“Japanese Time”

All these recent disasters in our beleaguered country bring to mind one of the most difficult periods in Philippine history, the Japanese occupation from 08 December 1941 – 03 March 1945.  According to the surviving seniors, compared to those years, what we are undergoing now as a nation is “chickenfeed.”

I was born in 1967, 22 years after the war ended in 1945.  That’s just the time period between 2009 and 1987, and it’s not very long, nor essentially very different.  And in the minds of those who had experienced it — from my grandmother, my parents, aunts and uncles, and household staff — it was as fresh and as frightening a memory as anything.

We have all read about wartime in the Philippines and have even seen movies about it like “The Great Raid” by John Dahl in 2005 and “Oro, Plata, Mata” by Peque Gallaga in 1981.  One book, “By Sword and Fire:  The Destruction of Manila in World War II:  3 February – 3 March 1945” by Alfonso J. Aluit in 1994 fully describes the sheer horror of the carnage and destruction of Manila in late February 1945.

The following are stories of our various Gonzalez-Escaler-Arnedo and Reyes-Quiason family members during the war.  They are not spectacular in the sense that no one was a bemedalled war hero, nor an active leader of the guerrilla movement, nor an entire household murdered.  But they are stories of war and suffering just the same, and well worth recording for posterity.


My paternal grandfather, Lolo Augusto “Bosto” Sioco Gonzalez, already knew as early as 1937 that a great world war was looming in the horizon.  He was 50 years old and was at the prime of his fortunes but sadly at the ebb of his health because of severe diabetes.  That, however, did not stop him from forging ahead with his ambitious professional aims and flourishing family life.  Although he had set his sights on purchasing an elegant and expensive residence along prestigious Dewey Boulevard to serve as his Manila base [ impressed by his brilliant and accomplished nephew Joaquin Tomas de Aquino “Jake” Valdes Gonzalez, he determined that his own young sons would be attending exclusive De La Salle College along Taft Avenue ], he purchased two small, 441 sq. m. properties in the first government employee housing project of President Manuel Quezon in faraway Quezon City [ which later became the “Scout area” ], on a street called “South 9.”  He urged his very rich aunt Sabina Sioco de Escaler to buy one across and the widow of his eldest brother Fernando, Clementina Elizalde-Gonzalez, to buy beside him.  “What on earth are we going to do in that ‘squatter resettlement’ area, Papa?”  asked his eldest son Rogie [ used as Rogie was to the commodious and elegant residences of the Gonzalezes, the Escalers, and his wife Luding’s Salgado and de Leon relations, in Pampanga and in the posh enclaves of  Manila ].  That done, he had extensive aerage / bomb shelters constructed underground connecting all four houses.  He told his wife, my Lola Charing:  “When the war comes, we will be safer here.  Of course, the Japanese will go to the best areas first, to Ermita and Malate and Taft, before they will even think of coming to this nondescript place.”  Of course, Lolo Bosto was assassinated at the PASUDECO offices on 12 July 1939 and never saw the war.  Might as well, for knowing what a firebrand he was, he would have surely funded the guerrillas, helped the Americans, and been forthwith executed by the Japanese.  But he was very right when he predicted that the Japanese would come to Ermita, Malate, and Taft Avenue first.  They did.  But they eventually reached Quezon City too.  When the Japanese soldiers found out in late 1944 that the Gonzalez and Escaler houses along South 9 had aerage / bomb shelters, they evicted the families, giving them 24 hours to leave.  They also confiscated Lolo Bosto’s elegant, 1937 black Cadillac stretch limousine, the last car that he had purchased.  They broke open Lola Charing’s camphor chests and chanced upon her 1930 “traje de boda” wedding dress, which they promptly used as a rag to polish their guns.  The four families were “scattered to the winds.”  Lola Charing and her family were graciously taken in by [Imang] Belen Zapanta-Reyes and family in their Kamuning house, and that is where they stayed for a time.

My aunt, dearest Tita Naty, Natividad Gonzalez-Palanca, remembers:  “Every time there was an evacuation, I remember Mama Charing running, with Macarito the toddler [ the future Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C. of De La Salle University ] on one arm and the silver [ the  heavy, wrapped-up American sterling silver flatware service for 36 pax monogrammed “RAG” { Rosario Arnedo-Gonzalez }, which was one of Papa’s last gifts to her ], on the other.”

It was a good thing that all of the Gonzalezes had vacated the 1883 ancestral Gonzalez-Sioco mansion in Barrio Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga by the time war broke out on 08 December 1941.  It was the one fortuitous result of Lolo Bosto’s 12 July 1939 assassination at the PASUDECO:  there were persistent death threats from the assassins’ families which necessitated the final and irrevocable transfer of the Gonzalez-Escaler and the Gonzalez-Arnedo families to Manila.  It was sheer serendipity for on 01 January 1942, 6.15am, American reconnaissance planes sighted several Japanese army trucks parked beside the Gonzalez-Sioco mansion and dropped a bomb on it.  They also dropped bombs on the nearby Apalit bridge to block Japanese movement in the area (according to Dr Antonio Quiroz MD).

Tito Rogie and Tita Luding and their young children had been the last residents [ my father’s eldest half brother Rogerio Escaler Gonzalez, his wife Lourdes David Salgado-Palanca, and their elder children Carmelita “Mely,” Renato “Ato,” Leonides “Leony,” and Rogerio Jr. “Jerry.” ]  Tito Rogie had supervised the hiding of Lola Florencia’s 1880s “FS” monogrammed Paris porcelain service by Mansard and of Lola Matea’s 1890s “MR” “Sulipan” Paris porcelain service by Ch. Pillivuyt & Cie. in several Martabana jars, some buried under the house, and the others buried in the garden.  [ After the war, Tito Rogie was able to retrieve much of Lola Florencia’s “FS” porcelain service as it was buried under the house, but much of Lola Matea’s “MR” “Sulipan” porcelain service, buried in the garden, was destroyed. ]

Also destroyed was the beautiful, nearly-lifesize ivory image of “Santa Maria Magdalena” and its giltwood “carroza,” the most beautiful “paso” during the Holy Week processions in Apalit from the 1880s to the prewar.

Gone in one swoop were the beautiful collections of the distinguished patriarch, Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez de los Angeles y Lopez, who at one time, from the 1870s – 80s, was the country’s preeminent medical doctor [ specialized in ophthalmology in Paris under Dr. Louis de Wecker, who years later mentored Dr. Jose Rizal ] and was one of only two representatives of Pampanga province to the 1898 Malolos Congress [ the other was Francisco Rodriguez Infante ].  He had an extensive library of leatherbound books from Europe.  The “sala” living room featured carved and upholstered furniture which he had brought from Europe, as well as religious and secular oil paintings, pairs of large Satsuma porcelain vases from Japan, and chandeliers and lamps of Bohemian crystal.  His “cabecera” dining table for 36 persons featured silver serving pieces and centerpieces from Europe as well as an ornate dinner service of Paris porcelain by the firm of Mansard.  The “capilla” of the mansion [ beside the “escalera principal” staircase ], which doubled as the guest room, was filled with precious ivory “santos”:  several nearly lifesize and many smaller ones in “virinas” glass domes.  His ten sons played and learned useful crafts with European toys and machines.

My father recalled:  “The elders observed that the brusque, rude, and brutal ‘Japanese soldiers’ were often actually Koreans pressed into service in the Japanese imperial army.  Many of the genuine Japanese, specially the officers, were actually educated, honorable, and decent individuals.”


During the war, Tito Willy [ Wilfrido Escaler Gonzalez ] was madly in love with the beauteous society belle Emma Benitez of Pagsanjan, Laguna [ she later married the patrician architect Luis Maria Zaragoza Araneta of Calle R. Hidalgo, Manila ].  Believing that the family would be safer in faraway and inaccessible Pagsanjan, he brought most of the Gonzalez-Escaler family there.  He even managed to convince his aged maternal grandmother, Sabina Sioco de Escaler [ o 1858 – + 1950 ], already in her mid-80s, to brave the transfer.  Imagine the sight of the petite octogenarian Sabina Sioco de Escaler — at that time Pampanga’s single richest hacendera — wearing her characteristically patched up skirt and kimona helplessly and pitifully perched on top of various sacks and baskets on a rickety “do – car” [ a horse  – drawn car, whatever that was  😛 ] making her way under the searing summer sun to distant Pagsanjan, Laguna…

Another rich and prominent Pampango family who evacuated to Pagsanjan, Laguna were the Lazatin-Singian of San Fernando, who became the guests of the affluent Francia family.  The last surviving daughter Carmen “Mameng” Singian Lazatin recalled:  “In the Francia house in Pagsanjan, we recited our evening prayers in front of a big altar filled, and I say filled, with beautiful antique ivory images, in various sizes from small to lifesize.  The Francia house was bombed and all those beautiful images destroyed.  Had I known that that tragedy would happen, I would have asked for them!!!”

During Liberation [ end of February 1945 ], like so many others, Sabina Escaler’s house on Calle Herran corner M.H. del Pilar in Ermita was torched and burned to the ground.  My first cousin Renato “Ato” Palanca Gonzalez vividly remembers that not only was Lola Sabina’s Ermita altar full of antique ivory “santos” in “virinas,” it also had several nearly lifesize ivory images, since Lola Sabina seemed partial to such devotional articles.  Sabina Sioco de Escaler was a generous benefactress of the Catholic Church.  She was a principal benefactress of the Franciscans in Intramuros;  she was a devotee of San Francisco de Asis and San Antonio de Padua and always contributed generously during their fiestas.  During postwar, she even sent a large amount in USD $ to Rome for the restoration of a major basilica there.


My father’s maternal first cousin, Juanito “Ito” Arnedo Ballesteros, recalled:  “I was about eight years old then.  We were at Lola Titay’s house in Sulipan [ the 1848 Arnedo-Sioco ancestral house ] when the Japanese soldiers came.  They gathered most of the barrio people and made everyone kneel down in the big “sala” [ “Salon de Baile” ] as they lectured.  The group was instructed to bow every so often.  I stayed in the small “sala” [ the real “sala” ] between the bedrooms playing with old wine glasses, pretending they were cars.  After the lecture, everyone was allowed to leave.”

After that, leaving only a couple to keep watch over the house, Lola Titay and Lola Ines and everybody else left the house to seek refuge in relatively inaccessible barrio Tabuyuc, which was cut off and isolated from the rest of Apalit town by the wide Pampanga river and the absence of bridges.  They were joined there by many Arnedo and Espiritu relatives as the days passed.

