Friday, September 26, 2014

War's End

From a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez:

“The day came when American soldiers landed in Iloilo.  They were welcomed everywhere while the Japanese soldiers fled to the mountains of Antique and Capiz and the shores of Aklan.  Pocket groups of stragglers dug in and made a valiant but futile effort to thwart the advance of the Americans.  The Japanese Imperial Army faded into the night and lingered only as a memory of a senseless war.   

“Our family went back to our residential house in Barangay Quintin Salas in Jaro and found it in ruins.  The guerillas used the house as its headquarters and Japanese soldiers targeted it, as they abandoned Iloilo City.  After the Japanese fled, the guerillas stripped the house of whatever useable furnishings they can lay their hands on and left the house in shambles.  In the days that followed, Sergio and I went back to the farm to see what remains of our property.  Everything looked normal and even the pile of harvested palay called tumpi looked untouched, slightly leaning to one side probably because of the wind.

“We went about our business and went home for lunch.  Unknown to us, there was a Japanese soldier hiding inside the tumpi waiting for a chance to get away.  Realizing that there was no way he can slip away undetected, he decided to end his misery, took out a match and burned the pile of palay with him in it.  The people soon realized what happened and they stood guard around the tumpi

“It was a pitiful sight, knowing that a man was burning inside.  The smell of burning flesh lingered in the air for hours.  The straggler likely thought that it was the best that he could do.  If he got caught, who can say how the bitter guerillas will treat an enemy?  In the town of Barotac Nuevo, the angry populace butchered all the Japanese soldiers they could find except for the cook who was able to flee.  To the Japanese, there is honor and nobility in taking one’s life in the face of defeat.

“Life was coming back to the Iloilo City.  Residents returned from their mountain lairs.  It was time to pick up the pieces of their lives.  American servicemen mingled with the natives freely and a brisk barter trade flourished for lack of credible currency.  Filipinos snatched up American goods including cigarettes, K-rations, coffee, corned beef, balls of cheese and, yes, chocolates.  These were the memories of liberation days. 

“Warmed by the euphoria of peace, children were like unbridled ponies, running all over the place.  This was how it was when our youngest brother Mario, at 7 years of age, was hit by a military jeep driven by an American soldier.  We rushed him to a hospital where doctors announced that his arm must be opened up.  He died of an overdose of anesthesia.  His death was so unnecessary, so meaningless, at a time when war had finally ended.”

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