World War II (1939-1945) came to the Philippine shores with the invasion on the 8th of December 1941, just the day after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. The ferocity of the Japanese attack led major losses of the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) at the Battle of Bataan (7 January to 9 April 1942) and the Battle of Corregidor (5-6 May 1942), which forced the US officials, President Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944), his cabinet and their families, to flee and go on exile; being shuttled to Australian before moving to America. Pres. Quezón would never return to the Philippines, passing away to tuberculosis, in Saranac Lake New York, on the 1th of August 1944.
The Japanese invasion was quick and ferocious, forcing the USAFFE to abandon their Manila installations, as well as the Philippine Army’s Camp William Francis Brennan Murphy and Philippine Constabulary’s Camp Rafael Pérez de Tagle Cramé, as the Japanese Air Force bombed the installations. After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the Japanese forces took over parts of the camps, especially the Major Porfirio E. Zablan Airfield, which was used by the 29th Sentai Ki-44 and Ki-84 squadrons. During the December 10 attack on Camp Murphy, Captain Jesús Antonio Villamor (1914-1971) and the 6th Pursuit Squadron took on the superior Japanese “zero” fighters in their Boeing P-26 “Peashooters,” shooting down two opponents in a dog fight, earning him a Distinguished Service Cross.
For the next weeks, the Japanese forces run bombing sorties throughout the Philippines, with a high concentration in Luzon. Many military and civilian installations are destroyed, and Pres. Quezón reverses the Philippine flag to red-side up, upon the suggestion of his predecessor, President Emilio Famy Aguinaldo (1869-1964). By the 20th of December 1941, Pres. Quezón goes around the cities of Manila and Quezon to inspect the damage, as well as visit the injured civilians taken to the Philippine General Hospital. However by the 24th of December, the continuous bombing raids force Pres. Quezón and his cabinet, along with their families, to relocate to the island fortress of Corregidor, and declared that Corregidor is the new seat of the Philippine government, and announced his War Cabinet. On the 26th of December, Pres. Quezón declares Manila as an “open city;” then dissolves Quezon City to be part of the Greater Manila Area with the Executive Order No. 400, on the 1st of January 1942. With the relentless day and night shelling from the Japanese, Pres. Quezón and his entourage are forced to evacuate the island with General Douglas Hardy MacArthur (1880-1964) and his staff to Australia, and then to America on the 12th of March 1942. By the 6th of May, Corregidor would fall to the Japanese, as the rest of the Philippines; while Pres. Quezón attempts to manage what is left of the Commonwealth government, until his death on the 1st of August 1944.
Upon taking over Luzon, the Japanese subdivide the former-Quezon City into the two districts of Balintawak and Dilimán of the Greater Manila Area, while Camp Murphy was converted into a POW camp (Prisoners of War) for the captured soldiers of the Battle of Corregidor. Mayor Tomás Eduardo Bernabéu Morató (1887-1965), along with Vice-Mayor Ponciano A. Bernardo (1905-1949), City Chief of Police General Sabino De Leon Sr. (born 1889), Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce and city resident Eulogio “Amang” Adona Rodríguez Sr. (1883-1964) and his son Eulogio Jr., Mandaluyong Elementary School principal Constantino Gabriel, and German publisher Gen. Hans Melchior Menzi (1910-1984), were taken to the Intramuros internment camp, in Manila. As for the Americans tasked to plan Quezon City; Eng. Alpheus Daniel Williams (1887-1945), and Arch. Louis P. Croft (1900-1978), were arrested and detained in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila. Only Arch./Eng. Harry Talford Frost (1886-1943) was able to escape back to America, but he would die in Chicago a few years later. At the meantime, Jorge Bartolome Vargas (1890-1980), Leon Gawaran Guinto Sr. (1886-1962) and Hermenegildo Atienza (1907-1990) served as mayors of the Greater Manila Area during the Japanese occupation.
