Editor’s note: Gov. Eddie Calvo’s column, “Changing Guam,” has this week been devoted to Ana Bacani, a student at F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School and winner of the governor’s essay contest. Bacani’s winning essay is published below.
A RESONANT thundering noise woke me halfway from my sleep. I didn’t pay attention to that noise. I said to myself, “Today would be a feast! Nothing could ruin it.” It was Our Lady of Camarin Day. That noise was just probably from a nightmare. Yes, a nightmare that came true on that day.
My name is Ana Paula Bacani. It was Dec. 8, 1941 and I was just 13 years old at that time. It was also the Santa Marian Kamalin day, one of the most important religious holidays here on our island. My family and I were very excited for the feast as we attended the Mass. Hundreds of families also went to the Mass at the Agaña Cathedral. An oxymoronic event had happened. Instead of receiving good news from Bishop Olano, he informed us to go to our homes and find a place somewhere we could hide. Many people were frightened of what they heard; they didn’t know what to do and where to go. At my age, the only place that I knew was safe was the church.
So my family and I went to our house to get our belongings. Of all the things that we had prepared for that feast of the celebration, the only thing we could do was leave them. Then we marched from Agaña to Talofofo. On our way, we saw people burning the bridge. And this bridge is our only means of travel to get to our destination. I felt the glaring flames from the fires of hell as we made our way across. I saw the dark and thick smoke covering the sky as people tried to look for ways to hide from the Japanese. We arrived at Talofofo successfully, but unfortunately the Japanese soldiers captured us.
The soldiers took us to a concentration camp in Merizo. I became traumatized as I looked around and saw the many families that were already there. They already caught many people and families. The view of the area was horrifying. The ground was all muddy and we had to walk in it barefooted. Additionally, there were only three small huts for 240 people that were imprisoned. The huts were not even safe and were made wobbly. Because of the insufficiency of supplies and food, greediness arose among us. Furthermore, they obliged us to do harsh labors and even the young children and the elders. For instance, we pulled weeds, planted crops, dug and gathered rocks. If one person stopped from working they would tie their hands and hang them on a tree, until their arms would fracture. Moreover, they didn’t even respect the elders nor had pity on them. Those incidents were some of the atrocious treatments that Japanese soldiers did to us. At that time, I was frightened that they might take my parents from me if I didn’t obey them. Everyone else’s feelings were the same. Fear.
Since a lot of people were already dying from hunger, the families had no choice but to furtively steal corn from crops they harvested. The father was caught unfortunately by one soldier. Brutally, I saw the soldier tormenting the father by pulling out three nails as a punishment for the three stalks of corn that he stole. There was no food or water for us to drink and eat. If there would be, then that would be 50 percent worms and 50 percent spoiled food. All day, I felt like they treated me as a swine. Those spiteful soldiers had taken away our dignity and worth.
The day never ended. All the struggles that we went through on that day would never be forgotten. If there would be one thing that I wanted to have during that moment, it would be our lives. We wanted to live despite the fact that we already knew that we are dying. There was nobody we could ask for help except for the most high. If there would be one place I could go, that would be to escape from that wicked place. Yet those hopes were never given for gratis.