by Jiru Rada
At the age of 90, Hilaria Bustamante’s memories of war-torn Manila are still lucid. She and thousands of other Asian women were forced into state-sanctioned sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. With her horrific and painful past, one can understand her deeply-rooted resentment against the Japanese government.
Lola Hilaria is one of the remaining ‘comfort women’ in the Philippines. There are 174 documented cases of Filipino comfort women but around 100 have already died according to women’s group Lila Pilipina. Those who were not able to tell their stories did not survive the war or were ostracized by their communities. No more than 10 are still able and actively calling for justice.
The story of Lola Hilaria includes experiences common with other victims of Japanese sexual slavery. She was kidnapped at the age of 16 and was held hostage for a year inside a military garrison together with three other teenage girls.
Japanese soldiers took turns and repeatedly raped them every day after sundown. Each of them had to serve two to four men every night leaving them with little time to rest. The suffering was far beyond comprehension and no one heard their countless calls for help according to Lola Hilaria.
In the context of a post-World War II society, the lolas are only asking for three specific things – public apology from the Japanese government, inclusion of their stories in history books, and just compensation for their families.
While the government remains mum in achieving justice for the Filipino comfort women, the lola’s dwindling numbers and old age make it difficult for their voices to be heard.
Short URL: http://www.philippinecollegian.org/?p=10307