The saga of the missing Lola statue
“GINAHASA AKO.” The words that Lola Rosa Henson writes every day in a piece of paper but she then crumples and throws away to hide her dark past.
The same lines that have been delivered by veteran actress Bibeth Orteza in “Nana Rosa” during its re-run last February 27 until mid-March at the UP Diliman, Quezon City.
Written by Rody Vera under the direction of José Estrella, Nana Rosa recounts on stage the life of Maria Rosa Henson, the first Filipino comfort woman to come forward with her story in public — starting from her early life, to her capture and eventually her becoming a comfort woman, liberation, and finally deciding to tell her story nearly 50 years later.
Sadly, I failed to see Orteza’s portrayal of Nana Rosa since the shows for the last two weeks were cancelled due to COVID-19.
On September 18, 1992, Lola Rosa Henson decided to come out with her story, and to tell everyone what happened to her, with the hope that such an ordeal will never happen again to any woman. She was the first such Filipina to tell the world about this inhuman practice of the Japanese during the war.
“Binilang ko sila. Labing-dalawa, sa unang kalahating oras. Kaunting pahinga. Tapos, labing-dalawa ulit. Saka lang nila ako pinag-almusal. Umaga na. Sumisirit na ang liwanag sa maliit na butas sa dingding.” Part of the script, which Orteza says, is one of the most depressing part of the entire narrative wherein she doesn’t even have to act to feel the pain.
I had the opportunity to interview Lola Rosa personally while working as a reporter covering the comfort women in the 90s.
Lola Rosa surfaced a year after former Korean comfort woman Kim Hak-soon first [H1] publicly testified on August 14, 1991 about Japan operating an organized military brothel program during the war.
August 14 was later declared in 2012 as the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in described Japan’s wartime use of comfort women as “crimes against humanity.”
The girls who were abducted, trafficked or brought to the Japanese soldiers’ camps had their own dreams and visions for the future. Their visions were shattered and their bodies were damaged in circumstances of utter injustice.
Due to their tender age then, it was a painful experience for them to be subjected to sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual violence during World War 2.
The victims have spent their lives in misery, having endured physical injuries, pain and disability, and mental and emotional suffering.
“Hindi mawawala ang sakit at ang pait sa ala-ala ng bayan, sa ngalan ng kababaihang tinampalasan ng dayuhang sundalo, kahit na pa giniba ang estatwang kumatawan sa kalunus-lunos na trahedya ng mga Ianfu, mga comfort women” says Orteza.
A year passed but there is no information yet on the whereabouts of the Lola statue that dubiously disappeared while in the custody of its artist, Jonas Roces.
Roces was commissioned by Tulay Foundation Inc. to make the 2-meter-high “Lola” statue, an unnamed woman wearing a traditional Filipino dress, blindfolded, with hands clutched to her chest.
“LOLA,” is the statue of Filipino comfort women and those forced into sexual violence by Japanese invasion and occupation troops during World War II that was installed on December 2017 at the Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard.
Four months after its installation, the statue was dismantled under cover of darkness on April 27, 2018 by the DPWH, allegedly for a drainage improvement project, but seen as submission to protests from Japan.
Tulay Foundation again commissioned Roces to make the necessary repair, thus “Lola ” was placed under his custody for safekeeping until the Flowers-for-Lolas finds her “home.”
However, despite several follow-ups on the formal turn-over of the LOLA statue back to Tulay for its reinstallation at the Baclaran Church initially on August 18 then August 25, 2019, Roces failed to do so. Until he recently told Tulay that the Lola statue was taken by unidentified men from his art studio in Cainta, Rizal.
The explanation given by Roces is dubious since it will not be that easy for the statue to be just taken out from his studio. It cannot be carried by just one or two men given the fact that it is a heavy “more-than life-sized” seven feet bronze art work.
Roces did not even reported the incident to the police.
It has been 75 years since the war ended on August 15, 1945, and yet the Japanese government refuses to recognize its official accountability to the victims of sex slavery. Justice has not been given to women such as Rosa Henson. Their fight for unequivocal public apology, accurate historical inclusion, and just compensation continues up to this day.
Help us find the missing LOLA statue.
Kule is the monicker of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786
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