Posted tagged ‘Concerto’

Diary of the War – Family History During World War II

June 22, 2009

diary20of20war As a child, I was always fascinated about the nature and history of the world and everything in it. As early as I figured out how to read, I took a huge interest in science, history, and all things non-fiction. Seriously, I had more encyclopedias and World War II archives around than childrens books as a kid. Anyways, this interest in the relevant and real never went away as I grew up. As a matter of fact, as time went by I only grew more interested in exploring it all.

Fast forward to 2005, the year of my last summer trip to my hometown of Davao, Philippines. My extended family was kind enough to let me borrow a room at the family compound on Bonifacio St. in the middle of the city for the duration of my stay. I was free to come and go as I pleased and I did. I explored the city, saw family I hadn’t seen in forever, partied with my cousins, and generally had a really good time. That much was to be expected. What I didn’t foresee were the intrinsic rewards that came to me without ever having to leave the building at all.

The first part of this internal gain was learning how to tend bonsai trees with my Uncle Bibo and Auntie Norma. That was an every morning thing routine for us while I was there. I’d get up in the morning, run up to the rooftop, and one of them would always be up there already. I was curious and they were always available to teach me things, whether it be how to manicure the tree, re-pot the soil, etc. So that satisfied my learning capacity in reference to nature and I enjoyed every moment I spent on that roof with my relatives.

The other part of what I gained at Bonifacio has to do with my passion for history. You see, my grandparents (grand-aunts & uncle) had taken a lot of effort in showing me around the place after I arrived. I was exposed to family archives, documents, and photos that I’d never been exposed to before. And I learned a great deal about what my family went through during World War II, the last great war.

A quick summary of what I discovered below:


On December 6 of 1941, troops from the Japanese Imperial Army invaded my home city of Davao in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The Japanese empire wanted to capture our particular city because it offered wartime resources in its proximity to Japanese naval bases and also because it would play a key role in isolating American naval and air defenses.

Before the invasion it seemed that Davao was a fun place to be. It was the great city of trade in the south and had a particularly diverse population. At the time, Davao was teaming with Chinese, Japanese, and American ex-patriots, as well as the Filipinos of Spanish colonial heritage like us.

My family, specifically that of my maternal great-grandfather Anastacio Campo, was in the center of it all. As Provincial Commander of the City of Davao, he was firmly entrenched in local politics. Aside from his municipal duties, he was also a farmer during peacetime, much like some of my family still is today. He and his wife. along with their nine children, lived a fairly normal and fortunate existence.

Any sense of normalcy they had changed when the war started. Following the Japanese invasion, my great-grandfather immediately joined the United States Army Forces of the Far East (USAFFE), which was organized by US President Franklin Roosevelt in July of 1941. It was then that they became crucially involved in a very integral part of the shared history between the US and the Philippines. They worked feverishly during the war as part of the liberation movement against the Japanese invaders. Those in our family participated in many heroic and dangerous acts during the war such as: entertaining and supporting American POW’s in the Japanese prison camps, passing vital information to allied forces, and aiding in the release of American and Filipino prisoners of war. For these acts, my great-grandfather suffered at the hands of the brutal and feared Japanese Kempetai, who tortured him up until he was almost dead for information he never divulged.

Just recently, I had the joy of learning that a film based on my family’s history in Davao was produced. This movie, Concerto, by Paul Alexander Morales, has been featured in Politics on Film and has received nine nominations for the sixth Golden Screen Awards.

Below is the additional information about the film.


Digital Spirit Productions: Concerto, 2008: A Film by Paul Alexander Morales

IMDB: Concerto is about how, in the last part of World War II, a special piano concert is held in the forest outside Davao City, in Mindanao. In these boondocks, a displaced Filipino family, lead by Military Commander Ricardo and his wife Julia, become acquainted with a group of Japanese officers, similarly camped nearby. Their son Joselito, a Japanese speaker, becomes the conduit with the neighboring Japanese. Their daughters Niña, an aspiring concert pianist and the musically gifted, Maria, who is able to play by ear, are alternately repulsed and intrigued by the officers. Family values are questioned as the family treads the thin line between enmity and friendship with the occupying Japanese. Based on true stories from the director’s own family history, Concerto celebrates a family whose reverence for life, expressed through their love of music and friendship, can survive even war, and shows how beauty and compassion does grow in even the harshest of conditions.