Monday, August 21, 2006
WHEN TEARS FALL
Like most youngsters, I could enjoy playing with my siblings, cousins and neighborhood playmates, as well as playing just by myself; letting loose my imagination with my toy soldiers or small collection of Matchbox cars. I would often do it at the living room where my mother and aunts congregated for their leisurely conversations.
Hearing some of their talks, I could remember what my mother often answered when sometimes asked what it was she was most grateful for -- the opportunity to raise her children in time of peace.
Although my mother rarely spoke about it, she went through harrowing experiences during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. At that time, my three eldest siblings were already born, though the youngest was a mere infant then. With my father being hunted by the Japanese for having provided munitions to some guerilla forces in Zambales, she and my father spent most of the occupation period evading capture; moving from province to province, as well as hiding up in the mountains with three young kids in tow.
She was also stricken with malaria a month or so before liberation. Had it not been for a couple of guerillas who braved the treacherous travel to meet the American forces to get the required medicine, she never would have made it. Thus, having lived through such perilous wartime experiences, she would become a mother obsessed with providing comfort and safety for her children — to a fault at times.
Summertime in our house during my childhood would always include my aunts in Subic sending over two of their maids to help out. Our maid needed all the help she could get, for there were constant piles of laundry from eight kids taking at least three baths a day.
And to her five boys, our mother’s primary rule of behavior towards the opposite sex is to never make them cry. She would also relentlessly remind us that if ever we touched disrespectfully any of the household help, she would have the culprit marry the maid. Period.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized our mother’s concern for our maids in particular and with women in general. It was borne by the gruesome acts against women that were committed by the Japanese military forces during the war, which my mother had partly witnessed or heard directly from some of the survivors she had met at the camps in the mountains.
Like all lessons taught by our mother, I brought it with me into adulthood, but since I grew up during the era decades after the liberation, I soon forgot about these war crimes until I found this book at the National Bookstore the other day by Armando A. Ang, “The Brutal Holocaust — Japan’s World War II Atrocities and their Aftermath.” I was compelled to purchase it.
The Japanese, according to this book, have always considered themselves to be a chosen people by divine providence. Its mission was to conquer and rule other countries. Jimmu Tenno, the first emperor of Japan, was said to have given the divine command, Hakko Ichiu, to bring the world under its rule. This divine command has been resurrected several times in its long history.
The militaristic nature of the Japanese then — its culture of extreme brutality and fanaticism from the past — impacted the Japanese society as a whole for centuries. Early in life, children were indoctrinated into believing that they were a superior race and that others would eventually serve them, especially the white prisoners of war who would dishonor themselves by surrendering. In short, they were racist and racism was adopted as part of their life. Their ancient Shinto religion, strongly nationalist and racist in character, was fosterd whole-heartedly. Hence the Chinese were originally singled out and considered subhuman or vermin; killing them was of no major significance. When World War II broke out, the other Asian nations were also regarded as vermin to be annihilated from the face of the earth.
One of the book’s most troubling chapters is about the comfort women. It is not my intention to echo its details, but will only mention that thousands of Filipino women, as well as prepubuscent girls and boys were forcibly abducted by the Japanese forces, and subjected to routine sadistic gang rapes and murder. Such systematic crimes against humanity were common occurrences not only in the Philippines but throughout any Asian country invaded and occupied by the Japanese forces. The most horrific account of which on record was by Iris Chang 's “The Rape of Nanking.”
As for the overall despicable behavior demonstrated by the Japanese invading forces, one historian at the Southern Illinois University had this to say: “In terms of measures and cruelty of the genocide, its duration and large numbers of people killed, neither Hiroshima nor the Jewish Holocaust can rival the Nanking Massacre. The manner in which the victims had met their death was extremely cruel and diverse, so ghastly in fact that it made Auschwitz gas chamber appear humane. The victims of the Jewish holocaust were seldom physically mistreated.”
And because these atrocities were committed by the Japanese mostly against their fellow Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Thais, and Filipinos to name a few) the Americans, led by General Douglas MacArthur never pursued these war crimes to provide their victims, living or dead, their due justice. Yet, to this day, there are thousands of living survivors who are still trying to demand an official apology from the Japanese government and full recompense for their pain and suffering.
This entry is not intended as a general indictment against the Japanese people and society of today, for many things have changed since these tragic wartime events took place some sixty years ago. Political forces have realigned that enemies have become friends and atrocities have been forgotten to the detriment of those whose justice had not been served.
Notwithstanding, it is my hope that we continue to support even in thought the remaining living survivors — especially the comfort women — in their efforts to find justice, recompense, and ultimately, inner peace.
posted by Señor Enrique at 3:38 PM
- Senorito<- Ako said...
Good blog (entry) !
- ipanema said...
There have been issues on comfort women but what do relevant agencies, NGOs do to help alleviate their silent tears? I'm only relying on news reports but after that revelation from one comfort lady, everything's in a hush. Or am I wrong?
Atrocities like these that bring deep emotional scars couldn't be forgotten. Crimes like these continue in war-torn countries right now - young girls raped in front of their mothers who likewise are raped. In a recent news I've read, Burmese girls fleeing South to the Thai border are witnesses and victims. Mostly soldiers are culprits. Perhaps one guarded secret of Marxist Burma. Not anymore. Voices are heard but we need brave souls to help them out.