To maintain control of the Balintawak and Dilimán districts, the Japanese took over many of the homes and institutions within Hacienda Magdalena, with the public buildings used as barracks or field hospitals for the enlisted Imperial soldiers, while the stately mansions served as the homes of the Japanese officers. Many of the New Manila residents were shocked to discover that the Japanese officers at their doors were their former servants, who were sleeper agents taking on menials jobs for the rich and powerful members of society. The families of Dr. Félix Ochoa Cortés (1905-1968) and Judge Jose Olfinas Vera (1888-1956) were spared any abuses by the Japanese due to their kindness to their former “servants,” and were allowed to leave their homes in peace. Judge Vera’s home was converted into a food garrison.
As for the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres Novitiate and Provincial House on the Marikina-Infanta Highway (now the Aurora Boulevard) and the Sororum Franscicalium Immaculada Conceptione De Mater Dei’s St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent (Est. 1932) on the España Boulevard Extension (now the Senator Eulogio Adona Rodríguez Sr. Boulevard), both schools were used as military hospitals by the Japanese, while the nuns were sent away to the internment camp in Los Baños, province of Laguna.
The Japanese arrest the American Jesuit priests and seminarians at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, and brought them to the Santo Tomas internment camp; along the other foreign Jesuit priests at the Ateneo de Manila campus in Manila. Of the residents at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Fr. Edward B. McGinty passes away shortly after his release, and is buried in the Jesuit Cemetery along with the eleven other Jesuits killed during the war.
For those who resisted the Japanese occupation, they would have met an atrocious fate, such as Justice Secretary José Abad Basco Santos (1886-1942), he was executed in Cebu while his home in Mira Nila in Cubao was razed to the ground. Fr. Theodore Buttenbruch (1886-1944), of the Societas Verbi Divini’s Divine Word Mission Seminary along the España Boulevard Extension, was murdered right after giving mass as the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Kamuning. And fifty-two hospital staff of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society’s Quezon Institute were killed in the hospital and the Intramuros internment camp, for resisting to abandon their posts.
On the 8th of December 1942, the Japanese Administration issues Executive Order No. 110, which renames the many streets of major Philippine cities, as well as municipalities to a more Filipino name, as part of their Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (KALIBAPI, Association for Service to the New Philippines) thrust to use Filipino nationalism to support the Japanese government. This was of the Japanese thrust for Dai Tōa Kyōeiken (大東亜共栄圏, Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere), in which all Asian countries interact in union without Western influence, while under the Empire of Japan. In the roads for enlisted men’s residences in Camp Murphy, Central Boulevard (now Judge Pedro Tiangco Tuason Boulevard) was named Banahaw and Main Avenue (now Justice Lourdes Paredes San Diego Avenue) was named Pangulo. The northern streets of Cubao that now the Homesite resettlement area of Project 5 (also known as Barangay Eulogio Adona Rodríguez Sr.) were renamed after Philippine provinces: Antique (now Pablo P. Reyes Sr. St., still called New York St.), Davao (Maryland St.), Lanao (Columbia St.), Leyte (now Ermin Garcia St., formerly Minnesota), Lucena (Albany St.), Misamis (now Sgt. J. Catolos St., formerly Virginia), Surigao (possibly Lantana St., formerly Detroit), Tacloban (Cambridge St.), and Zamboanga (now Felix Manalo St., formerly Nevada St.).
