Women made to be Comfort Women - Philippines
In December 1941, Japanese military forces landed on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, a US territory. Manila quickly surrendered, and a military government was installed on 3 January 1942. Filipinos mounted a vigorous guerrilla offensive and organized a resistance movement to oppose Japanese military rule. The Japanese forces waged a cruel campaign in an attempt to suppress the guerrilla opposition. Of the 381 cases of Class B and Class C war crimes brought before post-war military tribunals in the Philippines, almost half involved massacres of local civilians (138 cases) or rapes (45 cases).
In Manila(in the map 2), according to a research report of one section of SCAP, there were 12 houses of relaxation (comfort stations) and 5 brothels for privates and non-commissioned officers. War prisoners testified that there were 5 or 6 comfort stations where Korean, Filipino and Chinese women worked. On the island of North Luzon comfort stations existed at Bayonbong(1). In the Central Visaya region on the island of Masbate(3) there was a comfort station named "Military Club". At Iloilo(4) on the island of Panay two comfort stations existed. It can be ascertained that in 1942 in the first one 12 - 16 women worked and in the second one 10 - 11 women. At Cebu(5) on the island of Cebu a Japanese proprietor opened a comfort station. At Tacloban(6) on the island of Leyte in a comfort station managed by Filipinos 9 Filipino women worked.
In Burauen(7) of the same island a comfort station was opened by August 1944.
In Butuan(8) on the island of Mindanao a comfort station was opened with three Filipino women in 1942. And it is known that in Cagayan(9) of the same island the third comfort station was established in February 1943. That means that there were three comfort stations in Cagayan. In Dansaran(10) in the central part of the island there was a Comfort station. In Davao(11) of the island there was a comfort station where Koreans, Taiwanese and Filipinos were brought and forced into service.
Also in parts of the Philippines occupied by the Japanese military, according to victims' testimonies, 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.
From the Final Report of Philippine government (Full text here)
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. A Lola from Bicol was asleep when the Japanese came to their village and rounded up all men and young women and were taken in the elementary school building; where they were held until the next morning;. Then, they were taken to the municipal hall. Another Lola was told by her mother to buy food from the nearby town while the other one was gathering "sisid" (wet) rice near the pier in Malabon.
They were taken to Japanese military camps or garrisons which were former wither municipal/provincial building, big private houses, elementary/high school buildings, hospitals or churches. A Lola narrated that all the corners of a particular church in Manila had a woman being raped by the Japanese every night. There was even a case where the Lola's house itself was converted into a garrison. A tunnel was reportedly used to house comfort 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 confinement. Seven Japanese soldiers first raped this Lola who hails from the Visayas in their house while the other family members were being interrogated. And every night thereafter for seven days, three to five Japanese soldiers raped her. A Lola from Manila was raped a month after her capture. Of her six to seven month confinement in the garrison, three or more soldiers continuously raped her about three times a week.
The case of Maria Rosa Henson
She said that during the occupation, after being raped the first time, she joined the guerrilla resistance movement, then was captured, raped again, taken by order of Japanese military headquarters and confined with other women for nine months, during which time she was raped time after time.
Rosa Henson was taken into a hospital which was converted into a garrison. Together with other six women, she was forced to provide sex for their Japanese captor. After three months, she was transferred to another comfort station which was a former rice mill. Lola and a group of other young women were washing clothes when a Filipino collaborator of the Japanese suggested that they could earn money from washing clothes for the Japanese soldiers. They went with the collaborator to three Japanese soldiers who were waiting for them. They were taken to a two-storey houses and were held there for a year washing clothes during day time and being raped at night( Testimonies of Rosa Henson).
Testimonies of the Victims
Here are the testimonies of some of the former comfort women.
Testimony I Kimiko Kaneda (South Korea)
Kimiko Kaneda was born in Tokyo on 22 October 1921. Her father was a Korean and her mother was a Japanese. Just after her birth, she was taken over to the relatives of her father in Korea. Her father became a priest but he was arrested because of his disrespect toward Japanese shrines. When she was 16 years old, she went to Seoul for better employment on the recommendation of her friend who worked as housemaid for a Japanese family. Led by a Japanese, she was put on a train to go from Seoul to Tianjin, China, then from Tianjin via Peitan to Zaoqiang. There she was forced to be a comfort woman for the Japanese military. She was named Kimiko Kaneda. Later she moved to Shijiazhuang. Her life during childhood was difficult and solitary. Out of wish to forget her real pains, she became an opium addict and in 1945 was allowed to return to Korea. After the war she had to go through an operation in which she lost her womb. In January 1997 Harmoni Kimiko Kaneda became one of the first recipients of the atonement project of the AWF in South Korea. She passed away on 27 January 2005.
