Jurika and related families




НазваJurika and related families
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Born Czechoslovakia, October 31 [27], 1880. Died California, February 3, 1929

Beloved husband of Blanche Walker Jurika

Father of Susan Jurika Cecil

Katrushka Jurika Parsons

Stephen Jurika

Thomas Walker Jurika

At rest at last in his beloved Philippines.


After Steve died, Toots41 worked in Zamboanga at the [Jurika] store – but this wa a terrible awakening for her: not only was the Depression affecting world markets, but also the tariff on Filipino copra and cocoanut oil brought financial hardship. And she learned that incompetent management of the Torrejon-Jurika business during Steve’s last illness had left the estate with some P 275,000 in debt that manager Steinberg had borrowed from banks in the US. Though Steve had given Steinberg power-of-attorney, he was “inept and inexcusably ignorant of how to run a business.” She fired him, but court records of the 1930s show that Torrejon-Jurika was party to numerous lawsuits in Zamboanga. Amboanga Mutual Building and Loan Association bought the Torrejon-Jurika notes from the bank for about $10 on the dollar, Blanche was urged to sign not as TJ’s president but personally and a year later “they took every cent she had – but not the home in Zamboanga because Steve had homesteaded it.” Blanche was left with a deficiency judgment of about P30-40,000…plus “bananas, rice, salt and two changes of clothes.”


At this point, son Tom returned home from a two-year business course at Menlo Junior College: he went prospecting in the Mindanao jungles, found placer gold, and helped bail Blanche out from “the last of the stubborn debts that had fastened, like barnacles, on the property upon her husband’s untimely death.”42


Blanche decided to rent the house in Zamboanga, fully furnished, and move to the Panabutan plantation. Through sheer grit, brains, sweat, and initiative, Blanche also managed to keep the plantation a viable enterprise. Tom was her right hand there. He remembered: “When I went to Panabutan I had to go for six weeks at a time – chiefly, to organize labor to build fences so the cattle and wild pigs wouldn't get to the newly planted cocoanut seedlings. We used Moros for the back-breaking labor, and Filipinos, Chinese, and Japanese workers as carpenters. I raised a herd of bircher pigs and put wild boars in with the pigs to get a new strain; this worked out fine but the Moros did steal the hogs for food.


We made copra from the cocoanut meat once every three months. We'd harvest cocoanuts four times a year (figuring 12 nuts from each tree every three months). We had a total of 3000 bearing and 2000 non-bearing trees. You had to guard the trees against animals and nurture them until they were at least 4-5 years old. They produced cocoanuts at eight years. It was a lot of labor. In the dry season, grass would grow between the trees. If there was a fire, you had a big risk. But the greatest risks were the wild hogs--I poisoned 50-60 a month; just one could tear up five trees a day. We put a fence around each one. I would get up a 4 a.m. when it was cool and sometimes worked until 9-10 p.m. if there was moonlight.


The house was located on the point of the Panabutan River where it joined Panabutan Bay. It was back about 350 yards from the river and 100 yards from the beach. A Filipino Spanish-American war veteran named Lacaba lived across the river from the plantation on two acres. He spoke American barracks English that enraged Toots. His family lived there year-round.


The house at Panabutan featured front and back porches, both upstairs and downstairs. Upstairs there were two bedrooms with a hall in between. The area around the house was kept clear so that we could see people or animals approaching. From time to time, 20-30 Moro vintas would sail north with brass and weavings to trade in the Visayas. They would go up with the southwest monsoon and come back with the northeast monsoon. On the way back they would stop at Panabutan, and tend those among them who had been wounded while raiding Christian villages. Once we had 40 vintas on the two-mile beach. All I [Tom] had was a 22-caliber rifle. "I was very diplomatic. I asked what they wanted and they said, water. I said they could use all they wanted. They asked for cocoanuts. I said I only sold cocoanuts, so they could work for them--for every 10 cocoanuts they dropped they could have one. Normally, I sold each nut for 10 cents."


A water-tank caught water off the galvanized roof and we used it for drinking and cooking. First you bathed in salt water and then rinsed with the rainwater. We dug a shallow well for the animals. We ate fish, chicken, wild pig, crocodile--basically living off the land. Rarely, we had deer. We had a radio to receive broadcasts.


The stuff of life in the southern Philippines – Jolo, Zamboanga, and Panabutan – inspired Blanche to write several articles for publications in the Philippines and United States.43 She also prepared a typescript called “Mrs. Robinson Crusoe,” with a foreword dated October 1940. She had sent chapters of this to daughter Sue in the late 1930s, and gave the entire manuscript to son Steve in 1939 on the last trip he made to the Philippines from Tokyo.44 She evidently entered her “book” in a contest organized by the Atlantic Monthly in 1941 and won second prize.45

Uncle Tom remembered: “Toots had it – the quality of imagination and exaggeration – but could tell difference between imagination and real life. All the Walkers had a tendency to exaggerate…. [I] would say, ‘Mom, how can you say that--it's a bald-faced lie!!’ Blanche would say, ‘Oh, that's just an embellishment.’" In Tita Cecil’s family, this gift for story-telling became known as “embroidery”! Blanche’s writing is certainly colorful and unselfconscious, and it was a dear wish of hers that her manuscript would someday be published, to share her love of the southern Philippines and its people. “Her book” has circulated in the family, but never been published.


