Latest Stories

Gut Feel

We World War II kids can still remember


We’re the World War II kids. A unique breed. The war years (1941-1945) brought us face-to-face with terror, violence, death and hunger as a way of life.

On Dec. 8, 1941, Japanese fighter planes treacherously bombed Pearl Harbor and Clark Field. I was 5 years old.

December is war nostalgia month. I’ve been leafing through the diary of my late uncle Felix Gozo, and I was transported back to life during the Japanese rule in my hometown, Majayjay, Laguna.

Tio Felix’s wartime diary contained memorable words which captured the look and feel of that horrible Japanese rule. These unforgettable words brought back tragic memories.

Bakwet (Tagalog for “evacuate”)—the panic word that started the exodus. The entire population of Majayjay made bakwet deep into the woods to ramshackle huts, hidden nooks and caves where the Japanese could not find them. Everybody lugged something needed for survival.

I carried a coffee pot in one hand and herded our pet goat with the other. Bakwet was triggered by rumors that the Japanese were coming to massacre people, rape women, and burn houses. They just did in Pagsanjan and Lucban.

Zona (mass incarceration of the male populace)—All men in town were herded and locked up in school buildings and churches. Packed like sardines with no food, no water, no toilet, no sleep, and no talking, they were bullied and beaten in order to extract information about guerilla identities and whereabouts. Lolo Elo, my grandmother’s brother, suffered a heart attack and died inside the zona.

My mother took me to the wake. The next day, only women and children buried Lolo Elo. All the men were in prison.

Horror of horrors

Pinugutan (beheaded)—

The horror of all horrors. Aunt Naty’s husband, Ka Pelis Solisa, the town mayor of Majayjay, was suspected as a guerilla and abducted by the Japanese. It was rumored that Ka Pelis was pinugutan ng ulo somewhere in the forest of Liliw. His body could not be found. Aunt Naty grieved everyday until she died of a heart attack. I saw my mother cry a bucket of tears during Aunt Naty’s funeral. She was my mother’s best friend.

Tinubig (water torture)—A farmer from barrio Pook, another guerilla suspect, was picked up and brought to the municipio, and made to lie on his back stripped naked. His captors forced water through his mouth until his stomach was full and bloated, then they pummeled his stomach with a palo-palo until he vomited water. The water torture is repeated many times until the victim passes out.

Kinulata (beaten with a rifle butt)—After a truckload of them were ambushed by the guerillas, the Japanese rounded off all the men in our neighborhood and kinulata sila. They were beaten with rifle butts hard on the chests, waists, butts and legs, leaving them maimed and crippled for several months.

Binilad (sunburnt and dehydrated)—For failure to bow before Japanese sentries, failure to understand garbled Japanese orders, the offender was forced to stand motionless under the hot sun for hours until he collapsed due to heatstroke or dehydration.

Pinagsasampal (slapped repeatedly on the face)—When a Japanese guard accosted or interrogated a person, he talked fast, harsh and boorish, punctuating his blabbermouth tirades with slaps on the face. Expletives and curses were spoken in Nippongo. For forgetting to bow before a Japanese sentry, our neighbor, Mang Leocadio, was pinagsasampal. Was his face red! Bloody red!

Buslo (mystery man)—This bizarre creation of the Japanese was a Filipino traitor who appeared on the scene with his head fully covered by a buslo (a pandan-woven shopping bag) with two holes to serve as his eyes. When the Japanese assembled the men in town, Buslo would point a finger at the guerilla on the lineup, true or not.

Makapili (collaborator)—

This shadowy individual was a Filipino who rendered service to the Japanese government. He acted as the mouthpiece for Japanese policies, persuading people to cooperate with Japanese efforts in managing political affairs and governance. After the war, the Makapilis were tried by the Philippine government for treason.


It’s been 70 years since then. Have we forgiven the brutal and masochistic Japanese regime? The destruction and mayhem they’ve caused? Can we, World War II kids, forgive? We did. It must be our Christian culture, plus a lot of help from the power of consumerism.

By the ’60s, we had welcomed the return of the Japanese, wittingly or unwittingly. We bought Sony transistor radios, Akai tape recorders, Casio calculators, National electric fans and refrigerators. In the ’70s, my first car was a Toyota Crown sedan. My teenage daughters went crazy over Sanrio characters.

In 2002, our family toured Japan. We marveled at Japanese art, costumes, cuisine and the colorful festivals. Japanese politeness and social graces are admirable. Their cleanliness, superb. My current vehicle is a Toyota Fortuner. I’m wearing a Seiko watch.

But we have not forgotten the sufferings. In fact, some anger still lingers in the hearts of Filipino comfort women. Now in their 90s, comfort women were young, innocent girls in the early 1940s who were forcibly taken by the Japanese army to be used as their sex slaves (20 to 30 soldiers raped them daily.) They surfaced in 1993 to seek justice and retribution from the Japanese government.

Us World War II kids are aging and dwindling fast. In a few years we’ll all be gone. Will our children and grandchildren ever remember our tragic past? Methinks not. They are creatures of Steve Jobs, wired and immersed in data overload, knowledge clutter, and a short attention span.  World War II’s tumult was destined only for us. We alone can mull the details, relish the dangers and adventures.

We World War II kids are a unique breed. We are not afraid of the unknown.

E-mail hgordonez@gmail.com.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Other Stories:

No related posts found!

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: comfort women , patronizing Japanese products , remembering Japanese atrocities , World War II kids

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  7. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  8. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  9. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • US teacher fired over comment on black president
  • Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  • Title of new Hillary Clinton book: ‘Hard Choices’
  • Filipinos, Dutch re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  • 14 killed in car bombing in Homs
  • Sports

  • Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters
  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Las Vegas ‘Pinoy Pride’ fest hails Filipino heritage
  • Marking Jesus’ journey on Good Friday
  • Filipina accomplice arrested for fake bills in Malaysia
  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions