(Published here with the permission of the author. Part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila.)
It is when one turns from the purely combat aspects of the sack of Manila to the plight of the affected civilians that the full horror of the ordeal becomes manifest. To this day, many of the survivors cannot talk about it.
Two things must be borne in mind. First, there were no novelties in the Japanese conduct in Manila in February 1945. All of it had previously been seen in Nanking in 1937—the mass killing, the bayoneting, the beheading, the rape, the slicing open of women after being raped, the impaling of babies on bayonets, the gouging out of unborn fetuses from pregnant mothers.
There was one difference. In Nanking, foreigners were respected, particularly nationals of Axis powers like Germany, and they were able to establish a safety zone, and thus, save hundreds of thousands of Chinese.
In Manila, foreigners were just as likely to be victims as Filipinos, and it is only in rare cases that a foreign passport proved useful.
The second thing to remember is that the victimization of civilians was not a result of people getting caught in the crossfire. It was deliberate and methodical. “Extermination orders” were found with instructions on how to kill people while conserving ammunition and later how to dispose of the bodies (by burning in houses or dumping into streams).
Hereunder is a partial list of identifiable massacres.
- Carriedo-Estero Cegado area. The Japanese burned the residential area west of Quiapo church, and as the residents fled their homes, the Japanese fired on them from the upper floors of the Great Eastern Hotel. Date: February 4.
- Dominga St., Pasay. The men in the neighborhood were assembled in a vacant lot and made to empty the contents of their pockets on a table. The Japanese officer-in-charge recognized the German passport of Karl Landahl and released him, one of the rare instances where a foreign passport was of some help. The other men were executed. Date: Probably in early February.
- Masonic Temple, San Marcelino, Paco. On the night of February 5, Mauricio Cruz (“Moris,” Jose Rizal’s favorite nephew), his son Ismael (a Bataan veteran who was tortured in front of his family), and four other men in the house were taken to the Masonic Temple where other men had been gathered. The Bataan veterans were tied to a central post and beaten to death. The rest were executed by the usual means. Date: February 6.
- Scottish Rite Temple, Taft Ave., near Vermont St., Malate. On January 20, members of the McMicking family and household were taken to the Scottish Rite Temple to join others confined Witnesses living across the street saw the captives being herded, with a Japanese carrying a short-wave radio above his head as if to flaunt the evidence of wrongdoing. Food was accepted for them up to the end of January. Death probably came in early February. The bodies were found after liberation.
- E. corner of Juan Luna and Moriones. Forty-nine mutilated bodies, about one-third women and another third children or babies, most with hands tied behind their backs. Found February 7.
- Dy Pac Lumber Co., 1032 Juan Luna, Tondo (near Tutuban Station). One hundred fifteen bodies, including pregnant women and young children (ages two to 10). Many adults and older children had their hands tied. Found February 7.
- Nicanor Reyes and household, Agno St., Malate. At 4 p.m. on February 9, FEU founder Nicanor Reyes, his family and household were massacred, a dozen people altogether. The sole family survivor, Lourdes Reyes-Montinola, has given the details in her book, Breaking the Silence.
- Mendoza-Guazon compound, Herran cor. Kansas. About 300 men were rounded up, tied together and jammed into a small structure on the premises. Through the structure’s only window the Japanese threw hand grenades, then entered and bayoneted anyone who showed signs of life. A victim was our family friend Jose “Don Pepe” Revilla, who died of his wounds a few days later. His son survived. Ramiro Ramirez de Cartagena, in a deposition made at the Spanish Consulate, put the date on February 9.
- Corner of Oregon and Pennsylvania. In a courtyard with 100 people, the women and children were separated and sent to the PGH. The men were attacked with grenades and rifles. Survivor Jean Reldy’s account is in the Free Press issue of February 5, 2005. Date: Probably February 10.
- Walter Price house, Colorado St. About 250 people were killed by machine-gunning, rifle fire and bayoneting. Date: February 10.
- German Club, San Luis (beside the present Casino Español). One of the very worst atrocities was perpetrated at the German Club. Hundreds of Filipino refugees had gathered there. The Japanese piled up their belongings at the entrance, and after dousing them with gasoline, set them on fire. The head of the Club tried to remonstrate but was pushed back in. Mothers with babies volunteered to go out and ask for mercy, but the babies were bayoneted and the women stripped and raped. A 13-year old girl was gang-raped by 20 Japanese, then her breasts were cut off. Another teenage girl was sliced open with a bayonet after being raped and left in agony under the hot sun. A stray American shell later put her out of her misery. A houseboy whose child had been bayoneted rushed at the soldiers, was pinned with spears against the wall, and his sexual organs were cut off and stuffed into his mouth. While the fire raged and the orgy went on, the Japanese laughed and enjoyed it.
- Philippine National Red Cross Headquarters, Isaac Peral cor. General Luna. Japanese marines entered the PNRC building at around 6 p.m. on February 10 and went from room to room for half an hour shooting and bayoneting everyone in sight, including women and children. General Manager Modesto Farolan escaped death by sliding under his desk. Dr. German de Venecia was shot dead but the attending nurses survived the bayonet attacks. Screen actress Corazon Noble was shot and then bayoneted nine times but survived, while her 10-month-old baby was killed. A group of nine Jewish refugees with a pregnant housemaid sought refuge in the ladies’ washroom but were all killed except John Lewy, who survived two bayonet thrusts, and the unharmed housemaid. Between 50 and 80 people are believed to have died in this massacre.
- Paul’s College, Herran cor. Florida, Malate. On February 9, the Japanese rounded up people in the neighborhood and assembled them in St. Paul’s College. Estimated numbers vary widely between 250 and 1,000. The massacre consisted of dropping grenades disguised in chandeliers on a roomful of people.
