WWII DIARY OF
COMMODORE RAMON A. ALCARAZ
NOTE: Regular posting of this Diary was interrupted by near fatal accident last July 25, 2002 and is resumed though delayed.
Aug. 1,1942. Rejuvination Training for the 1,400 POW here had been going on for over two weeks now under a Japanese Adm team headed by Mr Hamamoto with his impeccable Harvard English and American knowledge that impressed us. The majority of the POWs are definitely biased concluding that we were simply being "brainwashed." I listened to every guest speakers and tried to understand what they were saying. That way I can determine not "who" is right but "what" is right. There are many subjects discussed relevant to an independent Philippines we expected in 1946.
This Training will terminate in about a week and I heard we will all be asked to serve the new Phil Govt under the management of Jorge Vargas.
Aug. 3,1942. The subjects discussed during the Rejuvination Training Seminar type of lectures were varied, relevant, interesting to me although dismissed by most as “brain washers.” I wish I was able to keep records but the Japanese are so logistically poor to provide us even bare pencils and paper. So far, so many prominent Japanese and Phil officials had spoken to us, among them were Claro M. Recto and Jose P Laurel. Hilario Moncado and wife, Diana Toy also came to entertain us. I noted Japanese speakers were careful not to offend the POWs even referring to us as excellent examples of Malayan soldiery the manner we fought in Bataan. One Jap Gen said, "Being orientals, we should not have been at war. The Americans used you as pawns. Look at the comparatively few American POWs compared to Filipinos. Most Americans escaped to Australia." And one Japanese official brought the subject of discrimination, how Filipinos are only paid half what their American counterparts are getting yet they belong to same unit. Why the Phil was only using obsolete P-26 planes while the Americans are using the new P-40. The harshest words I heard was from a Jap General whose unit was apparently wiped out during the battle of the Points in Bataan. He said, "Why forbear what was difficult to forbear. It would have been easier for us to subject you to wholesale extermination instead of being magnanimous now. This, I leave to you who understand the basics of humanity."
The "Bamboo Mail" of Malolos operated by Judge Roldan is still operational with Mrs Cuenca as chief courier. Today I received a letter dated last Jul 25 from my mother via the Bamboo Mail delivered by Ms Lulu Reyes from Mrs Cuenca. The good news is Plaridel is back to normal with my uncle Jose Mariano. the elected mayor assuming leadership again. My mother also said that she took my wife Lucy to live with her in our ancestral home in Plaridel as she is due to deliver our first child anytime now.
Aug. 5,1942. When the 1,400 POW names were posted in the Camp O'Donnell BB last Jul 16, it was announced that they are comparatively the healthy survivors remaining in Capas. The sick started being released last June 30. This healthy group are now about to complete Rejuvination Training in Camp Dau. Let me talk about this group as every passing day I came to know many of them for the first time..
When we first assembled at Capas Main Gate to leave for Camp Dau last Jul 17, everyone was on his feet marching with their bags but did not look as strong as our Malolos POW Group. As the facilities and food at Dau was better than Capas, we all improved physically. There were no deaths in Dau.
Our group represented a cross section of surviving USAFEE soldiery, all ages, cultures, military education, experiences, etc. From among senior PCA grads are Cols Claro Lizardo '15; Tomas Domaoal '17; Manuel Turingan '17; Lamberto Javalera '18: Leoncio Tan '28; Jesus Vargas '29 to contemporaries like Pelagio Cruz, Done Ojeda, P Q Molina. Early pioneers of ROSS like Alfredo Santos, S Villa, C Barbero, L Villareal; Friedlander; fellow alumni of PMA Cl '40; 41; 42 & 43; and the unforgettable young group of Ateneo ROTC volunteers like Sgts Fred X Burgos, Ramon Pamintuan and Bagatsing under Capt E G Lara of Angono, Rizal. From Baban of the Ibaloi tribe to Sulo's Pulong Arpa. Then we have this Maj E Batongmalaque '31 whose tales of experiences in Mindanao seem endless specially about his weirdo CO, the legendary Lt Canuto better known as King Canuto.
I was also able to have an idea of the intellectual capabilities of each group. Early PCA grads had the equivalent of high school education with knowledge of criminal procedures and law to bring cases before the court. They were basically police officers but are very proficient in verbal and written communication. Those with baccalaureate degrees like from PMA or ROSS have better intellectual capacities to analyze problem situations. It is here I understood what Gen Vicente Lim once said, "I will only be happy when the Chief of Staff is a PMA graduate."
