When we were kids, we always had this pure look of wonder in our eyes whenever we listen to our parents tell a story. At night, right when we go to bed, once-upon-a-times perk our ears up without a fail. There’s always this fascination with magical forests and daring adventures that made our eyes sparkle with enthusiasm. It’s almost as if we wanted these stories to be real.
So when our parents—these superior beings whom we’ve always strived to be—tell stories about their lives, it’s almost as if they come straight out of a storybook. Suddenly the story about how mom and dad met sounded like a fairytale, and the time when mom fell off a tree was as exciting as Huckleberry Finn’s adventures. From Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex to Bandura’s social learning theory, it is evident that we consider our parents our role models and that all their stories are something we live by as we grow older.
This rings true for Eduardo Lindo, son of late war veteran Victoriano Lindo. Unlike most kids, Eduardo did not hear typical mundane stories. Instead of a storybook, he listened to stories that seemed to come straight out of a history book, except this time they seem to be more real than fairytale. Because as other kids listened to their parents talk about their first kisses, Eduardo’s father told stories of firearms and near-death experiences.
Being a son of a war veteran, Eduardo was exposed to his father’s firsthand experiences as we read them in history books in grade school. It is easy to think of the World War II as an epic battle, one where men fought and died, where there were defeats and victories, bullets and canyons, just like in the movies. But for Eduardo Lindo, World War II was no adventure story. In an interview with The LaSallian, Eduardo vividly recalls secondhand stories of the World War II—the time where his father, Victoriano Lindo, fought and suffered.
A Philippine Soldier
On Dec. 8, 1941, the Japanese empire laid siege to the Philippine Commonwealth nine hours after the attack on the Pearl Harbor. This was the start of involvement of the Philippines in the deadliest conflict in history. For three years, women were tortured and raped and forced to work in the infamous Bahay na Pula, households feared for their lives—hiding inside basements, businesses closed their stores, and soldiers died of thirst and hunger.
According to Eduardo, his father enlisted to become a soldier six months before he turned 18. However, it was standing requirement that aspiring soldiers be at the legal age, so he faked his age to be able to join. And ironically, out of the four brothers, it was only Victoriano that got in.
Being in the Philippine Scouts, a military organization held by Americans in the Philippines, Victoriano realized that it would mean sacrificing his teenage years.
“Yung buhay niya halos ginugol niya sa pagiging sundalo (He spent almost all his life being a soldier),” Eduardo recalls, “Wala nang panahon para maging bata (There was no time to be a kid)”
Instead of hanging out with friends and crushing on girls, the 17-year-old soldier fixed armaments and checked bullets in his spare time, which was whenever the fire ceases and everybody takes a breather, albeit for a brief moment.
Victoriano was never in the front lines of the battlefield. He was lucky enough to be in charge of firing cannons kilometers away from the battle itself; loading heavy bullets into one of the cannons and firing away. The ear-deafening sounds of each cannonball fired had become the quotidian for the young soldier.
At night however, the war continues. When the sun goes down, each cannon shot becomes visible thus, making them more vulnerable. Being that the Japanese always had better technology and Filipino soldiers had to rely on semi-archaic warfare, they former were always able to fly fighter aircrafts and shoot wherever fired cannons were near.
But Victoriano was no martyr soldier. Although he fought bravely in the war, he still remembered that he was the only soldier in their household. He must then be careful. So whenever aircrafts would hover over him, ready to attack, he would quickly hide and cover.
Other than that, he had only one other source of protection—an amulet of sorts. “Ayun, dasal.” his 66-year-old son chuckles.
A Death March survivor
By the time that the war was at its climax, Victoriano suffered what seemed to be a negligible mosquito bite. He later found out that he had malaria but still shrugged it off. In the time of war, a malaria might as well just be a common cold. So Victoriano went on, unfazed.
