For More Than Half a Century, Justice Remains Elusive to Filipino Comfort Women

Lila Pilipina, the organization of Filipino women who were used as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, said the Supreme Court decision denying their petition to hold the Japanese government accountable for its crimes against them, which was penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, was not only plagiarized but was also “twisted.”


MANILA – Narcisa Claveria or Lola Isa, 80, vividly recalls her horrible experience with the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Lola Isa is one of the 174 comfort women who bravely went public to demand justice from the Japanese government.

“Lila Pilipina is demanding for an apology from the Japanese government. We want the truth to be written in history that the Japanese Imperial Army committed a horrible crime during the Second World War.” said Rechilda Extremadura executive secretary of Lila Pilipina, adding that rape or sexual slavery is a crime against humanity

Lila Pilipina is an organization of comfort women who survived the Second World War. It was formed in 1994 under the auspices of the women’s group Gabriela. Prior to Lila Pilipina, in July 1992, the Task Force For Comfort Women (TFFCW) was organized by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) together with six women’s organization. The TFFCW through its massive media campaign encouraged victims of sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation to come out and hold the Japanese government accountable.

In 1992, after more than half a century of silence, the women who were repeatedly abused by Japanese soldiers finally came out to tell their stories. Maria Rosa Luna Henson was the first.

The Horror of 1943

There are 174 cases of comfort women that were documented by Lila Pilipina, 65 victims have already died. The remaining 109 lolas are still willing to continue their struggle for justice despite their age.

Narcisa “Lola Isa” Claveria (left) and Lola Pilar Frias (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil /

“We would not stop until we achieve justice. We experienced extreme exploitation at the hands of the Japanese during the war,” Lola Isa said tearfully.

Despite their age, Lola Isa and 84-year old Pilar Frias could still remember vividly how they were repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers.

They were both in their teenage years then when Japanese soldiers began abducting girls, mostly teenagers. Lola Isa, then 14 years old was a Grade 2 student while Lola Pilar was 16, she was in Grade 5.

“There was one empty house in our barrio that was inspected by the Japanese and they suspected that those who lived in that house were guerillas. Then they started to look for the capitan del barrio (village chief) who happened to be my father,” Lola Isa told Bulatlat. They lived in Balintog, Abra.

While the Japanese soldiers interrogated her father, she and her other siblings were asked to fall in line by the Japanese soldiers. “The Japanese soldiers asked my father how many children he has and he answered nine. But one of my siblings went to Manila. The Japanese soldiers then became very furious when they discovered that one of my siblings was not with us. They accused him of being a guerilla.”

Then the cruelty began. The Japanese started to peel off the skin of Lola Isa’s father while her mother was being raped by Japanese soldiers. Her two other youngest siblings aged four and five were thrown in the air and were skewered with a bayonet. While trying to help his father, Lola Isa was forcibly pulled by the arm by a Japanese soldier. This dislocated the joints of her left elbow.

Then the Japanese took her and her older sister Metria to the garrison where girls were confined and being raped by Japanese soldiers several times every night. “I was separated from my sister because she was directly put inside the garrison and I was not. I was put in some place also near the garrison together with some Japanese soldiers and some Filipinos. I was raped before they transferred me to the garrison.” In the garrison, her sister Metria was beaten up and raped by the Japanese.

Their house was burned down by the Japanese soldiers. Their mother and father and two siblings were buried alive. Her other brothers were also taken by Japanese soldiers and became their slaves.

Lola Pilar, on the other hand, was slashed on her face by a jungle knife when she did not answer the Japanese soldier who was asking her questions. “He was asking me in Japanese, I did not answer because I could not understand.” She and her auntie were doing laundry at the back of their house then. Her mother and father were not in the house. The Japanese soldiers submerged her head in a drum full of water. Her hands were tied at her back and then the two Japanese soldiers took turns raping her.

The sexual abuse did not end there. When they evacuated from their house in Sipocot, Camarines Sur to a school together with other families, a group of Japanese soldiers came to the school. Only the girls were left behind in the school as many of the men went on hiding because they were being suspected to be members of the guerilla and would probably get killed. Lola Pilar said there were many guerillas in their place.

Lola Pilar still remembers the Japanese officer who took her to the mountains, “Capt. Kodama took me and three other girls. We were tied by our waist with abaca rope and they took us on their journey looking for guerillas in the mountains.” It was in the mountains while the Japanese were hunting guerillas where we were used as sex slaves,” she said. Fighting back her tears, Lola Pilar said they were too tired not only from walking but also because they were repeatedly raped. She was also brought to the garrison later. She was again repeatedly raped, “When we declined they would beat us up or burn us with cigarettes.”

Both lolas were able to survive the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers. In 1944, both were able to escape when the Japanese soldiers fled. In September of 1945, Japan formally surrendered.

Lola Isa was reunited with her other siblings, only four of them were alive and one went missing. Lola Isa’s older sister Metria lost her sanity. Lola Pilar was also able to reunite with her whole family. Survival after their dreadful ordeal was also difficult. All their crops were ruined, even the farm animals were dead and supplies were scarce. Lola Isa said that they barely ate. “Before the Japanese came here our life was not difficult. I did not experience hunger because we had plants and other crops within our backyard.”

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  1. I been reading a few books about what happened to them during the War. I am deeply upset and just created a blog “Women in War”.Japan need to be on their knees to beg them to forgive.

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