Bienvenido N. Santos
The Japanese soldiers were noisy when they came to our little barrio. Their laughter and theirtalk resounded through the Sinicaran hills, which lie at the foot of Mount Mayon. Below is the town of San Juan where we bought all the pretty things that could be had for money. The Japanese had takenthe town and there was more shooting in the streets, no more pretty things to buy. We had kept to ourhomes when we heard that they were coming. We peeped through the windows and watched themcome, expecting the worst. They were loud and bared their teeth in something that resembled smiles,and we were filled with fear. We had nowhere to go. Some of the people from the town had gone to thehills.My father's nippa house stood at the branching of the trails, squat and low and sturdy. Up thattrail the soldiers marched, having alighted from a Graham car now parked in front of the spot where thechapel used to be until last month when a typhoon leveled it to the ground and the bell fell from theceiling but did not break. Work had started on it when the Japs came. Many people were afraid, and weheard all sorts of news.The trail led farther inland beyond the waterless creek where the barrio schoolhouse stood. Onboth sides of the muddy trail are fields now planted to corn, hemmed on all sides by coconut trees. Inour backyard are kilns for drying copra and heaps of firewood from the forests of Lafonte. My elderbrother Cario knew that forest by heart. I had helped him gather firewood and he was not afraid of thedark."Selmo," he would say, "you have a chicken heart and the memory of a turtle."I wondered where he was, my strong, big brother, as I watched the enemy soldiers go under thesheds which stretched on a long line to the west backyard. These were empty sheds now, but formerlyon Mondays, which was a market day, they were full of products from the town, all the lovely thingsthat money could buy: many colored print cotton for dresses and skirts,...
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