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Flowers for Lolas: Filipina comfort women say No To War

By: ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | May 01,2024 - 08:49 AM

Flowers for Lolas: Filipina comfort women say No To War

“We will continue to renounce war because we do not want the next generation to experience what we went through.”

Filipina comfort woman Lola Estelita Dy celebrated her 94th birthday in a press conference  that coincided with the anniversary of the  removal of the Lola statue along Baywalk, Roxas Boulevard in Manila last April 27, 2018.

Lola Estelita wanted to be a teacher. But her dream was shattered in 1944, or eight decades ago,  at the young  age of 14 years old when she spent three weeks locked in a military brothel in Talisay, Negros Occidental during which she was repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers.


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“I tried to fight back when I felt pain. The Japanese got angry, held me by the head and pushed me to the table. When I regained consciousness, the Japanese was gone. A woman told me, next time, not to fight back because you might get killed. So every time I was being raped I would just cry and cover my eyes,” Lola Estelita said in an interview.

Her wish was not for a longer life, but for peace to prevail in this country.

She noted that she is dedicating the remaining years of her life to educating the next generation about the horrors of war, hoping to prevent the repetition of past mistakes.

Lola Estelita aired her concern during the “No to War” media forum last weekend hosted by the Kamuning Bakery Café on the 2024 US-Philippines Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises that began on 22 April and runs into May 18.

With close to 17,000 participants (11,000 from the U.S. and 5,000 from the Philippine side) as well as observers from 14 nations, a range of complex missions across domains will be executed, including maritime security, sensing, and targeting, air and missile defense, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defense, and information operations.


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President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is studying the possibility of allowing Japanese military forces to join the Balikatan military exercises next year.

Some of their main conflict scenarios are set in or near the disputed West Philippine Sea, where Chinese and Philippine coast guard and accompanying ships have figured in a series of increasingly tense territorial faceoffs since last year.

“Balikatan 2024 is a dangerous and unnecessary flex that serves only Washington’s goal to deploy more of its military assets in the West Philippine Sea and other parts of the country,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said.

“When you allow the entire country to become a playground for war, that is not what asserting sovereignty looks like,” she added.

About 200,000 women from Korea, China, Burma, New Guinea, and the Philippines who were held in captivity and raped during  the Second World War  as part of one of the largest operations of sexual violence in modern history.

The victims have spent their lives in misery, having endured physical injuries, pain and disability, and mental and emotional suffering.

A two-meter high “Lola” statue was installed in December 2017 along Baywalk, Roxas Boulevard as an unnamed woman wearing a traditional Filipino dress, blindfolded, with hands clutched to her chest.

The Lola statue represents Filipino women’s dignity and stands as “a reminder that wars of aggression must always be opposed, and that sexual slavery and violence should never happen again to any woman, anywhere at any time.”

However, it was removed on April 27, 2018, allegedly for a drainage improvement project, but seen as submission to protests from Japan. It was later declared missing in August 2019 when the artist, Jonas Roces, failed to deliver the statue for its reinstallation at the Baclaran Church.

On International Women’s Day last year, March 8, 2023, the United Nations  Committee on  Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) released a decision which found that the “Philippines violated the rights of victims of sexual slavery perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War by failing to provide reparation, social support and recognition commensurate with the harm suffered.”

The CEDAW Committee pointed out that Philippine government had failed to adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to prohibit all discrimination against women and protect women’s rights on an equal basis with men.

It noted that while  Philippine war veterans, who are mostly men, are entitled to special and esteemed treatment from the government, such as health care benefits, old age, disability and death pensions, there was no such action with the comfort women.

From the more than 200 documented survivors in the late 1990s, less than 40 Filipino comfort women are still alive.

Lola Estelita said that their dwindling number highlights a sense of urgency for them to receive a formal unequivocal public apology and just compensation from Japan as well as accurate historical inclusion while their voices can still be heard.

(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the Seafarers’ Division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan Law Offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)

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