In New Manila, the streets were renamed as Biak-na-Bato (Broadway), Bukang-Liwayway (now Lieutenant Jose M. Artiaga St., formerly Hollywood Drive), Sulu (now Doña Hemady Avenue, formerly Pacific Ave.), and Tagumpay (Gilmore Ave.). There were more eclectic name choices for the areas of Santa Mesa, San Francisco del Monte and the Homesite Barrio Obrero: Batong-Buhay (now Kaliraya St., formerly Prospect Grove), Cebu (now Mother Ignacia Ave., formerly Petain St.), Dakila (Roosevelt Ave.), Magat Salamat (Lincoln St.), Maktan (Riverside Drive), Nilad (now Gregorio Araneta Avenue, formerly Brixton Hill), Palawan (possibly Banawe Ave., formerly Tacoma St.), and Pasong-Tamo (Miller Avenue). And for the newly constructed Commonwealth Roads, these were renamed as Hilaga (North Avenue), Kanluran (West Avenue), Silangan (East Avenue), Timog (South Avenue), and Mulawen (Quezon Boulevard Extension). Whereas most of the streets reverted back to their original names after the war, it is only Timog Avenue that bears the mark of the Japanese influence in this present day.
Despite the overbearing Japanese presence, the citizens tried to conduct their lives as normal as possible. In the ever-growing San Francisco del Monte District, the Franciscan Capuchin missionaries establish the Santa Teresita del Niño Jesus Chapel along Mayon Avenue in 1942 to fulfill the spiritual needs of the community. In 1945, the Capuchin’s Lourdes Church in Manila was destroyed during the Battle of Manila. Instead of rebuilding in the same locations, the Capuchin’s opted to build a new church in the site Santa Teresita Chapel.
For more than three years, the Philippines was plunged into turmoil, with the food and other supplies running low, while guerillas held the resistance while waiting to the greater US forces to arrive. Future actor and New Manila resident, Mario Montenegro (born Roger Collin Macalalag; 1928-1988), along with many young men ineligible to enlist in the armed forces, joined Hunters ROTC guerilla unit to fight the Japanese in the hills of Antipolo. Some of the other guerilla units that operated within the Greater Manila area were the Blue Eagle Brigade, the Mabini regiment, the San Juan regiment, the Volunteer Guards of Manila, and the Chinese-Filipino Marking “Ampaw” unit.
During the occupation, the film studios of LVN and Sampaguita were used by the Japanese to create propaganda films. Two of the most noted anti-American films were the 1944 “Tatlong Maria” and “Dawn of Freedom” that were directed by future National Artist Gerardo de León (born Gerardo Ilagan, 1913-1981) and Yutaka Abe (1895-1977). One of the lead actresses of these films, Carmen Rosales (born Januaria Constantino Keller, 1917-1991) joins the guerillas in her home province of Pangasinan; after her husband, Ramón Navales, was killed by the Japanese. Rosales was also believed to have participated in the hunting and killing of Makapili (Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino), Filipinos who were loyal to Japan and snitched on their countrymen. After the war, Rosales would play guerilla roles in the films “Guerilya” (1946) and “Batalyon XII” (1949). De León on the other hand would almost lose his career, due to the accusation of being a Japanese collaborator.
Hope came when the USAFFE engaged the Japanese forces at the Gulf of Leyte starting on the 17th of October 1944, and leading to General Douglas MacArthur fulfilling his promise of “I shall return!” by landing on the beach Leyte the 20th of October 1944.
After securing the province of Leyte, the USAFFE used this as a jump off point for the liberation of Luzon, moving towards Manila with forces coming from the north and south. FEAF (Far East Air Force) reconnaissance planes pass over the Camp Murphy on the 29th of December 1944, and are fired upon by the Japanese anti-craft batteries in the base. So on the 10th and 11th of January 1945, the FEAF B-24 Liberator bombers run an air strikes, destroying the Japanese positions at the Grace Park Airfield in Caloocan, the Quezon Boulevard Extension, the Balintawak Airfield (now the area near Muñoz market) along the North–South Circumferential Road, the Balara Airfield (now the University Avenue) in front of the University of the Philippines campus in Dilimán, the Banlat Airfield in Novaliches (now the Tandâng Sora district), and Camp Murphy.