Nevertheless, I am very proud to be a part of this roll of USAFFE officers' - all tough survivors from the crucible of Bataan, Death March and POW Camp O'donnell.
Our morale remains high and our Camaraderie is much stronger. We can only hope and pray for happy future.
Aug. 10,1942. Today is Graduation Day for all POWs that underwent the Rejuvination Training. After a brief but impressive ceremony at the Camp Dau FA Auditorium, each of us "graduating POWs" were given our "Graduation Papers." Our Grad Speaker said we are expected to help the new Phil Govt to be granted her independence by Japan later, in any manner we can, to make her a worthy member of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The most ranking Filipino official present is former Defense Sec Teofilo Sison.
Among my "Grad Papers" is one saying I am paroled to the Bureau of Constabulary where I am "ordered" to report at Torres High School, Gagalangin, Manila to commence Police Training on August 30,1942. It turned out this is our day of liberation, we are now free to go home and see our family. I have my release papers with conditions.
In my Malolos Group, I and M Gomez '41, my ExO are both to report for police training but the others (Lts E Baltazar, C Oanes & R Corbilla) all artillery officers are paroled to the AA Command. My Malolos Group bade goodspeed. I do not know how our assignments are determined but those assigned to police work are former constabulary Os like Cols Lizardo, Domaoal, Javavera, Diano, etc and they all welcomed it. They claimed we are lucky not to be with the AA Command
Another vital insight I got of our training is that if the Philippines wants to be great as an indepedent maritime nation, it is to follow the example of Japan by fully developing her maritime and sea power potentials.
After the ceremony, most of us proceeded to Mabalacat railway station where I boarded the noon train for Manila, debarking from Malolos station at 2:00 PM, then proceeding home to Plaridel to the pleasant surprise of my family. I found my wife, Lucy, so beautiful, happily waiting with our lovely first born daughter, Cecilia (born Aug 3rd) in her arms. It was a most happy coming home to my beloved mother, brothers and sisters all taking care of my new family. All my sufferings and heartaches as a POW suddenly disappeared.
Aug. 27,1942. Since my release as a POW last Aug 10, I've appreciated my freedom and Jap benevolence, the only tangible among numerous rhetorics. Our people can not forget the plunder and atrocities as slappings of civilians by Jap soldiers continue. Filipinos remain loyal to USA. My thoughts are with our American comrades still POWs in Cabanatuan and elsewhere for a long duration. To date, the Japs have occupied virtually all the western Pacific area up to the approaches of Australia'
I doubt that even with the vaunted industrial might of America if we can be liberated in a year from now - meaning, by Aug '43. However, our people are hopeful with all their fate in MacArthur's promise to return
Two days ago, the Mayor of Plaridel gave a testimonial lunch for all her USAFFE sons that survived Capas. Gov Rustia, Judge Roldan. Mrs Cuenca and the Flor Cruz sisters all from Malolos were there that added sentimentality to the gathering. I cited them for their invaluable assistance when we were POWs in Malolos.
Aug. 30,1942. In compliance with my POW Release Paper, I reported at 1400 today at Torres High School, Gagalangin, Manila. I found this old Manila HS is now designated by the Jap Adm as the Bureau of Constabulary Academy (BCA). A week ago they have graduated 150 to start the BC idea to help in the peace and order situation. They recruited from among civilian volunteer college graduates with aptitude on security. I understand our group of POWs coming from Camp Dau number 300 and most of them are former Consbulary Os. I know many among those already here. As a matter of fact I already met several PMA classmates like Cabangbang and Tirona. I expect our police Training will be interesting in many respects.
We were processed, issued IDs, Training Schedules and assignment of Quarters. Classes will be from Mon to Fri; weekends we are free and can be with our families. Our Training will last for one month.
I moved my wife, Lucy, and our baby, Cecilia, from our Bulacan home to her parents Calle Tennessee house in Malate, Manila yesterday to enable me to be with them as often as possible. My mom sent along my younger sister, Effie, to help care for Cecilia. Lucy's Dad (Mr Richard Johnson) and sister, Helen, both US citizens are interned at UST and only step-mother, Maura, is living alone in Tennessee. Tomorrow will be my 27th anniversary so Lucy prepared a sumptuous lunch to celebrate my birthday before I reported for training today at BCA.