BOOK REVIEW: WILL THERE BE WAR? There Was a War When I Was a Child

by Rose Cruz Churma

WILL THERE BE WAR? There Was a War When I Was a Child is a personal narrative, part of Ateneo de Manila University Press’ Biography/Autobiography series that covers the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. As author Lauro J. Jocson’s son writes in the foreword – this book not only recalls the horrendous hardships of the war years “but also makes people of my generation appreciate the things we take for granted.”

The bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred Dec. 7, 1941 triggered the US participation in World War II and the Philippines’ involvement since it was a U.S. colony at that time. The author was a nine-year-old boy when the Japanese occupied the Philippines soon after the bombing, arriving on Philippine shores in early 1942. 

In his acknowledgments, Jocson describes how he was part of University of the Philippines’ study on the experiences of civilians during the second World War. He was encouraged to expand his short manuscript into a full-length book.

The book describes Jocson’s recollection of the war years and what civilians endured – especially those living in the urban areas of Manila and its surroundings, including Malabon where his family’s home was located. The narrative is a straightforward description of what he experienced and his observations of his immediate surroundings. The simplicity of the retelling is what makes this an important document that chronicles an aspect of Philippine history. The author is neither a writer nor a historian, but a banker in his everyday life (a bank executive at Prudential Bank). It neither aspires to be a literary gem nor a history lesson—but an engaging narrative of one family’s struggle during the war.

The author dedicates this book to his father, Nicanor G. Jocson (pictured in the book’s cover), the first in his family who had the audacity to write his memoirs (a copy has since found its way at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hamilton Library archives). Perhaps his father’s memoir encouraged him to expand his writings into a full-length book, and for this, my generation and those behind me, will always be grateful.

ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a former President of the FilCom Center. She is also the co-owner of Kalamansi Books and Things, an online bookstore promoting works by Filipino Americans. For inquiries, email her at

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