The Life of Comfort Women During Japanese Occupation in The Philippines

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About this sample


Words: 3004 |

Pages: 7|

16 min read

Published: Jul 15, 2020

Words: 3004|Pages: 7|16 min read

Published: Jul 15, 2020

The preparations being made by the Commonwealth Government for the independence of the country were interrupted when the country was drawn into World War II. The Japanese treacherously invaded the country. For the next three and one-half years, they imposed their sovereignty over the Philippines. Prior to 1939, the democratic nations in the world saw how the countries, Germany, Italy and Japan committed aggressions against all small and weak nations owing to their imperialistic goals and ambitions. With the escalation of the war in the Pacific, Filipino leaders started preparing the country and its people for war. The military preparing of the Filipino youth was escalated. US sent extra troops and military equipment in the Philippines. Life was difficult for the majority of the Filipinos during the Japanese era. There was a shortage of food, medicines and other basic commodities needed by the people to survive. As a result of this situation, food rationing came to be practiced in the cities. Food shortage, however, became very acute especially during the latter part of the Japanese occupation as farmers were forced to leave their farmlands to escape Japanese brutalities. It was extremely problematic especially in regions where there were guerillas. An atmosphere of fear and anxiety was so prevalent for fear of being suspected of joining or supporting the underground resistance against the Japanese authorities. This was aggravated by the nearness of government agents and associates who announced the guerillas and their supporters to the Japanese. Torment and illicit vanishing turned into a typical thing in numerous places in the country. In addition to the foregoing, Filipinos were not able to escape the brutality and desire for sex of the Japanese soldiers.

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In the past, prostitution in Japan was evident and open. The Japanese government and military even built up a similar program that aims to serve the Japanese Armed Forces. The Japanese Army set up the comfort stations to avert venereal sicknesses and assault by Japanese troopers and to give solace to their soldiers. Military correspondence of the Imperial Japanese Army demonstrates that the point of encouraging comfort stations was to prevent actions of assault violations done by Japanese army personnel and consequently preventing the rise of aggression among people in the possessed regions. According to Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, however, the comfort stations did not solve, but aggravated the first two problems. Yoshimi has asserted, "The Japanese Imperial Army feared most that the simmering discontentment of the soldiers could explode into a riot and revolt. That is why it provided women". Comfort women refer to thousands of young women of various nationalities who became sexual laborers for the Japanese troops before and during the World War II. Women were threatened and forcibly seized against their will, to provide sexual services for the Japanese Imperial Army. Research shows that the Japanese military-sexual activity involved systematic planning and forcible drafting of about 20, 000 Asian women in Japanese-occupied areas. This operation started after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The Japanese military provided their garrisons with so-called comfort stations, which served as brothels with sex slaves for their men’s exclusive use. This was the case in the Philippines, Korea, the South Sea islands, Malaysia, Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) and Manchuria (Northeast China).

In December 1941, Japan military forces landed on the island of Luzon, a US territory. Manila immediately surrendered and a military government was introduced on the 3rd of January 1942. Filipinos mounted an overwhelming guerrilla hostile and organized an opposition team to restrict Japanese military rule in the country. A number of women were raped and abducted through violent means to garrison buildings, then confined there and forced to provide sexual services. Such victims can be thought of as equivalent to comfort women. In many of these cases, their fathers or husbands were killed in front of the women and their other family members. At that time, Japan was a signatory to the International Arrangement and Conventions for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children, and was prohibited from sending Japanese comfort women unless the women were prostitutes 21 years old and above. Yet when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941, they brought with them a few Korean comfort women. Needing more women, they rounded up Filipinos to become sex slaves. A large number of the captives were in their teens and had little knowledge about sex they were snatched from their homes and brought to the comfort stations not knowing what work awaited them. This military task was intended to keep the Japanese satisfied and sustain their military performance. Comfort stations were set up in many places across the country, among them are Manila, Pampanga, Iloilo, Aklan, Sorsogon and Masbate. In these stations the women experienced hell.