Blanche remained in pretty good health during the early 1930s. Son Tom remembered that she had lockjaw --"my father would have thought it was a blessing." But she had no heart disease or arthritis, although she claimed she couldn't knit as well when she got older. Then in 1936 she noticed a nodule on her right breast. A biopsy was done in Zamboanga, but Tom took her to Manila in early 1937 for a radical mastectomy (right breast) at the Hospital Espanol de Santiago in Santa Ana. Tom took a job with a mining company in the mountains for about ten days and then took her back south. Toots also had a lump on her arm [upper left], and on her leg;46 she writes of “cancer again, in two different places” in March 1939. She was told if she could get through five years, she'd be fine; but at four-and-a-half years something new would always happen.


After trying unsuccessfully to sell her plantation during 1938, Blanche bought a place near Manila in February 1939.47 She was not keen to leave Panabutan, but with the recurrences of cancer and her doctor’s advice to get her affairs in order, she decided it would be good to be closer to medical care, if not “too near to either of the girls.” She and Tom first went to see if there were any properties the bank was foreclosing on; the bank vice president said, no, but sent her up to Tagaytay, “30 minutes from the Escolta on the ridge of mountains overlooking Taal Lake and Taal volcano.” The place she and son Tom found was “a furnished house, a battery radio set, our own electric light plant, our own water plant, a garage, and servants quarters…and 8,166 square meters of land” – for the bargain price of P 7,000. She decided to rent the plantation, while still trying to find a buyer, and appears to have moved to Tagaytay in late 1939.48


In 2005, Peter Parsons shared memories of visiting his grandmother at the Tagaytay house: sleeping in the bunk beds upstairs and the smell of fresh red paint, playing old maid and Blanche looking for the reading glasses that were on top of her head, and garden patches where peanuts and sweet potatoes (camote) grew.


Meanwhile, tensions were rising in the Orient, and Blanche and her children were profoundly affected. Sons Steve, Jr. and Tom were with the Navy and Army, respectively.49 Daughter Sue sailed for the United States with her three children Oct. 3, 1941. Only Katsy and her family remained in Manila, where they felt somewhat protected due to her husband’s status as Panamanian consul (among other things). They spent Christmas of 1941 with Blanche in Tagaytay.


Having moved to the Manila area, Blanche worked at Heacock’s Department Store and with the radio station KZRH, in the same building, on a children’s program. She was remembered as “the Story Lady” and studio mother. Samboyd Stagg, who was about 14 at this time, recalled her as “a fantastic storyteller…you could feel the atmosphere. I was a little old for fairy tales, but I really enjoyed hearing her tell them.” When not entertaining the kiddies or the grown-ups with stories, she [filled] in the spare time with script-writing – or, if there [was] anything else to do, she [did] that, too.50 Samboyd felt that Blanche was “very resourceful” about making a living.


Tom last saw his mother November 17, 1941, on the sidewalk in front of the Heacock Building, where KZRH was, on the Escolta in Manila. He recalled, "I was concerned with getting through Manila Bay as a mine field had been laid the month before and I was headed back to Cebu. We all knew war was coming: I had picked December 12th as the date." Tom's memory of this last conversation with Toots was that he urged her to go to the hills and stay there, saying, "I won't have a clue where you are with Manila occupied." She took her engagement ring off finger and gave it to Tom, who kept it with him through the war.51

After Pearl Harbor, Blanche played a larger role at the radio station and broadcast several times a day until the Japanese closed it, apparently suspicious.52 Also, having her sons with the Armed Forces put her in a risky place. As to what Toots did that eventually got her into trouble, daughter Katsy said: She stayed in Manila to collect money, food and supplies rather than going to the hills. The money and food was to survive, and she did get help to the resistance. This was “light guerilla work, getting people who wanted to be guerillas out of the city, bringing guerrillas into the city and hiding them, and passing on information…Generally, she was helping others – with food and medicine – so maybe that’s why she was sometimes called a ‘social worker.’”53 Son Tom added that Blanche had a short wave receiver on which she picked up news (including from William Winter, an announcer in San Francisco) that she would type up and disseminate to interested anti-Japanese people.54 She was not, he said, a coast watcher.


Katsy didn’t know why Blanche avoided going to the hills, unless it was because she wouldn't have been able to get the medical attention she needed.55 Katsy was in a position to know, because Blanche moved down from Tagaytay to stay with the Parsonses on Dewey Boulevard from April until they were repatriated in June 1942.56 Peter Parsons remembered sitting with his grandmother on a swing under a tree in their garden at dusk, and her explaining to him the difference between swallows and bats; reading with her on the house porch; and her telling him, “All weather comes from the same Allah.”