When I was 14 years old, my father was arrested by police because he did not visit Japanese shrines. I was busy caring for my younger brothers and keeping the house, and had no idea of going to school.
My father could speak Japanese well and told a lie that from now on he was going to visit Japanese shrines with his followers. Liberated, he went home. He cured the burn on his leg which the police inflicted. Then the police came to arrest him again. It was 4 o'clock in the morning. Father was praying in the church. I sprang up and ran to the church.
"Daddy, run away. The police are here again." At that time around the church was surrounded by rice fields and vegetable fields. Close by was a Japanese village. He stopped praying and fled through the Japanese village. He went through Taegu and arrived at Sengju to see his aunt, who hid him from police.
At 4 o'clock in the morning we took ride on a train. It stopped for two hours at Shanhaiguan at which point myself and Yoshiko attempted to escape. But the exits were blocked by military police. We were much too scared to escape from the train. We spent one night in the train and on the second day arrived at Tianjin at 11 o'clock. When we got off the train at Tianjin, fully armed soldiers were waiting for us with a truck, a coach and a jeep. We were put on the coach and taken to Peitan.
In Peitan we got off the coach and entered a house, in which a number of women and girls were crowded. Near the house there was garrison of a Japanese regiment, which was always patrolling for enemies. On that day we were divided into groups of ten and I was sent with other girls to Zaoqiang. There, in a city surrounded by walls, was a unit of the Japanese army stationed. We were taken to the dining room of the unit and made to sit on the floor.
Forced to become a comfort woman
How did I feel? I felt as if we were taken here to be killed. I could not but weep. No one talked. All were weeping. That night we slept there and in the morning we were put in those rooms. Soldiers came to my room, but I resisted with all my might. The first soldier wasn't drunk and when he tried to rip my clothes off, I shouted "No!" and he left. The second soldier was drunk. He waved a knife at me and threatened to kill me if I didn't do what he said. But I didn't care if I died, and in the end he stabbed me. Here( She pointed her chest).
He was taken away by the military police and I was taken to the infirmary. My clothes were soaked with blood. I was treated in the infirmary for twenty days. I was sent back to my room. A soldier who had just returned from the fighting came in. Thanks to the treatment my wound was much improved, but I had a plaster on my chest.
Despite that the soldier attacked me, and when I wouldn't do what he said, he seized my wrists and threw me out of the room. My wrists were broken, and they are still very weak. Here was broken.... There's no bone here. I was kicked by a soldier here. It took the skin right off... you could see the bone.
In the comfort station in Shijiazhuang
When the soldiers came back from the battlefields, as many as 20 men would come to my room from early morning. That's why I had to have a hysterectomy (in my twenties). They rounded up little girls still in school. Their genitals were still underdeveloped, so they became torn and infected. There was no medicine except something to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and Mercurochrome. They got sick, their sores became septic, but there was no treatment.
The soldiers made Chinese laborers lay straw in the trenches and the girls were put in there. There was no bedding... underneath was earth. There was no electricity at that time, only oil lamps, but they weren't even given a lamp. They cried in the dark "Mummy, it hurts! Mummy, I'm hungry!" We wanted to go and give them our leftover food, but there were a lot of sick and disturbed people in the trenches. Some of them had TB. I was scared they might pull me in to the trenches, and I didn't want to go there. I could have gone if I had a lamp.
When someone died the girls got scared and began to cry. Then everyone in the trenches was poisoned and they closed up the trench. They dug another trench next to it.
With dying soldiers
Hundreds of soldiers were killed or injured everyday. They put out boards on the parade ground and erected tents over them. The dead were put in there. They laid out the injured there. The soldiers cried out in pain. We didnft give water to those who still had the will to live. We wiped their lips with a cloth soaked in alcohol, and gave them an injection to make them sleep. We gave two injections to the seriously wounded. After the morphine shot they would stop crying and sleep. When the morphine began to wear off they would grab at my clothes. They usually called me Kaneda Kimiko, but at those times they would call me Onesan (sister). "Onesan, please give me another shot!" I felt sorry for them, so I would inject them again, and they would sleep.
