Where are the Japanese?
WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
It was seven in the morning of December 7, 1941 in Hawaii, a territory of the United States and the main naval station for the Pacific Fleet of which the Philippines was part of its defense shield. But it was dawn of December 8 in the Philippines when the radio broadcast from Manila stopped playing the morning music and the dreaded but expected announcement came: Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Captain Fidel Soliven, the chief of police of Bacolod heard the announcement. He used to wake up early in the morning as he was wont to, a result of his military training in the Commonwealth Reserve Force. He found Ildefonso Coscolluela at whose place was a boarder (he being an Ilocano and without a family here) already listening to the radio. The broadcast was being repeated at close intervals.
He called Philippine Constabulary provincial inspector, Major Eduardo Montilla and informed him about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Montilla chided him and told the police chief he must be dreaming at the early hours of the day.
Soliven called his desk sergeant at the Police Headquarters at the City Hall and ordered that, in accordance with their preparation for this day, all the Japanese nationals were to be rounded up.
But the place for their incarceration was not yet prepared, so he ordered that they be brought to the Bacolod West Elementary School (now Rizal Elementary School) and held there. The school where the Japanese were to be lodged was to be enclosed by barbed wires.
He changed into his uniform and rushed out of the house. Bacolod was still asleep. It was a Holy Day of Obligation, in observance of the Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and a Sunday, so businesses and stores were closed.
At the time the Philippines observed the Blue Sunday law when all businesses were closed. The High Mass for the day at the San Sebastian Cathedral was yet to start at 8 a.m. so the prominent families in the city were still asleep. The solemnity of the day called for the Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Casimiro Lladoc.
The students of the Colegio de la Consolacion were also preparing to attend the Mass and the procession set for that afternoon.
All these were lost to Soliven and after he had inspected the incarcerated Japanese nationals, he went to Roli’s Restaurant and took his breakfast. Then the phone rang. It was Montilla who frantically told him to round up the Japanese. Soliven told him that it was Montilla’s duty to do that.
Then Montilla arrived and told Soliven he could not find them. “Where are the Japs?,” he asked. “We cannot find a single one. Go and round them up! Do something” he added.
Soliven tried to humor Montilla asking the major to take coffee, but the PC inspector was in no mood so Soliven finally told him that the Japanese were the West Elementary School.
The Japanese had long prepared for this day. Since 1850 the Empire of Japan had industrialized, and to feed its industrial progress, it needed raw materials that the other Pacific countries had aplenty. Japan had glanced with envious eyes to expand the limits of empire at the time when the European countries were going into Asia, Africa and the Indian continent establishing colonies for basic materials for their industries – oil, copper, cane alcohol, rubber and timber. At the same time these colonies provided the markets for industrial goods.
When Japan won the war against Russia, it became a threat to the western powers and secret plans were prepared on how to contain and defeat Japan in case of war.
The Japanese, on the other hand, had sent out its spies. In the Philippines, they were fishermen, traders, and financiers that dealt with the prominent leaders of the country but many more went into the countryside acting or taking humble work as laborers and peddlers, some engaged in veterinary and agricultural work. These were disguises as they photographed and sketched prominent and strategic terrain and, using our democratic system, sent without censorship these reports to Japan.
When they were rounded up, they bundled their basic needs and went without complaint. Some bid their employers goodbye and went to the concentration area. Most of them were in Bacolod and those outside of the city were also brought in to Bacolod.
“Where are the Japs?” This was the question in the lips of many but the Japanese in the towns had already left for Bacolod. It is not presumptuous to suspect that they had been instructed, for many of them turned out to be military intelligence personnel.
While the Japanese were ready, Negros was just awakening to the reality of war.*
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