The Japanese soldiers took over Lolo Ariong’s house in nearby barrio Capalangan and made it their garrison [ former Pampanga Governor Macario Arnedo y Sioco ].  The barbaric soldiers ruined much of the furniture and decorative arts collection so zealously gathered by Lola Maruja [ Macario’s wife Maria Espiritu y Dungo, o 1876 – + 1934 ].  They chopped much of the antique furniture into firewood for their baths;  slashed the ancestral portraits and the paintings;  smashed the chandeliers, mirrors, marble top tables, large vases, and ceramic pedestals;  broke all of Lola Maruja’s treasured bibelots in their vitrines.  The barrio Capalangan folk liked to laugh among themselves about the “sakang” [ bowlegged ] Japanese soldiers taking their hot baths in “cauas” iron vats and steel drums over bonfires in the big garden of former Governor Arnedo’s residence.


When the Japanese troops were approaching, the Reyes-Pangan family in barrio Paralaya [ poblacion ], Arayat, Pampanga, hurriedly evacuated to a relative’s secluded “casa hacienda” plantation house in a barrio of adjacent Candaba town.  My maternal great grandmother, Maria “Bang” Dizon Pangan-Reyes, tasked her eldest grandson [ 15 years old ], my uncle Emilio “Jun” Quiason Reyes Jr., to carry a rolled-up package of “kacha” muslin containing her silver [ solid silver flatware service engraved with “Maria Pangan” for 18 pax ], and instructed him that he was to carry it everywhere they evacuated, that under no circumstances was he to leave it behind.  However much she prized it for sentimental reasons, she knew that it could serve as hard currency for the family should the absolute need arise.

Back at barrio Paralaya, Arayat, my maternal grandfather Emilio “Miling” Pangan Reyes and his younger brother Benito “Bito” were taken by Japanese soldiers to the garrison along with other male neighbors on suspicion of being guerrillas.  They weren’t, but they were supplying foodstuffs to the Resistance and helping with logistics.  They feared that they would be executed immediately.  During the evenings, several prisoners would be called, provided with spades, marched some distance away, and an hour later gunshots would be heard.  The prisoners were being made to dig their own graves.  Miling’s wife Pacing and her children would often visit a friend’s house overlooking the garrison, tearfully hoping to catch a glimpse of Miling and Bito.  But after a few days, the two brothers were inexplicably released.  Bito wanted to go back and thank the commander for their release, but Miling refused and insisted on going straight home.  Half an hour later, their remaining male neighbors were executed, shot to their deaths.

Miling’s saintly wife, Paz “Pacing” Aguilar Quiason, occupied herself with the secondhand goods trade in Arayat town.  Along with her young children, she unraveled new “de hilo” cotton material, as well as old clothes and old textiles for their threads, spooled them together, and sold them at the market.  She also rolled cigarettes.  Dealing in used merchandise, Pacing made a decent living throughout the war, although she suffered greatly healthwise from its privations.  She died of cancer of the sinus in 1949.

Miling had promised his pretty eldest daughter Felicisima “Sis” that if she learned the piano accompaniment to her eldest brother Emilio Jr.’s “Jun’s” violin piece, he would reward her with a trip to Manila to visit his only sister Piciang Reyes-Berenguer and her daughters Paquing, Chang, Blanding, and Ched.  Sis did learn the piano accompaniment quickly.  As promised, they set out for Manila…  They rode in the front of a truck filled with cavans of rice for delivery covered by a tarpaulin.  Hours later at nightfall, at a checkpoint in Caloocan, they were stopped by the Japanese soldiers and ordered to disembark.  The soldiers did the same with all the other arriving vehicles.  The Japanese soldiers ordered the men and the boys separated from the women and the girls.  Feisty Miling, a truly fearless man, absolutely refused to be separated from his distraught daughter and threatened to engage the soldiers in a fistfight to the finish.  The soldiers relented and allowed Miling and his daughter to walk away.  Miling later told his daughter Sis that he had been ready to die at that moment rather than give her up without a good, honorable fight.  Afterwards, with no transportation to Manila, Miling and Sis spent the night under a “santol” tree some distance away from the road.  He could only imagine what had happened to the hapless women and the girls separated from the men and the boys by the Japanese soldiers that evening.

Miling and Bito had a widowed sister, Simplicia “Piciang” [ Mrs. Adolfo Linares Berenguer ], who, at 41 years old, was  between them in age.  She had stayed in Manila with her four daughters Francisca “Paquing” [ 20 years old ], Josefina “Chang,” Blandina “Blanding,” and Mercedes “Ched” [ 11 years old ].  Despite Miling’s repeated pleadings that his two younger siblings and their families finally come home to distant Arayat, Pampanga, Piciang and Bito chose to remain in Manila, insisting that it was safe because it was an “open city.”  Miling countered:  “If Manila is indeed an ‘open city’ and safe, and that the hospitals will not be attacked… how come most of the Japanese soldiers are concentrated in Manila, and how come they are also in the hospitals???!!!”  Piciang and Bito were unconvinced.  Miling forthwith took his remaining family to Arayat and thus fortunately escaped the holocaust of late February 1945, which many people had not foreseen.

During Liberation in late February of 1945, as the Americans bombed all the bridges spanning the Pasig river, Piciang was separated from her daughters Paquing and Ched as she was in Sampaloc while the two were temporarily quartered at the PGH Philippine General Hospital.  During the shelling, an incendiary bomb landed in the ward and exploded between Paquing and her first cousin Berting.  Both Paquing and Berting were almost killed and sustained serious, third degree burns.  Paquing was also hit by shrapnel at the side of her head and Ched was hit by shrapnel on one leg.  Both almost bled to death but survived.  The courageous Piciang, desperately wanting to be reunited with her daughters [ and wearing a memorable flaming orange pantsuit made of US Army material ], crossed the Pasig river on pontoon bridges with the American soldiers, rescued a live baby she found by the wayside, and rode in a tank towards PGH amidst Japanese snipers who were shooting relentlessly, where she found her daughters severely injured and in extreme pain but thankfully alive.

In their own words:

“All cars had been confiscated;  all car registrations had been cancelled.  One had to do with a ‘do – car,’ a car body pulled by a horse, or a horse – drawn car body, whichever way you put it, which was nevertheless a luxury during the war.”

“We were making cigarettes and selling them in front of our house along Taft avenue, right in front of PGH, to augment the household income.”

“Mama operated the ‘Varsity Ladies Hall’ which catered mainly to UP students.”

“During the last days before Liberation, inflation hit the roof!!!  We needed sacks of money, literally sacks of it, to go to the public market.  To buy a bunch of kangkong, one needed 12″ inches — one foot — thick of money!!!”

“We transferred to the PGH, even if we just lived right across Taft avenue, because one day that early February, one of the six Japanese officers occupying the upper floor of our house told Tata Bito:  “Bito!  Bito!  I take all of you to hospital… now!!!”  Those Japanese officers had been kind to us because they said they too had children back in Japan.  So all of us hurriedly gathered some belongings — rice, canned goods, clothes, shoes, books — and waited for his signal.  Waving a white flag, I cannot remember if it was a Japanese flag, shouting Japanese and constantly making signals in all directions, he led us across Taft avenue which simply couldn’t be crossed because of the Japanese snipers.  We made our way, jumping over the many dead and decaying bodies which littered both lanes of Taft avenue.  That was unforgettable!!!  He led us inside the hospital and endorsed us to some people there.  We knew that we would be safe at the PGH because hospitals were no-fire zones.  He did not say goodbye and we never, ever saw him again.  That Japanese officer saved our lives.”

“We actually enjoyed our first days at the PGH.  There were so many people we knew and there was a sense of community.  It was fun!!!  But then the burning began…  when the nearby Ateneo was burning it was so bright at night that we could actually read our books, something which we had not been able to do for a long time because there was no more electricity.  PGH was finally closed off:  no one could enter but then no one could also leave.  We had no idea then that the plan was really to kill everyone inside the compound.  Then the situation really deteriorated:  there was the artesian well at the back of the PGH compound where everyone drew their water… it came to the point that the people going there were being killed too, shot to death.  It all became absolutely dreadful… the ones looking out the windows reported that the people in the streets were already being killed.  Frightening!!!”

“That horrible day was 11 February 1945, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes…  We had already been in a ward at the ground floor of the PGH for a week.  We had attended the holy mass at 7:00 a.m. at another ward.  We had returned to our ward by 8:00 a.m..  Dionisio the cook and the houseboys were preparing breakfast at an improvised kitchen in the garden.  Suddenly, there were loud explosions and it all became as dark as night!!!  We couldn’t see anything so we were screaming, shouting, and running in circles inside the ward.  Tia Loleng [ Tata Bito’s wife ] was hysterical.  The glass windows were all shattering, starting with the clerestory ones at the top of the room.  Then something exploded inside the room!!!  But we were all in shock that we didn’t know what had happened, we just kept running about.  It turned out it was an incendiary bomb fired by the Americans, and everyone in the room was hit by shrapnel!!!”

Paquing recalled:  “It turned out that the incendiary bomb had exploded between me and Berting!!!  I was already burning, but I didn’t know…  The moment Tata Bito and the men saw me, they shouted:  “Nasusunog ka!!!”  They immediately pushed me to the floor and rolled me around and around to put out the fire and then wrapped me in blankets and mattresses, mattresses and blankets and everything else they could get their hands on.”

Ched remembered:  “I was hit by shrapnel — a metal disk bigger than a dinner plate — and it lodged between my stomach and my right leg.  But I also didn’t know…  I was still running.  An old American man, a patient, saw me and just stared at the metal jutting out from my body.  I just sat down on a chair because I was so tired.”

“Dionisio the cook was killed by the shelling.  He was found dismembered later that day.  The other houseboys must have been killed too, because they never turned up again.”

Paquing recalled:  “I was burned badly;  I was black as soot and crisp as a ‘lechon’.  You could knock on my skin and it felt like wood.”

Ched:  “After we were injured, we were put to rest on stretchers by the doctors.  But as the shelling continued, our loyal houseboys hurriedly carried us from ward to ward, wherever there were less explosions.  During shelling, they would voluntarily lie facedown on top of us to protect us from the debris and shrapnel!!!  Unfortunately, they too were killed during the shelling.”



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  1. November 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    I just stumbled into this. It’s fantastic!

    HINDSIGHT By F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) Updated May 09, 2004 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

    I took Lulu, my daughter-in-law – a balikbayan – to dinner at one of the Roxas Boulevard restaurants the other night and she saw how the boulevard was spruced up with fancy lights, and food stalls. She had not seen Manila in years and was quite delighted at the change. The darkness is very kind to Manileños for it hides from view those dreary sights that have made our capital one of the world’s ugliest cities.

