My grandfather, Rodolfo Bernebe, was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. He lived there until he moved to the United States in 1989. He is now 86 years old and has many great stories. During World War II, the Japanese invaded the Philippines when it was a U.S. colony. I am lucky enough to interview him on this unique topic. I asked about his experiences during the war as a boy around my age.

He told me he was just 11 during the war and he was the sixth of seven children in his family.

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I asked him what was the scariest moment during the war, and he told me, “When the Japanese came in and occupied the city. We heard planes and bombs going off. We were afraid of the invading soldiers because they were brutal and unreasonable.”

He did see some battles while living in Manila. He explained, “The only ones we saw were called ‘dogfights,’ where fighter planes were shooting at each other in the air.”

Life was tough on them because his dad worked in a print shop as a typesetter. As the war wore on, there was less work for him to do. To help sustain our family, they sold food cooked by his mother.

He told me about school when he was a kid. He said, “During the war, schools were controlled by the Japanese government. My family didn’t want me attending school because of that. I ended up skipping most of 6th grade, 7th and 8th grade. When school reopened after the war, under the Americans, I was put in high school, and I struggled a lot to catch up. But I eventually did.”