‘Comfort women’ conscripted in Naga


NAGA CITY, Camarines Sur: There were also “comfort women” recruited here during the war years, a Bicol historian said during a lecture on World War 2 in the region recently.

“This is confirmed by an entry in the diary of Tapia del Rio, a Spanish resident of Naga, who noted the nocturnal queue and arrival of trucks at a walled house in Barlin street housing several women,” said historian Danilo Gerona in his lecture on “Social History of Wartime Provincial Capital of Naga,” held at the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary.

The women were clearly conscripted, “but that’s just the sad note in an otherwise relatively calm atmosphere in Naga during the war,” he explained.

MANGA The Japanese komiks was used as propaganda medium according to historian Karl Ian Uy Chang Chua in his lecture on the social history of World War 2 in Bicol. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“Comfort women” were also found in other parts of Asia during World War 2 and were sexually abused by Japanese imperial troops in brothels designated by the foreign occupiers until the end of the war.

“While Naga had a big number of Japanese soldiers deployed in various places in the city, there were little indications of aversion to or collaboration with them. In fact, we have very few recorded cases of Filipinos punished by the Japanese,” Gerona said.

He cited as an example the story of the local Kempetai (Japanese police) head, Capt. Matsui, who spared the lives of 10 suspected Bicol guerrillas in deference to a request of then-Mayor Monico Imperial.

The convivial relationship between Matsui and Imperial, Gerona said, is an example of the social history of war, those aspects of the conflict bearing on social relations of people that are usually forgotten or obliterated by the emphasis on battles and bloody encounters by war historians.

Gerona, author of “Ferdinand Magellan: The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippines” wherein he argued that the Portuguese sailor could not have fought Lapu-Lapu as the latter was already 70 years old then, also expressed doubt on the existence of the so-called Yamashita Treasure buried in some parts of Bicol.

“Were there gold stashed somewhere, these would not have been part of the Yamashita loot, these would have come from the mining towns of Camarines Norte,” he said.

Another lecturer, Karl Ian Uy Cheng Chua, director of the Japanese Studies Program of the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City where he is an assistant professor in the history department, also explained the role of the Japanese manga or comics as propaganda medium.

He said the Japanese strategy utilized the bunkajin or “men of culture,” who targeted Filipino children for their cultural policies and practices.

This explains, Chua added, the use of comics as they appeal to children whom he described as “future adults.”

The one-day lecture was organized by Sumaro Bikolnon, meant to remind the youth of Bicol about this chapter in the country’s history, according to the project director Nathan Sergio.

It also featured an exhibit of war memorabilia and the presentation of the Hiyangta Award to three prominent Bicol guerrilla leaders: Maj. Juan Miranda, Maj. Teofilo Padua and Commodore Jaime Jimenez Sr.

The award, which comes from an old Bicol word meaning noble, was received by heirs of the recipients.

Miranda was one of the founders of the famous Tancong Vaca Guerilla Unit (TVGU) and later served as a congressman representing Camarines Sur. Padua headed a guerrilla group based in Camp Isaro, while Jimenez, also a TVGU member, founded the first maritime school in Bicol.


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  1. Nathan Sergio on

    Sir Ding,
    Dr. Gerona is not applying for Japanese research grant, or something like that. His lecture, as far as we in Sumaro Bikolnon know, is based on documents or primary sources; some of which were the diaries of the leaders of Bicolano guerillas now in his possession. He did explain the helmets found at Barlin Street. He provided his sources of information during the lecture and in the succeeding open forum.
    His lecture, by the way, was highly contextualized focusing on the Bicol area, particularly in Naga City. War experiences outside of that are not covered.
    We, in Sumaro Bikolnon, as the organizer of the event “Kabikolan at War: A Social History of World War II”, stand firm and supportive to Gerona’s lecture entitled “Wartime Naga: A social History”.

  2. Bonifacio Claudio on

    It was Lapu Lapu’s son, Lap Ulapu (or, as we call it nowadays, Lapu Lapu Jr.) who actually fought & killed Ferdinand Magellan. If the Bicolano historian refutes this, then at least offer a credible explanation why the Spanish historian, who was with Magellan at that time of the battle, testified in writing that Magellan was killed in Mactan by the Chieftain Lapu Lapu (thru his son, Lap Ulapu?)… If not, then WHO KILLED FERNANDO DE MAGALLANES ?! If you have nothing better to say to something that is already good, then shut up — “You say it best when you say nothing at all”, so the song goes. Capito ?!

    • Nathan Sergio on

      I suggest you read Dr. Gerona’s book on Magellan as it is stated there who killed Fernando de Magallanes. The book is based on primary sources in the archives of Spain and Portugal.

  3. According to my parents, uncles, and other relatives who lived through the Second World War (I was born in 1950 so missed the war.), the Japanese maintained a prison camp at the Ateneo de Naga school building in Barangay Bagumbayan. It was there where all kinds of prisoners were jailed, tortured and executed. As a result, the Bicolano resistance against the Japanese strengthened. Ask Msgr. Benjamin Almoneda who told me himself how, as a boy, he joined an ambush of the Japanese, and the guerillas had only one bullet each.

    My uncles recounted to me that they were forced into labor in Pili where they worked on the airstrip. Hardly a convial atmosphere between the Japanese Imperial Army and the local populace.

    And how does the historian Gerona explain the dozens of Japanese helmets with similar bullet holes discovered during a recent digging at the corner of Barlin St. and Dimasalang St.? They were worn surely by Japanese soldiers, who were reportedly apparently executed and buried there. Who shot them? The convivial citizens of Naga?

    “While Naga had a big number of Japanese soldiers deployed in various places in the city, there were little indications of aversion to or collaboration with them. In fact, we have very few recorded cases of Filipinos punished by the Japanese,” Gerona said.”

    I think this is revisionism in action. Naga City prides itself with being one of the first to revolt against the Spanish oppression during the Revolution against Spain. The uprising of the Guardia Civil led by Elias Angeles ended Spanish hegemony in Bikol much faster. To believe and propagate the myth that Naga City residents were collaborating happily with the Japanese Army, and that the Japanese were very forgiving in Bikol thanks to the efforts of the mayor then, does not congrue with the tales of the old folks of Naga City I heard as a child growing up in Bikol.

    Why is this Gerona saying these things anyway? Is he applying for some Japanese research grants or something?