“They dragged us to the garrisons, made us do their laundry, ordered us to cook and iron their clothes and when the night fell, several Japanese soldiers took turns raping us. They were vicious during the war and they needed women for their recreation. They treated us as sexual slaves.”
By MENCHANI TILENDO
MANILA — The month of March is celebrated all around the world as the International Women’s month – a time to recognize the long history of women’s struggles for equality and genuine emancipation from all forms of oppression. Despite the great strides taken in the fight for women’s democratic rights, ignored horrors of the past continue to remind us that the path to real justice is not yet over.
For Narcisa Claverio, 91, the month of March will always be a phase of reliving her long-time trauma as a young girl. Unlike the usual celebratory vibe, her way of spending women’s month has always been associated with the agony from her ignored narrative as a Filipina comfort woman. As an 11-year old girl during the World War II, she has witnessed the torture of her own father and the rape of her own mother and sisters. At that young age, she was one of the Filipino comfort women treated as sex slaves by the Japanese military.
Weeping, Lola Narcisa’s past wounds reopened as she narrated how the Japanese soldiers tortured her father before her very eyes in 1943.
“I remember I was 11 years old that time. They tied my father from the back, and they peeled the skin on his chest, causing him to bleed. They took my two older brothers and made them their porter. Out of fear, I went up our house to call my mother but when I reached her room, I saw her dress pulled up and a Japanese soldier on top of her. They also took me and my two other sisters,” Lola Narcisa said.
Sexual slavery as a weapon of war
“They dragged us to the garrisons, made us do their laundry, ordered us to cook and iron their clothes and when the night fell, several Japanese soldiers took turns raping us. They were vicious during the war and they needed women for their recreation. They treated us as sexual slaves,” Lola Narcisa said during a program in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila.
World War II has institutionalized sexual slavery as in all past imperialist-instigated wars and armed conflicts that took place in the country. The Filipino comfort women, contrary to what Japanese textbooks say, were not mere entertainers nor paid prostitutes. They were young girls and mothers who were forcefully dragged from their homes to be violated multiple times every night.
Wartime sexual slavery has been used as a strong weapon of war by militarists and aggressors to humiliate their enemies, in this case, the guerrillas. Lola Narcisa recalled how she and her fellow comfort women were locked in a small, dark room during the peak of the war, and how the guerrillas were the ones who also saved them.
“We were shouting inside the room because of heightened fear, and the guerrillas heard us. They destroyed the door of our room and we were able to escape. As for my two other sisters, I haven’t seen them since that moment. I have no idea on whether they’re already dead or still alive today,” Lola Narcisa remembered.
"Dinala kami sa garison, pinaglalaba, pinag-mamalantsa, at gabi-gabi kaming ni-rape." – Lola Narcisa Claveria from Lila Pilipina recalls her traumatic experiences as a young girl in the hands of Japanese military during the World War II. pic.twitter.com/tXi9IXFCXf
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) March 2, 2020
Call for justice remains
Lola Narcisa, along with the few remaining comfort women survivors continue to cry for justice for all the atrocities committed to them by the Japanese military during the war. She was convinced to join Lila Pilipina, an organization of Filipino victims of Japanese wartime military sexual slavery, as soon as she heard Rosa Henson’s radio announcement in 1992. Nana Rosa is the first Filipino comfort woman to speak publicly about her experiences of being a long-time sexual slave at the hands of Imperial Japanese soldiers during the World War II.
Under the current administration, the absence of an independent foreign policy and the existence of lopsided military agreements with imperialist aggressors have only deepened the traumatic wounds of the victims of wartime atrocities like lola Narcisa.
In a statement, Lila Pilipina said that Japan’s continued refusal to render justice to its victims – particularly Filipino comfort women, is a compelling reason for the Duterte administration to fully terminate agreements such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the RP-Japan defense memorandum.
“As long as there are agreements that provide protection for foreign soldiers while they continue to rape and commit crime in our country, our calls for justice become stronger. As long as we’re alive, we will not stop fighting,” she said