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Guam War Survivors: Part 6

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Cindy Terlaje was only a child during the war who was able to survive through the help of a complete stranger. December 1941 - Cindy Tenorio Terlaje was nine years old when the Japanese began their assault on Guam.

She said, "When the bomb started and my father just grabbed us kids 5 children all together my mom and dad and we start running up the hill because war was coming. We get up toward and up to Manenggon and we stayed there for a whole my dad had dug up a cave and we stayed there for months. There hardly any food we drink from the water form the river. Food is scarce. For a while I got sick and everything. I was malnutrition and all and they continue the bombing. My parents were just devastated from the war and everything they had four other children and they tried to tell us not make any noise because the Japanese."

As the months went by the Japanese finally located their hideout. Their family began to flea, but without Cindy. She said, "I got very sick and people we're running outside the cave saying their coming their coming we have to get out. My mother knew I would not be able to make it because of my illness, so what she did she wrapped me up in a piece of cloth and I remember she said goodbye to me. I was 9 years old at that time. I didn't know  I thought they were just going outside and later on I found out I was all by myself."

Afraid and alone in a cave, Cindy says a man came running by and saw her. "So he picked me up he said, 'Don't be afraid. I'm going to take you', he asked "Where are you parents?', I said I don't know I thought they were outside there's nobody out there people just going different directions. I call him Pop and when he got up his wife and daughter just left already with other crowd. He put me on his back and said hang on to it."

Little did they know that they weren't actually fleeing from the Japanese, but rather the Americans were coming to liberate the people of Guam. "So we continued going to Agat and he handed me over to the military the American people to take care of him and that was the last time I saw him," she said.

In Agat Cindy was reunited with her family. "I noticed my sister and I stood up and started yelling at her and I saw my mom and my dad and then they my mom thought she was seeing a ghost because she though I died already then they came up to the tent where I was staying and we started hugging each other," she said.

Lucky to be alive and back with her family, for decades, Cindy would tell her story about this man who saved her. Ironically it was her mother that left her in that cave in Maneggon. That found out who this mystery man was and shared it with her daughter almost 40 years later. "After she told me I didn't even say goodbye to my mom I just took off and took my husband and we went to Yona," she said.

When they arrived to Yona, people were gathered around and just so happened to be sharing their war stories. But it was one particular story she knew all too well. A story told by her husband's Uncle Frank. "During the war I was passing over at Manneggon I heard this little girl cry and she was all by herself so I picked her up. Took off my wife is gone so I had her by myself we just took off going all the way down to Agat. I just wanted to know if she's dead alive off-island married or she join before I die. I want to know what happened to this girl. My husband was holding me down on the chair he was in shock...my husband she's been telling me this story all my life and I can't believe it.

"So Uncle Frank finished his story he let me go and I went and sat down on his lap and Auntie Beck say, 'Uncle Pete, what's wrong with your wife?' He says just give her a glass of water and I was shaking everything, hugging him and kissing him. I look face to face at him and said take a good look on the girls you picked up in Maneggon is right here facing you, but he says but you're Cindy Terlaje, I said, 'Yes, I'm Terjaje because I married a Terlaje, thank you for saving my life because if it wasn't for you I won't be here today.'"

Frank has since passed on, but a liberation day doesn't go by without remembering this stranger in Manenngon she calls now Pop. "Everytime I think of the liberation I think back memories its like I'm seeing it all over again, running in the jungle and everything going over dead bodies and things like that its just you know. It's just I don't know, but its hardship what we had went through and one thing that its not going to go away its in my head forever," she said.

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