    It was not like this before, so here then is my memoir of the Manila that was.

    In April, 1937, shortly after I finished grade school in Rosales, Pangasinan, a kindly uncle lifted me from my rural origins and sent me to Manila to attend high school. I took the train from my hometown to Paniqui in Tarlac and transferred there to the bigger Ilocos Express. I brought along a pasalubong, a bundle of firewood and a bag of vegetables. On this, my first train ride, I had visions of the city, its frenetic life. The small immemorial towns, the Central Plain brown and fallow and splotched with vast green canefields, then in the late afternoon, the larger towns, more spacious and finally, on the right, the Ang Tibay Shoe Factory, then the cavernous and gloomy Tutuban Station.

    I passed a hand over my hair and found it sandy, and so were my ears, with the accumulated coal ash from the train. My uncle was at the platform and he helped me with my tampipi and pasalubong. It was dusk when we got out of the station into a plaza where many calesas jostled with one another. We boarded one and clattered down Azcarraga redolent with the odor of horse manure. I took in everything, the buses, the clanging streetcars, the calesas, and soon, as darkness descended upon the city the neon lights bloomed.

    My uncle’s accesoria was near the corner of Requesens and Misericordia, a block away from Rizal Avenue. It had two bedrooms upstairs, a living-dining room and a kitchen in the ground floor, and miracle of miracles, my first flush toilet.

    School still being days away, I took long walks along the entire length of Rizal Avenue, onwards to Intramuros, to the Luneta. At the time, many of the streets were not paved and in our neighborhood, boys scooped the water from the gutter to splash onto the gravel and prevent dust from lifting when cars passed.

    At any time of the day, Chinese vendors went around shouting their wares – taho, puto cochinta, bote diaryo. And in almost every street corner were Chinese sari-sari stores where it was possible to ask for free, a pinch of salt, a spoonful of vinegar, a kernel of garlic. The big shops were up Rizal Avenue, in Carriedo and Rosario in Binondo. The most elegant stores were at the Escolta and the premier department store was Heacocks, which had an automatic electric door. Along the Escolta, too, was the Crystal Arcade lined with specialty shops. Fresh from the province, I was awed by such luxurious displays and intimidated into not entering their premises. The music stores were in Carriedo – musical scores, instruments of all kinds. Classy footwear like Walkover and Florsheim were also at the Escolta. For the less fashionable, locally made shoes were in Gandara in Binondo.

    Traffic in Manila as with all over the country was on the left. I was reading a novel the other day about Manila before World War II and there was a section describing a traffic jam – there were no traffic jams in Manila then. The streets were lorded by the cochero and his calesa for which reason the cochero was called the king of the road just like the jeepney driver is today. The equivalent of the jeepney was the auto calesa which plied the Pasay-Sta. Cruz Plaza route; it was actually called jitney and could carry comfortably five passengers. The main Manila transport was the streetcar – the trambiya, which ran from La Loma to Plaza Goiti, Legarda, all the way to San Marcelino and Maypajo. There was also the caretela bus which ran from La Loma to Divisoria via Azcarraga, and of course, the Meralco bus. Upperclass Filipinos had Packards, Dodges, Chevrolets, Studebakers, Fords and the major taxi companies were Dollar, Golden and Yellow.

    The major movie theaters were the Lyric and Capitol at the Escolta, and the Avenue, Ideal and State at Rizal Avenue. They showed only Hollywood movies. The Grand at Rizal Avenue showed Tagalog pictures. Our movie stars were Rosa del Rosario, Elsa Oria, Carmen Rosales, Arsenia Francisco, Rogelio de la Rosa, Angel Esmeralda, Leopoldo Salcedo and Fernando Poe.

    Maton was the word we used to describe the tough guys and one tough guy actor who sticks to mind was Exequiel Segovia.

    I favored the non-airconditioned second-run movie houses where I paid just half the fare and I followed such serials like the Lone Ranger and the Drums of Fu Manchiu. Most of the pictures before World War II were in black and white although there were already quite a few that were in color. In fact, much earlier in the old hometown, I saw some of the last silent cowboy pictures starring Tom Mix and Bob Steele.

    I enrolled at the Far Eastern University High School in what is now Isetann in Azcarraga (Recto). I remember our principal most, a tall handsome mestizo by the name of Angel Roman. After school at one in the afternoon, my classmates and I would walk to the Quiapo market; behind it we would disrobe and swim in the Pasig River. It was then greenish or brownish, depending on the season. There were fishermen on its banks. Farther towards the bay, at the foot of the Jones Bridge, the inter-island ships docked.

    If we did not swim in the Pasig, we went to the bay – there was no seawall then. The basement of the Congress Building, now the National Museum was the National Library. I had this crazy ambition of finishing the Encyclopedia Britannica and after my bout with it, I read other books, often before Manuel Arguilla – you couldn’t miss him because he had this black patch on his cheek, a birth mark or an overgrown mole. He was writing then those famous short stories and essays which I admired.

    By the Thirties, the elegant life was no longer in Intramuros. Although the religious orders still maintained their houses in the Walled City, the rich and influential who used to live there had moved to Manila’s suburbs.. To Santa Mesa and New Manila in Quezon City and to Pasay, Ermita and Malate. Kangkong plots thrived along portions of España and Dimasalang and rice fields were still in Grace Park, San Andres and Quezon City. San Francisco del Monte, Diliman, Makati – all these were at the world’s end.

    The Ermita-Malate area before World War II was the Forbes Park of Manila and some of the stately mansions that were spared the holocaust of the Liberation may still be seen in this district. Look carefully at the big trees which are in Ermita and you will find the remnants of shell and bullet holes in them.

    The most elegant social gatherings of the time were held at the Winter Garden and the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel. As a kid in short pants, on New Year’s Eve, I used to watch outside the iron fence on Avenida Rizal the men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns attend the ball at Club Filipino.

    Close by was the Manila Grand Opera House at the corner of Doroteo Jose and her Canuplin imitated Charlie Chaplin and Katy de la Cruz belted out her songs.

    As a teenager, I knew very little of Manila’s nightlife but I do recall that Serafin Payawal and his orchestra played at the skyroom of the Jai Alai, that the elegant balls like the Kahirup of the Negros hacenderos was held annually at the Manila Hotel, and that two halls of the hotel, the Fiesta Pavilion and the Winter Garden were the chic venues of the country’s plushiest social events.

    For Juan de la Cruz, nightlife often meant the cabarets – La Loma, Maypajo, and Santa Ana – the last being the largest in the world. The men bought tickets – ten centavos per at a counter – then when the music started, they raced to the line of taxi-dancers (they were called bailarinas) and for each piece of dance music, they gave their partners a ticket.

    Formal balls featured the rigodon – usually performed by the older people. The youth preferred the popular dances, the rhumba, the conga, the Lambeth Walk, the jitter bug and the boogie which soon became popular. Those who did not know how to dance could go to Smile Bengco’s Dance Academy at Rizal Avenue where the students could be seen from the sidewalk across the street.

    Male government workers and students always wore white suits – usually cotton. The wealthy wore the more expensive sharkskin, the alpaca drill de hielo. The women dressed formally with the terno and panuelo. To express nationalism, the barong tagalog often bore designs of the nipa hut and the Philippine flag in color.

    The seat of power then was Malacañang, just as it is now, and Manuel Quezon, the mestizo from Tayabas was lord. He was also known in the tienda for his love affairs. One afternoon, I eagerly watched a filming at the Manila Hotel of a movie which starred Amparo Karagdag, a petite mestiza rumored to be a Quezon girl friend.

    Quezon lorded it over also at the Luneta during the November 15 parades commemorating the Commonwealth. How I loved those parades – the vanguard led by a mestizo traffic cop in his roaring Harley Davidson motorcycle, then the Constabulary band, the contingent of Philippine Military Academy cadets marching in neat precision, and the floats with their pretty girls. And at the grandstand, Quezon again delivering his usual rousing speech.

    The American presence in pre-war Manila was not noticeable; the Americans lived in special enclaves and the American military was nowhere in sight except in Intramuros where Fort Santiago was then an American compound. On occasion, when the Navy ships were in town, there would be sailors coming out of Tom Dixie’s kitchen in Plaza Goiti, and Military MPs going about the streets. Some form of racial discrimination existed – I read that before World War II, some Americans discriminated against us and those who intermarried with Indios were snubbed. A story went around that at one of those exclusive balls for Caucasians, President Quezon gate- crashed into it with a strapping Army sergeant and Doberman and made it known that there should never be any club in Manila that should discriminate against the natives. In any case, at the time, the Philippine elite was the Spanish mestizo.

    The major newspaper before World War II were the TVT papers, the Tribune, the La Vanguardia in Spanish, and the Taliba which belonged to the Roceses, and the DMHM papers which belonged to the Sorianos – the El Debate, the Herald, and the Herald Midweek Magazine. The weeklies were the Free Press and the Graphic. Liwayway, Banawag and Hiligaynon, also owned by the Roces family, dominated the vernaculars.

    Towards the end of the Thirties and in 1941, the specter of war started to hover over the country. The papers were filled with stories on the intransigence of Hitler and the Japanese invasion of China. MacArthur had come to the Philippines at the behest of President Quezon to help build a Filipino army. Efforts at preparedness – air raid drills, practice evacuations, these did not frighten Filipinos cocooned in the belief that America the invincible would protect us.

    That comforting feeling was shattered on December 8, when the Japanese attacked. Nichols field was bombed, many of the stores were looted. Manila was declared an Open City to spare it from depredation and the Japanese entered it without a fight.

    During the Occupation, when no Hollywood pictures could come, the main theaters in Manila had stage shows, dramas, featuring the movie stars. In spite of the absence of airconditioning, the theaters were full. At the time, too, comedians Pogo and Togo satirized the Japanese at great risk, impersonating them very well because like the Japanese soldiers, they also had shaved heads.

    When college classes opened in 1944, I enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas in Intramuros. The streetcars still ran but they were always crowded so I got up very early and walked all the way from Blumentritt to the Walled City. We were having classes in Nippongo that September morning; our teacher was a young naval officer – you can always tell the officers from the enlisted men because they always carried swords. Incidentally all that I remember of the class was Koriwa hon desu – This is a book. Our class was held on the second floor of the old university building, the shell windows flung wide open. Then, the anti-aircraft guns atop the San Juan de Letran College close by started popping, and soon, grey stubby planes screamed over the rooftops and explosions erupted from the direction of the bay. Some of the planes flew so low, their canopies open, and we could see the pilots waving. The planes had white stars and stripes on their wings and fuselage – they were American! And when this realization dawned on us, we started jumping and screaming. No one noticed our instructor steal out of the classroom. That air raid marked the end of school, and that afternoon, at about two, the drone of planes from the South cascaded down on the waiting city. Soon, the sky was dark with airplanes, and around them, the dark puffs of anti-aircraft fire.

