AT this writing (Feb. 16, Tuesday), a house that was said to be a silent witness to unspeakable atrocities and sexual depravities of Japanese soldiers during World War II will have disappeared from the face of San Ildefonso town in Bulacan province, north of Manila.
I went home to Nueva Ecija last weekend for the funeral of the mother of a dear classmate friend of mine.
In this trip, my latest to my roots, I saw the house being dismantled, its walls nearly gone.
Since grade school in the 1960s, each trip to now Gapan City and back to Manila passes through San Ildefonso, a rice-growing municipality just 30 minutes or so away from my hometown.
I remembered wondering about this house that stood alone surrounded by ricefields and perhaps a hundred meters away from the national highway.
It is to your left if you are bound for Nueva Ecija.
The house looked like one on the prairie of the American West this side of the tropics.
From a distance, it seemed to be painted in a shade of red all over–two stories tall, imposing with its grand architecture (it definitely was not a palatial bahay kubo, if there was one), reminding me of a mansion, a villa like those that, when I got much older, I would see later in Negros Occidental.
Right, the house of an haciendero built with the blood, sweat and tears of sacadas, transported to the country’s rice granary Central Luzon, where Bulacan is.
In maybe thousands of trips I took over the decades, I never asked anyone about why this mansion/villa was seemingly unoccupied (because it looked mysterious and forbidding besides), who its owners were and, again, why I have not heard a single casual comment from passengers–not even from my parents–on the beauty or grandeur of the house as the bus makes its way through the road fronting it.
I would learn much later from a now defunct but trail-blazing TV magazine show, in the 1990s, I think, that this red house was a pit stop for Japanese soldiers where they gang-raped young Filipino women, prepubescent girls even, whom history has tagged and uncomfortably so “comfort women,” with official approval of the Japanese government.
Now, Tokyo wants the books to refer to these hapless victims of unimaginable violence as “sex slaves,” as if that would change a thing about the shame of it all (more on the country that encouraged it as state, perhaps monarchial, policy, not the country at the receiving end of it).
I have stopped wondering why the Japanese, supposedly one of the most polite people on the planet, also bow even if only to say “Thank you” or “Goodbye.”
By doing so, I have concluded, they are able to dodge the bullet aimed at their cold, dark and evil heart, by the comfort women or, okay, sex slaves, whom their uncles or grand uncles or fathers or grandfathers wronged in a manner that no word could possibly be found or invented to describe the bestiality of it all.
I plan to be at Pambuan, the Gapan City barrio that I grew up in, on the second weekend of next month for the annual two-day fiesta.
I will pass by San Ildefonso again and I hope by the time, the red house will still be standing there, defiantly reminding the text and the next generations that, yes, several years ago foreign occupiers ceased to be soldiers with honor and respect for conventions of war, for children, men, women and humanity.
The nerve of them in Tokyo saying that not a single piece of evidence supports the comfort women’s “claims” on what really happened at the red house nearly 70 years ago.
At least, probably the biggest lie among other lies peddled by post-war Japan was not echoed by the Emperor and Empress of Japan when they visited Manila late last month.
The only reason was that they and their host–President Benigno Aquino 3rd–apparently avoided talking about it, reducing the comfort women to forgettable footnotes to history and with the apparent complicity of Tokyo and Manila.
Shame of all shames.