Our mouths were still full and wet with coconut milk. I chewed the sweet flesh of the buwa and thought of the day enemies ambushed my father. I was only twelve year old when he died. I knew I could bear anything; at least that’s what I thought. My cousins and I snuck around the trees, moved in the opposite direction, going deeper into the woods.
We hung kopra shells around our necks, slung them over our shoulders. As we walked, the kopra knocked one against the other and rang soft as chimes. Soon, we saw an opening. We heard a truck coming down the road, believing it was the kopra truck. We waited, still peeling at the kopra, still sucking on the fibers. As the truck approached we realized that the truck had been captured and was being driven by the Japanese. The truck carried people from our barrio. They stopped and jumping from the trucks, they pointed their bayonets at us, tried to grab us, but we ran, dropping the kopra everywhere. Shells rolled under the feet of the Japanese, made them trip into the jungle, nearly falling on their own swords and this only made them angrier. We ran and ran. We ran. They surrounded us – Siling, Christine, Lucien and I. They kicked us. They shoved us. They poked us with the sharp end of their bayonets. They rolled us to the foot of the truck and waved their arms up, crying, “Kura! Kura!” We did not know Kura, kura. I wanted to fight, but how can you fight when you don’t have a gun? Our beautiful buwa scattered on the ground before us, crushed under the weight of the trucks’ wheels. Is this it, you wonder? Oh no, Evelina, not yet. Listen.
a moment from "Urduja is the Sweet Flesh of Kopra."
Last night a small group of women from the University of Miami gathered in my home and I shared with them this essay, several clips from my travels to the Lolas' House, the fifty Polaroid portraits signed by the LILA Comfort Women, and a binder of translations from my interviews. We were a small but charged group. We sat on the floor, on pillows with cups of tea and small servings of apple pie and ice cream. And then I read the piece above in its entirety. When I finished there was a long silence. There was a deep breath. It was as if I had just given a eulogy and we were in a church. That silent. That heavy the breath.
One of the young women said, "I have no ties to these women. They are not my family. I don't know them, but when I see their pictures and read their stories, they feel like my family."
How can we do nothing?