On December 5, 1941, Captain Ron Black and Sergeant James Humphries departed Clark Air Base, Philippines for Baguio Air Base in northern Luzon on a routine flight. Their Martin B-10 bomber, “Manila Momma,” never reached Baguio. Rescue forces mounted a search but World War II cut short their efforts. “Manila Momma’s” disappearance remained a mysterious footnote until last year when an archeology team found the wrecked bomber in the jungle northeast of Baguio. The archeologists recovered James Humphries' diary and returned it to his family who graciously allowed us to publish this excerpt. We edited some personal comments; we did not alter the narrative of events.
Dec. 5, morning. Fine fix this is! We got caught above the clouds and missed Baguio on the first try. Capt. Black followed Bauio's beacon northeast into the mountains before we realized our mistake. We ran out of gas shortly after we turned back south. Capt. Black commanded a bailout, figuring we'd hit a mountain in the clouds. He was right. I barely got my chute open before I hit the ground. Now I’m sitting in the middle of the jungle with a busted leg and half a pack of smokes. I hope the captain is ok. I hope Baguio heard our SOS. I hope they find us in this jungle.
Dec. 5, evening. I’ve got company. A patrol of natives appeared mid-afternoon. I don’t understand a word of their language and they speak no English. HQ told us headhunters live in these mountains. These gentlemen look fierce enough with wild tattoos and sharp spears. My leg won't hold my weight so escape is out of the question. So far they act more like rescuers than grocery shoppers. They offered me supper of grilled monkey and bananas. I declined the monkey but managed to get down a banana. After supper, they built a rough litter then finished off my smokes. Wherever we're going, I hope there's help and not a boiling pot.
Dec. 6, evening. We just arrived in the village. Right now, I’m lying outside the largest building, a communal house where the men live. It sits on short stilts with a thatched roof and a row of skulls along the eaves. Not exactly comforting. In front of the communal house lies a clear area with a fire pit. Smaller thatch buildings surround the village center. Women and children apparently live in those. They stand behind the houses and peep at me. I smile and wave to them. One young lass with a bunch of metal jewelry waved back. Despite their lack of clothes, the village seems prosperous. They eat well; the women wear lots of seashell jewelry and the men swagger about like pilots at the base. They served me mystery meat and a yam for supper. Surprising how good things taste when you don’t know what you are eating. I wish I had a cigarette.
Dec. 7, late morning. I didn’t get much sleep last night between my leg and the screaming. Just after dark, the village elders headed into the jungle behind two torchbearers. A few minutes later, I heard metal rattling and a woman scream. After the first shriek, she began yelling in the native language, cussing somebody out good. A few words sounded English though not any English a woman should know. She calmed down after a bit. I heard voices murmuring in the dark for a long time then the metal rattled, the torchbearers led the procession back to the village and everyone went to bed. Everyone except me. I lay wondering about the woman in the jungle.
After a breakfast of bananas and fruit, a woman brought a bowl of water for my bath. The children hung behind her and watched. After my bath, the woman took the bowl away and shooed the children back. The girl with the metal jewelry stayed behind. When the woman called to her, the girl dismissed her with a phrase and a wave. The woman shrugged and followed the children.
The girl squatted and regarded me with curiosity as I stared back. I call her a girl because in this land, women come in but two ages: girls and crones. The hard life or the jungle heat sags and wrinkles them quickly upon the birth of their children. This girl carried the charms of a woman on the lithe, smooth body of a child. Like the other villagers, she showed no shame at her nakedness. The jewelry I noticed yesterday consisted of a heavy bracelet on each of her wrists and ankles with a matching choker around her neck. The bracelets and choker showed no hinges or clasps, forming solid bands snug around her limbs. Her jeweler worked the bands from bronze with cunning designs. As I studied the patterns, I noticed rings worked into the patterns. Did the villagers enslave this girl? Had the jeweler or blacksmith, fitted her, not with finely worked jewelry but heavy manacles?
Before my horror at this possibility could manifest itself another shock caught my eye. She wore a metal band around her waist with another band extending between her indigo thighs and up the back to rejoin the waistband. Like the bracelets or manacles, these metal unmentionables showed no method of removal. I stared at her rudely, overwhelmed by the sight. Seeing my astonishment, she smiled then relieved herself through a tiny slit in the bottom of the metal strap. I averted my eyes from this brazen display. She giggled most gleefully then stood and walked away. She swung her hips provocatively as she left the metal moving with her pelvis as if part of her flesh. Halfway across the square, she bent over and looked at me upside-down between her spread legs. Seeing my shocked blush, she giggled again and disappeared.
I considered her situation. While her bracelets resembled manacles, she was not bound in any way. Her voice and manner conveyed command not subservience. She laughed freely and walked head high, a prom queen and not a slave. Perhaps her manacles serve a ceremonial purpose.