On the other hand, the Filipino-American soldiers’ stomachs grumbled. As their food and medicine supply lessened, their energy dwindled
“Kulang sila ng pagkain pero bala, marami sila (They didn’t have enough food, but they had a lot of bullets).” Eduardo shakes his head in disbelief.
And as if timing couldn’t have gotten worse, Gen. Douglas MacArthur left to Australia, leaving the Filipino-American soldiers fighting, hungry, and sick. The Japanese however, continued on, unruffled. They eventually advanced while the Filipino-American soldiers took steps back until they decided to pack their weapons and surrender.
“They disassembled the cannon parts and buried them to the ground with all the bullets.”
This was the start of the Bataan Death March, a transfer from Bataan to Tarlac held by the Japanese. This 112-kilometer walk imposed itself as the historical dominance of the Japanese occupation, and Victoriano was there to see it all.
The malaria-stricken soldier walked for what seemed like years in San Fernando, Pampanga. He was hungry and thirsty just like all the other Filipino-American soldiers. One by one, soldiers fell into wide rice fields, and the Japanese soldiers made sure they were dead. Those who tried to eat or drink were shot immediately. If anything, the soldiers were dead men walking. Meanwhile, on top of the thirst and hunger, Victoriano’s tremors were getting worse.
“Sabi niya, ‘Pare, masama na ang pakiramdam ko. Pag ako ay bumagsak, wag niyo na akong tulungan. Di ko na kaya‘ (He said, ‘My condition is getting worse. If I fall, don’t help me up anymore. I can’t endure this anymore’).” Eduardo remembers his dad telling him this conversation with another soldier.
The young soldier was pale and trembling. As the soldiers kept on walking with the sun scorching, their stomachs empty, and throats dry, Victoriano gave up. He collapsed onto a rice field and completely blacked out.
However, what could only be described as a miracle happened. The Japanese continued on and did not notice Victoriano lying lifelessly on the wide plains. Instead, they ignored him, thinking he was already long gone because of his pale skin, or perhaps the crops were too high that they did not see him.
Either way, Eduardo expresses his relief that his father was left unnoticed, “Maswerte lang talaga na nung bumagsak, mataas din yung daan, tapos di siya napansin (He was really lucky when he passed out. The rice field was tall so no one noticed).”
Victoriano lied unconscious for hours. He passed out in the afternoon and started regaining consciousness in the twilight when villagers saw him and brought him to their house to be healed.
It took him almost a week until he was finally able to come back to his homeland in Tarlac. “Kung siya ay nakarating ng Capas, [Tarlac] baka namatay narin ang tatay ko (If he was able to walk to Capas, [Tarlac], he would’ve died). Eduardo says.
9,000 Filipinos and 1,000 Americans died during the Death March, and one of them could’ve been Victoriano. Whether it was fate or mere luck, the survivor’s son will always tell the story of how he feigned death and lived to fight another day–like a true soldier.
Little did Victoriano know, the war never ends. When he was able to fully physically recover, he got a job as a well-known mechanic in Hacienda Luicita, where he meet Eduardo’s mom, Virginia, and become a father to six children. All of this happened while he was still suffering from the sounds of the cannons firing, the tremors from malaria, and the thirst and hunger as they trekked Pampanga. Like most soldiers, Victoriano suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And Eduardo was there to watch him experience the aftermath of the war.
He noticed that his father became more irritated and easily angered as he aged. “Siguro epekto ito ng gyera (It may be an effect of the war).” he says.
Despite this, Eduardo still recalls his father as a hero, although not the kind who slayed dragons and saved damsels in distress like in the bedtime stories. Instead, he served as the best role model a son could have–a story of sacrifice, pain, and bravery.
The stories Eduardo was told as he grew up were never for the faint of heart. People live their lives without being able to grasp what it’s like to be a soldier in the time of war. For Eduardo, how his father’s story unfolded was something he admired and looked up to. These stories will always be with him for as long as he lives, and in the many wars he has yet to face.