When the Parsons family left, the Enrico Pirovanos moved in, and Blanche – whom Enrico called “Blanquita” – stayed as well. However, Enrico was living there with a woman not his wife, a relationship Blanche didn’t think much of; nor did she want to care for the Pirovano children, as she was expected to. Less than a year after Katsy and her family left, Blanche was treated in March-April 1943, at St. Luke’s/Darby Hospital, for cancer recurring at the site of her mastectomy or in her other breast.57


During her recuperation from the surgery, at Emmanuel Cooperative Hospital, Blanche was reportedly inspired to engage more actively with the guerrillas working against the Japanese.

While there, Blanche met an American nurse and was approached by a Filipino named Major Franco Vera Reyes. Reyes told people in 1943 that he was sent by Chick Parsons, and apparently convinced both Helen Wilkes and Blanche of his bona fides, in part by conveying a message from Blanche to Chick urging Chick not to come to Manila. When Chick did not show up, Blanche took this to mean he had received her message. Another account says that Reyes delivered to Blanche a letter from Katsy, containing photos.


For whatever reasons, Blanche put her trust in Reyes, and when he came to the hospital for information she would put a note where he would get it. She also began accepting and cashing checks and chits to assist the guerillas.58 The American nurse was writing “news updates” for the guerillas – about rice problems, etc. – but Blanche felt the woman was too religious and the bulletins needed “more fight,” so she began writing them (though she tried to destroy all copies afterwards).

Blanche was recovering from surgery (still? once more?) at the Emmanuel Hospital on Tayuman in Tondo in August 1943.59 Perhaps her original wounds never healed properly – and it appears that she led the Japanese doctor who came to assess her progress to believe the recuperation was even slower than it was, in order to have him approve an extension for her stay there after each visit. This way she was able to continue her work with Reyes and the American nurse, getting support to the guerillas.


Still, Blanche was under close observation throughout 1943 and her movements outside of the hospital compound were watched. The Mother Superior of the Emmanuel Hospital/ Immaculate Conception Convent confirmed that Blanche visited Bishop Binstead and Helge Jansen, the Swedish Consul in Manila, in mid-January 1944. Blanche reportedly “demanded copies of harbor defense plans, which she believed were in the consul’s safe” – evidence, these friends believed, of the terrific mental strain under which she had been working, not to mention her poor health. Blanche was also concerned about her will, and told the Bishop that she would make copies for him and the consul, but these were not delivered before she was arrested two weeks later.


The events of late 1943 and early 1944 were described to Chick Parsons in a letter of July 1944: [At] Xmas 1943 the CO of the organization with whom I worked, an American Scout Cavalry officer [Ramsey, leader of largest guerilla group in PI],60 decided to come to Manila, and I met him. His greatest desire was to establish contact with the South and he was trying in every possible direction. Gerbec had invited me to celebrate Xmas in his house and there was also a Mrs. Laughton, Jap girl married to Gus Laughton of Singer Sewing Machines, neighbors of yours in Pasay, who lived with your mother-in-law in the same convent [Immaculate Conception]. She was all in a worry because your mother-in-law had had words with one of the sisters in the convent and as a result wanted to move to the Emmanuel Hospital. There was still one American doctor and two nurses at that hospital, one of whom was, apparently, a great friend of hers. I happened to know that the place was under constant Jap surveillance – in fact our organization knew the spies who were assigned to that job, so I decided to warn her, knowing that at least she was receiving messages from you and fearing that not only she but also the messengers might be spotted if she moved there. I went to see her and told her about it and she took me into her confidence to a certain extent. She knew about my work, how, I don’t know, and told me she was engaged in similar work.


She was very grateful for my warning and told me she had contact with the outside world. Knowing that our CO needed contact desperately, I asked her permission to speak to him about it and she promised to arrange an interview with her “boss” if I wanted it. I hotfooted it out to our CO and he authorized me to arrange an interview if I thought he was trustworthy. So I again asked her to arrange for a meeting, which she did on the next day, Dec. 29. I met him at her convent that morning and after introducing us she left us alone. He was a Mr. Reyes, a tall Filipino who always went to the convent with a dozen eggs as a pretext. He talked to me for about 90 minutes. He claimed to be the direct representative of the War Dept in Manila, to have been to Australia and returned in 1942, that all sub-commanders in PI waters had orders to report to him, and many other things which left me incredulous. He refused to see our CO, because as he said he might risk his job, but offered a choice of three of his officers to meet him. I said I’d ask the CO and we arranged to meet next day at Gerbec’s [on the corner of] Carriedo and Rizal.


I went out to our CO and strongly dissuaded him from seeing the man, as I was not at all satisfied and the man was not of the caliber to be picked by the War Dept for such a job. He called himself CIO-12 obviously meaning Chief Intelligence Officer #12. Next day I met him and told him that our CO had left hurriedly for the mountains as there had been a shooting affair and one of his officers had been killed. I also told him to call me up a week later and gave him my telephone number.