    Again Manileños flocked to the streets shouting with joy. Many were wounded from falling anti-aircraft shrapnel.

    In November 1944, a cousin, my mother and I decided to join relatives who had already gone back to Rosales in Pangasinan where, at least, they were assured of food. By this time, people in Manila who had not sought refuge in the provinces were on the verge of starvation. There were no more stray cats and dogs in the streets for they were caught and eaten, so were gutter rats. By this time, every available piece of land, including islands in the streets, were planted to camote and talinum. Roasted coconut was sold as Castañog.

    We brought some rice, dried fish, and a cooking pot. All the houses along the highway were already deserted and we slept under them, traveling only in the daytime for at night, the highways were taken over by the retreating Japanese. American planes ranged the skies and machine-gunned any traffic that moved. After a week, we finally reached the old hometown.

    I joined the American army when it reached my hometown in early January and in March, 1945, on a brief furlough, I visited Manila. We saw a stage show in Caloocan and from there I walked to the city which was secured only two days earlier. All along Rizal Avenue were bars filled with soldiers and civilians. Intramuros was closed, off limits – all the gates to the Walled City were blockaded as there were still many unexploded shells in it as well as booby traps.

    I knew that Manila – particularly south of the Pasig – was destroyed and this knowledge was etched deeper in the mind as I approached Plaza Goiti and saw portions of the Escolta in ruins, and all the bridges across the Pasig blasted. I crossed on a pontoon bridge, together with hordes of survivors and army people. On Plaza Lawton, the carcasses of streetcars and trucks, the Post Office now in shambles. Across the plaza, the blackened remains of the Metropolitan Theater where I heard my first Beethoven symphony conducted by Herbert Zipper.

    To my right, wide gaps were torn on the walls of Intramuros, the lofty spires of the many churches that were so familiar to me were all gone. And up ahead, the Legislative building was nothing but a pile of rubble and to its left, the blackened shell of City Hall.

    I walked around the ravaged city, compelled to see the length and breadth of the destruction, what happened to the landmarks, the vaunted edifices that I knew. I had passed some of the gutted towns where battles were fought but not this, not this. I met people looking for their loved ones, their ruined homes, disbelief on their faces. All over the plundered landscape, the stench of carrion hung heavy as the cleaning up, the picking up of pieces had yet to be completed. Towards dusk, I walked to the vicinity of the Luneta – that was all open space then, an expanse of grass from Taft to the bay, with only two structures over that expanse, the Rizal monument and the stand where the Constabulary band played every Sunday afternoon.

    The Manila sunset was as effulgent and glorious as ever. I sat on the rocks before the lagoon where the huge flying boats used to moor, beside it the blackened ruins of the country’s most famous hotel. Tanks had stood before it and fired point blank and each floor was wrenched from the Japanese in ferocious combat. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had a suite at the Manila Hotel. Returning to the devastated city, he had commented on the courage and stoicism of survivors, that he did not see a single teary face. I sat there on the rocks and I remember that I wept.

    It would seem as if it was only yesterday that I beheld those blackened ruins, those shattered walls and ravaged trees. I knew then that the Manila of my youth was banished forever and, I fear, so did many of our cherished dreams. The war did these, but there was something more precious, more profound that war also destroyed – our political innocence, our virtue as a nation. We have not recovered from that loss – but we are valiantly trying.

  2. RG San Luis said,

    March 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Didn’t EB run off with NV, the trusted aide of Edward Lansdale and John Singlaub, who engineered Magsaysay’s victory as President? It’s for this reason that when GA married IM, there was no mention whatsoever of his mother.

    If you check out whokilledjfk.com, it’s filled with interesting facts about who was present at Dallas that fateful day JFK was assassinated. NV trained the Cuban force used at the Bay of Pigs Invasion and was supposedly the one who was on the ground when the CIA overthrew Chile’s Salvador Allende.

    He retired as a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army. The only Filipino to have ever achieved that rank.

  3. February 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm


    How wonderful to see you here!!! Where have you been all this time??? Traveling to all the best places, I’m sure. 🙂

    Friends, this is DON Martin Tinio y Imperial of Nueva Ecija and Bicol, the famous and nonpareil authority of 18th and 19th century Filipinas. We are truly privileged to have him join us in the blog.

    Of the blog posts of recent months, you might enjoy “The Wars of Inheritance,” “Japanese Time,” and “Connections of Old” [ Salazar-Abreu-Buencamino ]. You might also like the posts “Memorable Manila Houses,” “The Quiapo of Old,” “Life in Paniqui” [ Cojuangco ], “The Power and the Glory” [ Cojuangco ], “Sarrat, Ilocos Norte 1983” [ Marcos-Araneta ], “Dona Sabina Sioco de Escaler, 1858-1950,” “Bacolor, Pampanga before 1991,” “The Gonzalez-Chiong Veloso Singson: Livin’ la dolce vita,” “Familia Gonzalez de Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga,” and “Familia Arnedo de Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga.” Just type the titles in the search window on the left, then scroll down if other posts appear.

    You will enjoy the Comments sections as they have a familiar crowd, with many genuine “de buena familia” participants. It’s a nice crowd…***

    Actually, it is so easy for you to enter this blog. Just as I told Marietta Cuyegkeng to simply “Google” her name “Marietta Ledesma Cuenco Cuyegkeng” to enter this blog… Just “Google” your name “Martin Imperial Tinio Jr. Sonny” as, expectedly enough, you figure prominently in several blog posts and comments.

    Thank you so much, Sonny. I am really looking forward to your authoritative comments.

    Let’s have a nice dinner soon!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

    [ COMMENTERS’ ORIGINS:: ILOCOS SUR:: Vigan: Syquia, Quema;; PANGASINAN:: Bautista/Bayambang: Gonzalez; Lingayen: Padilla, Sison;; NUEVA ECIJA:: de Santos, Gabaldon, Gallego, Ongsiako, Tinio;; TARLAC:: Aquino; Paniqui: Cojuangco; Tanedo;; PAMPANGA:: Bacolor: Alimurung, Angeles, Buyson, David, de Leon, Gutierrez, Joven, Liongson, Malig, Panlilio, Rodriguez, Santos-Joven, Valdes; San Fernando: Dayrit, Dison, Dizon, Hizon, Lazatin, Miranda, Ocampo, Panlilio, Paras, Quiason, Rodriguez, Salgado, Singian, Torres; Angeles: Henson, Lazatin, Nepomuceno, Pamintuan, Paras, Valdes [ Pampanga ]; Magalang: Gueco, Luciano; Arayat: Berenguer, Medina, Reyes, Samia; Candaba: Castor, Genuino, Samson; Mexico: Cunanan, de Leon, Hizon, Panlilio, Sandico; Apalit: Arnedo, Escaler, Espiritu, Gonzalez;; BATAAN:: Banzon, Roman;; BULACAN:: San Miguel de Mayumo: Buencamino, Cabochan, de Leon, Siojo; Baliuag: Fores, Ponce-Enrile, Rustia, Teodoro; Malolos: Bautista, Cojuangco, Santos, Tantoco;; MANILA:: San Miguel/Malacanang: de Ayala, Elizalde, Escaler [ Pampanga ], Lichauco, Limjap [ Binondo ], Moreno Lacalle, Padilla [ Pangasinan ], Roxas, Zobel, Soriano, Teus; Calle R. Hidalgo/Quiapo: Araneta, Ilustre, Legarda, Ocampo, Paterno, Nakpil, Ongpin, Prieto, Roces, Tuason, Valdes [ Manila ], Villonco, Zamora, Zaragoza; Binondo/Santa Cruz: Chuidian, de los Reyes [ Cavite ], Limjap, Paterno, Roxas, Yu Tiaoqui, Yuchengco; Ermita/Malate: Ortigas, Madrigal, Ortoll, Sunico, Vazquez;; Malabon: Cacnio, Luna, Pascual, Santos;; LAGUNA:: Binan: Alberto, Almeda, Carrillo, Casas, Gana, Gonzales, Potenciano, Yaptinchay, Yatco; Santa Rosa: Zavalla, Tiongco; Pila: Rivera; Pagsanjan: Benitez, Fabella; Majayjay/Santa Cruz: Ordoveza; San Pablo: Delgado, Escudero, Marasigan;; TAYABAS/QUEZON:: Sariaya: Arguelles, de Villa, Gala, Rodriguez; Lucban: Villasenor; Lagdameo;; BATANGAS:: Lipa: Solis, Kalaw, Katigbak; Taal: Agoncillo, Apacible, de las Alas, Ylagan, Villavicencio; Balayan: Lopez;; CAVITE:: Campos, de los Reyes, del Rosario; Imus: Virata;; BICOL:: Garchitorena, Imperial;; CEBU: Aboitiz, Chiong Veloso, Escano, Osmena, Villalon;; ILOILO:: Cacho, Gamboa, Hilado; Jaro: Lopez, Ledesma, Jalandoni, Montinola, Sanson; Molo: Villanueva;; NEGROS OCCIDENTAL:: Bacolod: de la Rama, Gonzaga; Talisay: Lacson, Claparols, Lizares; Silay: Gaston, Golez, Jison, Locsin; Manapla: Gaston; Pulupandan: Montilla, Oppen, Pena;; NEGROS ORIENTAL:: Dumaguete: Teves, Locsin; Vallehermoso: de la Vina, Paras, Serion;; LEYTE:: Palo: Veloso, Acebedo; Tolosa: Romualdez;; DAVAO:: Hizon, Floirendo, Pamintuan, et. al.;; ]

  4. Sonny Tinio said,

    February 11, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Hi Toto!

    I do enjoy reading your wonderful stories and will continue reading them. It is only now that I finally learned how to get into the blog, as I didn’t know what it was previously. Mahirap na talaga ang matanda!

    I will give you some of my family’s wartime stories of Manila, N. Ecija, Baguio and Bicol later, when I have more time.

    Best regards.

    Sonny Tinio

  5. Joel Cruz said,

    December 14, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Thank you for indulging me a response! What light such clarification sheds. I am remotely within your galaxy (light years removed perhaps) or that of the characters referred to in your blog, but even just for purely historical and human interest, such anecdotes and matters of fact truly interest me, and your avid readers as well, I am sure.

    It truly takes a sagacious outlook in life to appreciate effects with such wistfulness yet detachment at the same time. I think that’s what your blog and its readers warmly share.