- Vincentian Fathers (Paules), San Marcelino St. The Japanese told the 10 Vincentians (six priests and four religious brothers, all middle-aged Spaniards) to take an early supper on February 9.
Afterwards, they, together with two acolytes and several Chinese residents in the compound, were tied together with abaca rope, led to the banks of the nearby Estero de Balete, bayoneted and thrown into the shallow and muddy waters. One Chinese, although badly wounded, managed to escape and tell the story.
- Concordia College, Herran (interior) Paco bordering Santa Ana. The first American patrol reached Concordia College on February 9 but apparently did not stay. The College was full of refugees—orphans, the aged and the insane from the Hospicio de San Jose, and many members of the Spanish community who had been advised by their consulate to evacuate there from their houses in Ermita and Malate.
The Japanese had been burning homes in Paco progressing nightly towards Santa Ana, and at 3 a.m. on February 11, started a huge conflagration at Concordia College. The orphans were all saved, but many of the aged and insane were trapped in upper story rooms with barred windows. About 600 perished. The survivors, rather than risk being shot by exiting on Herran St., fled via a shallow estero to the house of iron-furniture maker, and dokar operator Jose Sanso Pedret.
- Spanish Consulate, Colorado St. Ignoring diplomatic immunity and the Franco government’s friendliness to Japan, Japanese soldiers on February 12 knocked on the door which was opened by a volunteer with a Spanish flag draped on his chest. He was shot at close range. There were numerous refugees in the building, not only Spaniards but even more Filipinos and Chinese; and they were bayoneted and burned in the building while still alive. The dead were estimated at 60. Only a seven-year-old girl survived.
- Perez-Rubio residence, 150 Vito Cruz. Japanese soldiers gathered about 40 persons in the compound around noon on February 12, divested them of watches and other valuables, and assembled them in the house where they piled up rugs, drapes and furniture. These were doused with gasoline and set on fire. The victims ran out and were cut down by gunfire. Among those killed were the laundrywoman’s children, including a baby impaled on a bayonet. Four people managed to escape, including a houseboy who later gave witness to the atrocity.
- La Salle College (now DLSU), Taft Ave., Malate. One of the most notorious massacres occurred at La Salle College. After lunch on February 12, 16 Christian Brothers, 22 family and household members of the Aquino, Carlos, Cojuangco, Uychuico, and Vazquez-Prada families and three college employees or a total of 41 were killed. There were 27 survivors. A full account can be found in These Hallowed Halls by Bro. Andrew Gonzales, FSC and Alejandro T. Reyes.
- Pax Court, Balagtas St., Manila-Pasay boundary. At 4 p.m. on February 12,19 people including six Germans Jews were herded together, their hands bound, and made to kneel facing the wall in one of the houses. Then they were surrounded with furniture, cushions and straw bags on which gasoline was poured. A sergeant threw a grenade that killed the property owner, Justice Antonio Villa-Real. Soldiers set fire to the gasoline-soaked cushions and stood with guns ready. Mrs. Villa-Real got up and cried, “Tomodachi, tomodachi” (friend) for which she was shot in the head. There were only three survivors: urologist Dr. Walter Fraenkel, his sister Alice Stahl and chemist Dr. Hans Luerhse.
- Rafael Moreta’s residence, 417 Isaac Peral near Florida, Ermita. At 12:30 p.m. on February 17, 20 Japanese soldiers and an officer entered the Moreta residence, divested the 61 people there of their valuables, separated the men and started killing them individually with shots to the head, among them Tirso Lizarraga.
Tiring of the slow pace, they decided to finish off those remaining with hand grenades. Of the women, four were taken to the kitchen, raped and killed. The others were subjected to shooting and bayoneting. Ma. Elena Lizarraga survived both but her sister Rosa was mortally wounded. Among the bodies was that of a Filipina with a bayonet stuck in her genitals. Thirty-five died and 26 were wounded. The dead included 20 Filipinos, eight Spaniards and six Chinese.
- There was a touching sequel. Two days later, a Japanese officer came with two young soldiers to the house where the survivors had taken refuge, and ordered one of them to finish them off. Left to himself, the young soldier made the sign of the cross (evidently he was a Catholic), made stabbing motions with his bayonet while emitting a loud yell, and left without harming them.
- Massacres of Clergymen. Priests attracted the special attention of the Japanese and generally were killed wherever they were found. Aside from the 10 Vincentians already mentioned, four Irish Columbans were taken from Malate church to the Syquia apartments around February 10 and were never seen again. Almost all Spanish priests and lay brothers in Intramuros were massacred: 12 Agustinians, six Capuchins, six Recollects and 10 Franciscans. A survivor was Augustinian Fr. Belarmino de Celis, who lived through a grenade attack inside an air-raid shelter and crawled out by digging a hole in the back. The only other survivor from that massacre was a Catalan layman surnamed Rocamora.
- Intramuros Massacres. The burning of Intramuros had started as early as February 7 when San Francisco church and Sta. Isabel College were put to the torch. The massacres in the last days of Intramuros were too numerous to summarize briefly. Hundreds of men were herded, with the help of traitorous Makapilis, to Fort Santiago. Some were placed in dungeons (600 persons in one place), some in a warehouse which was then shelled by the Japanese, and some on the walls where they would be hit by American artillery. Rape and killing also took place elsewhere in the Walled City.
The list of massacres is far from complete, but serves to give an idea of what Manilans went through in February 1945. It is the worst possible month, and a desecration of the memory of Manilas 100,000 war dead, in which to celebrate the Philippines-Japan Festival.
(Published in the February 26 & March 5, 2005 issues of the Philippines Free Press. Part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila.)