Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Escape to the Hills

The book's title page.
I found Escape to the Hills when part of our clan’s ancestral house was demolished to make way for the construction of a new house—it was, rather, a renovation of the other half of the house. The old house stood in two lots. The other lot was sold so they had to cut the house in two. While constructions were going on, I found the book among the rubble—dirty, moldy and dank-smelling. I was intrigued by the book’s title and I also thought that the book was an antique. I slowly picked it up and hid it under my shirt like a thief.

The book has long been in my possession but just recently was I able to finish reading it, after several futile attempts. The past years I tried reading it ‘til the end but I always succumb to the book’s smell that, until now, lingers within its pages though not as strong as it was before.

Last month the boredom of being jobless has finally got me. Tired of playing a routine game of Defense of the Ancients, a custom scenario for the real-time strategy video game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, Warcraft III: The Frozen ThroneI searched through my books looking for my favorite English classics when I saw the book wrapped inside a bag of plastic from some well-known bookstore. Untouched and in the same state of wrapping that I did years ago. The nth time I picked up and read Escape to the Hills—the first time I read it through.

What really is this book and what is it about? Escape to the Hills is a book written by James and Ethel Chapman. The Chapmans were teachers in the Silliman Institute when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941. Regarded as enemy nationals—US Citizens—the Chapmans sought refuge in the mountains of Negros. The first few months they lived free, as fugitives, until eventually the Japanese captured them on November 27, 1942 and interned them in the University of Santo Tomas.

In 1947, Dr. and Mrs. Chapman published Escape to the Hills. The book’s 247 pages depict the life they led as free people in the mountains and as prisoners in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp.

Up until now I really don’t know who owns or owned this copy of Escape to the Hills. Nobody asked about it. Maybe a deceased relative used to own it. Then again, who cares?! Finders, keepers! 

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