On Jan. 2, I went to see your mother-in-law and as tactfully as I knew how warned her, as in the meantime I had gotten the organization to check on him and found out that there was strong suspicion he was a racketeer if not an outright Jap stoolpigeon. She told me she had been working with him since March 1943 and that he had been recommended to her by a certain Col. Buenafe who had been working for Col. Hugh Straughn and [had been] in Fort Santiago since July. She had been working with Straughn and Buenafe before [March 1943].61 She said that when word came thru other channels that you wanted to come to Manila, she wanted to send word back thru the same channel that you should not do so, but was told to use her own channel. She asked Reyes to send the message and you did not come. She also said she had sent a letter thru Reyes to Mike Elizalde in Washington and had received a reply from him, again thru Reyes, which could not have been written by anyone but Mike as certain matters were alluded to in that letter which no outsider could have known of. She gave other reasons for being convinced that Reyes was what he pretended to be. I told her I would check further and asked her to be very careful in the meantime, agreeing to let her know the instant I found out anything.


I set to work and unearthed the fact that Reyes was suspected by his own officers, one of whom had had a tiff with him over trying to check up on him, but had strong reason to believe that he was selling promissory notes with 2 signatures of supposed US Army officers when the signatures according to an expert were made by the same hand. I found out that he had a pass from Col. Nagahama, Jap Military Police Commander, acquaintance with whom he had admitted to me. I also found out that he had been convicted of an embezzlement charge some years before the war.


On Jan. 27, Monday, I sent word to your mother-in-law I would like to see her in the afternoon; Mrs. Laughton took the verbal message in the morning as she had spent the weekend with the Gerbecs and we went downtown in his correlcha (?) together. The cochero brought a note back telling me not to come and to take a vacation in the country if I could. I knew something had happened but did not act on her advice. The only danger to me would have been from Reyes and in a third interview I had had with him I believe to have confused him enough to make him at least uncertain of my active connection with the whole underground. I knew there was no proof against me, and it was well known by that time that if no proof could be found against anyone a spy had turned in the spy would be …[unclear] and the previous suspect released, so I felt fairly safe.


On Jan. 26 [sic: Samboyd says 29], the Japs arrested Mrs. Stagg with her son, who, I later found out, had been raising funds for Reyes’ organization, and it was probably that information which prompted your mother-in-law to send me that warning note. On the 1st of February, at 3 am, the Jap MPs broke into the convent – their bell-ringing wasn’t immediately answered – and after hammering on all the cell doors and frightening everyone out of his wits, took Mrs. Jurika with them in a car. Mrs. Laughton, hysterical still 36 hours afterwards, told me all about it in the afternoon of Feb. 2. She was with one of the sisters – one who had actively collaborated with your mother-in-law – and 2 days later they came back to take the sister. On the early morning of Feb. 4 they took Mr. Palomares of the Bank of the PI, who had received some money from your mother-in-law to redeem certain notes she evidently had maturing there. As Gerbec had taken the money there and the cancelled notes back to your mother-in-law, I immediately warned him. I had decided by then not to sleep at my house any more and after removing carefully all traces of my activity had left the house to the servants….”


Tipped off by Reyes, the police had found the checks, some papers, and family photos that Blanche had; while she had been careful not to keep evidence in her room, it was discovered - and she “talked too much.” Having arrested Blanche, the Japanese took her, blindfolded, to a certain room at Santo Tomas University. Mrs. Jurika did not know she was there. She was asked to point out pro-Americans and some people engaged in anti-Japanese espionage. She knew who they were but she did not squeal…She was at the STU for only 10 minutes…”62


Blanche was imprisoned at Old Fort Santiago, with five other women. One was Mrs. Foley, the wife of a minister at the Union Church (and her son?).63 Others were the American doctors, Clara Ruth and Hawthorne Darby (cousins), Helen Wilkes, administrator of the Emmanuel Hospital, and Mary Boyd Stagg, a minister’s wife who’d been arrested a few days before Blanche.64


A 90-day “investigation” began into Blanche’s and others’ activities: the CIO-12 case. The methods used were lengthy interrogations – hours of direct questioning by investigators with the help of an interpreter, followed by various tortures: buffeting, boxing, whipping, burning, removing nails, and “other unimaginable ways of giving pain,” such as the water cure.65 Conditions in Fort Santiago were terribly grim. Blanche was held in a cell down a long, dark, cobbled corridor full of padlocked wooden doors.66 A cell could hold from seven to 23 people, but Blanche was kept isolated from Mrs. Stagg and Dr. Darby, considered to be her principal “co-conspirators.”67


A prisoner who arrived in April 1944 wrote:68 “There seemed to be no space for me and my [two] children. What we were supposed to do…was go to the end of the hall where there was a covered hole which the women used for their latrine, and lie or sit down there, on the wooden cover. The woman occupying the latrine would in turn go near the door and make her “home” there.


I made my way to the covered hole, but the lady occupying this most unsanitary place in the cell would not give it up. She told me that my children would not be able to stand it there. She insisted it was not healthy for their delicate constitutions. While I stood marveling at the sacrifice that this very kind lady was making, a hand grasped my arm and led me near the door. She told me that I must take her place, there where my babies had more chance to breathe the less putrid air. I put my children to bed in this place that was vacated by this lovely lady. I could not sleep. Many emotions gripped me…They bound me quickly to my cellmates and made me love them. I could not recognize a face, the light was only a ten-watt globe in a ceiling socket 12 feet above our floor. But I felt the hands that squeezed mine, I saw the nods of comfort from my companions who forgot their own miseries so that my fears might seem less.


