Memories of World War II

"This was how we lived."


The commemoration of the historic Fall of Bataan and Fall of Corregidor, called Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, brought me back to the days of the Japanese Occupation many many years ago.

I was 14 then, in my second year in high school at the University of Santo Tomas. Our teacher announced that the war with Japan had broken out, and she dismissed our class. I later learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and Clark Air Base.

I had mixed feelings about the war.

That same day I saw a crowd gathering at the corner of España and P. Campa. There was a dogfight between a squadron othe Philippine airplanes above Manila. The Philippine Air Force led by Col. Jesus Villamor was against Japanese airplanes.

During that dogfight, Col. Villamor’s plane and another were shot down. They were no match for the Japanese “kamikaze” air force. An air base was later named after the colonel.

Far Eastern University, two blocks from our accessoria along P. Campa Street, became a recruitment center for those who wanted to join the Philippine and American contingent that had retreated to Bataan.

My mother told me that my elder brother Willie, then studying at FEU, had tried to get recruited but was turned down. But that afternoon, as my mother, Willi and I were standing along the sidewalks of España waving at the truckloads of recruits on their way to Bataan, Willie, who was in his short pants, ran after one of the trucks and jumped on board.

I remember my mother shouting and crying hysterically.

We eventually learned that Willie had become a non-commissioned officer.

My oldest brother, Desi, was different. We were told that in a meeting with his group involved in the underground movement, the late Senator Manny Manahan among them, he was arrested and imprisoned at Fort Santiago.

That was a double tragedy for my family, especially my mother. My father was district supervisor of public schools in Abra and had to stay in the province for his job.

I stayed with my mother. At times, my sister, who was a physician at a puericulture center in Tondo, visited us. She was married to lawyer Alfredo Bersamin Ferraren.

I recall that the Mathays had a grocery store and eatery at the corner of P. Campa and España. The Mathay boys became my close friends. Ponciano became a lawyer while Mel became mayor of Quezon City.

Having no means of income, except for a peso now and then from my mother, I devised ways to make money. I soon learned that being a cigaret vendor could be profitable. I became a bootblack around Sampaloc in the morning and a cigaret vendor in the afternoon.

I was inquisitive, and soon learned to do business with the Americans who were detained in the concentration camp of UST. A friend told me that for one stick of Piedmont or Chesterfield or Camel, I could earn a dollar.

My trade flourished and I did business with the Americans through the holes in their sawali fences. Some Americans would buy a whole pack of cigarets from me. One day, however, a Japanese guard saw me and shouted “kura, kura!” and I ran away. I stopped selling for a few weeks, and then returned using another street.

My bootblack days were also very profitable. I earned enoug to afford shows with my favorite comedians Pugo and Tugo, and Bayani Casimiro. I also became a movie freak which I carried later on.

I told my mother not to give me any more allowance because I was self-sufficient.

Later, my father found a way to earn a living. He was fond of horses, and brought to Manila two horses and a karetela. These were for carrying passengers. He was driver and I was conductor. I shouted “Quiapo!” and “España Rotunda!” at the top of my lungs. We made some money, but sadly not enough.

Thus, my father, my mother, my sister and her husband and I “evacuated” to Abra. Times were becoming difficult in Manila that you could not buy a ganta of rice with a bagful of Mickey Mouse money. We ate kangkong most of the time. We soon sold our horses and karetela and docar.

* * *

But this is getting ahead of the story, The Japanese government soon gave full amnesty to the veterans of Bataan and even members of the underground movement. This meant the release of my brothers.

While Willie was with his fellow Death March survivors, my mother gave Willie food and clothing every week because the Japanese never gave them any.

My other brother Desi came home after over a year of imprisonment at Fort Santiago. He had tattered clother, long beard and uncut hair. My mother collapsed in sheer joy when she saw him.

* * *

Soon, my two brothers went North to join the guerrilla movement with the 121st Infantry, USAFIO-NL under American Col. Russel Volckmann.

Willie and Desi were commissioned as lieutenants. I joined my parents in going around Abra. We saw my brothers every now and then.

We were told to move around so that the Japanese would not know we had two Jurados in the movement. It was very dangerous to be identified with the movement at that time. Beware of the Makapilis under Benigno Aquino Sr., grandfather of Pnoy. The Makapilis would just point to anybody allegedly with the guerrilla movement, and they would be beheaded.

The act of beheading was just gruesome. I saw that in Abra.

Indeed, nobody wins in a war.

Topics: Emil Jurado , Memories of World War II , Fall of Bataan , Fall of Corregidor , Araw ng Kagitingan , Day of Valor ,
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