Lost in the jungle during the War – by Blanca Beltran

During the Japanese occupation my father was supporting the guerrillas and the japs knew it. So they decided to look for the Bilbao family. ‘Papa’ had lookouts but they would always give false alarms so we wouldn’t believe them, until one fateful early morning when we were woken by the sound of machine guns. We all jumped out of bed and ran for our lives! I was four and my brother Paking was nine at that time. 

At first we were with my sisters Nena, Poochie, Purita and brother Joaquin. Papa and Mama went somewhere else with my other brothers – Jimmy, a small child, and Ernesto, who was only a few months old. We went to one of the evacuation houses that my father built precisely for this. Unfortunately he built it on a hilltop easily discernible by aircraft. So the japs went after us there. Again we fled for our lives and that is when, in the ensuing pandemonium, my brother Paking and I got separated from the rest. We were lost in the jungle, walking interminably but going nowhere. I recall being hungry and trying different leaves until I found a shrub that was edible and started eating it! We continued walking and I vaguely remember coming across a burnt house where I found a toothbrush.

I don’t exactly remember how it came to be but after a period of time, a man – one Papa’s workers, fortunately found us and guided us back to the family. I remember him cutting nipa fronds to make a temporary shelter since it was rainy and cold. I had a tummy ache and was crying and he told me to take off my dress and put it back on inside-out as that would stop my tummy from aching.

We continued walking – it felt like forever – and finally, on the third day, we arrived at the place where we were staying.  I remember with horror that our dogs were hanged and the house was burnt down. The Japs had laid waste to everything, including the food supply that my father stored. Then I saw my mother and all of a sudden I couldn’t run to her let alone walk. Then and only then did I realize that the soles of my feet were full of thorns!


4 Responses to “Lost in the jungle during the War – by Blanca Beltran”

  1. Marciano R. de Borja in his book ‘Basques in the Philippines,’ writes:

    “Most Baques were fiercely opposed to the Japanese occupation. Many Basque families, like the Elizalde, the Luzurriagas, and the Legarretas, contributed indirectly and directly to the Philippine guerrilla movement. Others, like the Bilbaos, the Uriartes, and the Elordis, joined the resistance movement in Negros and the Visayas region.”

  2. Dona Blanca:

    Your recollection of the events is extraordinary given that you were only 4 years old!

    Remarkable was that you were oblivious to your considerable discomfort—the thorns on your feet– during the ordeal. Your oblivion to pain brought on, to a degree, by adrenaline, but assuredely in larger measure, by your courage amid the nightmarish circumstance.

  3. WOW! This is probably the most poignant war story I have ever read. Having been written by you, Tita Blanca, this really hits home. To think that my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived through the Japanese occupation in the frontiers of Hinoba-an is almost unreal.

    Our generation seemed almost too detached from these horrific uncertain years of WW2. This should stir up some thought of how fortunate we have been, to have spent the years we had, floricking under the sun in our great hometown.

    Tita Blanca thank you very much for sharing this with us.

  4. I remember Tito Paking telling me this story a few years ago. I’m so glad I can contribute what I heard from our beloved late uncle.

    Tito Paking told me that when all hell broke loose he grabbed Tita Blanca and fled with her, eventually jumping into an irrigation ditch. If I recall correctly, it was in this same ditch that one of Lolo’s workers was hiding and where he found the two Bilbao siblings.

    He recalled walking endlessly, up and down hills, taking a circuitous route to avoid the Japanese patrols. They were very hungry but he said the thirst was torture because there was just no water around.

    He felt that he had a huge obligation to get Tita Blanca home because he was her manong. So it was to his great relief when they were finally reunited with the family.

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