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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, September 01, 2023

entry arrow8:28 PM | Escape to the Hills

I had no plans to read this book today. But I was coming off from my first day of renewed research for the literary history of Negros Oriental that I'm currently writing/finishing, and while I was searching for other things, I stumbled on an online copy of James and Ethel Chapman's wartime memoir Escape to the Hills (1947). [The Chapmans were missionary teachers at Silliman.] I scanned the first pages just because — but soon found myself riveted by its very engaging writing. I found myself reading it. It is so good, so thrilling. I loved having a fantastic mental picture of Dumaguete right before World War II broke out in the Pacific in December 1941. I loved the details of the inhabitants preparing for the war to come, rationing food and preparing shelter in the mountains. [Abby Jacobs was a super woman! Asteeeeg! University President Arthur Carson's order was for all the women and children to immediately evacuate Dumaguete when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, but she stayed behind in campus with the men, and went about the task of publishing The Daily Sillimanian, to print factual information about the war for the Dumaguete community, in order to combat the hysterical fake news they were already being bombarded by. She stayed on that job right until the very end, when she was forced to surrender it. Together with her family, she was eventually ferreted out of Negros via submarine, but stayed in Australia and found work with the military. She was with the liberation force that entered Manila in April 1945.] I loved that even with the war going on, James Chapman was still the fervent biologist that he was, going about their evacuation places still collecting plants and animals for study. [The section on ants is endearing! And the section on food was strangely delicious, and enlightening!] I loved that despite all the dangers, they still found time to set-up a "Jungle University," catering to the education needs of their neighbours in the mountains of Negros. I am truly amazed by the bravery and the resourcefulness of our early Silliman teachers. I have yet to go to the section that details their eventual interment at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila [yes, they were eventually captured by the Japanese], but already I'm loving this book! Sillilman University should be reprinting this valuable memoir. It's sad that we only know them now as buildings: Ethel Chapman is a building for nursing students, James Chapman is a science building, and Abby Jacobs is a residence hall.

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