In Africa, we have children, women in Liberia stories I have blogged about. It's a pity that they suffer, yet just another story untold.
- ladybug said...
Another well-written post. :-) I could not really imagine myself living during the time of the Japanese occupation. The stories of what the "comfort women" experienced in the hands of the Japanese soldiers were horrific. I can only hope that the perpetrators are burning in hell.
- Wil said...
as a sidenote, you may probably have heard that iris chang committed suicide a few years ago. she was working on war stories of bataan-death-march soldiers at the time. my understanding is that her work deeply affected her psychologically.
- melai said...
wala lang, gusto ko lang sabihin Mabuhay si Nanay mo!
I guess I can't do much but pray for those affected by these crimes to really forgive. It is too long ago, so many things have happened and will happen and if we focus on the hurts from the past then we will never move on. Sometimes justice can't be had but it is always up to you to decide what to do about it.
Sana people have selected memories na lang so that those memories that will not help them move on be totally forgotten and those that would be good for humanity remain and passed on...
- aurea said...
Good article, Senor E.
My lolo was a soldier during WWII. He was a POW but escaped during the Death March.
- Senor Enrique said...
Thank you S.A.!
Ipanema, you are correct -- such crimes against women goes on, especially in war-torn countries. Most do it as retaliatory measures against the men deemed as enemies; if they couldn't defeat them, they would defile their women instead. (Please see my response to Beth's comment below, too)
The saddest part, Ladybug, is that some survivors were shunned by their own families/loved ones while others opted to remain silent about it in fear of getting ostracized. There were those who were overwhelmed with shame; thus never fully recovered from it.
I didn't know about that, Wil. That is really sad. It probably became too much for her.
Thanks, Melai! This is my mother's birthday week kaya dedicated ko mga entries ko sa buong linggo para sa kanya :)
I agree with you, Beth, that we must move on forward sometime. But then again, as Carlos Castaneda once remarked, "Those who do not learn from the past, are doomed to relive it."
Incidentally, there was this incidence once in Chicago in which the medical doctors were perflexed by an alarming number of women becoming blind for no apparent or genetic reason. These women were mostly middle-aged and elderly Cambodian refugees who were resettled in the U.S. Upon extensive investigation it was learned that somehow, in their attempt to forget the atrocities they had witnessed (the Khmer Rouge's brutal genocide), they had somehow unconsciously willed themselves to become literally blind as well. Through extensive counseling and therapy, the medical community were able to help these women to recover from such adverse effects of intense trauma derived from having witnessed extreme brutalities committed by the Khmer Rouge against their loved ones.
Thank you, Aurea. Happy for your lolo; an uncle was also fortunate to have escaped the death march as well.
- Chris said...
just recently, thanks to f. sionil jose, i had a chance to ponder on these aspects of our history. there was one time when i can't help but smile on the contrast of how i usually am being treated by my japanese officemates - oh they are super courteous and kind - and how our ancestors were treated during the japanese occupation.
i recommend you read ben singkol, by f. sionil jose. great read!
- niceheart said...
My mother was born just after the liberation. So I didn't hear stories about these from her. There was a book, though, that I read, "Without Seeing the Dawn," and although it's fiction, that was how I learned about the atrocities of the Japanese regime.
BTW, happy birthday to your nanay. Is she still with us?
- Senor Enrique said...
What a coincidence, Chris, I was just over at Powerbooks at Greenbelt yesterday and discovered they provide a much more professional special order service (compared to National Bookstore). I will call later to order this book you recommended and it should be ready when I return to the area next week. Thanks for the recommendation!
BTW, I had also met and became friends with a few Japanese in NYC; they were all fine human beings. My brother worked at a Japanese bank where he was treated extremely nice by his Japanese superiors in NY and those based in Tokyo. He had nothing but kind words for them.
- Senor Enrique said...
Many thanks, Irene!
Yes, she's still up and about, though no longer able to do her most favorite activity -- ballroom dancing! However, she will sometimes spend hours pulling out some of her party clothes and accessories from the closet. I guess, it somehow makes her remember some fond memories.
She will be 88 this Friday!
BTW, this entry was not only inspired by Armando Ang's book, but also by your recent blog about teaching your boys some summer lessons!
- niceheart said...
It's nice to hear that my post somehow inspired this one, which again you wrote very well.
Wow, 88! I have an aunt there who's also into ballroom dancing. And I bet your nanay has indeed many fond memories. Cheers to her.
- Rey said...
The richness and colour of your family's history is now beginning to unfold eric and it's quite a treat to read.
I remember how my late grandfather tell accounts of his war exploits with such flair and body language that I used to get lost with it, following his every tale like i'm part of it.
The rape of Nanjing is one of the most harrowing abuse the japanese emperial army has done. My former chinese girlfriend was one of those still very vocally crying for justice after more than half a century.
- Senor Enrique said...
Before posting these entries, I would go over some details with her, which seems to do her good, because it challenges her abilities to recall certain memories. So I would say I have a collaborator :)
And yes! She certainly has lots of fond memories :)
- Senor Enrique said...
Thank you, Rey. My mother's grandfather, when he was still alive, was an animated storyteller himself -- peppering his language with Spanish words in which us kids were challenged to understand and remember. Your grandfather may be just like him :)
Yes, that was indeed one of those dark episodes of human history. I really hope that we somehow evolve from such cruelty -- to never find ourselves ever doing it again.