Around six o’clock in the morning, the women started to get up. They went one by one to the end of the room where the hole was now uncovered and functioning as a benjou (Jap: latrine). It was no longer a bed for the woman who had befriended me. In the morning light, I saw she was Madame Blanche Jurika. Some of the women went to the same end of the room, about eight feet from the benjou, where there was a faucet, turned upward, from which they drank water. Even though it was several feet away from the benjou, the odor was anything but pleasant…At seven o’clock a guard shouted “Tengko!,” which I learned meant roll-call for the prisoners. We formed…two rows [of] ten at either side of the room. Behind us and to our right and left were solid wooden walls. In front, facing the hallway, were closely space wooden bars from floor to ceiling. These bars were covered by a heavy mesh screen, with a tiny hinged window and squeaky four-foot door that opened from the outside.


While roll call continued throughout the camp, those in Cell Number 5 communicated in soft voices – Helen Wilkes prayed and spoke inspirational words; Sister Mary Trinita, an American who was Superior of the Maryknoll Sisters, led the group in a rosary…Blanche participated in all these forms of worship. When [a shout in Japanese announced that] roll call was finished…we all had to go back to our places and sit down facing the door, which opened in the direction of the emperor’s palace in Tokyo.


Breakfast around 7:30 was thin rice gruel dished into shallow saucers and passed through the window. Plenty of precious food was spilled from the kettle…but the dishers were not interested…. It was just too bad if the dish that spilt belonged to you…I was not hungry…in spite of the women coaxing me into eating my portion. I laughed inside myself when I saw these very fine women contesting for my [share]…passed around to all the other 19 women in the cell. I noticed that Madame Jurika would not take from my dish, so that Sister St. Louis, with the weak lungs, had an extra half a teaspoonful.


These women…did not eat, they simply put the saucers to their mouths and swallowed the lugao as fast as their forefingers could push it into their mouths…Ten minutes later, I realized why all etiquette had to be foregone. There was the disher who shouted…[to] hurry up with the plates…The prisoners had to have swallowed their food, drunk a little water from the slow flowing faucet, and then washed the plates, so that they would be clean when the disher called for them – all in ten minutes. Upon handing over her plate…, each prisoner was supposed to thank him and give him a bow, otherwise, it would just be too bad for that [person], or maybe for the entire cell, as there would be no food the next meal, at about four in the afternoon, the same pitiful…lugao.69


We had to sit for 12 hours, with the exception of eating periods, from seven in the morning to seven at night.70 Another roll call followed, after which we must lie down to sleep. We could get up only to go to the latrine, but even this must not be done too often, as the guards did not like it – and besides it would disturb the poor prisoner who occupied the latrine cover as her bed.


Prisoners were called out one by one, and accompanied by two guards to what we presumed to be the torture chamber. One day, Mrs. Jurika’s name was called. When she came back she was stooping. She said they had her kneel on mongo beans scattered over the cement floor while she was being interrogated. When she refused to answer, they pushed her from the back and when she hit the floor it was hard for her to get up again.


It was after one of these sessions that I offered to massage Mrs. Jurika. While massaging her, she would tell me, “Bless you, my child. It makes me feel so good. Bless you!” I became the masseuse in our cell and I was also the youngest [19]…Once she said: “You must read my book when we go out.” I would often massage her due to her pain in the head. She always had a headache….She would tell me: “I should be the one to massage you because you are black and blue (from the beatings I suffered). She would ask me to look straight into her eyes (I think she was blue-eyed), so that I could mirror myself to her. This was our game she played for my benefit since I could feel the pain. She would repeatedly say, “When we all go home, we will all go to the hospital.”


Occasionally, the women prisoners were allowed to go to the shower in the patio. It was actually in the Japanese sentries’ latrine. There the emaciated women were allowed to wash their hair and clothes. They ordinarily had only the clothes they wore upon their arrest, so these took an awful beating in the simple process of washing…or rather rinsing without benefit of soap. Prisoners could…leave their clothes in the sun and have them delivered to them later by the trusty in charge…but this was too risky, as no one could afford to lose a single item from her scanty wardrobe. So…a woman prisoner…would take [her clothes] to her cell, catch the edges of the cloth in a crevice of the wall and in half an hour the garment would be dry…It was that hot within the cells…


Bodily cleanliness depended on how many showers we were allowed. We were not supposed to use the faucet in the cell for washing…. Our faces were washed in our own sweat, and our hands (which we used as silverware) were washed only when we rinsed our plates. No toothbrush was allowed…unless [someone] had a friend who was a spy for the Japanese. There was one comb, greasy, dirty, and lousy, one comb only that was used by the entire population of Fort Santiago. We had to ask the guard…and if we were good…we got it, perhaps once a week. The men prisoners did not bother very much about combing their hair, so it was…the women who kept the comb in circulation. We were not allowed to carry any kind of a pin into the cell, not even a hairpin. So, the women looked like witches, especially the ones who were just starting to let their hair grow long again, after the boy’s haircuts they had adopted in the early occupation days.


