was staggered by the immensity of the sacrifice. To find out how the men at the front felt, I determined to send January 10th, the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army and Acting Secretary of National Defense, General Valdes, accompanied by my aide, Colonel Nieto, to visit our forces in Bataan and report to me the situation. They came back on the night of the 11th and
spoke in enthusiastic terms of the prevailing spirit among our forces. They had seen all the command posts of the Filipino generals, the headquarters of the Philippine Army and also conferred with some subordinate officers. They failed to see General Wainwright at his headquarters because he was inspecting the front lines. From high and low among the Filipinos in Bataan, General Valdes received assurance of their determination to fight on and of their confidence in beating the Japanese if they could only have protection from the air.
When General MacArthur came to see me on the morning of the 12th, I communicated to him the report given to me by General Valdes and Colonel Nieto, emphasizing the evident expectation of our people at the front that help especially in airplanes would come from America.
Purely on my own responsibility I telegraph President Roosevelt on January 13th, expressing my belief and desire that the whole force of America should be directed first against Japan in the Far East. I sensed that even among the American officers who were in Corregidor this was the general opinion and wish, although no one would express his opinion.
On January 15th, the Japanese bombed Corregidor’s middle-side for more than one hour starting 1:30 P.M.
After the visit made by General Valdes to the front, my eldest daughter, Maria began asking my permission to go the front and visit “our boys.” She wanted to know whether the Christmas gifts which she and her friends had sent them from Manila had safely reached their destination, and furthermore, she wanted to visit them in my name since due to my ill health and physical weakness I was unable to make the trip. She had already found something to do in the tunnel. She and her sister had offered their services to the chief nurse and were making the beds for the patients and also folding gauze for the operating room.
But she was not satisfied with this. She insisted that she should visit the front. I would not answer “no” for I did not wish to weaken her will to serve the cause, nor would I say “yes” for I knew that her mother, already worried about my health, would spend the most painful hours of supreme anxiety while she was
at the front. So I told her that the matter had to be submitted to General MacArthur whose permission was necessary for her to go to Bataan. When General MacArthur came to see me, I told him the whole story and he, of course, said that under no circumstances would he allow my daughter to go to Bataan. We agreed, however, that I should not disappoint her by telling her plainly what the General said, so I informed Maria that General MacArthur felt that she had to wait until the situation became more normal at the front and there then might come a time when he would allow her to go. Day after day, my daughter
would ask me if General MacArthur had decided definitely one way or another about her trip. I procrastinated.
Meantime, General Francisco and General De Jesus had been in Corregidor to see me at my request. They told me that the amount of rice given to the Filipino troops was insufficient and that if they had to be fed with only that amount of rations they would not be able to endure the fatigue of day and night engagements. They called my attention to the fact that every officer and man not seriously sick or wounded was continuously in the line without even temporary relief, for we had no reserves. They also told me of the increasingly grim determination on the part of our men to fight as they learned of the abuses and atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers, especially the raping of Filipino women. “If we only had airplanes, we would lick these Japs in short order, Mr. President,” they said. I told General De Jesus, our Chief of the Intelligence Division, to find the Governor and Assemblyman from Bataan and send them to me so that I might instruct them to cooperate with the military authorities in organizing the fishermen of the province to provide fish for the soldiers. The large number of civilians from Pampanga and Bataan who came inside the lines greatly increased the difficulties of the food supply.
At this conference General Francisco delivered to me the following telegram from the Constabulary Commander in Negros Oriental:
Civilian military situation Negros Oriental excellent. About fifty thousand civilians of military age ready for induction into the Army. Civil activities being carried on as usual. Morale of people very high. Entire population very happy to receive the news that the President is well and safe.
After my conference with the above cited Filipino generals, I called in the Cabinet to discuss with them the food situation in Bataan and see if we could do something about it to help the Army. Vice-President Osmeña told me that was plenty of food in Cebu, and Major Roxas, on his part, said that there was plenty of food in Capiz and Iloilo, but the question was how to bring these supplies to Bataan. I suggested that there was one Coast Guard vessel in Mariveles, the Banahaw, which we might send to Capiz, which was nearer to Corregidor than Cebu. I sent right away for the captain of the Banahaw, but he reported that the ship was not ready to sail and that it would take at least two days to prepare for sea. Then Major Roxas informed me that the S.S. Legaspi, a merchant marine ship which was engaged in inter-island traffic before the war, was available, and he suggested that I send for the captain and ask him to go to Capiz and get supplies. I discussed the matter with General MacArthur. To him I repeated what General Francisco and General De Jesus had said to me about the rice situation and asked him whether he had any objection to my discussing this matter with the captain of the S.S. Legaspi. General MacArthur was so happy to think that we might be able to bring food from the Visayan Island that he authorized me to tell the captain of the Legaspi that if he made the trip, he would compensate him and all the sailors generously, and moreover, would decorate them on their return.
I sent for the captain and another Filipino officer who was in charge of a small boat, also in Mariveles, but which was in no shape to make a voyage. They came to see me for the first time on January 20th. The name of the captain was Lino Conejero. I told them that it was in their hands to save our soldiers in Bataan, and although I knew the trip from Corregidor to Capiz and back was most hazardous, I did not hesitate to appeal to their patriotism in the confident expectation that they would not hesitate to render this service. Captain Conejero, in the most casual manner, answered me without hesitation:
“Mr. President, all you have to do is to give the order and I will leave as soon as I can.” Then I told him of what General MacArthur had promised to do for them. And on my part, I also offered to reward them from the funds of the Government of Commonwealth with a full month’s salary to each officer and sailor of the ship. Then I took them myself in the headquarters of General MacArthur to inform the General of the result of my conference with them. General MacArthur, with undisguised emotion, shook hands with the captain and the first officer, and in his usual appealing style said a few words which almost brought tears to the eyes of these men of the sea. On the morning of the 21st, I again saw the Captain Conejero and gave him my final instructions to the Governor of Capiz. We proceeded at once to telegraph the governors of Iloilo and Capiz to turn to and help the Army to get all possible rice and other food supplies which could be assembled by the time the S.S. Legaspi arrived in Capiz. General MacArthur, on his part, telegraph General Chynoweth giving him full instructions as to what should be done. I felt very much encouraged the whole day, and my spirits were so high that in the afternoon I was strong enough to visit the coast artillery batteries of Corregidor. I invited my daughter to accompany me and we saw some of the batteries manned by Philippine Scouts and Philippine Army soldiers. We made the trip in one of the Army cars accompanied by an American officer designated by General Moore, and by a Filipino captain who was in artillery. With me were General Valdes, my daughter, and Colonel Nieto. The dust on the road was so thick that not even by closing the windows of the car could we be free on it. Some of the bombs had done so much damage to the road that attempts at repair had not improved it much. The sight of these soldiers practically unprotected from air attack broke my heart, and I could only say a few words to them: “Boys, I am proud of you. Our people will forever be grateful for your gallant defense. God bless and keep you.” On my return on the tunnel, I coughed more than ever before, and on the following day I had a severe attack of asthma with spasmodic coughing which left me breathless and almost suffocated. By midnight, they had to give me a dose of morphine. I also had a very high fever. On January 23rd, I had another severe attack which required another injection of morphine. In the afternoon they took me out of the hospital in an ambulance to a cottage near the one where General MacArthur slept at night with his wife and son. The following day I was taken back to the tunnel where I had another attack in the afternoon, following which I was again carried to the house. In order that in the daytime I might have to lie in bed near the tunnel, a tent was constructed for me at the rear end of the hospital outside the tunnel, so that from the January 26th until I left Corregidor this tent became my living and sleeping quarters.