  6. Joel Cruz said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Thank you for indulging me a response! What light such clarification sheds. I am remotely within your galaxy (light years removed perhaps) or that of the characters referred to in your blog, but even just for purely historical and human interest, such anecdotes and matters of fact truly interest me, and your avid readers as well, I am sure.

    It truly takes a sagacious outlook in life to appreciate ephemera with such wistfulness yet detachment at the same time. I think that’s what your blog and its readers warmly share.

  7. December 13, 2009 at 5:35 pm


    Yes, that is the family’s surviving portion of the famous Arnedo “Sullipan” dinner service given by the Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich of Russia in 1891. It has the cipher “MS” for Maria Sioco de Arnedo, his hostess. Some pieces are on display in the “Comedor” dining room of the “Museo De La Salle” at De La Salle University in Dasmarinas, Cavite.

    Destroyed? There was/is another “Sulipan” dinner service, with the correct one “l” spelling, which carries the cipher “MR” for Matea Rodriguez viuda de Sioco, viuda de Arnedo [ Maria Sioco de Arnedo’s stepmother ]. However, unlike the Arnedo “Sullipan” “MS” service with its several historical documentations, the “Sulipan” “MR” is NOT DOCUMENTED if it was given by the Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich of Russia in 1891. That porcelain dinner service was divided into two between her daughters Sabina Sioco de Escaler and Florencia Sioco de Gonzalez. The Gonzalez portion was destroyed with the bombing of their house. The Escaler portion survives with some descendants.

    You might also be referring to that “urban legend,” that “yarn” [ by his own admission ] by Old Tito Vic Abreu Buencamino that the Arnedos once entertained a Japanese prince and then had the dishes used ceremoniously thrown into the Rio Grande de Pampanga in front of the house as a gesture of hospitality. I don’t know if that was true or not, but the Arnedos certainly liked beautiful things and valued them. They would not have had fine porcelains thrown into the river for anybody.

    What did decimate the Arnedo “Sullipan” dinner service was its partition, along with the accompanying Baccarat crystal and the Christofle silver, into several lots after the passing of the last Arnedo matriarch in 1964. My grandmother tried to buy all of her relatives out but some refused. Those relatives subsequently passed away and their children sold off their lots to antique dealers and collectors. Oh well.

    Thank you for enjoying my silly blog.


    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  8. Joel Cruz said,

    December 13, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    PS – Mr. Gonzalez, I vaguely remember reading in the backpage section of a very recent Town & Country (Phils.) issue a feature about a “Sullipan” porcelain suite… is this the same you refer to in your post? If so I thought they were destroyed?

    I am a secret admirer of your blog and I am glad as well that it has evolved into the tasteful, mannered and informative channel that it is wont to be. 🙂

  9. Joel Cruz said,

    December 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Yes, part of the Nazis’ / Axis Powers’ global “reform” was cultural as well. I think they desired ownership of cultural masterpieces—if not authorship of them. There was a very nice documentary on this on National Geographic (I think) recently… “Rape of Europa” documenting the movement of art pieces and masterpieces by the Nazis.

  10. Ditas Gomez said,

    November 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I have another funny anecdote about the war related by my late uncle, Antonio Gonzalez Gomez:

    The worst time for us in Manila came when the Japanese knew that the Americans had already landed. They went berserk and embarked on a burning and killing spree. After that, there was chaos everywhere…

    But that’s when I decided I would be an American citizen…


    Because they’re smart: While the Filipinos were fighting on the frontlines, the Americans were behind them eating their chocolate bars!

    😛 😛 😛

  11. Ditas Gomez said,

    November 21, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I have a funny anecdote about the war related several times by my late father, Jose Candelario “Pepe” Gonzalez Gomez:

    Don Andres Soriano Sr., Hans Menzi, and Don Carlos Palanca [ grandfather of Honeyboy ] were traveling together when they were stopped by Japanese sentries at a checkpoint.

    Japanese soldier to Don Andres Soriano: “You… Spanish!”

    Don Andres: “No, Filipino.” He showed his Philippine papers.

    Japanese soldier to Hans Menzi: “You… American!”

    Hans: “No, Filipino.” He showed his Philippine papers.

    Japanese soldier to Don Carlos Palanca: “You… Chinese!”

    Don Carlos: “No, Spanish.”


    The Japanese soldier slapped Don Carlos Palanca in disbelief, as if saying: “You’re… stretching it!!!”

    But Don Carlos Palanca did have Spanish papers!!!

    *LOLSZ!!!* 😛 😛 😛

  12. Enrique Bustos said,

    November 18, 2009 at 5:40 am

    One good thing about the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines was that Divorce was allowed. That’s why D. Alfonso Ponce Enrile was able to marry again.

  13. November 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm


    Finally… a comment from Mates Alava-Yong herself!!! Hahahah!!! 😀 😀 😀

    Toto Gonzalez

  14. Mates Alava-Yong said,

    November 16, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    You crack me up Toto. I will just call you when and if I do have a comment.

  15. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    November 13, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I also heard how worthless the Japanese paper money was then. It was called “kenkoy money”.
    Filipinos would actually carry money by the bayong.
    Ordinary provisions were scarce. That’s the reason why our grandparents and parents hoarded imported soap, towels, linens, clothes, canned goods etc out of fear of running out on them.

    There was divorce. In our Ethics class that topic was taken. The lecturer was a sister of Sen. Arturo Tolentino. She explained the situation of the senator why he had two living wives both using his name, both active in the social life.
    The public was amused.
    During the Japanese occupation the future senator divorced the first wife and married another. Divorce made both wives legitimate.

    In Med school we had a professor, Dr. Angel Romero. He hated the Japanese for the unimaginable atrocities they inflicted on the Filipinos while they were incarcerated at the UST during that time. He called them beasts, heartless, godless. Dr. Romero could not believe the Filipinos seemed to have forgotten how the Japanese bastardized the country. Suddenly Japanese products were all around. He was vocal, he asked us to boycott anything Japanese in memory of all the Japanese victims…

  16. November 13, 2009 at 7:10 pm


    Zeke’s Social Studies professor should have tasked him to interview his Lolo Conrado “Ado” Bartolome Alava and Lola Teresa “Tess” Eleazar Gala during their lifetimes!!! It’s a bit late. Hay…

    At least, Vina Alava-Pelaez has several comments in this blog. There is not a single one from Mates Alava-Yong. Hahahah. 😛

    Toto Gonzalez

  17. Vina Alava-Pelaez said,

    November 13, 2009 at 7:53 am

    What a coincidence! My son Zeke’s current Social Studies project is to interview grandparents on their personal experiences during the Japanese occupation. A search for Makapili led me to your blog. A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed the titas (Tita Onie, Tita Baby and Tita Lilia) while having lunch in Mates’ house. I got a few accounts but since that was a social lunch. there were other topics cropping up.
    I never really picked up much from dad and mom. As kids, when we would get whiny, they would remind us of how lucky we were that we did not experience the war. But I didn’t care to hear any of the stuff at that time. Now I regret not having given them the opportunity to pass of the wealth of their experiences.
    I’ve been meaning to get back to Tita Onie for a continuation of my “interview” but haven’t had the time. From the few stories I gathered from the titas, Lola Nena’s family was quite lucky.
    I don’t get to read your blog as often as Mates does but I do visit sometimes.

  18. marco philippe araneta said,

    November 10, 2009 at 12:50 am

    My maternal grampa was at the top of his class in the Philippine Military Academy during 1942 when the war broke out, he contracted malaria during the Death March but was mysteriously and miraculously pulled out of the march and brought to the nearest hospital by a kind young japanese soldier. He recovered and survived the war because of this kind act and learned early on not to hate the Japanese because of the war. He kept an open mind about the Japanese and people in general, and kept travelling to Japan to look for that angelic soldier but never found him. What he serendipitously found along the way were many other new post-war japanese friends and business contacts which eventually resulted in his becoming one of the founding and first filipino managing director of one of the biggest Japanese electronics/appliance companies here in the Philippines. 🙂

  19. November 6, 2009 at 2:47 am


    How nice to see you here!!! I’m sure you’ve already been introduced by your mother Cecile to me. Twenty years old… how time flies!!! There are so many of us in the Augusto “Bosto” Sioco Gonzalez branch of the Gonzalez de Sulipan clan [ only one of six in the Gonzalez de Baliuag clan ] that even I have lost track!!! Your Lolo Rogie was the eldest of some 125 Gonzalez-Sioco first cousins “in and out of the kulambo.” Your Lolo Jerry is one of some 750 Gonzalez-Sioco second cousins. Imagine how many are in your mother’s generation and much more so in yours!!!

    Give my regards to your mother, father, Lola Aguing, and Lolo Jerry. I hope to see them this Christmas season.


    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  20. Anthony Miguel "Tim" Gonzalez Capili said,

    November 5, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Hi uncle Toto! I don’t think we have met before but I am the eldest grandson of your cousin Jerry Gonzalez. I am now twenty years old, studying in San Beda and planning to start a career in psychology. I am very close to my grandfather. We always have lunch in his house on Sundays and I always ask about his family and the things that happened to them when they were younger. I hear so many stories about them and it is always very interesting. I studied in La Salle before transferring to San Beda and he explained to me how we were related to Brother Andrew. He even showed me the house they lived in when they were kids. Every year, he and his siblings decide who the host is gonna be for the family reunions in December. It was my lolo’s turn last year but since there are so many relatives, we couldn’t have it in his house. We had the reunion near Lola Mely’s house in La Vista. Thank you for making this blog. It is very informative and very helpful not just because I like reading stories about WW II but more importantly, it helps me understand the family history better. We still have some of those jars and plates that were buried under the house during the war.

  21. Mike V. Jugo said,

    November 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Toto! 🙂

    Great article. I’ll never forget the stories of my dad about WW2, and how brutal the Japanese were. Maybe I’ll share them with you next time.

    Re: Ghost stories. I hope you can write about your supernatural experiences in your lola’s house. I’ll never forget my own experience there. It still gives me goosebumps when I remember it.

  22. Mon Yadao said,

    November 3, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Dear Toto:

    Been a lurker since who-knows-when, and I find your stories fascinating and educational.

    If I may, I would love to hear November 1 stories from you. No, not ghost stories per se, but your experiences growing up and going to cemeteries during All Saints’/All Souls’ Day. I am sure our elders had traditions and such to follow during these hallowed days…

    Anyway, just a suggestion for another topic. Thanks, more power!

    -Mon Y.