From the Final Report of Philippine government, many of the Lolas were taken forcibly by Japanese soldiers while in their home. A few were taken while they were at home while a few were either working; or running an errand for their parents. Many of them were still single but there were other married women. Their period of confinement ranged from three days to more than a year. About 25 percent of them were confined for four months or longer while 17 percent were kept for three months and l6 percent were there for one month. All the Lolas reported to have been raped throughout their period of confinementMore than 70 years have passed since the end of World War II, but the damage of Japanese colonialism and war is still fresh in several nations in East and Southeast Asia. Despite its huge historic contribution to our country, Philippines, one cannot just forget the scar and wounds it brought to every Filipino families. The first work is The Harrowing Story Of Filipina Women Enslaved In Japan’s Wartime Rape Camps (2017) written by Dominique Mosbergen. It primarily discussed how these Filipino women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during the World War II. The author was able to interview M. Evelina Galang, 55, a Filipina-American novelist, essayist and educator. Galang said that she has been writing a book about the nation’s greatest traumas. It’s the story of how women finally broke their silence in the wake of war and terror; a testament to their courage and their long-buried grief. The said book is a collection of stories she have gathered through the years of traveling and interviewing. Since 1998, she has recorded more than 40 hours of interviews with 15 “lolas”. This article aims to tell and narrate what M. Evalina Galang has gathered over the years she have been immersing herself in the world of the women who were abused. It specifically discussed how the women were treated. Taking into accounts their experiences, the author included the highlights of their miserable lives under the Japanese authority. One of the interviewees was Prescilla Bartonico who was 17 when she was captured by the Japanese. The year was 1943. Bartonico and a younger cousin were cowering in an air raid shelter on the Filipino island of Leyte with family members and neighbors; the sounds of gunfire and bomb blasts punctured the still air. Bartonico and her cousin were caught by the Japanese Imperial Army. They grabbed Bartonico’s cousin and dragged her across the floor. The girl screamed and kicked and scratched the soldiers’ faces. Three soldiers took turns raping her before they killed her. For the next three months, Bartonico was imprisoned in a military garrison in the town of Burauen in the Philippines. She said she was raped multiple times daily, “by five to eight” men. According to other testimonies, young women were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule. In many cases, women were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants, or opportunities for higher education; once recruited, they were incarcerated in comfort stations both inside their nations and abroad. Hearing these stories, Galang argued that these ‘comfort women’ were mostly 13, 14, 15 years old. They weren’t really women, they were girls.

What I liked about her work is that she really immersed herself while conducting the study. She literally put herself out there to hear these grieving stories of the comfort women. It was shown how determined she was in fighting against the Japanese government because apparently, according to Galang, the Japanese government is doing their best to erase history. They say there is no evidence, but she herself has heard the evidence. She even touched it. “When I spoke to the Lolas, they would take my hand and bring it to wounds on their body — places they were hit by the soldiers or cut by knives, cigarette burns, bumps, scars and bruises. ” said Galang. The testimonies in the book served as lessons profoundly applicable to this age — a period when a great number of ladies are assaulted and discriminated in the Philippines, even in America where schools and universities battle with a scourge of sexual brutality. While the article reports significant research interviews about the experiences of the comfort women, I think it still lacks quantitative support to make the argument strong. Although she used an interview type of sources, the author could have incorporated numbers to validate what the interviewees had said.

The next work is Anything but Comfort written by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo from the seventh volume of the book Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People. She is a journalist for more than 30 years, writes special reports, features and a column, “Human Face, ” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Ceres’ written works have earned awards and citations. She has contributed to several major book projects as well. Many of her stories are in her book “Journalist in Her Country. ” This book mainly focused on Japanese occupation in the Philippines. It was detailed in the sense that it covered the important happenings that occurred in the country. Similar to Galang’s style, Doyo also included the interviews she got in her work but majority of her work discussed the status of the Filipino women during that span of time when Japanese was in the country. It was described how in 1993, with the help of the Task Force on Filipino Comfort women, 46 former Filipino comfort women, all in their 60s and 70s, filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government to seek redress and compensation. The Japanese government issued an apology and promised “gifts of atonement” – a ten-year $ 1-billion program for Asian victims. The international Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the task force, however, criticized the plan as insufficient, and recommended more immediate steps for rehabilitation and restitution. Lucia Misa of Bulacan also shared her harrowing story. She was 15 when Japanese soldiers entered her house. The soldiers stabbed Lucia’s parents and when her sister refused to go with them, they sliced off her breasts and disemboweled her. Lucia was taken to the garrison and held her prisoner for three months. Every day she was raped by at least five soldiers. Another woman was Juanita Jamot who was pregnant when 15 Japanese soldiers barged into their rented room in Grace Park and took away all the men. She and four other women were raped, then taken to a building in Divisoria where they were held sex slaves. The article cited several cases of abuse made by the Japanese soldiers and sufficient evidences to support the topic.

The 1994 ICJ mission that reviewed documents and conducted interviews reported: “Life in the ‘comfort stations’ was hell. Despite the fact that Japan was among those that approved the Hague Convention of 1907 ensuring regular people in involved regions and was thusly bound by it, the Japanese Imperial Army violated numerous provisions. Unfortunately, councils that attempted atrocities later, similar to the Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Tribunal), concentrated on the maltreatment of prisoners of war (POWs). Innocent civilians, like the women used military-sexual exercised were of no consequences. Evidences like these help in strengthening the main point of the author.