When they were dying, not one soldier said "Tenno Heika Banzai". They would look at pictures of their mothers or their wives, and say, weeping, "Mother, I may die. If I die, let us meet again at Yasukuni Shrine". I also wept at these scenes. (See film)
I thought Yasukuni Shrine must be a wonderful place. The soldiers said that they would go to 'the place beneath the blossoms' at Yasukuni. I went there, but there was nothing, only white pigeons. I sat down there, thinking without uttering voices. Soldiers said that they would go to 'the place beneath the blossoms' at Yasukuni, but now their spirits of enmity turned into the pigeons around me. My heart was broken. I bought bait for the pigeons at an automat. The pigeons came to my hands and picked at the bait.
From the video produced by the AWF, 1998
Maria Rosa L. Henson was born in Pasay City on 5 December 1927. She was the extramarital daughter of a bid landowner and his housemaid. When she was 14 years old, the Pacific War broke out and the Philippines were occupied by the Japanese. In February 1942 she was first raped by Japanese soldiers. While she went to fetch firewood with her uncles and neighbors for her family, she was caught and raped by three Japanese, one of whom seemed to be an officer.. After two weeks she was again raped by the same Japanese officer, while fetching firewood. She felt a strong anger toward the Japanese military, and joined the HUKBALAHAP, an anti-Japanese guerilla group. A year passed. In April 1943 she was arrested by Japanese at a check point in the suburbs of Angeles and taken to the garrison. There she was forced to be a comfort woman. She spent the next nine months of her life in this way. In January 1944 she was saved by guerillas. After Japan's capitulation, she married with a soldier of the Philippines army. She had two daughters, but her husband joined the communist army and died. She worked as a charwoman or a factory worker. In 1992 she decided to come out after hearing the radio program. She was the first Philippine woman who spoke out about her own distress. In 1996 she was one of the three women who became first recipients of the AWF project. Maria Rosa Henson passed away on 18 August 1997.
I was forced to stay at the hospital which they have made as a garrison. I met six women in the garrison after two or three days in the place. The Japanese soldiers were forcing me to have sex with several of their colleagues. Sometimes 12 soldiers would force me to have sex with them and then they would allow me to rest for a while, then about 12 soldiers would have sex with me again.
There was no rest, they had sex with me every minute. That's why we were very tired. They would allow you to rest only when all of them have already finished. Maybe, because we were seven women in the garrison, there were a fewer number of soldiers for each one of us.
But then, due to my tender age, it was a painful experience for me. I stayed for three months in that place after which I was brought to a rice mill also here in Angeles. It was nighttime when we were fetched to be transferred. When I arrived in the rice mill, the same experience happened to us. Sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening... not only 20 times. At times, we would be brought to some quarters or houses of the Japanese. I remembered the Pamintuan Historical House. We were brought there several times. You cannot say no as they will definitely kill you. During the mornings, you have a guard. You are free to roam around the garrison, but you cannot get out. I could not even talk to my fellow women two of whom I believed were Chinese. The others I thought were also from Pampanga. But then, we were not allowed to talk to each other.
"Lila-Pilipina, Inc. Summary of narration. Ma. Rosa Henson, 69 years old, Pampanga", Data prepared: September 1992.
Many have asked me whether I am still angry with the Japanese. Maybe it helped that I have faith. I had learned to accept suffering. I also learned to forgive. If Jesus Christ could forgive those who crucified Him, I thought I could also find it in my heart to forgive those who had abused me. Half a century had passed. Maybe my anger and resentment were no longer as fresh. Telling my story has made it easier for me to be reconciled with the past. But I am still hoping to see justice done before I die. (See film)
Maria Rosa Henson, Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Manila, 1996, p. 152.
Testimony III A Taiwanese victim
She was born in Miaoli, Taiwan in 1930. She was taken to a garrison of the Japanese army in Taiwan and forced to provide sexual services to the Japanese men. After the war she kept silent about this fact even toward her husband for 50 years. In 1997 she became a recipient of the project of the AWF.