  23. Juancho L. Baylon said,

    October 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Princess Yi Haegyong, the granddaughter of Emperor Kojong of Korea, made a very interesting reflection about her experiences as a young woman during the war (specifically the Korean War) when i met up with her in New York City.

    In retrospect, Princess Haegyong told me: “When things happen like that, you get a lot of guts that you did not know you have.”

    People who have undergone and survived the ravages of war probably feel the same way too.

  24. Myles Garcia said,

    October 31, 2009 at 4:08 pm


    They were lucky. But the whole country, and nearly all of our countrymen, were under siege.

  25. Gino Gonzales said,

    October 31, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    The late writer and professor, Doreen Gamboa-Fernandez, told us of a very different story of the second world war. She said that those times ironically brought back very happy memories of her youth.

    As a child, she and her family moved to the deepest recesses of a plantation in Bacolod. “We were playing, eating watermelons, … we had no idea that there was a war [raging beyond the confines of their makeshift abode]. It was like a long summer vacation, ” she recalled.

    The scenario she described was very similar to the “Mata” section of Peque Gallaga’s “Oro, Plata, Mata.” Except that the refugees were having a very relaxed and wonderful time.

  26. Juancho L. Baylon said,

    October 29, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    The Japanese are a proud people who feel superior over the Chinese and Koreans. The Sino-Japanese War in the 1890’s and the Russo-Japanese War in the early 1900’s brought an overwhelming victory to Japan. By this time, Japan had no nation to fear in Asia. In my opinion it was during the early years of the Meiji Era (1860’s) that Japan’s goal had been set: expel western forces in Asia and complete dominion over it, starting with the complete rule of Korea(1910-1945) after her victory in the Russo-Japanese War. The Choseon Dynasty of Korea (1392-1910) established by the Yi Family lasted more than half a millennium, longer than any of the dynasties that ever ruled China. Strong at its inception, it became defenseless at the rising power of Japan, Russia and China.

    Koreans are usually straightforward, warm yet very short tempered.Since Korea was a colony of Japan before, those illiterate and uncouth Korean men drafted in the Japanese Imeprial Army during the Pacific War belonged to the lowest rungs of Korean society which was the ‘sangnim’ class composed of peasants, thugs and ruffians. The upper echelons of that confucian society belonged of course to the Royal Family. Next were the ‘Yangban’ class or the landed gentry and scholarly officials.

    Their class system was so rigid that even in the 1930’s when the granddaughter of the Korean Emperor, who was a grade schooler at that time, was offered the lead role in a film by a Japanese company, the mother got so furious and scandalized because it was unfit and improper for a royal family member to dabble in that kind of profession. Entertainers during the Choseon era belonged to the lowest strata of that strict Confucian society.

    In 1592 Japan tried to invade Korea ,known as the Hideyoshi Invasion, but failed. Most Koreans are trying to distort a piece of vital historical information saying that it was the invading Japanese army, during the Hideyoshi Invasion, who burned the royal palaces in Seoul when in fact it was the slaves who burned the palaces of Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung and Changyeongung to destroy the registries that documented their status.

    Fast forward 350 years later… this brings me to my first impression (or misconception) from what I understood then that it was the Japanese Imperial Army who burned those manorial houses in the Philippines during the Pacific War but instead ,it was Filipino rebels and civilians who were the arsonists. The Japanese Imperial Army came to Negros Occidental at a much later time. They arrived in May of 1942 and wanted to secure the sugar centrals. In the town of Talisay, the matriarch Enrica Alunan-Lizares, from the stories I was told, evacuated to different lowland and upland haciendas in a convoy of 11 cars. Wherever and whenever they would evacuate, they would always bring the piano. It was a very uncertain period and when the matriarch Enrica Alunan-Lizares became tense, someone would play the piano to calm her and to ‘soothe’ the ambiance. A can of corned beef would be mixed with a huge quantity of rice so that everyone can partake since food items like that became scarce during the occupation. (During the time of the revolutionaries in the late 1800’s, they would also evacuate bringing with them their material possessions in a wooden chest. There was no banking system yet in Negros. They would bury it in different places during the course of their evacuation. When they came to retrieve it days later, the chest would still be there.) Luckily, her 1880 manorial house survived the Pacific War unscathed.

  27. Paz Atienza said,

    October 29, 2009 at 6:26 am


    If I remember, two of our uncles (sons of Lolo Javier Gonzalez and Lola Josefa Mercado) were killed by the Japanese. Vladimir (the father of Tweetums) and his brother Horacio.


  28. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 29, 2009 at 5:13 am

    All the atrocities during the infamous Japanese Occupation, our grandparents, parents experienced. There were hundreds of thousands of lives senselessly lost. Torture was the normal activity of the Japs. Properties lost, our cultural heritage wiped away.
    It was a horrible time for them, but it seemed remote to us, the generation after.

    Flash forward, our own generation.
    During the all powerful Marcos Regime, it was a no fear One Man Military rule. Ferdinand Marcos made sure he controlled the military.
    Then he had full control of all big buck businesses, placed in several of his dummy corporations, cronies’ names etc..Undeniable, PCGG got back some.
    Did not Imelda declare that they practically owned ALL major business enterprises in the Phillippines during the sale of PLDT which she also claimed, plus the best real estate properties not only here but also abroad, New York for one. Salonga documented them.

    Have you forgotten Clarissa Ocampo’s incontrovertible testimony about Erap signing the cheque in her very presence?

    People in power equals bottomless greed.
    And the greedy die just the same.

    Was there ever an exemption, will there ever be one?

  29. Myles Garcia said,

    October 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm


    Where is the gang?

  30. Myles Garcia said,

    October 28, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Toffee Tionko wrote:

    It seems the Japanese Imperial Army only took over grand houses of prominent people to serve as Headquarters or to serve as living quarters of ranking soldiers . Needless to say, they must have had great taste in homes. Even going the extent of preserving the house and furniture as much as they could. I wonder if one’s home being taken over by the Japanese was a bitter sweet status symbol. Sorry, just thinking out of the box.

    IBTW. I love this blog more without the trash. Cheers!


    Well not just the Japanese; the Nazis did it too. How they took over the chateaus and grand manses (espeically of the European Jews) both for their personal, administrative quarters. And if they happened to have nice cellars and dungeons, why…so much the better. Nonetheless, I am sure the feeling was one of violation. Had I had such a home taken from me or used, I probably would have had it exorcised or razed to the ground afterwards. Bad juju.

    BTW, do you guys get “Island at War”? It was a (fictional) BBC mini-series about how one of the Channel Islands which belonged to the UK, was taken over by the Nazis and how the local populace had to co-exist, “cooperate” or bite their tongues with the occupiers. (Oh, “Foyle’s War” is another EXCELLENT limited BBC World War II series!! I highly, highly recommend it.)

  31. October 28, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Don, your lolo’s observation about the Filipino psyche seems spot-on. It explains a lot about the rapaciousness of the current regime and the complete absence of honor among its many “psycho-phants”, underlings, acolytes and hangers-on in every sector of society.

    My paternal grandfather was a prosperous businessman prior to the war who had built his fortune on coal. The Japanese took everything from him and he never really recovered financially or I suppose emotionally as well from the blow.

    My maternal grandfather was pretty much left alone during the early war years when he and his family lived in Dumaguete. This was because he was Spanish and feigned admiration for Franco in front of the Japanese officials, who were apparently taken with my mother, then a fair-haired pink-cheeked infant. Later, when they moved to Sta Mesa, my grandfather supported his family by making chorizos and selling them in the market.

  32. Paz Atienza said,

    October 28, 2009 at 6:33 am

    One incident that my mom told me involved my Lolo Vicente (her father). The Japanese wanted to confiscate the car that his cousin Dr. Emilio (?) Pascual owned and my lolo had this idea to make it appear as though the vehicle was broken. The Japanese asked them to push it so that it would move but my Lolo Vicente refused. Both men were hit hard in their behinds. According to my mom, the mere fact that both men were subjected to something as demeaning as being hit in the behind, really devastated my Lolo Vicente. Moreover, another daughter also experienced some kind of torture — my Tita Lucing forgot to bow when she passed by a group of Japanese soldiers. Immediately, she was asked to stand in the middle of the church patio at noon time, under the scorching heat of the sun. It was good that she did not suffer a heat stroke because of what they had done to her.

    Another story was about a priest friend, Fr. Celis Noriega who stayed with the Cacnio family while they evacuated to Barrio Cansinala. When the family felt that it was alright to go back to the plaza where the ancestral house stood, Fr. Celis joined them and they were allowed to stay in the entresuelo of the house while the Japanese army stayed upstairs. Fr. Celis had a great singing voice and he would even entertain the family. However, the Japanese suspected that he was a member of the guerrilla movement since he would leave the house on various occasions and reappear after a few days. Someone probably trailed him and word reached them that he was tortured heavily and after that killed. His body was never found.

  33. Toffee Tionko said,

    October 28, 2009 at 4:08 am

    It seems the Japanese Imperial Army only took over grand houses of prominent people to serve as Headquarters or to serve as living quarters of ranking soldiers . Needless to say, they must have had great taste in homes. Even going the extent of preserving the house and furniture as much as they could. I wonder if one’s home being taken over by the Japanese was a bitter sweet status symbol. Sorry, just thinking out of the box.

    I can only think out loud about this subject matter now that the war has been over for more than 60 years. In the past, I dared not talk about Japanese atrocities so lightly in front of the generation of my grandparents.

    BTW. I love this blog more without the trash. Cheers!

  34. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 28, 2009 at 1:36 am

    It would be interesting if someone can write more on the MAKAPILI.
    Were they somewhat like criminal executors, extortionists, communists?

    In my father’s hometown in Bulacan, one ordinary Sunday in the parish church during the morning Mass, the officiating priest was shot dead during consecration in full view of everyone.
    It was known that the Makapilis were responsible. For what reason, no one exactly knows. It was such a shameless scandal, no one wanted to talk about it, maybe out of fear. ( shades of Marcos regime )

    Then a few weeks later, dinner time, a group of men went to the house of the provincial governor, Gov. Molina who graciously welcomed them.
    After dinner the men invited the governor, his married son and a son inlaw for a walk in the plaza. The three never returned home. They were summarily executed by the Makapili somewhere. The bodies were never recovered.

    Soon, several young padres de familia suffered the same tragic fate.
    The Makapilis would casually drop by their homes, invite the young men to go with them and never returned.
    But they never kept their identities, in fact they were known, that’s the reason they were allowed into their homes.

    Rumor spread fast that all young men would suffer the same fate.
    The whole town lived in fear, all because of the Makapili.

