We had just gotten the notice that the Japanese were coming.: Becoming Minnesotan

Belen Andrada receiving an award from the FMA seniors.
  • Name - Belen Andrada
  • Age at interview - 84
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 12.01.2010
  • Belen Andrada as a college student at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila.

    Filipino, War, Youth Experiences

    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The day after the Pearl Harbor attack on the U.S., December 8, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on U.S. and Philippine forces in the Philippines. Most of the outnumbered Americans and Filipinos retreated to the Bataan Peninsula, and were finally forced to surrender to the Japanese in April 1942. The Japanese occupation was harsh on the Filipinos, and many of them were forced into slave labor or threatened with other types of violence, and the invaders faced strong resistance from Filipino underground movements, bands of guerrilla fighters, and the remainder of the Philippine army. The resistance fighters managed to retake much of the islands from the Japanese before the war ended, including most of Luzon.

    To learn more about Filipino history and culture, visit our Filipino Community page.

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    Narrator: Belen Andrada (BA)

    Interviewer: Lita Malicsi (LM)

    LM: Would you have some recollection of family or personal experiences during World War II? What was it like?

    BA: Of course, of course, of course. The Japanese... When Pearl Harbor was bombed, we didn’t even know it happened. But we were practicing evacuation already before that. We were already practicing how to evacuate and that kind of thing. Then on this morning of December 8, now that is a holiday of obligation in the Philippines, because it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We were coming out of church and here was this truckload of Japanese being transported by the Army. Everybody was wondering what is happening. And then they said, “Pearl Harbor has just been attacked, so war has just been declared.” So I will never forget that morning. These Japanese that were on the truck were friends of ours! They were neighbors of ours. They lived right across the street towards the other end of our block. We were wondering what happened to them.

    LM: So these Japanese, they were residents?

    BA: Yeah, they were residents. They were residents.

    And of course, when the war broke out, then we started to evacuate and our training really became real. We went to bed with a bag beside us that has our extra clothes just in case we have to go unannounced. So for the whole four years, we went from one place to another, one house that we would rent for a while, and then move on because the Japanese were coming. There was even a time when we lived in the school, because that was the only thing available to us. However, we were kids, and this seemed like fun.

    And one day after our house was burned, the children went back to pick up the pieces and, here, we came home, sat in the kitchen, and we were looking at all these remnants of the fire, and laughing in the kitchen. And my father got so mad at us. He said, “What is so funny? I struggled for many years for those things, and that’s all you see right now.” But we were kids. When we would go on the — what do you call it? — the banca, or whatever, that was our transportation on the water, that was fun.

    LM: Yes.

    BA: We didn’t realize the seriousness of the thing, because everything that we did was just like going on a picnic.

    LM: So what did you mostly eat? What was food?

    BA: We had the regular... You know, we had rice and mostly fish was really available to us, especially when we evacuated by the sea. Every morning was fresh fish that they would be getting from the ocean. And again, all of that, when you look back, it was fun for us kids, not for our parents. Because my father would always say, “Hey, the older ones, you better eat less, so the younger ones can have their share.” We really learned to share with our brothers and sisters.

    It was just one thing after another. Like this one day when the Japanese were coming, and we were just getting ready. We just got the notice that the Japanese were coming, and so we started to get ready. And I got outside the house, and I think when the Japanese saw me, they wanted to just give us a warning, and they shoot in the air. And the shrapnel fell on my finger, and I screamed, “I am hit!” And here, it turned out that it was just my little finger. I looked at the tree where I was hiding and it was just a little tree. How could it protect me? Like I said, you have to put humor into this thing, because when you are scared, you don’t really know what to do.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: A Philippine outrigger canoe.


    Noun: Leaving a place in an orderly fashion; especially for protection.


    Noun:  A social, legal, or moral requirement, duty, contract, or promise that compels someone to follow or avoid a particular course of action.


    Noun: Memory; reminiscence; remembrance.


    Noun: A collective term for shot, fragments, or debris thrown out by an exploding shell or landmine.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 2126