Blistering hope


    ‘It is yuletide of 2020 and the Filipinos of the 21st century will have to transcend the dystopia that began in Chinese Wuhan.’

    SOFT as the voice of an angel, Breathing a lesson unheard, Hope with a gentle persuasion, Whispers a comforting word. Wait, till the darkness is over, Wait, till the tempest is done, Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, After the darkness is gone.”

    It was December 8, 1941. “I was busy preparing my schedule for the boys whom I was going to send to Baguio where the Family was to spend the Christmas holidays. I was writing orders for other equipment and supplies when the sound of Mitsubitzis came roaring through the sky. The explosions told us that enemy planes had already begun bombing our airfields.” [Diary of Aurea Labrador]

    It was December 8, 1941. “At 6 a.m. General Sutherland phoned me that the Japanese had treacherously attacked Pearl Harbor at 5 a.m. and consequently the US and Philippine Forces were in a state of war with Japan. I notified by phone all the members of my General Staff. Rushed to the office. At 9 a.m. I received news that Japanese planes had bombarded Davao Harbor and Airfield, destroying them. At 12.20 p.m. the Air Raid alarm was sounded. Japanese planes bombarded Clark field killing and wounding many and destroying 17 bombers and other smaller planes. At 4 p.m. Japanese planes attacked the Airfield at Iba, Zambales, destroying some US Army planes, and killing and wounding some soldiers.” [Diary of Basilio J. Valdes]

    It was December 8, 1941 and people in the Philippines would just have to survive a Christmas in crisis: “We listened in on the radio as usual and when we heard the shocking news that Pearl Harbor was bombed, you can imagine our feelings of shock and disbelief! After breakfast Coné immediately went downtown and bought plenty of supplies; when he came home we began packing and by afternoon most of all our furniture had been taken to Dorothy’s (Bernas) house – even the birds were evacuated. As you know, they live in Jaro, a suburb of Iloilo City. That same day we all went to live with Dorothy and Meñing, who made room for us in their small two-bedroom house. We felt it was safer there than in the city.” [Diary of Louise Fillmore Blancaflor]

    It was supposed to be a holiday. “After breakfast, I read the Daily Bulletin, the only newspaper published on Mondays. The Bulletin carried no news of special interest. At seven in the morning, Señor Alberto Guevara called me up. He had just heard over the radio that Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese planes. That was the first news of the war…We are beginning to realize that we are engulfed in the whirlpool of war. There is excitement, there are telephone calls, sirens, plans, scamperings, panic-buying of food, clothes and other provisions. Speculations and projections run big. Everybody is playing prophet. Would they attack? No, they would not dare. If they do, it would be by air from Formosa, Hainan, in aircraft carriers. Landing places would be Lingayen and Batangas, but they are fortified. By sea, it is impossible to pass through Corregidor. Evacuate the capital: to Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Bicolandia, Visayas. Manila will be mercilessly destroyed. Wait for developments. Thus it was on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

    “We were awakened before midnight by its shrill, doleful sound as if it were announcing gloom which the nocturnal planes would sow. The vestibule and the receiving room were converted into shelters. One hour in the shelters and back to bed. At three o’clock there was another signal. We scampered down in total darkness, feeling the wall with our hands, taking care that we and the boarders would not slip. The planes could not be seen. We only saw a small red star like a wandering ruby among the others which were gilded and immobile in the sky…There were sounds of bomb explosions. We calculated where they fell.

    Each one of us suddenly became an expert in localizing these deep rumblings. We were hearing them for the first time in our lives, but we indicated the places being bombed with the accuracy of veteran warriors. And so ended the first day of war, with a greater noise and din than New Year’s eve.” [Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.]

    Three years later, it was still a yuletide in extremis. “December 7, 1944. Death this morning of Lee H. Shipman, Pvt 803rd Engr. Cause: beri-beri and malnutrition with bacillary dysentery – acute – confirmed by autopsy. (NB, this patient had been cooking and eating grass).” [Diary of Warren A. Wilson]

    “Dec. 7th – Dorita’s birthday – Blackout restrictions made even more stringent – The Japs seem to be expecting something – Tomorrow is the 3rd Anniversary of Pearl Harbor – We are hoping – The internees at Los Baños are as badly off as we are. Only 2 meals a day, their gardens taken away from them – all sorts of restrictions – Lt. Konishi, who was so cruel here, is now in Los Baños. We must help each other to hang on to life – That is what it has come to – and the Japs call themselves civilized!” [Diary of Albert E. Holland;]

    By Christmas of 1945, the United Nations had won the Anti-Fascist War and the Philippines had been liberated from the Japanese imperialists. But Rizal’s homeland was in ruins. It was not the first yuletide of death and sacrifice for Bonifacio’s countrymen: “December 2, 1899 The General has given me a Platoon of available men and has ordered me to defend this pass. I am aware what a difficult task has been given to me. Nevertheless, I feel that this is the most glorious moment of my life. I am doing everything for my beloved country.

    There is no greater sacrifice. I have a terrible premonition that the enemy will vanquish me and my valiant men; but I die happy fighting for my beloved country.” [Diary of Gregorio del Pilar]

    It is yuletide of 2020 and the Filipinos of the 21st century will have to transcend the dystopia that began in Chinese Wuhan.

    “If in the dusk of the twilight, Dimmed be the region afar, Will not the deepening darkness, Brightin’ the glittering star. Then when the night is upon us, Why should the heart sink away, When the dark midnight is over, Watch for the breaking of day.”