April 25, 2007
To the Honorable Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
Welcome to the United States of America. I hope this letter finds you well.
In 1997 I began researching the lives and experiences of surviving Filipina comfort women of WWII. My work focuses on the women of Liga ng mga Lola Pilipina-Gabriela, otherwise known as LILA-Pilipina, or the lolas, the grandmothers.
In 2001, as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, I traveled to different islands and provinces of the Philippine archipelago to abduction sites where girls between the ages of 8 through 42 were kidnapped and imprisoned in garrisons – abandoned churches, city halls, farm houses and schools. Survivors took me to sites were their grass-roofed houses used to stand and together we relived their experiences.
I have met over forty survivors and I have had the honor of learning the specific stories of 14 women in-depth. I have made a promise to them to do my best to seek justice on their behalf. For this reason I write the stories and I educate my readers, my students, my friends and colleagues. For this reason, I am writing to you.
During my visits with the women of LILA Pilipina, I witnessed many young Japanese students coming through the LOLA HOUSE. Those students felt such a great burden for the crimes their ancestors committed. But the women would tell them not to cry, that the crime did not belong to them but to the men who came before them. The women would hold the students in their arms and kiss them on their foreheads and commend them for wanting to know the truth, for seeking them out and for understanding their plight.
Those Japanese students honored survivors with their sincerity, with their respect for the women and with their hunger to understand the past.
On March 13, 2007, I began a petition in support of House Resolution 121. Soon after I created that petition I received an email from a private Japanese citizen who asked me if he could translate it into Japanese and post it on his blog. He wanted to know if everyone could truly sign the petition. I said yes. And since then I have had an outpouring of heartfelt concern from the global community. At this moment, the petition bears 1774 international signatures and it is only six weeks old.
We ask that you move forward and offer an official apology on behalf of your government to the survivors and their families, we ask that you give appropriate compensation and that you allow their experiences to be documented in your textbooks. This would be a noble action that many will appreciate and respect.
Soon, I will gather those names and the comments written and send them to you, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to our chairman on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Thomas Lantos, and to our Congress. I will also send a copy to my beloved lolas of LILA Pilipina.
Their concern has always been that their stories and their lives hold no value. But this international petition reads like a global love letter. The women can see for themselves that despite Japan’s reticence, the world understands what happened during WWII. They know what the Japanese Imperial Army did. No amount of denial will keep the truth down. At least this much we can give the old women. But you can do so much more.
I ask you again, please meet me in Manila this June. I will take you to the LOLA HOUSE in Quezon City. I will introduce you personally to the women of LILA Pilipina. They will take you in, they will feed you, they will sit you down and tell you the stories of their lives and then you will understand.
With great respect and hope for the future,
M. Evelina Galang,
Assistant Professor of English
University of Miami