    My father was very fortunate, the family’s faithful casamacs protected him. They smuggled my dad out of the house and sheltered him in a remote hideaway.

    The Makapili never touched the rest of the family out of respect to the matriarch of the family who was well loved there. She was helpful in so many ways to so many people of the town.

  35. John Ada said,

    October 28, 2009 at 12:42 am


    My 3 elderly transvestite friends (all deceased) related to me their war time stories. Since Cebu is a narrow island, there is only one major road on each side of the isle. The Japanese soldiers set up a checkpoint in our town across the elementary school. By nightfall, anyone caught passing by the barricades was tortured and most likely killed. Well, the 3 transvestites were bored to tears twiddling their thumbs and got antsy to rampage from one end of the town to the other. Night after night, they were allowed to cross the barricades. The price they had to pay was being “raped” each time they pass by. So much so that they also got bored with the same Japanese guys over and over again. When the Americans came, they just took over the Hapones. Needless to say, they look back wistfully on their wartime experiences.

  36. October 27, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    Thank you so much for the informative and very interesting comments in this post. Please keep them coming.

    You have all validated the controversial decision to require real-life identities for the commenters in this blog. We have been proven right. The Comments section of this post now resonates delightfully with the relevant contributions of an impressive group of people known for their brains, education, manners, backgrounds, and civic concerns in Manila social circles and elsewhere around the world. As a result, the blog has gained so much quality vis-a-vis its previous reincarnation of something that was “just a little better than a gossip blog.”

    Thank you very much for your continued participation and support of “Remembrance of Things Awry.”


    Toto Gonzalez 😀

  37. Presy Guevara said,

    October 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I heard from my mother several times that in fear of the Japanese soldiers, she had my hair completely shaved when my cousin Crispulo (Pulong) Guevara Malicat reported an incident at the beach. Kuya Pulong was in his late teens. He was from Lipa and the only nephew of my father by his only but deceased sister. Pulong was a total orphan. He and his three younger sisters were adoptees of Madre Laura, the Founder and Mother Superior of the Sacred Heart Convent in Lipa. Pulong visited us for a short break from the orphanage run by the convent. One fateful day, he carried me to the seashore awaiting the arrival of Lolo Kikoy from a boat. Kuya Pulong was carrying me on his arms as he strolled on the wave-lapped beach when a Japanese soldier approached and interrogated him with fearful questions. I was two years old then. By my elders’ description, I had, as a young child, wispy light brown curly hair, which when viewed with the sun behind appeared blonde. Near sunset was the perfect timing to create the illusion and that was when the Japanese soldier spotted me. The Japanese soldier was incredulous of Pulong’s emphatic “No” when asked: “Is this boy a son of an American?” The persistent soldier’s final question was “Are you sure this boy is not a son of an American?” Pulong brought home his concern to my mother and quickly, I lost my “golden locks”. Thereafter, I was set out playing under the tropic sun more often, but hidden from the Japanese, so that I would tan.

    I frankly did not remember my Kuya Pulong much. I only saw a picture of him carrying me in his arms. I kept that 2″ x 3″ photograph for sometime because that was my earliest picture. Unlike my brother, I had no baby pictures. Eventually the photograph was lost. It was my very last memento of my cousin Pulong who was killed among others by the Japanese. The story I heard was that Pulong, on the sound of a siren warning of an air raid, sought refuge in a fox hole in Lipa with a few other people. Then a heartless Japanese soldier threw in a hand grenade into that shelter killing all the civilians in it.

  38. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 27, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    My mom’s family had a Japanese family chauffeur, fondly called Fuji. When he married a local Capampangan, the parish priest of Bacolor required him to be baptized first. Fuji used the Buyson name with my grandfather as his godfather. He was designated the caretaker of their house in Bacolor when the family lived in Manila because of their schooling.
    I still saw a photograph of Fuji in a chauffeur’s standard uniform complete with a gora. His kids were short and typically bowlegged.
    Because of it’s strategic location, the house was used as the Japanese headquarters. Behind, after the azotea, was the camalig. It was in the camalig where the Japanese took their captives and tortured them. According to the account of Fuji’s children, they would hear the sound of lashes, whippings, the screaming, the moaning almost daily.
    The Japanese did not vandalize the house, leaving most furnitures intact. But their Filipino cohorts looted the house.
    Sorely found missing among others were the kamagong divan, where the kids would play sungka, the bone inlaid chest of drawers used for the kids’ sleepwear, the monogrammed silver flatwares, the gramaphone, the ice cooler.
    Even before the family left for Manila, they entrusted the venerated San Pedro to their palsonero in barrio San Isidro.
    The silver carroza in the camalig, covered in soot was untouched but the ruedas were all missing.
    What was sad, it was reported to the family that some items were found in the houses of some townmates in other barrios.

    Fuji relocated his family after the war. They settled in Tarlac. The children for a while kept in touch during holy week when the family would go to Bacolor.

    After the war, the caretaker who took over, another family chauffeur Pareng Pyo and children claimed they would hear the muffled cries, the wailing, the sound of iron chains being dragged some late nights coming from the camalig and they prayed hard for the poor souls.
    That’s why it was called a haunted house.
    Never again did the Buysons live in that house again, though before the war the house was known as “masaya, dacal a bisita, casaya da, lupa lang sinambut sweepstake”.
    It was Pareng Pyo who raised his children and grandchildren there and kept the house well all thru the years.

  39. Don Escudero said,

    October 27, 2009 at 11:08 am

    P.S. Was it Nick Joaquin who said “The years before the war were called “Peacetime”… We have had no “Peacetime” ever since.”
    The older generation that lived through it would get misty-eyed describing the life before the war, and how beautiful Manila, San Pablo, and practically every corner of the country was. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, but it sounds much better than the mess we have today.
    Lolo said the war destroyed something in the social fabric. To paraphrase his reasoning, it goes like this: By relying on your wits to survive, it became your patriotic duty to flout authority, so the inner anarchist in every Pinoy was unleashed and never fully let back into its cage. It was a time when things like “delicadeza” and “palabra de honor” were inconvenient and downright dangerous to your survival.

  40. Don Escudero said,

    October 27, 2009 at 10:49 am

    The previous post was part of a longer one that somehow found its way to cyber-limbo. Here goes:
    Much more nasty than the Japanese were their Filipino sidekicks, who belonged to an organization called MAKAPILI, short for Makabayang Pilipino, or something like that. An offshoot of the KALIBAPI, a political movement that was kinda like the KBL of the Japanese occupation, MAKAPILI were more than your garden-variety collaborators and political opportunists. They either were really Japanophiles or had very big chips on their shoulders and huge axes to grind, against fellow Filipinos. They were the apotheosis of the Filipino As A Crab.
    They were responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of our countrymen during the war. The ever more paranoid Japanese employed them as spies, stool pigeons and identifiers of guerilla sympathizers and supporters of the Americans. If you had a relative or ancestor who was executed by the Japanese during the war, especially towards the latter part, chances are he (or she) was ratted out by the Makapilis. An uncle of mine was beheaded in Paco because some Makapili identified him as a guerilla and a member of class of 1942, who seemed to have been identified early on as potentially dangerous because they had ROTC training and thus could conceivable lead opposition to the Japs.
    They brought the humble bayong into disrepute when they would wear it to disguise their identities, with punched-out eyeholes over their heads, while they walked among crowds identifying victims for the Japanese.
    As usual, only the small fry got punished after the war, usually at the hands of the relatives of their victims, who were often their neighbors. The big fish got away, and the Americans helpfully expunged most of the historical record on the roles of many who willingly set up these organizations. Why? Probably because most of them were close to MacArthur in the days before the war, and would figure prominently in the post-war power structure the Americans wanted in place during the years following World War II. And maybe because we tend to take things personally, and since the leadership did not directly attack us, we let them be.
    So it is ironic that the grandson and namesake of one of the founders of the MAKAPILI is running for president with his running-mate the grandson of the man MacArthur anointed as his choice to replace the sainted Quezon. Fifty or so years on, as we call for change, the more things remain the same.

  41. Don Escudero said,

    October 27, 2009 at 10:15 am

    My grandfather’s faithful Japanese gardener turned up one day after the Japanese invaded dressed as a Captain in the Jap army.
    Later, a young Japanese officer adopted my Lolo as his surrogate father. He became close to the family, and when Lolo was arrested in a “sona” together with the other men of the area, not even President Laurel, (a compadre) could help in time. So Capt. Kasai, the officer, came with a truck full of his men, surrounded the garrison and threatened to shoot if the prisoners were not released. On that day, his thirteenth in captivity, only Lolo was still left alive. Then Kasai publicly humiliated the head of the garrison of Kempetai (he outranked him) by slapping him in front of the populace.
    As the war was ending, he went to Lolo to tell him he was going back to Japan. He warned Lolo that the Japanese left behind were fanatics with a warped sense of honor who only wanted to inflict violence on the populace. He warned him to flee if any came near.
    Many years later, Lolo found Kasai, who had become a ranking executive in a big Japanese steel firm. Every time Lolo would pass by Japan, there would be Kasai with a limo and assistants, wining and dining the the man he called “Papa” till his dying day.

  42. October 27, 2009 at 7:11 am


    Oh yes, gardeners, chauffeurs, and the like turned out to be officers of the Japanese Imperial Army.

    I read somewhere that they were actually sent years before The War to serve as spies.

    Toto Gonzalez

  43. Toffee Tionko said,

    October 27, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Great family stories here about the war. Too bad the generation that loved to tell them has slowly moved on over the years. According to my folks, there were plenty of Japanese plantation workers as well as managers in Davao City before the war. When the war broke out, they were all surprised to find out that the friendly manager was a Japanese Imperial Army Officer.

  44. Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro said,

    October 26, 2009 at 9:51 am

    WW2 was such a defining moment to the Pinoy psyche. I think it was my cousin Butch who said it best in his little “memories” of my mother: that our parents (and all the “survivors of the era”) always referred to time as “before the war” and “after the war.” A prior life and a post life. For my parents, before was more style and some substance. After the trauma of the war, it was just substance and whatever semblance of style was a fluke.

    The major lesson of the war experience was “not to be caught flat footed ever again.” Those who survived did because they had things to sell, ie, stacked food in the pantry, gowns to the “bailerinas de subscripcion,” curtains to the slipper makers of Marikina. Experience taught them to stock up, or better yet, to HOARD what was deemed essentials. However, those basics were really whims of fancy. For my mother, it was camphor chests laden full of Huntley and Palmer’s Butter Shortbread in such quantities that I can never again look, much less eat, a shortbread. She guarded them until they were rancid and then proceeded to toast them to serve to the “dogs.” Mind you, by the time she was ready for that, we no longer had dogs!