Dec. 8, early morning. I will attempt a factual account but, had I not witnessed the events with my own eyes and ears, I would never believe them myself no matter how careful the telling.
Just after dark last night, the litter crew picked me up and carried me into the jungle behind the torchbearers and the village elders. The prom queen-slave girl brought up the rear. The trail emerged into a clearing flanked on three sides by dense jungle and on the fourth by a rock cliff rising beyond the treetops. In front of the cliff, a dais of rough-hewn rock presided over the clearing. A fire on the front edge of the dais lit the clearing. A cave pierced the face of the cliff. Around the mouth of the cave, intricate carvings in the fashion of the girl's bracelets adorned the rock face. Three large bronze rings hid amongst the carvings. Heavy chains led from the rings into the cave. More chains led from four rings along the edge of the dais into the cave.
The men set the litter down in the clearing. Four of them moved silently to the sides of the dais and grasped the chains anchored there. On a nodded signal, they hauled on the chains hand over hand. A woman's scream knifed into my ears like a hot spike. As she emerged from the cave, she jerked erect, fighting the chains attached to her wrists and ankles. Bracing their feet against the dais, the four men pulled until she stood, arms and legs spread, at the front of the dais. The woman struggled briefly against the chains then threw her head back and screamed her diatribe. Some words were indeed English and indeed foul. When she finished swearing, she stood with her eyes closed, pulling against the chains. The men's muscles quivered. Before me stood a beautiful white woman!
She wore the same heavy cuffs and belt as the young girl. Two chains from the cave entrance led to the belt, the third, to her collar. All three swung gently at their limit. Mountains of hair flowed over her shoulders and down her back. Her skin shown smooth and sleek in the firelight. Naked breasts stood proudly under the strands of hair trailing down her chest. Her large eyes and wide mouth gave her face a dramatic beauty. She lowered her head and issued a command in the native tongue. The four men moved back slowly, releasing the chains. She lowered her arms to her sides and opened her eyes.
She gazed at me for a long moment. She leaned forward against the chains and reached her hands towards me. She followed my eyes back to her body and started as if seeing herself for the first time. She moved to cover herself then looked back at me and laughed uncontrollably, tears welling up in her eyes. She squatted down and hugged herself, as the giggles became small sobs.
"You came." she whispered. "You finally came."
"Yes, I'm here." I pointed at my leg. "But I may need as much help as you."
She looked at my leg then glanced at the natives with narrowed eyes. She motioned for the girl to join her on the dais. The girl squatted close behind her, nestling her head behind the woman's ear. The woman spoke with an old man, the girl occasionally adding a word in her ear. The woman and the old man disagreed on some point then resolved the issue. The girl climbed down from the dais and squatted beside me.
"Nima will examine your leg. Describe to us what you feel."
I nodded. My leg hurt like hell when Nima pushed on it and I said so, loudly.
"You are lucky. You cracked your tibia. The fibula appears intact. Do not put weight on it and it will heal well enough."
She spoke again to the old man. They argued and resolved another point. The elders left save for the old man and a strapping warrior with a large battle-axe. The woman spoke in a formal tone. "Welcome, stranger. Please speak only when we ask you a question. Your life depends upon doing exactly as we say. Do you understand?" I nodded.
"The old man speaks a little English. You live because I saw your coming in a vision and convinced the elders you possess valuable information. We must conduct an interrogation, not a conversation. We were Kelly, a nurse, now Kalibaya, prophetess to the Kaliga. Who are you?" I answered her question and we continued in this fashion, she telling me a little then asking me a question. She questioned me closely about the tensions between Japan and the U.S. Bit by bit she told how she became Kalibaya. Here is her story:
Kelly Flannery arrived at Baguio fresh from Mount Saint Mary’s College, Los Angeles in July 1936. She worked as a nurse in the Catholic Hospital. In August 1936, she flew with Doctor Jack Bowers to a missionary post deep in the mountains to administer routine vaccinations and exams. The plane dropped them at the mission’s airstrip, planning to retrieve them a week later. During the week, monsoon rains washed out the airstrip. Against the advice of the mission priest, Doctor Bowers engaged two native guides to lead them to the next mission with a serviceable airstrip. On the second night of the trek, the guides set up camp then slipped away. Kelly wondered if Doctor Bowers planned a tryst. She found him attractive and, while she kept her virginity for marriage, she could enjoy a little romance. But Doctor Bowers seemed distracted and soon after dark, Kelly retired to her sleeping bag. Sometime later, Kelly woke suddenly. She heard voices and got up to investigate. She came face to face with a tattooed warrior holding Jack Bowers' head. She screamed and ran down the trail into the arms of six more tattooed warriors.