Another source of this comparative analysis is Of Pain, Courage and Survival authored by Emere Distor. This article describes the life of Maria Rosa Henson or "Lola Rosa. It was an interpretation of her work written to untangle the pain and struggles encountered by a lot of women in the past during the Japanese occupation. Lola Rosa was an outspoken, intelligent and courageous woman who overcame great odds to become a champion of justice for the most secret and silent victims of World War II. Her widely read autobiography, Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny, published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 1996, is a touchingly honest account of her life and times and is the only autobiography ever written by any of the over 200, 000 sex slaves kept by the Japanese in Asia. Comfort Woman is a finalist in this year's National Book Award for Best Biography. The life of Maria Rosa Henson or "Lola Rosa" classically depicts the cruelty of poverty and powerlessness. Yet, in the midst of the pity, all things considered, Lola Rosa breaths strength. In her collection of memoirs, Lola Rosa, survivor of Japanese war outrage, drives the readers to visit her life through the book with her own representations and distinctive portrayals of individuals and occasions long gone. Her story begins as the daughter of the landlord’s illiterate mistress, Julia. Rosa's mom, Julia, is the oldest of the children who started her 'working' life as Don Pepe Henson's housemaid, in spite of her protestations. The appearing benevolence of the proprietor to help Julia's family was not without intention.

Lola Rosa wrote Comfort Woman in her own unsteady hand, on ruled pad paper, using the English she had learned in school. The exertion assumed control over a year and involved a lot of agonizing memory of an existence that has seen epic enduring. In Comfort Woman, Lola Rosa composed of her own mom's assault by the well-off landowner who was to end up her dad. She grew up as the shrouded, ill-conceived little girl of a youthful mother who could scarcely read or compose. Be that as it may, the youthful Rosa figured out how to do well in a Catholic school in Pasay City, and was in seventh grade when the war broke out. It showed the bravery of Lola Rosa owing to the fact that she is one of the victims as well. Coming out in public as a comfort woman was a courageous thing to do and writing about it, telling people about their stories just proves how much strength and courage she has. Many people are sympathetic but some are sneering and even suspicious. In April 1993, along with other surviving comfort women from the Philippines and other countries, she filed a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court demanding compensation from the Japanese government. During the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to the Philippines in 1994, Tomiichi Murayama brought out the idea of a Women’s Centre as a form of compensation. Until now, the Japanese government insists that compensation was already given in the form of reparations to the Philippines government after WW IIHer private inner struggles notwithstanding, Lola Rosa (as she later became known) not only spoke publicly about her trials, but also wrote a detailed and compelling narrative of her life. Her book, Rosa Henson: Comfort Woman, Slave of Destiny includes an account of the 9 months she endured as a 16-year-old “comfort woman” for soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Over twenty years into the comfort women redress movement, the survivors, their advocates, and their detractors are still stuck debating the facts of the comfort system. The individuals who look for review for the numerous abominations of the comfort system have needed to depend on survivors' declaration as proof of a few things: that the comfort system existed by any means; that those ladies currently looking for reparations had been pressured into being comfort ladies. People already have seen that history is always filled with stories of women being sexual slaves during wars. However, history also proves that the international community has rarely acted to prevent or redress such abuse. The issue of comfort women always has been an intense controversy between Japan and other Asian countries. It is really important and sensitive problem because comfort women issue not only reflects the political conflicts between these nations, but also deals with the matter of intellectual and moral. A great part of the discussion with respect to this issue has been about the value — or deficiency in that department — of the survivors' declaration as proof, in the legal sense, of the guiltiness of the comfort system and of Japan's accountability for it. In spite of the fact that the previous comfort women and their advocates stubbornly proceed with their work, they still haven’t received the apology and justice they are all fighting for.

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The comfort women movement’s primary goal of redress through legal avenues has heavily influenced the way the survivors tell their stories. Despite the fact that it appears like a political and a historical conflict among the countries involved, this tackles global concern as well. Since this issue deals with the ladies' human rights, people need to learn from the history and prevent such an abuse of women’s human rights. Comfort women have endured in the previous couple of decades with not only physical problems, but also mental problems. I figure it would be really hard for them to forgive Japan, even if the Japanese government apologized and compensated. Due to the life in the comfort station, comfort women lost their nation, family, trusts, hope, future, spirits and youth. Wars still keep on breaking out on some part of the world, which implies that there are a lot of ladies who are still being denied of their basic human rights as of now. For the future, the following ages, we ought to be worried and concerned about this issue seriously so it never happens again.

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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The Life Of Comfort Women During Japanese Occupation In The Philippines. (2020, July 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“The Life Of Comfort Women During Japanese Occupation In The Philippines.” GradesFixer, 14 Jul. 2020,
The Life Of Comfort Women During Japanese Occupation In The Philippines. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
The Life Of Comfort Women During Japanese Occupation In The Philippines [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Jul 14 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from:
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