At that time, my fiancée had been drafted by the Japanese military and sent to the south. I was helping my father's business at home. One day, the Japanese police called and told me to come because they had a job for me. They said that I would be preparing meals and mending torn clothes for the soldiers. I did not want to go, but the police said that all men and women must come because the country was at war then and that everybody must follow the General National Mobilization Law. So I went to work. I saw many Japanese soldiers. There were some other women like me, too. We got up in the morning, washed our faces and cooked breakfast to feed the soldiers. We washed their clothes and mended torn clothes. Then, at night, we were called and confined to a room. ...it was a terrible job. I was only weeping. In the daytime I sewed clothes and did the soldiers' laundry. It was easy. But at night I died. I was dying. I felt as if I was dead. I wished to flee away, but I did not know the way. Soldiers were standing at the gates. If you fled, you would be shot. I was too young. I did not know anything. I could not realize that I was pregnant. I began to throw up what I had eaten. Then a woman, who was with me, said that I was pregnant. In two months I had a miscarriage. Even now when I think about it, tears come to my eyes. Oh... I am sorry to make you hear such a terrible story.
I thought that my fiance had died, but long after the war he returned unexpectedly. We married. I could not tell that story to him. I have never told it to anyone. How can you tell such a thing?
50 years passed. I came to know that there are people who had endured the same experiences. And I could not keep silent. I could not bear it any more. I told my husband. I bowed and begged him to forgive me. He was surprised and said that he had painful experiences during war, but you had also such painful experiences. There was nothing we can do about it. That was the war. Saying such, he forgave me. Hitherto I had always feared what my husband would do on knowing this story. I have thought and thought only about it. When I told this to my husband, I felt at ease.
Now I am living with my husband, only the two of us. I can not work any more in farm, because I have pains in my knees. I grow vegetables a little and go to sell them. As we are old, we do not eat rice much. So we can live in this way. But we have no money. Our life is so hard.
Interview taken in 1996
Projects by country or region - Philippines
At first, LILA-Pilipina was opposed to the Asian Women's Fund when it was established in 1995. But some lolas, including Ms. Henson, indicated a desire to benefit from the Fund's atonement projects. LILA-Pilipina came to the decision that accepting the Fund's atonement money and continuing with the lawsuit were compatible with one another. A committee was established within LILA-Pilipina to support lolas who had decided to accept benefits from the Asian Women's Fund.
Completing the government application for benefits was a complicated process, because of the documentation that had to accompany the application: the applicant had to attach a description of conditions at the time when she was forced to become a comfort woman, a photograph, an affidavit from the local government or non-governmental organization(NGO) identifying her as a former "wartime comfort woman" based on the knowledge of the war time period, her birth certificate, and her marriage certificate.
The consultative entity on the Philippine side with ultimate responsibility for the atonement projects was a task force of the Philippine Government called the Special Committee to Address the Comfort Women Issue. This Special Committee was composed of government officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health, and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women. The task force gave authority for the authentication of former comfort women to the Department of Justice, and gave authority for the implementation of the medical and welfare support projects to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Application forms and documentation were submitted to the Department of Justice, and their examination then began.
Attorneys of the Department of Justice interviewed applicants and checked applications. Finally they drew conclusions, whether applicants could be recognized "comfort women".
Those recognized as former comfort women were provided with a letter of apology from the Japanese Prime Minister. The letter was sent from the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines via the Philippine foreign ministry. The Asian Women's Fund presented atonement money to the women. In addition, medical and welfare support projects, funded by the Japanese Government and valued at an equivalent of 1.2 million yen per recipient, were implemented through the Philippine Government's Department of Social Welfare and Development.
On 13 August 1996, the Asian Women's Fund announced information on its projects in Philippine newspapers.
The following day, a ceremony at a Manila hotel was held to mark the provision of atonement project benefits to three of the four people approved as beneficiaries so far: Maria Rosa Henson, Anastasia Cortez and Rufina Fernandez. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Ambassador of Japan presented the letter to them, and Ms. Makiko Arima, Vice-President of the Asian Women's Fund at the time, presented each of them with information on the contents of atonement projects.
Ms. Henson spoke in front of more than 100 reporters gathered there, expressing her deep happiness that she was seeing the results of a dream she had thought would never come true. Ms. Cortez spoke next, saying she had suffered for more than 50 years, but was glad to have obtained justice and assistance. Ms. Fernandez expressed her thanks for the Japanese Prime Minister's apology, and said it was the apology that had persuaded her to be present that day. During the press conference, when asked whether recent events had made it possible for her to forgive, Ms. Henson replied that she had been asked that question many times since coming forward in September 1992, and that she had indeed forgiven ---; that if she had not forgiven, God would not forgive her.
Many other former comfort women and Japanese people in support groups criticized me, saying that I would never regain my human dignity without compensation from Japan itself. There's no contradiction in accepting benefits from the AWF and continuing with the lawsuit, and there's nothing stopping me from doing both." - Maria Rosa Henson