Blanche was one of two women who had luxuriant long hair that made them look different from the other women – beautiful, despite their gaunt, lean faces71….But the long-haired heads were thickly inhabited by lice [that] made these poor women exceedingly miserable. You see, the lice sucked the very blood…and since there was so little food that loss of blood was felt keenly. These were not the only things that lived with us in our cells. There were also the body lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, mice, and mosquitoes. Altogether, they made sleep almost impossible. No, one did not have to be tortured in Fort Santiago, to die…all that was necessary was imprisonment in these cells and soon one would die, just as the mice died with us in our cells, for lack of food.


Each morning, at our line-up for roll call, Madame Jurika was tall and erect. Though somewhat disheveled, her graying hair added to her stately carriage as she proudly held up her head. After roll call, she walked straight back to her place, as if she were returning to a throne she had but temporarily vacated. All her almost six-feet of height bespoke breeding and poise. Yes, I knew here, everyone in the Philippines knew Blanche Jurika, “Madame Jurika.” She went back to the latrine cover which she occupied so that my two little children might have less putrid air to breathe…Her face was quite serene as she sat in her little place, there was no fear at all…I could detect a sense of pride, even, in the set expression on her face. It seemed she would do whatever it was – again, with no regard to the consequences.


Naturally, I was anxious to talk to her. I wanted to tell her how proud I was of her. I wanted to let her know that many Manilans were still alive solely because of her generosity. I wanted to let her know that our fight…was growing stronger because of the part she had so gallantly played. I wanted to tell her that Sue and I had known each other since were we at the University of California together. I knew that any news about her family would be comforting to this woman whose heart was bigger than the prison that held her. But we prisoners were not supposed to talk to each other. The Japs would bear us both if they caught us… We were not allowed even to lean back against the wall, nor to whisper, nor to move our lips. I was not afraid for myself, but I was afraid for this very wonderful person who looked as if she could not stand much more punishment…


Soon, I pretended I needed to go to the latrine where she was sitting. Quietly, I said I knew her daughter, Sue. For the first time, I saw in this almost always smiling face, tears start flowing, and between heavy sobs, she said, “I wonder how my children are?” I assured her that I had heard that they were all well and for her not to worry about them. Her eyes were dark rimmed and the flesh around them, black. I could not speak. I had not realized that she had all those spots while we were standing in line. So I just motioned around my eyes as if to ask her why she had those marks around hers…She did not answer. She just smiled again as she bravely pressed my hand.


[Some time later] I saw her and the other women prisoners going to the shower, at the Jap guards’ latrine. I immediately rushed to Madame Jurika’s side. It happened that I had just been notified by my Jap investigator that I was being released soon. I told this news to Madame Jurika, and asked what message she wanted to send to her relatives and friends. There was no time to lose. There were Japs all over and if I tarried too long with her my chances of release might be spoiled. Madame Jurika talked in a great hurry, “Tell my friends that the Americans are coming soon and that they must keep faith.”


In this short conversation, I noticed that she had great difficulty in speaking. I asked what the Japs had done to her. She answered that [they] had subjected her to the ghastly torture called the “water cure.”72 They also had beat her on the head, affecting her speech. It seemed to me the jaw was dislocated, from the way she held her mouth.


About a week after this, while I was cleaning the Jap latrine, my assigned duty at the time, I heard a great commotion outside…I heard a guard shouting in broken English, “You say you graduate of Cornell? Take this…and see if you can solve this problem.” He was beating Madame Jurika with his fist and yanking her hair cruelly. I understood from another Jap that she had wanted a pair of scissors so that she could cut her hair. She had told the guard, who was in a bad mood, that she was suffering from lice and dirt and wanted to cut her hair to lessen her suffering. Instead of granting her modest request, he sent her back to her call with her eyes blacker than ever. She looked miserable indeed, more miserable than at any time I had ever seen her.


About two weeks later, Madame Jurika again suffered the brunt of Jap brutality. In the same latrine that had become my “hangout,” I saw a guard slapping her, calling her loco (Sp: crazy). I did not know what was the cause of this punishment, and dared not inquire. She bore the slaps bravely. As the sight made me sick to my stomach, I left the latrine…


One day, when I had the chance to talk again to Madame Jurika, in the Jap latrine, she told me that she needed soap very badly as she was suffering from amoebic dysentery. She would be ever so grateful if I could tuck the soap in a certain place in the women’s shower. My babies stole, actually and cleverly stole, food and soap and offered both to her. She refused the food and took only the soap. She saw that others needed the food more than she did: such was her nobility. I knew she was hungry, for the prison fare was not only insufficient, but also abominable.


