The amateur terrorists who claim responsibility for Manila's bombings describe an underground life full of trauma, self-doubts, agonizing and, occasionally, a touch of macabre comedy.
There was the time, for example, when one member of a bombing squad forgot his wig and was given a colleague's headpiece, which did not fit. "We laughed so much that we made the wrong connection" and the bomb was wasted, said one of the group that agreed to an interview.
In the current wave of bombings that started Aug. 22, more than 60 persons have been injured and one woman killed. Marcos has ordered the arrest of 30 persons, most of whom are abroad, many in the United States. One person, former senator Jovito Salonga, is under arrest while being treated for asthma in a local hospital.
The persons interviewed as terrorists, who say they carried out some of the six recent bombings in metropolitan Manila, are predominantly middle-class professionals who gave up on traditional politics when, they say, President Ferdinand Marcos rigged national elections in 1978. They have found violence difficult to handle emotionally but remain convinced it is the only way to put pressure on the Marcos martial-law government.
With one exception, the self-styled urban guerrillas from affluent backgrounds insisted that their identities not be disclosed in print. The exception is Eduardo Olaguer, a Harvard-educated marketing expert who was arrested with 11 accomplices in December for setting fires at buildings owned by Marcos' friends. Leader of the Light a Fire splinter group, he has admitted most of the government's charges and has occasionally talked with reporters about his role. The trial of Olaguer and the 11 others is still going on.
His associates were prepared neither physically nor mentally for the role. Olaguer said: "We were simon-pures." In their minds they might justify resorting to violence but the emotional hurdle was high.
"It was a distasteful job," he said, "but somebody has to play a role. Intellectually, we accept that violence was necessary but the gut won't follow."
Authorities claim they know many of those responsible for the bombings but are delaying arrests until more evidence is collected.
Some of them are known to be businessmen and, according to authorities, some are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. They are said to be operating in several small groups.
According to some in the underground, they prepared for their unlikely roles by reading Leon Uris' book, "Trinity," which deals with the birth and development of the Irish Republican Army. It was compulsory reading for 10 underground leaders, a source said.
Some of them wept while reading the book. One leader said, "The problems of the IRA as described were so appropriate to ours -- the quarrels over tactics, policies, the ineptitude, some spilling over to personalities. And we suspected each other."
They resolved their initial doubts but found they had not bargained for the psychological reaction to actual violence.
The wife of one member recalls him talking and shouting in his sleep and breaking out in a cold sweat. Her husband said he was tempted to abandon his project and let others take over.
One hour before that member's operation, two men in his team began vomiting and replacements had to be brought in, he said.
"Some guerrillas got cold feet and would call one day before the operation and excuse themselves," said one of the members. "Some didn't turn up, period."
In one group, which bombed the Commission on Elections in February 1979, a member trembled and froze and forgot what he was supposed to do. Given another chance, he froze again and stood motionless for 30 minutes.
His commander pleaded but the trauma-ridden amateur, perspiring profusely, merely abandoned his bomb by a trash can at a Manila newspaper company.