This is a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez on the brutality of members of the Japanese Imperial Army during their occupation of Panay island in 1942-1944.
“I remember an old sea captain who was captured during a lightning raid of Japanese Imperial Army forces on our village. An evacuee, he was hopeful that the soldiers would spare him because of his age. But they somehow got wind of his son who was an ROTC cadet at the Colegio de San Agustin in Iloilo City and who was one of the guerillas who broke the Japanese blockade in the Corregidor Strait as they brought rice supplies to Bataan aboard the SS Regulus. The ship was later sunk by the Japanese but they blamed the aging seaman for the involvement of his son and turned to him for revenge.
“At 12 years of age, I witnessed with my own eyes the indescribable abuses and atrocities of the Imperial Army which lingered in my memory. I saw how the invaders, young and vicious, would tie a prisoner to a post and beat him with whatever was at hand until he died. The methods of torture used by them were so barbaric that it defied description. Suspected guerillas were kidnapped never to be seen gain. Women were raped and food supplies were sequestered with force. It was the height of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. I developed a hatred for violence and abhorred the thought of bloody confrontation. But if the situation presented itself, I would fight back with all the survival instincts I had learned during those dangerous years.
“In the course of the war, heavy fighting broke out in Barangay Buntatala, the last barrio of Jaro across the river from the town of Leganes and a village away from the place where the family evacuated. The guerillas controlled the bridge effectively stopping the Imperial Army from marching north towards the towns of Leganes and Zarraga. Although possessing much superior firepower, the invaders were stymied by the guerillas, and fighting raged on for days.
“The deafening roars of bazookas and the staccato sound of machine guns and rifle fire filled the air with terror, and forced the people to flee to safer grounds. The enemy was everywhere while their reinforcements were already tramping the rice fields towards the battle site, killing every one they encountered with their bayonets and samurais. The soldiers were on a murderous rampage, angered by the resistance of an inferior force.
“The whole family fled into the rice fields, merging with the terrain with only the tall stalks of rice as cover. It was raining hard when suddenly I spotted a group of soldiers coming our way. There was no time to hide, and communicating with hand signals, we burrowed into the mud and prayed to God to save us. We held our breath for a long time as the soldiers, afraid to lose their footing in the paddies, passed our group who were just a few meters away buried in the mud like mudfish.
"Breathless seconds passed before we lifted our heads from the mud and gulped for air. By this time the soldiers were already hurrying away unaware of our presence due to the noise from the rain and the wind. Our faces were full of mud but we were triumphant for evading the enemy yet another time. We were thankful to God for saving us for the umpteenth time. We crawled along the rice paddies and slipped away to safety.”