They bound her arms to a wooden pole laid across her shoulders, hobbled her legs with vine rope and tied her by the throat to a tree. At dawn, they marched her into the jungle, her arms and legs still bound and hobbled. Along the way, the natives plucked at her clothes, examining the material and taking articles that interested them. The native's curiosity and the jungle's thorns stripped her naked on the first day. On the evening of the third day, they arrived in the village. Bleeding and bruised, half-mad from pain and fear, Kelly passed out when they halted in the village square.
She woke in flickering darkness, unable to move. She lay spread-eagled in the village center, tied to four stakes. A fire just beyond her feet lit the jungle in a fitful glow. A strapping native stood over her, his battle-axe at the ready. Kelly snapped. Her body flailed against the ropes. Her voice ripped through the night air. To her great surprise, hot wetness seeped from her loins and musky odor filled the air. A long eternity later, she awoke bound with soft leather thongs upon a bed of grass, her wounds dressed.
Rest and food brought back her strength, though she could not escape her leather bonds. The women began teaching her their language, whipping her with a thin stick when she resisted participating in this sign of permanent residence. From time to time, a grimy male native appeared and felt her limbs and pelvis. At first she thought him a witch doctor, but his rough hands and blackened skin belonged to a worker or artisan. After a few days, she gave in to her the captivity, awaiting an escape opportunity. The opportunity took its precious time.
One evening, after her wounds healed, the procession carried her to the cave. They tied her spread-eagle on the dais next to a crude forge. The grimy native, the village blacksmith, heated the forge, laid out his tools and went to work. As he attached the seven chains to the rings and the cuffs to the chains, he discussed the project with Kelly in his native tongue. Kelly understood few of his words but heard his meaning loud and clear. She spent the night in screaming convulsions and sobbing prayers. When dawn broke, the chains and cuffs lay ready on the dais. The blacksmith squatted next to her and talked quietly, a doctor reassuring his patient before a difficult operation. He patted her gently and left. The women came and forced her to drink a foul-tasting potion. Lethargy washed over her body and she fell into a dreamless sleep.
She woke in late afternoon, alone upon the dais. She forced her neck around to look at the massive bonds arrayed around her body. She prayed to God for death but He did not answer.
As night fell, the blacksmith returned with the village elders and the executioner, as Kelly now thought of the strapping native with the battle-axe. The blacksmith wrapped her left ankle in wet leaves then lashed her leg tightly to the edge of the forge. He heated the cuff for her left ankle. The glowing jaws of the open cuff sizzled across the leaves then nestled close around her ankle. The blacksmith hammered the cuff shut, pounding the almost molten ends together into an unbroken circle of bronze. Kelly writhed in pain and terror as the hot metal gripped her flesh. Her screams exploded through the night. Her womanhood flowed with musky juice. Cuff by cuff, the blacksmith fastened Kelly to the rock. He fitted ankle and wrist cuffs first, then the collar. As the blacksmith's hammer rang against the metal inches below her ear, sealing the bronze jaws around her throat, Kelly abandoned her belief in the Christian god. The blacksmith wrapped the belt around her loins, the hot ends searing her flesh through the wet leaves around her hips. The center strap, soaked in water while the ends heated, lay cold and hard against her soft flesh. Spirits entered her through the metal. Cold resolve thrust up from below while burning hunger soaked into her hips and belly. As the final blows fell, Kelly lay shuddering with pain and lust, power and terror. Dimly aware of some ritual going on around her, Kelly wrapped her soul in the swirling passions and danced with the spirits.
She woke in the cave. A sharp odor hung in the air. Visions of carnage and war, tenderness and love flickered across the walls. She crawled to the front of the cave, chains rattling. The clearing lay empty in the still morning air. She tested the chains, pulling with all her might. She studied the cuffs and the collar and the belt. She wiggled and clawed and twisted and screamed. She lay on the dais and cried. Finally, she crawled back into the cave and rejoined the visions.
Kelly learned her new language and became Kalibaya, the prophetess. The Kaliga elevated her to the post through necessity. When the previous prophetess died, an unfortunate combination of girls captured in battle and childhood deaths left all potential prophetesses still in early childhood. The Kaliga lost battles, suffered disease and ran short of food. Kelly's aroused dementia while spread-eagled under the executioner's axe combined with her virginity made her a candidate. A heated debate broke out among the tribe while Kelly lay unconscious in the fire circle. The old women and some of the men argued for Kelly as the new prophetess, citing ancient legends of foreign prophetess' and the urgent need for a new prophetess. A smaller faction, led by the old man, argued for her sacrifice. The faction for Kelly's elevation to prophetess carried the argument. When Kelly's body responded to the chains with the appropriate combination of lust and madness, all agreed on the rightness of her selection, albeit some reluctantly. The old man still distrusted her and remained a formidable political opponent.
