Maximo Ramos' Notes
Ramos, in his book Remembrance of Lents Past And Other Essays made on account of
what happened that day in San Narciso in his article That Day Was For
"Early at 4:30 A.M. on January 29, 1945, on my way to get my daily ration of fresh carabao’s milk, I looked up unto the sky. A plane was already patrolling over the town, San Narciso, Zambales, where we had but recently evacuated from Manila. A green light gleamed on its belly as it went back and forth over the coconut palms. Shortly afterward more fighters joined it, and they all kept the town and its environs covered, very much like hawks circling for prey over a marshland. The carabao gave little milk that morning because of the racket produced by the planes. We wondered what was cooking. After a while, my nephew Meliton came on his old bicycle. "Quick!" he said, breathless and pale with agitation. "Quick, to the sea!" I grabbed the bike from him and pedaled for all I was worth down the road to the seaside village, two kilometers from town. A little past the municipal cemetery halfway to the sea I began to hear American English. Voices came from behind the bamboos and under the low line of trees on both sides of the road. I had to look twice before I found that a column of troops in jungle green was advancing along each side of the road, and looking closer I saw that observant eyes were fixed on me. I was among the first civilians to meet them, and it must have seemed impossible that an invasion could be so completely unopposed. But I proceeded unmolested, and a little farther on I met foot-soldiers going single-file along the shoulders of the road, two columns of men whose attire made them part of the vegetation. Nearly all held at port small rifles, the others being armed with Tommy guns. Here and there were men who carried boxes on their backs -- boxes with long rods sticking into the air and with phone attachments to them. Before such a solemn, almost grim group, it took some courage to wave a greeting. I did manage to raise my hand and wave it in the air after a while. But though three or four men smiled back wordlessly to acknowledge my greeting, the general reaction to my gesture was so cold that I wondered whether these men, who had been through so much fighting, from down below the equator and across steaming New Guinea and other island jungles, had not lost the sense of humor one knew as a strong American trait. I was rather taken aback, too, at their hunger for chewing gum. Every one of them was chewing, and I could almost fear that their avowed business of chewing up the Jap had, during the jungle campaigns; taken on a literal meaning and they were now at diligent practice for their final victory over the enemy by mastication. Owing to the heavy traffic, I had now to walk beside my bike. Jeeps and trucks full of men and equipment had appeared on the road and, almost suffocated with dust, I finally reached the sea.
Far into the western horizon and extending from San Felipe in the north to San Miguel in the south, an area of over a hundred square kilometers, sat closely packed ships of all sizes and shapes clearly lined in the morning sun. There were ships painted with bold nightmarish stripes, ships smeared with untrammeled blotches of color that would have made Salvador Dali slap his thighs in glee, ships daubed a sedate gray, big ships, small ships, ships that came puffing to the edge of the water, climbed up the sand, then careened or crunched down the road, leaving clouds of dust wholly indifferent to the astounding feat they had accomplished. All along the beachhead, landing craft were shuttling between the big ships and the shore, scraping sand, opening their huge maws, disgorging men and equipment and food and going out for more.
Tractors ground out of the mouths of shallow-draft boats, pushed up the sand, and, far from docilely following the crowded dirt road to town, made straight for the carabao paths that I had known well as a kid, rooting out of their way whole clumps of bamboos and trees that had stood there since the oldest villager could remember. Then monster tanks followed, thundering like ten simultaneous tropical storms, grinding everything under their rotating hoofs and making a pall of brown dust hang over the countryside.
By this time the main street was lined with the citizenry, finally assured that these were not Japs. The girls came out with scarlet hibiscus and yellow bells and offered them to the soldiers, who pinned them on their drab uniforms or stuck them into the camouflage netting over their helmets. The V-sign with which we had sent our soldiers in tears to the war-fronts long before, was now being freely exchanged once more. Even small children had learned to shout, "Victoree – one candee!"
The spearheading soldier slogged on or bounced along the road in endless trucks and jeeps, straight for the San Marcelino airstrip and the Subic Bay area where the Japs had concentrated their rearguard. The tanks and bulldozers and half-tracks sped across the fields. The service troops bivouacked in groves on the outskirts of the town. They seemed to know my own hometown a lot better than. Gun emplacements sprang up around the beachhead and radar apparatus was rigged up in strategic spots on the countryside. Bakeries on wheels were turning out bread, water tanks on wheels were fetching drinking water from wells newly dug at the banks of streams, gas tanks on wheels were on the road, power units on wheels were grinding out electricity, containers on wheels were unloading crates of supplies and piling them in mountainous dumps. They set up field ranges and heated all manner of food, which they took out of cans and endless boxes. They set up cots and slung hammocks between the trees.
Before dusk ended that first day of liberation, cannonading could be heard from the mountains beyond Subic Bay thirty miles farther on: they had chased the Jap into the zigzag pass toward the Bataan Peninsula. For half a month after that supplies continued flowing from the beachhead as the ships unloaded their cargo into endless lines of trucks. But the tremendous traffic broke the back of the old main road. It had not been built to take so much buffeting and it was soon full of ruts. Though it was patched up again and again, its backbone was ruined. The fresh treads of tires and GI shoes could be seen everywhere. Endless lines of telephone wires hung along the streets and lanes. Drinking stalls came into full flowering. After supper the soldiers would swarm into the town from their outlying camps and we would trade stories with them around the painful dull glow of tin lamps fed with crude oil from a half-sunk Jap tanker at sea. Coming in, the GIs would race for the only rocking chair in the house, the first chair, they would say, they had sat in since they left home three years before. They would time each other and take turns sitting in that old chair. They would exchange jokes with us and with each other, but occasionally we would catch them momentarily staring at the framed pictures on the wall, and we would know they were thinking of home. They would teach the girls their new songs, of some of which they had two versions: one for occasions when girls and old people were around and another to be sung when they were by themselves. In two months they had secured the zigzag pass to Bataan. One by one the evacuation hospitals, the rest camps, the quartermaster units, the transportation detachments, the civil affairs bodies, the engineer and ordnance outfits – all moved on, and the ships sailed away and called no more. The old town resumed its long sleep.
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