The XIV Corps’ 1st Cavalry Division and 37th Infantry Division, under the command of Lieutenant General Oscar Woolverton Griswold (1886-1959), are sent to secure the La Mesa Dam and Water Reservation and Balara Filtration Complex in Novaliches, to prevent Lieutenant General Shizuo Yokoyama (1890-1961) and his 41st Army Shimbu Group from sabotaging the water supplies to the Greater Manila area. However, the American troops are delayed by the Japanese’s demolition of the Tullahan River Bridge. Aside from facing the Shimbu Group, the XIV Corps had to deal with Major General Takashi Kobayashi’s (1893-1945) 31st Infantry Brigade that controlled the Novaliches-Montalban area, and Major General Osamu Kawashima’s (1893-1958) 82nd Infantry Brigade that controlled the Caloocan-Bulacan area.
On their way to Novaliches, the 37th Infantry Division pass through the Balintawak area (near the present Balintawak Cloverleaf Interchange) to take the Grace Park Airfield in Caloocan, when they are engaged the Japanese forces. The 2nd of February, “Battle of Balintawak” saw the American GIs liberating the San Miguel Beer’s “Balintawak Brewery.” While waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the bridge over the Tullahan River, the soldiers returned to the brewery to have a much needed break and celebration with ice-cold beer, since their landing at the Lingayen Gulf on the 9th of January. During the “Battle of Balintawak”, the 37th are aided by a local guerilla, Severino Passi Gateb Sr. (born 1912), who would become their guide to reach the Santos Tomas internment camp, in Manila.
By the 6th of February, the 1st Cavalry Division secures the La Mesa Reservoir, with the minimal 13.7 and 7.6 meters damaged sections to the aqueduct that connects the reservoir to the Balara Filteration Station. On the 7th of February, the 1st Cavalry Division also takes over the Balara Filtration Station, a mere thirty minutes before the Japanese explosives were timed to detonate. The Americans were able to secure the station with the aid of the employees of the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), who were secretly members of a guerilla unit. On the 11th of February, Japanese spies of the Shimbu Group were able to infiltrate Balara Filtration Station and damage one of the valves, before being caught.
On their way southwards to San Juan, the American 1st Cavalry met light Japanese resistance at the Balara Airfield, in front of the University of the Philippines campus in Dilimán. The January 11 bomb strike left most of the buildings destroyed, with the College of Education and College of Law barely standing. After driving out the Japanese forces in Dilimán, the US forces use the campus as a temporary campsite, before moving towards the North Avenue Airfield, near the US Navy Transmitting Corps in Barrio Bago Bantay, and taking it by the 8th of February.
After the taking of the North Avenue Airfield, there is also a possible chance that the American troops advanced towards the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) six radio transmitter towers in Cubao, before marching on to Santa Mesa, then Manila. Before proceeding to Santa Mesa, the 37th Infantry Division were joined by other USAFFE units and Filipino guerillas, who had just liberated the Marikina Airfield (now the Marikina Sports Park).
On the 7th of February, the 8th Cavalry Division arrived in New Manila, and are held off by 1,300 members of the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun or IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) under Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji (1895-1945), who were entrenched in the different homes in the area. With the support of the 44th Tank Battalion, with 105mm and 155mm artillery support, 500 of the IJN are killed, while the rest retreat back to Manila. However, the Japanese leave many mines in the area, leading to a slow house-to-house battle for the Americans.
As the 1st Cavalry Division, under the command of Brigadier General William Curtis Chase (1895-1986), progressed towards Manila, their ranks would break into smaller units, and remain in strategic points along the way. It was their orders to secure and protect the water systems and communication lines from Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecijia, to San Miguel in Bulacan, to Novaliches, to San Juan, and on to Manila. On the 15th and 16th of February, the Shimbu Group orchestrates attacks on XIV Corps; with the Kawashima Force attempting to raid the Grace Park Airfield, and Kobayashi Force striking the Mariquina River Pumping Station in Libis as well as the Quezon and Banlat airfields. The Americans were successful in defending their positions, and pushed back the Shimbu Group to the hills of Antipolo. After these attacks, there would be no more battles in Quezon City, as the fighting would continue in Marikina and the rest of the Rizal Province until May 1945.
