MANILA, Philippines – “If what happened to us happened to Mr Aquino’s sisters—we were raped, made to cook and clean and then beaten if we refused to spread our legs, could he continue to ignore us?” The 85-year-old woman’s voice shook, there was a faint tremble in her hand, and her eyes glistened as she spoke.
Narcisa Claveria is one of the estimated 1,000 lolas (grandmothers) who were used as comfort women or sex slave by Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
The comfort women, whose number has now dwindled to about 70, have been demanding an unconditional apology from the Japanese government, admission that comfort women and the system of sex slavery existed and compensation for the mental trauma and hardship they endured. (READ: Comfort women: ‘Hustisya para sa mga lola’)
Their pleas have gone ignored.
Call for justice unheeded
Last December, Japan apologized to the government of South Korea and agreed to pay $8.3 million as compensation for their use of Korean comfort women.
That and the five-day state visit of Emperor Akihito last month made the comfort women hope that both the Philippine and Japanese government would listen to their grievance and acknowledge their existence. (READ: Comfort women to Aquino: Tackle our plight with the Japanese emperor)
But the aging women’s fight for justice continues to be neglected.
“I’m sorry. I am so sorry,” Eve Ensler said to Lola Narcisa.
The author of the widely popular play “The Vagina Monologues” and co-founder of One Billion Rising protest movement had been intently watching and listening to Lola Narcisa as she spoke.
Facing the crowd gathered for the One Billion Rising press conference on February 8, Ensler said: “I have known and worked with Lola Narcisa for the last 15 years. How is it possible that we are still sitting here today without having apologized to these women? It is a matter of national shame and that falls on the Philippine government.”
One Billion Rising Philippines
Ensler is in the Philippines for the next 12 days to visit multiple cities and spend time with the Gabriela Women’s Party List as well as comfort women, youth groups, Lumad women and women in Angeles City who are protesting the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which outlines arrangements for US military to set up bases in 8 locations around the country.
On its 4th year, the One Billion Rising Philippines is a protest movement that uses dance and song as a mobilizing force to end violence against women and girls. Statistics show that 1 in 3 females, equivalent to about one billion women, will experience some form of sexual violence in her lifetime. (READ: One Billion Rising: Dance against injustice)
“Women like Lola Narcisa are women who gave their lives and bodies for this country and yet they are not valued and cherished. It is criminal,” said Ensler.
Lola Narcisa vowed keep fighting. “Kahit ibala ako sa kanyon ni Mr Aquino, lalabanan ko yan. Hindi ako mananahimik.” (Even if I were used as cannonball by Mr Aquino, I will fight. I will not be silenced.)
The first One Billion Rising protest began on February 9, in Tondo, Manila.
Ensler along with One Billion Rising global director Monique Wilson will also set out on a multiple country Rising tour across Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Dhaka. The tour will end in London with the premier of Ensler’s latest theatrical work, “Fruit Trilogy” at the Women of the World International Festival. – Rappler.com