She settled into the cave and studied the visions. Kelly, the nurse, suspected mushrooms growing in the cave induced hallucinations based on her own subconscious hunches. Kalibaya, the prophetess, accepted the visions as glimpses of the future. Under her guidance, the tribe regained superiority over its neighbors in battle and entered an age of prosperity. The old man and his cohorts still grumbled about a foreign prophetess but few listened during this time of plenty.
Kalibaya also mastered the intricacies of tribal politics and took steps to cement her position. She discovered the mushrooms caused an allergic reaction in young children. A girl suffering a bout of hives when she approaches the cave makes an unlikely candidate for prophetess. Kalibaya insisted upon examining the female infants frequently. She succeeded in introducing mushroom allergy to most of the female children before the old man convinced the villagers to curb the practice.
Tribal custom granted the prophetess an acolyte to serve her and to act as her eyes and ears in the village. If the prophetess died or ceased seeing visions the acolyte usually became the prophetess. With the village girls either too young or unable to approach the cave, Kalibaya struggled without an assistant until the warriors captured Nima during a raid on a neighboring tribe. They brought her to the village for sacrifice but Kalibaya, warned by a vision, demanded first access to the young captive. She pulled Nima from the warriors immediately upon the girl's arrival, hugged her close and claimed her as acolyte. Unseen by the Kaliga, she reached between the girl's legs and tore Nima's womanhood.
Under Kaliga custom, the blacksmith fitted Nima with a full set of bronze
cuffs even though her lack of virginity rendered her ineligible to succeed
Kalibaya. As the night and our conversation grew long, Nima
cuddled against Kalibaya, their two naked bodies intertwining in an easy
embrace. Once, the prophetess bent her head and kissed the dozing
girl on the lips. Seeing my shock, she shrugged and stroked her metal
"Even with this, tribal law prohibits any man from touching the prophetess. We do what we must."
With Nima as her eyes and ears, Kalibaya sees far beyond her dais. Visions come, the warriors conquer, the tribe prospers. Kalibaya, squatting chained to a mushroom-lined cave, rules a vast jungle empire as skillfully as the other virgin queen, Elizabeth, ruled hers.
My arrival changes everything. The old man beats the drum of white man's invasion, stirring up the tribe. If the old man prevails, my skull will hang on the communal house. The blacksmith will break Kalibaya's chains and the warriors will drag her to another cave some miles distant. Deep underground, the blacksmith will attach her to the cave wall with but a few links of freedom. The dripping walls will provide water to sustain life for a time but Kalibaya will eventually join her predecessors whose moldy bones still hang in their chains. Kalibaya believes she may yet regain control, but circumstances may require quick and drastic action. She enjoined me to follow her orders to the letter.
We finished shortly before dawn. The procession brought me back to the village. Unable to sleep, I've been writing since daylight. Nima scurries about, keeping an eye on the old man. Sinister airs hang in the village. I hope the cavalry arrives soon.
Dec. 8, noon. Jap planes just roared overhead, headed south. Looks like the war has started. The planes stirred up the villagers, but good. The executioner stands guard over me as I write this. No sign of Nima.
Dec. 8, p.m. Nima here, her back bleeding. Kelly scratched message in skin: "Follow N. All well. K." Nima and men preparing litter. More later.
The diary ends here.
The recovery team identified “Manila Momma” from markings and serial numbers. Team archeologists found one male skeleton at the controls of the B-10 and another male skeleton lying under the tail. Dental records identified the skeleton at the controls as Captain Ron Black; blunt trauma injuries indicate he died on impact. Clothing fragments, the diary and a cracked left tibia suggest the second skeleton as Sergeant James Humphries. However, the recovery team did not find the skull making positive identification impossible. Forensic pathologists did find marks on the vertebrae consistent with a large, sharp object striking the neck from the front and severing the head.
In 1936, the two native guides returned to the mission with Doctor Bowers’ medical case and Kelly Flannery’s engraved compact. They told the priest the two died in a mudslide and led a search party to the site of a massive slide. The search party found no further evidence of Bowers and Flannery and listed them as missing. An exhaustive search of Japanese records following the war uncovered no mention of Flannery or Bowers and only one report from the area where they disappeared: a heavily armed Japanese patrol lost three men "northeast of Baguio" in October 1942. Native warriors crept up on the soldiers at night and beheaded them. Japanese patrols avoided the area for the remainder of the war. On April 16, 1947, a California court declared Kelly Flannery legally dead.
The jungles of northern Luzon contain the last unexplored areas on the
planet. As recently as the 1990's, anthropologists encountered Stone
Age tribes never before seen by outsiders and scarcely known to neighboring
Queen Elizabeth I, known to history as "the virgin queen," ruled England for 45 years. Shrewd and determined, she led England into a golden age of prosperity, exploration and conquest. She never married and died in 1603 at the age of 70.
The Pacific War Eyewitness History Institute
Las Robles, California
July 6, 2001