War Survivor: Cynthia Tenorio Terlaje
Left behind due to illness
Cynthia Tenorio Terlaje (1935 – ) and her family were making their way out of Manenggon at the end of the Japanese occupation of Guam. However, Terlaje grew gravely ill with a virus that rendered her unable to travel and keep up with everyone on foot. Her parents feared for the entire family; they were worried that the Japanese would find them. Because of this fear, the family left Terlaje behind in a cave.
Rescued by a stranger
She stayed in the cave for several hours, too ill to move, until a CHamoru man heard her cries from the jungle and came in to investigate. The man told her not to be afraid as he picked her up and carried her. He had told his wife and daughter to go ahead while he went to save the crying child. They made it to their destination and Terlaje was reunited with her family, never knowing the name of the man who saved her life.
Reunited years later
Years later she married Agapito Taijito Terlaje. Visiting with the Terlaje family in Yona one day, she listened to the elders telling stories of their survival during the war. Francisco Terlaje recalled his story of a little girl he rescued from a cave. He said he heard cries coming from the cave and went to investigate, discovering the child, alone and ill. As he continued to tell his story, Terlaje slowly realized that the little girl he was talking about was her. She had married into the family of the man who saved her life!
In Francisco’s telling of the story he wondered if the girl had survived and what had happened to her. He said it was something he always wanted to know as she was so sick when he picked her up.
By now, Terlaje was shaking. She ran over to Francisco, falling into his arms, crying. People around her thought Terlaje was just touched by the story. She knelt in front of him and repeatedly hugged and kissed him. People started to wonder what was wrong with her. She finally said:
“Take a good look at my face. Do you know who I am? I am the girl that you rescued.”Cynthia Tenorio Terlaje
Years later, Terlaje still told her story with great emotion. Had it not been for Francisco, her family would not be here. The two shared a life long bond.
Editor’s note: Reprinted and adapted, with permission, from Guam War Survivor Memorial Foundation by Jade Terlaje.