Filipina sex slaves still live with wartime nightmare | Inquirer News
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Filipina sex slaves still live with wartime nightmare

By: - Reporter / @erikaINQ
/ 06:28 AM April 09, 2016

FEDENCIA David, now 88, was 14 when she was snatched and sexually abused by Japanese soldiers who invaded the Philippines during World War II.

“I saw my grandmother being raped,” Fedencia told the Inquirer in a recent interview.

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Fedencia herself suffered the same fate at the hands of another Japanese soldier. Several days later, she witnessed her grandmother shot dead.

For the Lolas Kampanyera, of which Fedencia is a member, the psychological trauma suffered by Filipino comfort women long after the occupation of the Japanese Imperial Army should be taken into account in the continuing demand for state apology and reparation.

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The group is seeking a dialogue with the Japanese Embassy to highlight the difference of the Filipino experience from that of other Asian sex slaves who were colonial subjects of Japan.

Women of the enemy

Cristina Rosello, the Lolas’ volunteer psychologist, said that while they share the sentiments of all Asian women who were violated during the war, it was important to note that the Philippines was an enclave of America.

“The motivational base for ravaging the Filipino women was different. Hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941), the Japanese also bombed the Philippines. And they were more cruel to Filipino women because they were perceived as women of the enemy,” Rosello said.

On April 9, 1942, now commemorated as Day of Valor in the Philippines, the last bastion of Philippine-US Army in Bataan fell.

“The Filipino comfort women experience, which hasn’t been emphasized in the campaign, was criminal in nature,” Rosello said.

Comfort station system

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She said the logistical support and medical checkup required for the comfort station system (the brothels for the Japanese soldiers) were not present in the Philippine experience.

“There were comfort stations who gave stipend to the women. That’s why the ultranationalists claim that these women are prostitutes during the war demanding for more money. There were also medical checkups to make sure venereal diseases won’t spread. But these characteristics were not obtaining in the Philippines,” Rosello said.

Fedencia recalled how she put up a fight and kicked the soldier who came to her that night. “He got angry, he stuffed my mouth with a handkerchief and he bumped my head into the wall,” she said.

Fedencia and her grandmother were brought back to their barrio after several days of enslavement to serve as shield from guerrillas while the Japanese soldiers forage for food.

Along the way, they stayed in a hut, a kind of substation, where other girls were held captive. That was where Fedencia’s grandmother was raped in front of her.

The next day, they arrived at their barrio. “The guerillas must have thought they were betrayed. They fired at the Japanese soldiers. Then a soldier shot my grandmother,” she said.

Fedencia dropped on the ground and crawled to safety in the farm field where her father found her after the smoke cleared.

Depressed survivors

She hardly talked afterwards and kept the sexual abuse to herself. After a cousin in Manila suggested a change of scenery, Fedencia went to live in the city where she experienced scavenging to earn a living.

Rosello, who was invited to address the psychological issues of the comfort women, made the following observation: “A number of survivors were passive and prone to depression, their reactions to enduring feelings of worthlessness and shame. But the helpless stance was interspersed by sporadic outbursts and uncontrollable weeping.”

Therapeutic sessions were held to transform them from victims into survivors and advocates for gender justice in war and belligerent conditions. The women participated in international fora to raise awareness and press Japan to recognize the abuses and include these in history books.

Only 11 alive

From about 70 members when Lolas Kampanyera was formed in 2000 (the third of Filipino comfort women groups), there are now 11 of them left and only Fedencia is strong enough to campaign for the cause.

“Some officials told us the demands of the comfort women are not a stand-alone issue. That we should look at it in relation to the foreign affairs consideration,” Rosello said.

Japan is a top provider of development aid to the Philippines and the two recently signed a defense agreement. Just this week, Japanese warships docked in Subic Bay for Navy training.

“But the evidence of enduring psychosocial impact is clear. Japan is answerable not only during the war, but also for the damaged lives of the young girls,” Rosello said. “We will continue the fight no matter how long it will take. Their stories must live.”

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TAGS: comfort women, Fedencia David, History, Japanese soldiers, Lolas Kampanyera, Philippine history, sex slaves, World History, World War II
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