Dear Prime Minister Abe,
What an amazing opportunity you have to do the right thing. Sixty plus years after WWII, a war that you did not personally participate in, a war where the dignity of women and girls was taken from them through daily acts of violence and abuse and the consistent raping of little girls for the "comfort" of the Japanese Imperial Army -- that war -- has passed and that generation is now passing. What an amazing opportunity you have to do the right thing.
You have not responded to my question: Will you meet me in Manila this summer to sit at a table with the surviving Filipina Comfort Women I know, the women of LILA Pilipina, a tiny handful of the 200,000 women from that war? You can bring with you surviving soldiers from the Japanese Imperial Army if you like. Let us all sit down and let the old people talk. Let the men explain what was going on back then. Let the women show you their scars. Let them tell you what happened after the war. Some of their families would not take them back. Mothers told daughters through closed doors, "Better to go to Manila, hija. It's better for everyone." Husbands disowned wives. Or worse, they took them back reluctantly and made them pay for it for the rest of their lives. Some of the women kept it a secret and the secret grew so big and fat inside their bellies that it exploded into a thousand kinds of illness -- of the body, of the mind -- a dis-ease of loving or trusting again.
I would like to hear from the soldiers too. What do you think they would have to say when my lolas, the women of LILA Pilipina speak their mind?
Once you know the lolas, you will not be able to deny the stories. You will not be able to deny the wounds of the body. Some of the women went mad for a very long time. Some of them are still going mad. Lola Emeteria hides every time someone drops a plate or slams a door. Sometimes she slips under the table, but there are times when she runs from the house and her family cannot find her for days. She is too old and too frail to be hiding in ditches or up tree branches, Mister Prime Minister.
And you only need to meet one survivor. You only need to see what the comfort stations have done to her, what memories exist in her body, how they scar her mind. Dai Sil Kim-Gibson once said that once you hear their stories, they enter your bones and you cannot sit still.
And maybe that's what you need to do. Meet one woman face to face. Let her speak. Do not interrupt. Be respectful. Listen. And then you can make some of that wrong right. You can do the right thing. You can let the stories enter your body and then you will have no choice but to do the right thing -- for yourself, for your nation, for our 200,000 women who suffered that war, and for humanity.
What an amazing opportunity. Don't you think? You could make history.
Lola Narcisa and her sister Lola Emeteria. Both surviving Comfort Women from Abra. Lola Emeteria cannot hear loud sounds without running to hide.