The Battle of Manila was a horrific campaign that ran from the 3rd of February to the 3rd of March 1945. During the bombings and the street-to-street battles, with 100,000 to 240,000 Filipino civilians will killed in the crossfire; as well as from the fleeing Japanese, who would roundup civilians and shoot them on site or burn them while trapped in a house. No one was spared, as children were also killed, with cases of infants tossed in the air and bayoneted.
The Japanese forces, who were fleeing the homes and institutions in Hacienda Magdalena and San Juan del Monte, would either destroy the buildings as they ran away, or booby-trap it to kill any USAFFE soldiers sweeping the area. This was the case for the homes of Conrado Francia Benitez (1889-1971) who discovered landmines buried in their yard, and Dr. Félix Cortés who discovered a trip wired grenade on their cabinet door. Other returning residents and fleeing Filipinos were not so lucky.
There were also many reports of Japanese soldiers raping and then killing the women; during the invasion, occupation and even as they retreated in the liberation of the Philippines. This spawned the post-war folk tale of a “white lady” haunting Balete Drive in New Manila, who was seeking vengeance to the Japanese soldiers who had wronged her. It is also noted that the folktale evolved into a joyriding teen who died in a car crash in the 1950s.
With Pres. Quezón passing away to tuberculosis while in exile in the America, Sergio Osmeña Sr. (1878-1961) returns to with Gen. MacArthur in 1944, as President of the Philippines. With Mayor Morató still in hiding in Baguio after his release from Intramuros, Pres. Osmeña appoints the Iloilo resistance fighter, Tomás Confesor (189-1951), as acting mayor of the Greater Manila Area; and former Assistant City Attorney of Quezon City Oscar T. Castelo (1903-1982) as the acting vice-mayor. During this rebuilding period, Vice-mayor Castelo held office in Pres. Quezón’s home in New Manila, to administer to the needs of the residents of Quezon City. The reconstruction of Quezon City starts in earnest when Ponciano A. Bernardo is officially appointed as Mayor of Quezon City.
The Battle of Manila left more than two-hundred thousand dead, and leaving the more than four-hundred thousand survivors homeless, as much of the city was flattened by both allied and Japanese bombing. And in the outskirt towns and provinces, there were millions more displaced families, as the war had raged almost all over the Philippines. Despite the damage done to key institutions in Hacienda Magdalena, evacuees ran to Quezon City to avoid the fire fights in Manila, which was razed to the ground. Such is the case of Marikina residents who escaped to Barrio Pansol, and never returned to their hometown after the war. And during the reconstruction of Manila from 1945 to the late 1950s, more people were relocated to the People’s Homesite Corporation (PHC) residential projects.
Yet as these new residents called Quezon City home, and the city continued to grow, many have forgotten what has transpired in the Quezon City during World War II. In fact, there are only two memorials in the city dedicated to the war, one to the murdered personnel of the Quezon Institute and the other is an abandoned Japanese anti-aircraft gun at the old Sampaguita film studios.
There other reminders of World War II that continued to the 1980s, such as old Ortañez University, on Aurora Boulevard, had converted spent howitzer shells into rail posts in their building. Some public schools even converted these shells into bells, which they rang to signal the start or end of classes for the day.
Another taken-for-granted reminder of World War II are the hundreds of thousands of Jeepneys that ply the streets of the Philippines. The first jeepneys were bedecked surplus American Willy’s MB and the Ford GPW, General Purpose vehicles (GPs), sold by the veteran Harry Solomon Stonehill (born Harry Steinberg, 1917-2002) to Filipinos in the black market, to replace the public transport systems that were damaged by the war.
To remember World War II in monuments or ceremonies is not just a reminder of a dark chapter in human history, but a celebration of the sacrifices of the heroes who have fought for the freedom we enjoy these days, a mourning of the senseless loss of life, and reminder to be vigilant against actions that may start war.