It’s New Year’s Day 1943 in Manila and a mysterious American woman called Madame Tsubaki is on stage at her nightclub. She croons a popular American hit by The Ink Spots. The louche nightclub’s clients are Japanese officers from the army that invaded the Philippines in 1942. But little does her audience know of the secret role this enigmatic woman plays in the fevered life of occupied Manila.
The U.S. had entered World War II after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941. The next day Japan launched an assault on the Philippines and by May 8, 1942, the Americans and Filipinos had surrendered. So began more than three years of hostile occupation of the islands, lasting until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
One of the American civilians living in the Philippines in 1942 and caught up in the conflict was a certain Claire Fuentes. She was the very woman who was to become Madame Tsubaki. But before we come to the circumstances that led to that Manila nightclub, let’s find out a little more about Fuentes.