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.
“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.