Uncommon valor , stories of valiant Filipinos and their unwavering love to help others are always stories “to tell” of post World War II era. Manlayo and other side of Guinayangan when days were slow and old folks mingled with much younger people, there will be no other topic but the World War II. A nub of stories to tell must never been heard , if I sensed spinning-yarn, young people like me then became a start-off to flee away from a dreary tale . Some war survival stories told had transcended to present day, but some are left to few family circles worn out by the time of their generations and some wanted it to share, so others could hear it before time flies. Like the Tolentino clan’s evasions from captivity and death during the several Japanese military liquidation of some places like Guinayangan. This story was a part of Mr. Jim Tolentino’s memoir. A miracle saved Tolentino family when this event happened –NCenizal
fter their escaped from the Japanese sentry in Tagkawayan Quezon, in summer of 1944, the whole family stayed in a small house about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the town of Guinayangan, in a watershed place called Maulawin. Due to unsettling conditions of Japanese presence, they opted not to return to their house in town, in fear of they may be found out that they were back in their place considering their family were politically known to whole town. That day, there was a rumor from the townsfolk that the Japanese soldiers had abandoned the town and only scout for reconnaissance to check presence of guerrilla groups where his father and much older brothers belonged.
This little wooden house sat on edge of the woods but reachable from the town by foot trails. The house backed on the bank of a brook. Its stream is deep enough and safe for youngs to immerse. Jim, Max(his younger brother) and Gus( his older brother) swims there butt-naked every day for hours and play “catch” until their mother would yell to get them out when she notice their paled lips due to prolong immersion in cold water.
shared from flickr Photography by Amit P. Rameshwar Singh
The river and their place is a watershed for the reservoir that supplies the whole town. It was rich in tropical vegetations including wild pineapples and bananas. The pineapple bears fruit year round and they would look for vine-ripped fruit from the river banks. Upon handpicking a yellowish one, they would split a pineapple in half by smashing it on a nearby coconut tree. Once it was busted in half, they graze on this ripe fruit and enjoy their short-lived feasting in such hideout. Across the riverbank, opposite their house is a hill with its brow are high enough to obscure the presence of their house from a foot trail that leads to the main road where you could reach town. Most of the time their helper used the hillside across to do their necessity calls, where they look for a fallen tree or a clearing behind a coconut tree, where they squat behind it to defecate on the small clear spot they could find. They wipe themselves afterwards with leaves from a “Sambong” (Blumea balsamifera) a kind of flowering plant. Locals, sometimes use it as diuretics. Sambong has wider leaves, more than enough to cover the buttock and firm enough to serve as toilet wipes. Morning dew soften them and moisten it surface that makes them best for this necessity.
A morning of May 1944, several gun fires woke up the whole family.The staccato of rifle’s gunfire happened about 5:00AM and was soon followed by more distinct single shots. The sound of rifle was just barely audible because of the distance of their house to nearby town and most were fainted by high trees acting as sound barrier. They immediately huddled together in the main room, flustered by the commotion . It was early dawn and the house was still dark. “Get up”. “Everybody up”, Murmured one of the older maids who came silently running into the house, panting, but was able to whisper the dreaded word, “Japanese”, with trembling voice. These words sent fears to all of them, gathered together in the center of the dwelling. This adds more fear to them, augmented from already terrified feelings. A minute past in quietness . Shuddered by fear, they were sitting on bed mats, strewn all over the wooden floor in the middle of the house. Jim saw everyone’s eyes were scanning the room and seemed awake but no sound of utterance from the huddle. He heard everyone’s heart pounding and throbbing ,the stillness after the announcement seemed to be an eternity. His older brother and his father then scout each side of the house glides in tiptoed as they peek in each window sill they could reach. The reassuring that there was no presence of Japanese soldier took longer. Then, his father signaled that house perimeter was clear.
When the sun rises, “Everybody up”, said his father. “Pack all our belongings and let’s go”. They hastily packed they burlap bags of belongings and without breakfast, the family stealthy ascended the steep mountain on foot and hiked to the inner bowel of the green jungle of Luzon’s southern Peninsula. It took them a day to walk through the muddy and hack their way their way back to newly found hideout. With their feeling of at least out from danger, a further conversation with the older maid who warned them of the impending danger to whom they owed their lives began to explain her vigorous story how she reached their house to say the reason of their survival.
She was doing her morning necessity calls on the other side of the hill when a squad of Japanese soldiers came upon her. She was squatted on a clearing in the act of defecating. The soldiers were led by a Filipino collaborator “Makapili” looking for them. The collaborator asked the maid if she knows where was Tolentino’s house. Being quick witted, she pointed in the opposite direction she said …
“It’s where the foot trail was heading and this trail will lead you to the house”
She misled them that behind that hill , the path leads to their hideout is a jungle and inhabited. “If you are lying, we will come back and will behead you”, warned the Filipino traitor to the maid. The warning petrified the maid but stood her ground.
“Sir, the trail will take you to the Tolentino’s and you will catch them while sleeping if you go now”. If you will go a bit later and waste your time looking around in this desolate place, they will be up and you will lose your chance to capture them”.
With this convincing statement, the squad of Japanese soldiers proceeded in a huff to the other direction, away from the hill and the river bank where they can be found. Co-occurrence with such brief interrogation with their maid was the time when gunfires frighten their family and submit inside the house to huddle around. That gunfires took a lot of lives down in Poblacion, massacres were taking place. The moment the Japanese disappeared from the maid’s sight, she ran towards the grassy hill, into the field through the river bank, waded knee deep in the shallow part of the gushing stream, and came into the house and whispered to them the dreaded word, “Japanese”.