For people living in the Philippine Islands, the usual celebratory holiday week that stretched from Christmas into the New Year was fraught with danger and uncertainty. The Japanese began bombing the Philippines on December 8, 1941, after they had concluded their attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 22, they launched an invasion at Lingayen Gulf on the main Philippine island of Luzon. American and Filipino forces, no match at this point for the Japanese, retreated to the presumed safety of the Bataan peninsula or the small island fortress of Corregidor.
The day after Christmas, General Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an open city, hoping to spare its destruction. The Japanese continued their bombing campaign as their troops headed for the capital city.
During those dangerous days and nights, Peggy Utinsky, an American woman living in the Philippines since the 1920s, worked as a nurse in one of the Manila hospitals and volunteered at a local soldiers’ canteen. For two precious days, her husband Jack managed to get away from his duties on Bataan to visit her. But Peggy’s medical skills were sorely needed, and she couldn’t take any additional time off to spend with him. Before she knew it, Jack was gone.
Gladys Savary, owner of the popular Manila eatery, the Restaurant de Paris, kept her business open during that hectic time. It proved a comforting diversion from the personal pain of biding goodbye to her nephew, Edgar Gable, who headed off to fight on Bataan. Gladys began New Year’s Day 1942 with a morning eggnog. Enemy forces, moving rapidly, were twenty miles from the city.