Planning to Retire Soon!

If you are planning to retire in the Philippines soon, I suggest you visit several excellent websites on pro's and cons of retiring in the Philippines. However if you want to retire in the provinces, where life is simple, standard of living cheaper, less traffic congestion and pollution, availability of fresh seafood and vegetables compared to the big cities, my island province is the place for you! If this is your first time in my site, welcome. Please do not forget to read the latest national and international news in the right side bar of this blog. Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on the infringement of your copyrights. The photo above is the front yard of Chateau Du Mer-Our Retirement Home in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Childhood Memories of the Japanese-American War in the Philippines, 1941-1945




General MacArthur Returns,October,1944(top)
David J Katague Family, 1954 (middle) Our Wedding Day: May 8, 1957( bottom)

I am writing this blog for the benefit of my children and grand children and the new generations of Filipinos who have no knowledge or memory of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. It was 13 days before my 7th birthday when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in the morning, Sunday , December 7, 1941. That same day in the evening, Japanese planes had taken off to attack several targets in the Philippines. The Japanese had planned six landings: Bataan, Aparri, Vigan, Legaspi, Davao and Jolo Island. For the sake of clarity in this narrative, here are the important dates of that war: Here's a 2-minute historical footage of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here's the three minute movie version of the Attack Scene on Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941 Sunday Morning Bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
December 7-22, 1941 Start of Bombing of the Philippines and Japanese landed in several places in the island.
April 9, 1942 The Fall of Bataan and the Death March
May, 1942 The Fall of Corregidor and General MacArthur fled to Australia
October 1944 General MacArthur landed in Leyte " I Shall Return"
September, 1945 Japanese Surrender
July 4, 1946 Philippines Independence from US

When Japan started bombing the Philippines, I was in 2nd grade at the Jaro Elementary School,Iloilo. When my family heard of the bombings, we all panic and decided we moved from the city of Jaro, a most likely bombing target to our farm in Barotac Viejo, least likely target for bombing and Japanese occupation. Barotac Viejo, my mother's ancestral town is a small town about 60 Km North of Jaro, Iloilo City.
I remember every one in my family was in chaotic mood and within a couple of days we packed all the essentials we could take and the rest of our household goods we left behind at our residence in Arguelles Street. I remember clearly my mother ordered all her china and sterling silver buried at the backyard of our house. We left all the furnitures and household goods that were heavy and cumbersome.

( Later we found out, our house was bombed and all the china and silver were stolen)
The house was 80% demolished and all the furnitures were either destroyed or stolen.

So for a while we settled in a small farm house of one of our tenants in one of the distant barrios of the town. As war progressed and we heard Japanese forces have penetrated most of the big cities in the Philippines and are starting to occupy even small towns, my father who was a captain and dental officer for newly organized Philippine Guerrillas- a resistant movement, decided to move to the jungle in the interior of Panay Island. I remember we walked for 3 days in the jungles, creeks and mountains just following a small path. My parent's tenants create a path for us with their bolos or machetes. We found a hidden valley with a creek with crystal clear water. Our tenants started building a bamboo and nipa hut, an out-door kitchen and a dining area. Using a bamboo sledge and a water Buffalo, our tenants brought us about 20 sacks of rice, salt, sugar and a few spices. In the jungle we started to clear areas where we could plant vegetables, corn and sweet potatoes. We also started to raise chickens and ducks and goats for eggs, protein and milk.

My pets were the chickens and the goats. One of the chicks, I raised personally and even slept with me. He got attached to me ( fingerprint) and kept following me where ever I go. That chicken believe I am her mother. My mother tolerated it, since there were no other kids in the jungle except my younger brother. To keep us from being bored, my father home schooled us ( me and my brother as well as two of my older cousins). Every day for almost 4 hours, we were taught arithmetic, spelling and history. We were lucky to have brought with us a few books in Philippine and US history. Every now and then our tenants would bring us additional supply of rice and tell us news of the extent of the Japanese occupation.
Late in the war when the Japanese war atrocities appeared to stop, we decided to move from the jungle to a seaside village and stayed at the house of one of our tenants. My father instructed us not to talk to any stranger, and if asked what our names, we do not give Katague as our name but Katigbak. Rumors have circulated that the Japanese has commandeered a lists of all guerrillas, and my father's name is in that list. There were a few natives that work as spies for the Japanese- known then as collaborators. One day, we saw a platoon of Japanese soldiers in uniform complete with guns and bayonets passed by our village. The whole village was agog with excitement. My brother and I also watched hiding in the bushes. I was trembling with fear that one soldier will see us. Fortunately, the soldiers continued their march to next village. That incident of actually seeing Japanese soldiers was one of the highlights of my experiences during this Japanese war.

