1. Were you ever afraid you wouldn’t be liberated?
“No. Beginning in September 1944, the Americans started bombing different targets in Manila. We knew they landed in Leyete in October. We knew they were on their way. The talk always was, ‘When our boys get here.’ My mother had a little bit of lipstick left. She was saving it for ‘when our boys get here.’ When the Americans arrived, she wouldn’t go see them until she had put on her lipstick.”
2. What kinds of food did you fantasize about?
“Food was all we thought about. We talked about nothing other than food. Every night, my family would play a game where we would order food. I would order pork chops. My brother and sister would say that’s what they wanted to, but then they would ask what are pork chops? My sister never remembered good food, and my brother had nothing other than lugao in his life. People would obsess about food. That’s all they ever talked about. Women put together cookbooks. Not being able to taste the food, they would create recipes with crazy ingredients.”
3. Did your parents eat less so that you could have more?
“Yes. Though my father worked in the kitchen, we weren’t able to get extra. He made sure that people didn’t steal anything. He was very fair. We had to wait in line at the chow hall with everyone else. My father would give you an extra spoonful. We didn’t realize that he was hungry, too. By the end, my mother weighed only 78 pounds. She used to weigh 148. My father had to carry her to see the Americans when they arrived. She was very close to dying.”
4. What was it like when the Americans arrived?
“It was very exciting. You can imagine the thrill. I was watching him an upstairs window. The ground began to shake. Then the tank with its searchlight broke through the gate. We couldn’t believe that our boys had finally come. We had to go down to see them. We had to touch the tank. They gave us candy, and we ate it until we had diarrhea. We didn’t sit down all night.”
5. How long was it until you were able to return to America?
“The Battle of Manila went on for a month after we were liberated. We couldn’t go anywhere then. It was too dangerous. In the middle of March, we were flown to Leyte. It was in the middle of a typhoon. From there, we were put on a ship to America. We stopped in Hawaii, but didn’t get off the boat. We arrived in San Francisco just around the time President Roosevelt died.”
Ms. Jansen’s family settled in California. She is very active in civilian ex-POW causes. It is very important to her that this story be told, and that it be told accurately. She is currently in Manila, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Santo Thomas camp.
I want to thank Ms. Jansen for agreeing to this interview and for all the time that she spent with me helping me to get the details of Remember the Lilies just right.