Thursday, August 21, 2008


My reaction to the photos of this memorial on fellow HCS member Jeffrey Yap's site was one of amusement. He termed it "an interesting 'irony' on Plaza Lawton." I didn't know anything about this memorial so I told Jeffrey that I would go there to take some pictures for my personal archive.

The initial reaction of amusement turned to dismay when I finally got there, for it was only then that I realized the inappropriate symbolism created for this memorial.

Tucked away in a corner of Plaza Lawton
facing the Manila Post Office, this memorial unveiled by then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza on April 22, 2003, was intended to preserve the memory of more than 1,000 women -- comfort women -- who were continually raped by the Japanese occupation forces during the Second World War.

However, the entire setting seems more of a tribute to Eros, as if to mask the painful truth behind the tragic event being memorialized: the violent and brutal experiences endured by the thousands of
our women, including prepubuscent girls and boys; none of it, I'm sure, was of a Memoirs of a Geisha-like episode for any of them.

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.

Certainly the Atienza administration was fully cognizant of these wartime atrocities yet, I wonder why it didn't commission a more sensitive artist like Julie Lluch to create a solemn image for this memorial?

Hopefully, Mayor Lim, in conjunction with his Historical and Heritage Commission, will consider it worthwhile to address this impropriety.

As an aside, Plaza Lawton was recently rehabilitated with the design assistance of the Heritage Conservation Society. Removing as much of the existing concrete as possible, the plaza was restored as a grassy, green space with benches installed along the walkways. In addition, the refurbished Plaza Lawton now boasts of a fountain as its centerpiece, flanked by a colonnade of fully grown royal palm trees.

Related link:

When Tears Fall

Irony on Plaza Lawton - Jeffrey Yap

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:09 AM


Blogger Sidney said...

Eric, you have enough material to write a book about "Manila's oddities" ! ;-)

I agree with you that this memorial is completely inappropriate if not insulting to the plight and memory of those comfort women.

But I would like to see Manila's mayors working for the long term. It is a waste of resources to destroy the work of one’s predecessor.
Imagine former mayor Atienza or one of his sons becoming the new mayor after Lim's term. I have no doubt they would roll back everything again.
How can we expect Manila to become a world class city if politicians act like little children?

I guess too much power is given to individual politicians.
Give this power to commissions headed by experts in their field.

No more pink ;-) and funny/ugly street lamp designs.
We need a long term vision for (Metro) Manila.
We have this talent in the Philippines (urban planners, architects, designers, artists, historians, etc) but it seems nobody listen to them...

August 21, 2008 1:28 PM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Hi Eric,

Being an artist myself I try to avoid to be a critic on fellow artist creation. The relief sculpture on your photo, ...mukhang ang babae pa ang "nag-cha-chansing sa lalake" and if this "garden" is in memory of the WW II victims, "comfort girls" the poor comfort girls are being rape again, this time by the City of Manila.

I wonder if the "innocent artist" before executing this "art" was given directions or a concept or even research about this sensitive subject. So sensitive that most of those "comfort girls" kept the nightmares with them in silence for so many years!!!

Salamat Eric for posting this blog,
ka tony

August 21, 2008 4:03 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

Implying a tribute to Eros and in actuality the history of comfort women is (as a woman) a big insult and an act of complete ignorance! The usual macho statement of "she enjoyed it anyway" is bereft of sensitivity towards his fellowman! I only allay my own anger and aghast in knowing the concept of "karma."

The first time I saw those lamposts in Roxas Blvd. I told myself, at least they'd be gone after the YuleTide Season. Hindi pala! It was a severe test to my tolerance and aesthetic taste!
As i see your pictures, one is plain ghastly but the other one that looked like a seagull in flight(?) is acceptable. Why didn't they make it uniform all the way down Roxas Blvd.? The whole boulevard looks funny with all those outrageously designed streetlights!

August 21, 2008 4:49 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Very good points you raised, Sidney, and I'm all for it. Perhaps, the folks at the Heritage Conservation Society could provide guidance in terms of setting up the commissions who will manage for the overall improvement projects of our cities nationwide.

As for this memorial for the victims of military sexual abuses, it should be changed soon and fast. Like you said, as it is, it's insulting and completely inappropriate.

August 21, 2008 5:03 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Truth be told, Ka Tony, I was ashamed of my knee-jerk initial reaction of amusement. I truly didn't realize the grievous error or complete insensitivity by those responsible for this particular memorial project.

One of the images used makes it appear as if the woman was actually enjoying being a sex slave or acting the part of a "comfort woman." There was nothing pleasurable or comfortable about it whatsoever on the part of the victims, I'm sure. It was nothing but utter brutality and violence. Unbelievable!

If anything, the artist(s) and entire project members should have created a more dignified image such as this one to commemorate all those who perished and suffered during the Battle for Manila:

And you're right, Ka Tony, "most of those "comfort girls" kept the nightmares with them in silence for so many years!!!"

August 21, 2008 5:16 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"Implying a tribute to Eros and in actuality the history of comfort women is (as a woman) a big insult and an act of complete ignorance!"

I agree with you, Bernadette, and this is why, something has got to be done to change this portrayal immediately. I am really hoping that someone close to the mayor would alert him to this faux pas.

And know what? Somehow, I don't think a serious artist was involved in this project; too appalling a work and completely devoid of sensitivity.

August 21, 2008 5:26 PM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Natawa naman ako sa unang sinabi ni Ka Tony tungkol sa sculpture... haha. Sus, sino ba kasi ang nag-conceptualize nyan? I can only tell it was done in haste, without much contemplation.

But seriously, dapat siguro, ilipat na lang ang memorial site na ito sa ibang mas nababagay na lugar. I hope the city government of Manila will act on this. Malaking insulto nga naman talaga ito sa mga naging comfort women at mga pamilya nila.

August 21, 2008 6:17 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Funny but true, Rhoda because it certainly looks that way. It does seem that it was the woman who is initiating for a lustful copulation to take place.

The people involved in this memorial project should have read about the "Rape of Nanking" to get an idea of the kind of brutal rapes our comfort women went through from the maniacal Japanese forces.

I don't think they did this project in haste; rather, without much thought at all ... hehehe.

August 21, 2008 6:45 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No sense of history talaga tayong mga pinoys.


August 22, 2008 6:14 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And...sorry senor but majority of our politicians today are stupid.You can quote me on that.


August 22, 2008 6:16 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Lol ... or as Sidney had said, "like children!"

Perhaps, someday we'll change for the better, IndioBravo :)

August 22, 2008 11:13 AM  

Blogger the donG said...

very interesting. never knew of swuch a memorial. i definitely agree with sidney. i think you need to write a book for these and all the other sites and stories of the old manila.

i'll surely get one.

August 25, 2008 1:49 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you, donG (and to Sidney as well) ... but truth be told, I don't really think I have enough material for such a book ... hehehe!

I didn't know about this memorial, either, until I was told about it by Jeffrey yap.

August 25, 2008 11:26 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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