    When she died [ 16 February 1988 in Vancouver ], she had a warehouse of essentials ( to her life ) winter coats, quilted dusters, tubes of auburn hair color ( past their “due date” of course ), wigs, Perrier bottles, potato chips, Wedgewood plates that didn’t match but were bought on the cheap, etc. From the experiences of our parents, we learn by osmosis to do likewise.

    I hoard maquillage, etc.. Not from fear of war (but maybe, I should, in these so uncertain times) but more so from
    fear of the ploy: “Product Discontinued.”

  45. Paz Atienza said,

    October 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Yes Myles. My mom shares the same opinion too that it was the Koreans in the Japanese Imperial Army who were really cruel.

  46. Myles Garcia said,

    October 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm


    Interesting comments. Yeah, my parents (& other elders) said that most of the Japanese officers they met were from the educated class and that they treated civilians quite humanely. The thugs belonged to the ‘kempetai’ and it was the surrogate Koreans who did their colonizers’ dirty work.

    Also, did you folks know that the Japanese occupation period was the one time divorce was available and legal in the Philippines? And then after the war and independence, balik na naman as ‘annulment’ kuno…another hypocritical practice of the Catholic Church.

  47. Paz Atienza said,

    October 24, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Sometime during the war, my mom’s family had to leave their ancestral house in Apalit because word reached them that an artillery of Japanese soldiers would make the town a “rest area.” This was after they conquered Bataan. The family had no choice but to evacuate to a nearby barrio. The scene in that movie Oro, Plata, Mata years ago of the family burying their things on the ground and shutting all the huge capiz windows gave my mom goosebumps as it was so like what they experienced then.

    Toto, you know how the house looks now and believe it or not, those chandeliers and those sets of Vienna chairs were buried, while the big mirrors in the sala were wiped with some kind of chemical and covered with cloth. However, there were times when they could sneak back to the plaza,so the parish priest then, Fr. Bartolome Zabala provided them with a secret place on the ceiling of the old church. My mom recalls that they stayed in that cramped secret place with 2 other neighbors and their household staff.

    When the Japanese had settled in the house, my Tito Do who was about 10 years old would visit the place and he befriended the head of the Imperial Army. On certain occasions, he would ask my mom who was 12 to accompany him to the old house. Since my mom knew how to play the piano, the Japanese officer would ask her to play a Japanese song while my uncle danced. That early, we had our version of mga Japayuki!

    Unfortunately, while all these were happening to his family, my Lolo Vicente experienced so much depression. For one, he was so used to a good life where he called the shots. Sometime in June 1942, he had a stroke. While he was being revived, the doctor said that they needed to put ice on his forehead (for what purpose, I don’t know). Note that when the stroke happened, my mom’s family was already staying in the convento of the church since they were not allowed to occupy their own house. So my Tito Do had to ask the Japanese occupants for some ice. They were kind enough to give him some. However, after a time, my lolo lapsed into a coma and later died. The very sad thing about it was that my Lolo Vicente was not allowed to even have a wake in his own home. His family had to ask someone to make a coffin for him because there was no decent one available. The 2 day wake was held in the old parish church and he was buried immediately. Since he was a former mayor of Apalit (a 2-termer), people wanted to drape his coffin with the Philippine flag but my lola refused because of the prevailing circumstances then.

    After his death, the Japanese Imperial army who occupied the old house left. So my mom’s family went back to the old house and they were surprised to see that they did not break anything. Since the image of the Sacred Heart (by Maximo Vicente) in our sala was the only “santo” visible, it remained as is when they left it, save for some dust here and there, which was surprising! My mom recalls that when she and Tito Do would make those occasional visits to the house to do their “entertaining,” the Japanese officer would kowtow to the Sacred Heart image and walk backwards!

  48. sheryl manago said,

    October 24, 2009 at 2:22 am


    LOL. I remember my playmates telling me that years ago (I was not with them at that time) they found a balloon on a vacant lot in our neighborhood. Then they blew it and tossed it in the air. Haha. They did not know it was a condom – a used condom.

  49. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    October 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    That was the time my father was courting my mom. My mom’s family had their place in Calle Nebraska, Ermita where my dad would pay her mid-afternoon visits. Back then, the proper time to visit was from 3.30pm to just before the 6 pm Angelus. And present in the living room would be another family member who acted like a “bantay”.

    Those days the city would experience air raid warnings. Deafening sirens were sounded and the people in the streets would scamper into air raid shelters. There were some in the U.P. compound nearby.

    Those at home were trained to fall flat on the floors until the sirens stopped.

    One fine day while my dad was visiting in Calle Nebraska, there was the air raid siren. Instinctively, he shouted “DAPA, DAPA!!!”

    And simultaneously he heard a louder voice “CUCHON, CUCHON!!!!”

    Then like a flash, two houseboys entered with folded soft matresses, set them on the floor and grabbed my dad and took him out of the house into the garage at the back.

    He realized the mattresses were for the ladies of the house to drop into. Was he flabbergasted!!!!

    It was in Calle Nebraska ( that’s how they called their house ) that my dad met Lilia Lopez-Jison, a family friend of the Buysons who dropped by after going to the house of Erlinda Kalaw next door.

    Lilia was looking for people to form a quorum for the mahjong session in their Elena Apartments in Calle Salas / Calle Mabini, for her father Don Vicente Lopez. My dad became a regular in those friendly sessions.

    My parents were married in 1942.

    Just before the carpet bombing, my father took the entire family of my mom to his place in Bulacan. They were in a caravan of “caretelas” because the cars were confiscated by the Japanese.

    To their shock, the families of their househelp followed on foot, and miraculously they reached Bulacan after some days.

    It was providential: the whole vicinity of Ermita was razed to the ground a few days after they evacuated.

    Their neighbors and friends who went to De La Salle or St. Scholastica were all killed brutally, as narrated by some family members who survived like Tony Quiogue whose wife Ophelia Pamintuan was bayoneted shielding her infant.

    I was recently told that the infant was Mecoy Quiogue…

    They were settled well in Bulacan. And they owed so much gratitude to the faithful and devoted tenants of my father’s family there who protected them and provided sufficient food all the time.

    They attributed their blessings to the “poon” Senor de la Paciencia enshrined in the ancestral house. Even during that period the traditional “pabasa” was never discontinued.

  50. Myles Garcia said,

    October 23, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Ha! Don’t have too many detailed stories about Japanese times/Liberation but a few of them, like you, Toto, center on the PGH since my mom was an intern/resident there.

    But first off, it’s really odd that Manila was declared an “open city” which per definition is: a city that is declared demilitarized during a war, thus gaining immunity from attack under international law.” But it still ended up supposedly as the 2nd most pulverized city after Warsaw. (Even more levelled than Hiroshima and Nagasaki?) I guess it just goes to show that those last hold-outs of the Japanese empire were real bastards and the only way they could be taken out was by carpet-bombing the city.

    My father’s family in Ermita was starting to evacuate their house on Colorado Street on their way to PGH when their car or truck got stopped by the Japs… and they almost took my father and his younger brother as cannon fodder. But I believe my older uncle (who became a successful lawyer after the war) was able to bargain with those S.O.B.s..

    My mom’s family was ensconced in quiet little San Juan although my mom was trapped in PGH (hey, Toto, she and your relatives might’ve even sheltered each other in those horrific moments of “Liberation”).

    But what I truly marvel at… and this is in homage to my dear mother who will be 89 next month, and coping with Alzheimer’s, diabetes and depression, was that even through all those dark years, she persevered, finished her medical degree at UP College of Medicine (1944; same class as one Evangelina Macaraeg); and outlasted the hostilities.

    And we postwar generations, shrivel at the slightest drop of rain.

  51. October 23, 2009 at 3:35 am

    There is a splendid site called OLD PHILIPPINES II on Facebook. You guys will marvel at the devastation of Manila, the Opened City. The photos have never been published before. Why not go to that site ?

  52. October 22, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    talagang tsismoso, please be reminded:

    From now on, comments with no real names, no email addresses that can be confirmed, and no reliable identity checks will no longer be allowed.

    Toto Gonzalez

  53. October 22, 2009 at 8:31 pm


    It’s perfectly alright.

    My uncle, Macario Diosdado “Macarito” Arnedo Gonzalez [ born 29 February 1940 ], did the very same thing as a child. In later life, he became THE Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C., President of De La Salle University [ passed away 26 January 2006 ].


    Toto Gonzalez 😀

  54. Presy Guevara said,

    October 22, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Toto, you do not have to publish this if you find it objectionable:

    Just a few days after, peacetime atmosphere was prevailing in Nasugbu, when I was walking toward the public market with my father, I saw a tampipi cast against the concrete tranquilla on the side of a trench. It was open with Japanese paper money strewn around it. My father told me not to pay attention for the money was worth nothing anymore and people were just throwing them away as trash. Meanwhile, we were enjoying American chocolates, chewing gum and other surplus items such as may be found inside the K-ration. American cigarettes were popular among smoking adults. For some reason, I got hold of a small tin packet from the K-ration box. When I opened it there was this soft rubber tube neatly rolled into itself. Innocent me thought it was a balloon and blew into it for inflation then tied a knot to keep the air in. Delightedly, I played with it tossing it high in the air as I ran around until I reached the corner store next to our house. “Hey, stop that!” is what I heard from Tia Claring, the store owner. When I looked at her, I realized she was talking to me. She grabbed my inflated toy and speedily dragged me into our house calling my father. “Why are you allowing Presy to play with this? I hope it’s clean. Does Presy know what this is? This is what the Americans use for contraception!” My father was amused but a little bit embarrassed. He admitted he has not sorted out the K-ration contents and allowed me to dig into it. I was already a teenager before I knew realized I played with an inflated condom.

  55. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 22, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    When everyone was suffering during the Japanese Occupation, Maria Castro a.k.a. “Madame X” was profiting and enriching herself during those hard times. She was able to own the Alfonso Zobel house on Dewey Boulevard corner Padre Faura, the Shellborne hotel, the Marvel building in Binondo or the Aguinaldo Building, the Wise Building, etc..

  56. Faye Tiangco said,

    October 22, 2009 at 2:25 am

    I love war stories and how the people coped. Keep it coming!

  57. October 21, 2009 at 10:41 am


    Do tell us!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Toto Gonzalez

  58. Paz Atienza said,

    October 21, 2009 at 10:30 am


    Can’t wait for your stories for this post. I do have interesting ones too which happened in “bale maragul.” I don’t know if you were told that for about a few months, it housed the Japanese Imperial Army when they made a stop in Apalit.

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