- Historic Sites
During three harrowing years as a prisoner of the Japanese, an American woman secretly kept an extraordinary journal of suffering, hope, ingenuity, and human endurance
April/May 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 3
Aug. 26, 1944—1 woke with diarrhea and then had bad chills, one after another. My hands and upper lip were numb, ears filled and cracking. I crawled into the dugout with my blanket and pillow, unable to eat the poorly cooked rice, feeling as though part of me had stopped working, wanting only to close my eyes and rest forever. The family hovered anxiously, asking questions I was too weak to answer. I lay exhausted in measureless weakness, calm and peaceful as though suspended, not caring about anything, whether they had food to give me or not. Poor Jerry looked sunk with worry, but I was too weak to care. I did not go to roll call. The doctor came, shook his head, admitted that many were like this and that nearly everyone had symptoms of one sort or another. He finally left saying if I did not improve I could go to the hospital, and he would try some thiamine in addition to nicotinic, also special diet if I wished. He says, regretfully, that the iron pills from the Red Cross have given out.
Sept. 13, 1944—1 asked Miss McKim to please say “auld lang syne” to Tomibe San for me and to tell him I will long remember the two evenings when he conveyed to us the spirit of Japan, and that if each person is, in a sense, an ambassador from his native land, then he has done his country a great service in here. In a way it is a relief to have him go before hostilities for guerrilla revenge will make no discrimination, no concession. All Japanese will be alike to them. In Manila he may escape death at the hands of the Americans, but not among the mountain people, and I would not want to see it.
Oct. 11, 1944—Jerry earns camotes [for extra work details], which help the family meals. He seems to like the garden and has his second wind like Bede. I have mine and wish June would get hers.
I sat up reading pages of my toilet paper — Women in Love . There are many pages of majestic writing.
Oct. 17, 1944—Little Ronnie took the mouse in a trap to the cat, opened the trap, released the little mouse, upon which the cat pounced, then Ronnie ate the bait, which was a peanut.
Dec. 16, 1944—During the complete quiet of roll call we all heard a long sustained salvo of guns, heavy guns, also planes and the rip of bombs. Kaito, who was lounging through roll call as usual, suddenly called out, “Dismissed,” and the entire 450 camp members burst into a din of joy, whoop and Oh Boy, chatter and laughter, as they flocked to the edge of the bank or down the steps to Baby House point. We rush out of the hospital to listen to the sound of battle, which is plain. All past sounds pale before this, which to our ears could be naval guns for landing forces. The spotters on the hill whistle off and on and later blow the all-clear. These signals are phoned to town, it is said, even as we did it four years ago. We are almost worn out already, dashing in and out full of thrill.
Dec. 25, 1944—The dancing and general excitement of the day, not to mention the pitiful overeating (if one can call it that), was too much for Bede. As the last tune died away and he was sure he would not miss any more, he went tearing past us through the kitchen, sending word back by his sister that “I lost it but don’t tell Dad.” I guessed it was the Christmas feast and went out to hunt for him, just in time to hold his head over a Socony laundry tin. Poor kid, I felt so sorry for him, losing all that good food. Weak and shaky, he was soon asleep with a hot brick against his tummy.
Dec. 28, 1944—In the broiling sun, on our mat rolls, we lay surrounded by straw bags, cloth bags, and jumbled possessions, a perspiring, tired, confused crowd. About two-thirty, they announced that trucks would be coming soon, but not as many as before so the trunks and heavy bags must be left by the road under guard till the next day. Of course our hearts sank and we thought it another shakedown, a chance to examine or take from us again. Nearly all of us were sure we would never see any of our baggage again. We had had to leave over half behind us anyway and now felt that this would be looted by hungry Filipinos or stolen by guards.
Dec. 31, 1944—The committee on housing met and thrashed out a plan and map, but when it was posted with locations and a key diagram, there was a furor and whole sections sat down and refused to move. All places seem equal to me, alike as two peas, but the usual barnacle attachment has begun and people are too tired to think of moving. They just squat and defy.
Jan. 25, 1945—Everyone is making Modernage-type chairs out of the twisted scrap iron in Bilibid. They bend the rods into shape and then slip a cover over it made of straw sack, gunny sack, canvas, hammered tin, strands of rope, sections of wire netting, or anything else that will let the weary human form relax in a chair. Our forms haven’t had a chair for over three years. How wonderful not to have to sit on a bench, a stool, or a bed!