In Between

Blog Entry 1_YelI looked into her eyes and I saw her soul. There was pain. There was anger. There was hatred. But underneath it all, there was hope.

Will the brutality of the past be forgotten? Will the cries of agony fade with the wind of time? Will the loss and grieving of every man, woman, and child, be healed? There are so many more stories of people and of events aside from those we read about in school.

Some of these stories involve an even deeper, darker and more hidden part of our past during the Japanese Occupation. These are the stories of the Comfort Women.

World War II in the Pacific ended with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the year 1942 and changed the lives of many individuals. The Philippines during this time faced several atrocities. The Filipino people, especially Filipino women, were the primary victims of slavery. These women were taken from their homes and brought to “comfort stations” in different military bases.

During my freshman year in high school, I was able to facilitate an event called Mano Po Lola wherein we invited some of the members of the Lila Pilipina; an organization that aims to spread awareness about comfort women. While waiting for the program to begin, I found myself admiring an art exhibit at the back of the program hall. I then noticed that one of the comfort women approached me. She took my hand and when I met her gaze, she mumbled these words: Matagal na ako nawala sa mundong ito. (It has been a long time since I existed in this world). I was dazed at first, but then I realized what she meant.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to some of them. I listened to their stories as they thoroughly explained what they went through. They told me that during those times, violence was an ordinary scene. While listening and observing, I felt their pain.

Several historically accurate documents prove the stories of these women. Up to this day, the immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds created by those past atrocities are still evident. There may be survivors of those tragedies but they still bring with them the scars from the acts of aggression and colonial rule that caused the great suffering of the Filipino people.

These women survived the terror brought upon them even though they were perceived as objects that could be discarded at any time or as specimens on display for public entertainment. What kept them alive all these years and up to this day was the truth that they knew they possessed.

They still had value, and they knew there was meaning and purpose in their lives despite what they had gone through.

This kind of understanding is the core work of the World Youth Alliance. It seeks to advocate and instill in the hearts of people that every human person has intrinsic and inviolable dignity that no one, not even society, can grant or take away.

 

By Ana Mariela Gonzales, Track A Trained member and currently an intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office.