My grandfather heard the words he never thought he would hear.
Never imagined that after becoming a Philippine Scout and learning all he could about being a good soldier in the US Army, he would be asked to do the unimaginable.
Never thought that the people he admired most in the world for their intelligence, bravery, and honor, would ask him to do the unthinkable.
Although he never had a chance to tell me himself, I heard the story from other Scouts, how they held the line so MacArthur could escape. Rationed food and bullets while giving their all to fight a battle already deemed unwinnable. To hear that final word from a commanding officer --
The Bataan Death March and the 66-Year Struggle for Justice
We don't know exactly when Lolo escaped the March, but it was sometime early in the march, perhaps April 11 or 12th. They came to an artesian well, the story goes, and there was a rush to the clean water. In the confusion, Lolo and two others slipped into the jungle, ran as long as they could and when safe, headed in three different directions. I don't know if Lolo ever saw the other two again. Lolo headed to his mother's province where he found his young wife and their three girls. My mother, the oldest, was seven years old and she tells of how Lolo stumbled into the nipa hut, tears streaming down his wan face, grabbed my grandmother and simply said:
He struggled through malaria, then struggled against becoming part of the resistance. He believed MacArthur would return and he had no orders to be part of the resistance, so lived as a farmer, moving upland when the Japanese did their patrols. The villagers kept him and themselves safe with a series of codes tapped in rice pounders. Mom tells of Japanese soldiers who left them alone because they prayed out loud as they hid beneath their hut, and also of collaborators who stole food from them even when the Japanese did not.
Lolo waited for word of MacArthur's return and when it came, he reported for duty, coordinated the Scouts who also reported and went on to retire from a full career in the US Army in the mid-60s.
My Lolo believed. Even when they told him to surrender, even when he knew they had lost. I can't fault him that faith, even with all it's colonial and post-colonial implications.
All I can do is witness and remember.