A scary and frightening incident occurred to my mother's relatives at the time when were hiding in the jungle. My mom's cousins family of 30 individuals ( children, cousins, aunts, brothers and sisters) were also hiding in the jungle on a mountain ridge next to us. We heard that they were all killed by the Japanese soldiers who were able to penetrate their hideouts with help of spies collaborating with the Japanese. Only one member of the clan was spared. She was handicapped and in a wheel chair. During the massacre, she fell on the creek and was mistaken for dead and was left alone to tell the story.

When I was in graduate school, I was often asked by friends if I harbor resentment to the Japanese because of the atrocities they have committed. My answer is a resounding no. My family never did experience a personal attacked by the Japanese. But my mother in law has never forgiven the Japanese for killing her sister who was a nurse in the Philippine Army. One of my classmates in Illinois, whose father was killed by the Japanese will not seat in the same table in the school cafeteria with other Japanese students.

When General MacArthur landed in Leyte, that was the happiest day to all Filipinos. The Japanese started to retreat and peace in the Philippines was welcome with excitement. The schools were planning to reopen, so from the sea village we move to another barrio much closer to town. In that barrio, we built a much bigger house. In the back of the house, there was a hill. On a clear day you could see the next island of Negros. It was also an observation hill for us. We could watch Japanese and American planes "dog fight" during a clear day. My brother and I actually saw two planes attacking each other and one plane blown to pieces and burning as it falls from the sky to the sea between Panay and Negros Islands. What a thrill! We assume, it is a Japanese plane since the Americans are winning all the battles at this stage of the war.

When schools reopened, we were required to take a test, to see what grade level is our current knowledge. I passed the test for a 4th grade level, although I was only in second grade before the war. So, I completed six grades in only four years. I was two years younger than most of my classmates. This was the result of my father's drilling us every day with arithmetic, spelling and history while we were hiding from the Japanese in the jungle.

On July 4, 1946 the Philippines was granted independence by the US. In 1947, I was freshman in our local high school. In 1951, I graduated valedictorian of our high school class, then later enrolled at the University of the Philippines. In 1955, I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Chemistry. A year later I passed the Board Examination for Chemists, 3rd place nationwide. In May, 1957, I married the former Macrina Nieva Jambalos from Boac, Marinduque. We are still married and next year in May will be our 52nd wedding anniversary.

4 comments:

Efren K said...

Dave,
Thanks for sharing your experience during the Japanese War 1941-1945. I was not around during that time, but I am glad that our family survived and I now exist.
Efren

David B Katague said...

Toto Efren and family: Thanks for your comments. Are you attending Tiny's wedding this December. If yes, we will see you there in Iloilo.

D'wanie said...

Hi Tito..

I am amazed and wide-eyed by your story. It's the first time I read a detailed & picturesque account of what our family went through during the war.

Was the house in Arguelles located at the same lot where our present home is standing? hehehhe

I've seen how Papa David valued education. And it's but fitting that I should pass on that legacy.

The part of the story where you were all penetrating the jungle with bolos and machetes seemed like it came straight out of an Indiana Jones' movie. hehehe

I share my sentiment with Tito Efren that we are blessed that our family survived.

Thank you Tito for writing this blog. I've got to get in touch with my beginnings.

David B Katague said...

Yes, our house was exactly in the same location of your current house but built deeper and far from the street. The lot included the area where your Tito Erico's house is. So it was quite a big area and I remember, there were lot of kalachuchi trees in front and a mango tree at the back. I have a "Yaya" then and was a sickly child. I was envious of the other children playing in the rain across the street, but I was not allowed to play with them, because your Lola Pacing and Yaya, believed I might get sick.

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