Friday, February 20, 2009
Remembering the Writer-
Heroes of World War II
By Alice Colet Villadolid
By early 1942, the grey-clad and heavy-booted minions of the militarist regime of Japan
had marched into Manila, as they did into other cities of the Philippines. News of their brutal victories in China and British
Malaya had preceded them, causing US Gen. Douglas MacArthur to declare Manila an Open City and withdraw his American and Philippine
troops to Bataan and Corregidor.
From the raw brick barracks of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, which the Japanese troops now occupied, squads of military
police or Kempeitai marched out and scoured the city. They promptly closed down the offices of English language newspapers
and radio stations, and put under surveillance all other groups with any linkages to Western institutions.
The dreadful events that followed up to the end of World War II and the massacre in Manila in February 1945 were sadly
recalled at a commemorative program in the afternoon of February 12 at the Lyceum of the Philippines, which jointly sponsored
it with Memorare Foundation and the Friends of Intramuros Inc. Historian Benito Legarda Jr. headed the panel of resource persons.
At the beginning of 1942, Avenida Rizal was still Manila’s main avenue where some hotels and theaters were located.
At the Cine Ideal owned by the Roces family, Rafael "Liling" Roces continued to hold office in the secluded administrative
section behind the theater itself which was now closed. Aside from his duties at the family owned movie house, he had been
one of the editors of The Manila Times, which the Kempeitai had also closed.
Educated and brought up in the Spanish mestizo tradition, Liling Roces could not accept a future as a stooge of militarist
Japan, with no freedom to write freely and lead the cultured life. So he welcomed to his backroom office like-minded Filipinos
who now collected information and sent them to the Usaffe (United States Armed Forces in the Far East).
Joining Roces from across the street, where the Manila Bulletin offices used to be, was Antonio Escoda Sr. Like Liling,
he was well-educated and well-mannered, among the last of the glorious Filipino "ilustrados." City editor of the Bulletin
before it was closed down by the Kempeitai, Escoda now allied himself with Gen. Vicente Lim of the Usaffe.
His wife, Josefa Llanes Escoda, was a talented essayist and public speaker, founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines.
She was also under Kempeitai surveillance because she was known to have taken postgraduate studies in the United States, and
because she led other women in bringing food and medicine to the Allied internees at the University of Santo Tomas Interment
Camp. Although the Escodas had two young children—Maria Teresa and Antonio Jr.—they decided to risk working behind
the Kempeitai to assist the Usaffe in bringing to an early end the Japanese occupation of the country.
But the Kempeitai was deadly efficient. In 1944, they arrested Liling Roces from his office at Cine Ideal and brought him
to Fort Santiago. Soon after, the Kempeitai arrested Escoda and General Lim aboard a boat in Batangas bay where they had been
broadcasting to MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia.
Tortured like the other Filipinos then jailed at the Fort, Roces, Escoda and General Lim hang on to life. There were infrequent
visiting rights for immediate family members. Tony Escoda requested his wife Josefa to stop visiting him for fear she would
be arrested next. Indeed, she was next; and she was brought to Fort Santiago, later transferred to the Kempeitai jail in the
Far Eastern University compound.
Her daughter Maria Teresa or Bing told this reporter in the 1980s that a nun working with the prisoners had seen Josefa
Escoda taken out from the FEU compound in a Kempeitai truck, along with other prisoners. But she did not know where they moved
them, for Josefa and her companions were never seen again.
The youngest daughter of General Lim, Maria Lim Ayuyao, said in my interview with her in 2005 that they traced General
Lim and Antonio Escoda to the Chinese General Hospital where their blood was drawn before they were brought to the North Cemetery
where they were reportedly beheaded. The families never found the exact place where their bodies were buried.
In the book Looking for Liling by the multi-awarded Alfredo Roces, he tells of their family’s painful search for
his brother’s remains. Like the Escodas and General Lim, Liling Roces had also been beheaded in 1944 by the ruthless
Kempeitai. After years of investigation and interviews, they finally found his remains, also at the North Cemetery in La Loma.
At least there was no beheading for another talented writer, Manuel Colayco of Commonweal magazine, who was chief of the
Allied Intelligence Bureau in Manila. In the afternoon of February 3, 1945, as he went to meet the First US Cavalry at Blumentritt
junction in Santa Cruz to guide them to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, he was able to telephone his wife, Clemencia Colayco,
that the Allies had entered Manila.
Col. Haskett Conner of the First Cavalry invited him to ride in his command vehicle, a weapons carrier. Colayco skillfully
guided them down Avenida Rizal, avoiding the Japanese guardpost on Tayuman by turning to Quiricada, then Felix Huertas, then
Andalucia, Lerma and Espana. His colleague in the Intelligence Bureau, Diosdado Guytingco who survived the war, later recounted
that as they faced the front gate of UST, he warned Colayco to take cover as Japanese sentries in the Main Building might
open fire. A grenade was fired at them, killing Colayco and wounding Conner. Together with his widow Clemencia who taught
for many more years in UST, Manuel Colayco is lovingly remembered by American internees and Filipino students of UST.
Every February, the History town of Intramuros commemorates these World War II heroes as well as the numerous priests and
nuns, doctors and nurses and other ilustrados whose lives were wasted there. #
Credits to: Aluit, Alfonso. By Sword and Fire, Manila 1994.
Escoda, Ma. Teresa. PPI Memorial Lecture, December 7, 1991.
Legarda, Benito Jr. Occupation: The Later Years. Vibal House, Quezon City, 2007