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One of the greatest atrocities that the Japanese committed during the Second World War involved violations against women. These women are known and referred in history as Comfort Women.

Lola Rosa-attachmentMaria Rosa Luna Henson was a Filipino comfort woman, and was known to be the first one who confessed her story to the public. The book, “Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny” is an autobiography that focuses on her experiences as a victim of the Japanese oppression and how she came out after several years of battling this to herself.

Born from a very poor family, Maria Rosa Luna Henson and her family depended on the money his father gave them. She was an illegitimate child of a rich landlord by the name of Don Pepe Henson, to whom his grandfather had worked for as a farmer in the Barrio of Pampanga in Angeles Pampanga.

She obtained her primary education at St. Mary’s College in Pasay and despite their family’s financial problem, she strived in class, driven by her goal to become a doctor even without any school materials. She learned vocational skills such as handicraft, embroidery, sewing, and knitting.

She used these skills in order to save enough money for educational expenses as she taught her classmates and got paid for 3-5 centavos During weekends, she worked as a dressmaker and earned 5 centavos.

December 8, 1941 brought drastic changes in every Filipinos’ lives, including Lola Rosa’s. It was in February, 1942 when Lola Rosa’s life had totally turned into her worst nightmare. As she went and attend to her usual activity, helping her uncles to fetch firewood, two Japanese soldiers had grabbed her in both arms which made escaping difficult for a little child. For a 14-year old girl to experience such inhumane action, it was difficult and painful for Lola Rosa to bear, but it did not end there.

The second time happened when she was with her uncles, although they wanted to help her they could not move because they knew that they will be surely killed by the Japanese soldiers. These incidents were only known to her mother and uncles, eventually they decided to went back home to Pampanga. Due to severe pain and hatred towards the people who violated her, Lola Rosa eventually joined the Hukbalahap. Her task was to gather food, medicine, and clothes for the guerillas. With this, she was able to witnessed one of the most terrible event in Philippine History – the infamous Death March.

While doing the tasks assigned to her, she was abducted by Japanese soldiers leading to her worst nightmares that lasted for 9 months. After 9 months, Lola Rosa finally escaped. She regained freedom, but only in physical sense; like a prisoner with handcuffs, her thoughts and emotions are still chained and incarcerated in that small room where she endured the atrocities.

The bravest and courageous thing that a comfort woman can do is to tell and share her story to the public in order to shed light on how cruel and horrible war can do to anyone, especially women during the Japanese occupation. In the last chapter of her autobiography, which is entitled “Going Public”, Lola Rosa decided to go out. Lola Rosa was the first one who courageously told everyone her story and the first one to do so. She participated and talked in conferences held locally and internationally; filled with so much fear and discomfort, she shared her experiences to the public but in the end of every events the only thing that she wishes and hopes for was Justice.

She does not only speak for herself, rather she represents the general population of women who were abused by Japanese soldiers. As Rosello stated, “War was not only harsh to their souls but to their bodies as well. Painful memories left ugly marks on the women’s abused bodies.” [1]  Eventually, Lola Rosa died at the age of 69 on August 18, 1997.
[1] Rosello, Cristina Lope YI, Disconnect: the Filipino comfort women (Diliman, Q.C. : Gates Publishing House, 2011), 13.

 

References:

Henson, Maria Rosa. Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny. Pasig City: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 1996.

Rosello, Cristina Lope Yl. Disconnect: The Filipino Comfort Women. Diliman, Q.C.: Gates Publishing House, 2011.

“Special Programs.” Rizal Library Off-Campus Access to Online Databases. http://rizal.lib.admu.edu.phialiww/splprg_rosahenson.html.

 

Research by:

Ms. Justine Arguelles