When the past hurts, we tend to just not talk about it. We just push it to a far place in our mind where it will not haunt us. But will healing always feel good?
The Japanese occupation in the Philippines was a dark part of history. The U.S.-Philippine army fought to defend Manila but many troops were then captured as prisoners after the final surrender. To begin the atrocities of the occupation, 80,000 soldiers were forced to walk 105 kilometers to a prison in the north. Starving and sick, many prisoners died before even reaching their destination.
Many women, even under 18 years old, were kept imprisoned to be used as comfort women for the Japanese soldiers. Living in poor conditions, the comfort women were kept in this specific place in every military camp which was called the comfort station. These women were robbed of their dignity. The photo above shows former comfort women with their daughters and grandchildren. The past still vividly haunts them and we cannot blame them. Their feelings are valid.
Many more war crimes were committed by the Japanese against the people who deserved freedom in their own land – the Filipinos. Murder, rape, brutality, and injustice were rampant during those dark times. Ugly as those days could be, the Filipinos should not forget. We have our brave revolutionaries to thank for the freedom we experience today.
When China was offering questionable loans to the Philippines, Japan offered loans with lower interest rates and more friendly conditions. Japan even offered assistance in the rehabilitation of drug dependents. These is only a few to mention how Japan has been of help to our country. You can say that Japan and the Philippines are friends now but does that erase a painful past?
To truly move on to brighter and better days, it is important to acknowledge what made the past painful. The Philippines must accept that we were on the painful side of history. Japan must acknowledge that their ancestors have brought suffering and great pain to ours. Both should not be in denial of the past because to truly move on, is to have closure; especially for such a horrific memory as the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. We know we will see better days.
Does that mean that this is now a light topic for Filipinos? Absolutely no. Talking about this will always sting and hurt Filipinos. It can also put the Japanese in awkward situations where they feel the burden of their ancestors’ fault. This is normal. We will feel the ache of the past. That is why the topic of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines should not be discussed in small talks. Sensitive topics like this should only be brought up for intellectual discussions – ones that aim to bring awareness and to harness meaningful lessons that both Filipinos and Japanese can use to live harmoniously.
Going full circle to my initial question: will healing always feel good? No, it will not. Some days it will feel good. Yet, some days Filipinos will feel bitter and some days Japanese will feel guilt. Should the Japanese talk about this with Filipinos? If it is to heal, gain wisdom, and build a better future, then yes, let’s talk about it.
- (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2020, from https://www.awf.or.jp/e1/facts-01.html
- -, I., By, & -. (2018, February 21). Japan has better rates for loans, but PH needs China, too to speed up infra projects: Pernia. Retrieved August 03, 2020, from https://www.interaksyon.com/breaking-news/2018/02/22/120754/japan-has-better-rates-for-loans-but-ph-needs-china-too-to-speed-up-infra-projects-pernia/
- Bataan Death March. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2020, from https://www.pacificatrocities.org/bataan-death-march.html
- Heydarian, R. (2019, June 17). The Golden Era of Japan-Philippine Relations Has Arrived. Retrieved August 03, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/feature/golden-era-japan-philippine-relations-has-arrived-62572
- The Japanese Invasion & Conquest of the Philippines. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2020, from https://www.pacificatrocities.org/japanese-invasion-conquest-of-philippines.html?gclid=Cj0KCQjw6575BRCQARIsAMp-ksPXDYIar5heIhp3rzgON83sRfEbIeAaA3yAQoEcBWpYsuV8L9taG5IaAqflEALw_wcB