Saturday, April 14, 2007
When the women of LILA Pilipina celebrated 10 years of their organized fight for justice in June of 2001, they held a special celebration and invited their friends and family. They called the group who gathered around them the Friends of Lolas.
That day we celebrated each woman's victory. After staying silent for so long, each one had come forward in those ten years to name her history and call for her long awaited apology, her reparations and her place in world history text books. Somehow, the women found the strength to describe their stories to the courts and to administrators, to students and reporters and anyone who would listen so that the world might know. The Japanese courts threw their cases back into the appeals court over and over and despite this disappointment, the lolas of LILA Pilipina were not undaunted. They were and have been fighting to their death for what they believe is right.
Lola Narcissa and Lola Virgie lit a beautiful yellow candle and together they passed their light to each and every guest. They recognized that they were growing old and frail, that someday they would not be able to fight their own fight, so they invited us to join them. They inspired us make their stories known, to fight for what is right. They asked us to never let this atrocity happen to our daughters and sisters and mothers, not like it happened to them.
It is now 2007 and they have not yet received that formal apology from the Japanese government. There has been no compensation. Many have died since that ten year anniversary. Many never saw justice. But my candle is lit. My flame burning bright.
I send you my light. I ask you to join the fight and be a friend of the lolas and of all the 200,000 comfort women of WWII.
If you have signed the petition, thank you. If you have written your congressman or woman, I send you a big Miami abrazo. If you keep the comfort women in your prayers and spread the truth in your own way, sharing their brightly lit candles of love and compassion, I wish you great peace. Regardless of your choice, I give you my respect. Maraming salamat for reading this blog.
Lola Narcissa tells this story about her family. During the war, the Japanese took all the girls from the house and kept them in the town hall. That was the comfort station, the garrison. Lola Narcissa was only 12. Her oldest sister, Estrella was in Manila during that time of abduction. The sisters never saw one another again. It was assumed that Estrella was dead.
More than fifty years after the war, during a demonstration in Metro Manila, some twelve hours from their province in Abra, Lola Narcissa steps into a local convenience store to use the bathroom. Walking through the store, a woman caught her eye. She looked familiar. Walking back through the store, Lola Narcissa stopped and asked her where she was from. The woman named Lola Narcissa's hometown. Lola Narcissa asked another question. What was your mother's name? The woman answered. What was your father's name? Another answer. And finally, she smiled and said, what is your name? Lola Estrella named herself and Lola Narcissa wrapped her arms around her. But wait, that is not the end of this amazing story.
Anong yari? Lola Narcissa wanted to know. Where were you?
The war, answered the older sister. I was taken by the Japanese soldiers. Ginagamit nila ako. They used her. She too was a former comfort woman.
Talaga? the younger sister asked in disbelief. Lola Narcissa never imagined they were experiencing the same physical and mental abuse so faraway from one another.
What are you doing here, Lola Estrella wanted to know.
Lola Narcissa was in the street just around the corner from Lola Estrella's store, fighting for justice.
And that is the story of how the sisters were separated by war, and fifty odd years later brought back together because of that same war. Now Lola Estrella joins her younger sister in the streets. She too fights for justice.
Never again. No to another generation of comfort women.
When you sign the petition, when you write to your congressperson, when you spread the word about this fight, you are saying no to the abduction and systematic rape of the women of WWII. You are saying it was an unacceptable and inhumane act then. It is an unacceptable and inhumane act now. What is this act of aggression against our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our most beautiful nieces? You are saying we do not treat our women this way. We honor them. We respect them. No to another generation of comfort women. That is what you're saying.
Friday, April 13, 2007
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?
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Currently, House Res 121 has 77 co-sponsors.
WE NEED 100 CONGRESSPERSONS TO PASS HOUSE RESOLUTION 121.
Has your Congressman or woman signed on?
Click the sidebar link to the Library of Congress Listing to see if your representative is supporting this resolution.
If you don't see your representative's name, write him or her.
If you signed the petition, send your representative the petition link via email. Convince him or her to sign on.
Remember to say you live in his or her district and this is important to you. You can find your Congressperson's contact information on the sidebar link.
We are in the final push. We need all supporters to be proactive.
It is not a dead issue. You and I can make sure of that.
M. Evelina Galang
March 29, 2007 (日本語はこちら)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
I am Tomasa Dioso Salinog, 78 years of age and a resident of San Jose, Antique, The Philippines.
I was only thirteen years old and an only child and living alone with my father when Japanese soldiers forcibly entered our home in 1942 in San Jose, Antique. The soldiers killed my father when he tried to prevent them from taking me away.
For about two years I was kept as a slave to be raped and abused by Japanese soldiers. They took away the only member of my family. Alone, in abject poverty and with no one to take care of me, I could not go back to school and had to work in order to survive. The war and sexual slavery had destroyed my life and my future.
I am now old and my health is failing. The illnesses brought about by the abuse I suffered in the hands of the Japanese soldiers and the hard work in order to survive, persist and have become more serious.
Despite my poverty and poor health, I rejected the Asian Women’s Fund.The atonement being offered by the Asian Women’s Fund could not compensate for the violation of my rights as a woman and the grievous crimes that were committed against me. The government of Japan should be accountable for its responsibility for what the Japanese military did to my father and me.
I am appealing to you, Prime Minister Abe to acknowledge the truths we have told. This is the justice I have been longing and praying for. We are aware of Japan’s efforts for peace but there can be no peace in this world unless there is justice. I hope justice will come before I die . . .