One time, when the babies were offering her food, there was a chance for us to speak, as the guards were busy elsewhere. I asked her what she would do after the war, since she was so sure of MacArthur’s return to the Islands. She told me, with a dreamy but determined look in her eyes, that she would have her manuscript published. That was her goal, and she believed it would contribute some good to the cultural world. I did not stop to ask what sort of book it was. Then she added that it was her dream that Sue might become a journalist or novelist. The time would also come for that, she said.


Day by day, as she came out to take her shower, I noticed that her health was failing. Her eyes had lost their luster; her face was swollen, apparently from constant beating. As time went by, her face became expressionless. She stared blankly as if trying to catch a vision, somewhere in the future. She spoke seldom now, but clearly when she did. She prayed constantly. Whenever I would speak to her, she would say, “Pray, go on and pray.” She seemed to find solace in her communion with God and her faith that there was a purpose in everything.


In May, about 50 people were “convicted” of guerilla activities and given sentences of 15 years in Bilibid Prison. Blanche was convicted of “rendering assistance to and giving financial support to guerilla organizations.”73 Although women were given slightly better treatment than the men, older prisoners were spared nothing; and, from March, Blanche’s health had deteriorated seriously – apparently from the ravages of her recurring cancer as well as treatment in Fort Santiago.74 Sometime just before her sentencing, Blanche appears to have “cracked under the strain” (REC). Dr. Darby, imprisoned with her, diagnosed dementia, evidenced by Blanche’s belief that she was broadcasting and her insistence on calling for an interpreter to insist that the inquiry into her work continue.


Nonetheless, Blanche was taken to Bilibid on May 15/in the third week of May. “We rode in open trucks. We left in the morning and arrived before lunch. We were made to lie on the floor and were blindfolded with bayonets pointed at our heads…Even bobby pins were taken from us in case we wanted to commit suicide. Upon arrival we were made to line up. Then…to dip ourselves first in hot, then, cold, water….we were given prison uniforms but none of us wanted to use the used prison uniforms…But we all became closer at Bilibid since we had nothing else to do and it was easier to talk.”


Poor Blanche by this time was suffering greatly; all the eye-witness accounts make this clear. Because of her condition, she was isolated most of the time.75 Those in neighboring cells could hear her crying out for Bobby, Tommy, and Charlie [Chick Parsons?], and passing sleepless nights. The Japanese would make fun of her and often torture her during these periods when “she seemed to have lost her mind.” Then she would refuse to eat anything until she became so weak she could only lie on the floor. At this point, the Japanese would assign either Mrs. Mary Boyd Stagg or Dr. Hawthorne (or Clara?) Darby, or both, to take care of her. Having been kept separate from her co-accused at Fort Santiago during the “investigation,” Blanche must have taken great comfort in their company in Bilibid. Under their care, she would “act normal again.”


The food in Bilibid was similar to that in Fort Santiago – from mid-May til the end of July, rice and pumpkin cooked in different ways. Then from August, as the economic situation deteriorated and the Japanese were clearly not “winning,” it became poorer and poorer – very often just a little rice and kangkong (?).


Blanche and others were court-martialed in August. One prisoner recalled Japanese officers arriving from Tokyo to conduct the proceedings. The accused sat on crude benches. The Japanese would call names, but many were too weak and could not stand up or even raise their hands. “We held each other. Praying. Some were given sentences. Some would be executed. Dr. Darby held Mama Blanche.” 76


Blanche’s family learned officially of her incarceration only nine months after she was arrested (late October 1944).77 They were frantic and sought information through their networks, but learned little. Meanwhile, at least one US media report, based on a German source, had appeared, describing her as the head of a “large guerilla corps” and announcing her detention by the Japanese.78 The first real news they had was through Tom Jurika as the war was ending, when he was in the San Bernardino Straits around the end of 1944: he heard his mother had been arrested around a year earlier and held at Fort Santiago.


Tom Jurika arrived in Manila February 4, 1945, with the second group of US military into the city. The first group had arrived the night before; he came in at eight the next morning. He'd spent the night of Feb. 3 in Balintawak, about 10 miles north of Manila, having crossed through the Japanese lines at San Fernando, 40 miles north of the city. From Balintawak, he and about five others fought off a small group of Japanese. Then they drove a truck on the railroad tracks into town, reaching Santo Tomas Feb. 4 and finding that the Army had gotten there the night before. The prisoner-of-war camps were liberated one by one in the weeks that followed, but it was some time before Blanche’s fate became known.79


Desperate, Tom "looked for her everywhere"; when Bob Cecil was liberated from Santa Tomas (Feb. 24), although very weak, he tried to help – as did Chick Parsons. This task must have been unimaginably hard for Tom and Chick, who had remained at liberty during the war, and especially for Chick, whose fear that Blanche’s relationship to him was at least in part the cause of her internment and torture later was confirmed.


On February 23, Tom was walking down a hallway in the Port Area building serving as the US Army intelligence (CID) headquarters. Rooms were full of investigators interrogating witnesses to Japanese atrocities, suspected sympathizers as well as known collaborators. Passing an open doorway, he heard his own last name, "Jurika," mentioned inside the room. He immediately entered, and asked those present which Jurika was being discussed – his mother or his brother (Steve)? It turned out that the man being questioned was Richard Sakakida.80 Sakakida said it was Blanche Jurika, and that he knew she had been executed. After talking for some time, Sakakida agreed to show Tom the mass graves, and Tom arranged for him to be released from interrogation in order to do this.


