My father and mother enlisted with the Hukbalahap in their late teens to fight the Japanese imperial forces. They promptly got their crash courses on Marxism-Leninism, which they forgot after one week. And drills on marksmanship, which, for survival purposes, they had to master.
Men from my Lubao barrio who fought and who fought hard in that Huk war against the Japanese (there were several casualties ) were common. But the women volunteers were few (Indang Sayong, Indang Seryang, Indang Reyeng, etc). There were about five teen-aged girls in the unit that included my mother. The four opted to do support role but by mother, according to recounting from the barrio elders, volunteered to carry a gun and fight. And fight whenever there was fighting to be done.
The Huk unit from my barrio was dedicated and unafraid. It was the unit that liberated the Pampanga Sugar Mill (Pasumil), the sugar complex-turned-Japanese camp in Floridablanca town, from Japanese control. The gun battle lasted for hours and it was here that Silvestre Liwanag alias Linda Bie first earned his reputation as one of the most daring guerilla fighters of that war. Elders said it was probably in that major encounter where my mother earned her longish scar. It was also here that a young polymath who joined the unit, Mario Banez, was shot and killed by a sniper from the Pasumil tower.
Even with that major victory, one of the most recounted tales of the war, the Huk unit went back to camp gripped by sadness over the death of Banez, the brightest young man of the barrio. My mother and father kept silent about everything that covered their guerilla years, except for the occasional burst of deep sadness over the death of Banez. Their first born, my elder brother, was named Mario.
From a personal realm, my father and my mother were supposed to hate the Japanese, the kind of purple hate that time would not heal. They saw the brutality of the imperial forces first-hand. They were witnesses to the rape of women, the torture of suspected guerilla coddlers in their garrisons, the rote inhumanity of the “sakang.” They were witness to the sad and untimely deaths of young men (mostly in their late teens ) who volunteered to fight, not to seek personal glory, but for the motherland.
I asked my mother, she is still strong and alert in her 80s, about her feelings on the visiting Japanese royal couple – Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. She said “Mibayo ne in yatu.” The world has evolved, her code phrase for forgetting. Despite an ugly memento from the war, a long scar from a gunshot, she has expunged the entire chapter of her guerilla years from her life.
Of my late father, this is what I clearly remember. He spent the last few years of his life helping document the few Japinoys in our barrio to fast-track their immigration – and sure employment – to Japan. As one of the barrio elders, he was a resource person on the lives and personal history of the Japinoys. He went to the munisipyo for records, wrote referrals and helped in the authentication work and did all these without regret and a look back at the war years.
Believe it or not my mother was never recognized as a Huk veteran even after then Senator Butz Aquino worked for the passage of the Huk Vet Law (as in all government data, the fake ones got pensions and the legit ones were missed). She dismissed her missed recognition and missed pension (about P4,000 a month) as “one of those things. “ On the war, she has three things in mind: the war is over, get over it and , we did not fight for the pension.
The years and our forgiving nature are the major reasons the war wounds have healed and healed fast despite the brutality of the Japanese during that brief occupation period. The “Co-Prosperity Sphere” that fronted for Japan’s imperial ambitions wrought havoc on entire societies, rape, murder and plunder of the impossible kind. From time to time, the strident and unapologetic rants from new Japanese militarists rekindle our worries over Japan’s past. On the whole, however, mainstream Japan – its words and its deeds – has helped heal the war wounds.
From the Reparations, the Japanese government has transitioned into a major ODA source, first or second at any given year. The JBIC is one of the more generous multilateral institutions we have. The scale of grants and aids is complemented by other programs such as the Monbusho scholarship grants.
The joke is that the JPEPA, the comprehensive trade agreement with Japan, just made it easier for the superrich and the politicians to acquire Land Cruisers from Japan. On the other hand, Japan is now accepting health professionals from the Philippines under the JPEPA.
A routine diploma program on at least three IT fields at UP which Japan funds, this is one of the best-kept secrets in the IT field, guarantees 100 percent employment, and top salaries, for the graduates.
Of course, all of these aids and assistance are intended to promote Japanese interests. But there is no doubt that in every sense, what they do is a kinder and gentler version of the original Co-Prosperity Sphere.