In coming weeks, they visited three mass graves. In four days, they found nothing at the first two sites; Tom said if they didn't find his mother's remains in the third, he would bury Sakakida alive on the spot. Tom believed they had found her remains in the third grave by early March 1945. After only five months, the remains in the grave included clothing and long hair that could only have belonged to women.81


In subsequent months, through military interrogations and privately conducted interviews, the story unfolded. Several days after the court martial at Bilibid, one morning after breakfast, names were called out: Blanche’s was the first. All those called went to the bathroom, even the men. When they came out they had light blue tulle clothing material, one meter each, that they could still look through and cover their heads. So that they could not come back to us, they exited through the other door. They were loaded into two big trucks; soldiers threw shovels and picks inside, too. First the women entered, then the men; they were tied to each other. The trucks were crowded.82 The group was taken to a deserted spot, a nondescript field, in the Chinese cemetery in north Manila, where an open grave had been prepared. The death sentence was read to them at the graveside. Their bodies fell into the ground as they were executed, and the same grave was used for all of them.83


Blanche was executed August 30, 1944, just as the war was ending, along with 28 other martyrs – most evidently betrayed by Reyes. Four other women were beheaded in the same grave: Dr. Darby, Mrs. Stagg, Mrs. Wilkes, and a nun. Tom Jurika told Peter Parsons that Reyes, the traitor, was killed with those he betrayed. Because it was more honorable to die by the sword, Reyes was shot in the head instead and buried with the "heroes." However, his name is not recorded on the grave; there is just a blank marble square without a name, 29 heroes and a traitor, the 30th square.


Sakakita had read the death sentence aloud in English, witnessed the execution and confirmed that Blanche and the other women all were killed on the orders of Yamashita, the commanding general of the Philippines at liberation.84

The inscription on the "Heroes Monument" in the North Cemetery reads:


To the memory of those brave men and women who undefeated in defeat, carried on the first after the fall of Bataan. To those who while not bearing arms, organized and assisted the Phillipine resistance and who in so doing laid down their lives so that we might live. And particularly to those herein named who in the morning of August 30, 1944 were executed by the Japanese army for their fearlessness, invincibility and extraordinary valor. This memorial is proudly dedicated.


It is also dedicated to all the heroes of all resistance movements all over the world who fell in the struggle for liberty when the fight seemed hopeless and the night darkest.


Blanche’s name is the first one on the monument, at upper left.85 Did she know what was in store for her? Hopefully, not until the last moment. The Japanese practice was to keep prisoners ignorant of the terms of their sentence, until they were delivered to the prison or place where they would serve it. Blanche set out for an unknown destination on August 30 – and the other prisoners thought initially that she and those with her would be taken to Fort McKinley or the Women’s Correctional Institution. R. Sakakida read out the death sentence only when the prisoners were standing at what would be their gravesite.


We all still talk about Blanche when we are at family gatherings. Her legend, a mixture of history and myth, is very much alive.


Blanche and Stefan Jurika had:


Susanna Elizabeth (“Sue”), b. 30 Oct 1909, Jolo, Sulu Islands; d. 17 Jun 1961, car accident near Lovelock, NV; Cecil-Myers Cemetery, Sandwich, NH. m. Zamboanga, Philippine Islands, 27 Jul 1929, Robert E. Cecil (b. 17 Jul 1906, d. 17 Jun 1961; Cecil-Myers Cemetery, Sandwich, NH)


Steven (aka “Bob”), b. 9 Dec 1910, Los Angeles, CA; d. 15 Jul 1993, Menlo Park, CA, of cancer of the small intestine; Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Los Altos, CA. m. 8 Jan 1938 in Coronado CA, Lillian Ursula Smith (b. 11 Apr 1920, Parris Island, SC; d. 1 May 2011, Los Altos, CA).


Katrushka Rozhenka, b. 15 Feb 1912, Zamboanga; d. 2 Aug 1982, Makati, Manila, of pancreatic cancer; Muntinlupa Cemetery, 10 m. south of Manila. m. Zamboanga, Philippines, 15 Oct 1928, Charles (Chick) Thomas Parsons (b. 20 Apr 1900, Shelbyville, TN; d. 12 May 1988, Manila; Muntinlupa Cemetery).


Thomas Walker, b. 9 Jan 1914, Zamboanga; d. 14 Apr 1997, Sarasota, FL, of skin cancer. Ashes scattered on “Kidwell Hill,” Marin Co., CA. m. Berkeley, CA, 18 Mar 1946, Virginia Laurene (Ginny) Kidwell (b. 2 Jan 1919, Zamboanga, PI; d. 22 Dec 2003, San Rafael, CA; ashes scattered)


James (“Jimmy”), b. 1919 Zamboanga; d. two days later.


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