Stephanie Ann B. Lopez, a student of Psychology at University of the Phillipines Dilliman writes a short story about the horrors of the Japanese Occupation in the Phillipines during the Second World War. Her descriptions are based on documentaries and narratives about this particular period of the country’s history.
It was like any other afternoon. I was sitting on my rocking chair, staring at the drying laundry that draped our balcony. I almost fell asleep, but then I heard my granddaughter’s hurried footsteps and the clatter of her suitcase. As she headed towards me, she started slurring the lyrics of her song. I snorted in disgust and she finally stopped singing.
I told her my story so she knew how I can’t bear to hear the sound of those words. She knew perfectly well how much I hate those people, their putrid language, and how everything about them disgusts me. She knew that I’d rather die than forgive them. Who can blame me? Seven long decades have passed and yet I’m still haunted by that memory.
I was nine years old when it happened. The air was humid and the sun was nearly setting. I was fetching water from a well just a few yards from our house when I heard the first blast. At that very moment, I abandoned my half-filled bucket and I quickly ran back to our house. When I entered the hut, I saw my mother carrying my five-month-old brother in one arm and a bag of clothes on the other. My older sister dragged me by the arms and yelled, “Hurry! Hurry! They’re coming!” When we left the house, we saw that the village was already surrounded by the troops. The smell of gunpowder dominated the air. Our neighbors were running for their lives, crying hysterically and pleading for mercy. Many of the houses were set to flames; we were lucky to get out before ours was burned.
“Daraga! Daraga!” [Girl! Girl!] somebody from behind said in a shrill and excited voice. My sister lost her grip on my arm. Somebody grabbed her and pointed his bayonet at her breasts. I was terrified so I ran as fast as I could away from them. I was lucky enough to spot a hole in the ground where I covered myself with mud and hid the rest of my body under fallen leaves.
The soldier demanded my sister to dance or else the bayonet will cut through her chest. She didn’t. She struggled to break away but he slapped her several times until she lost consciousness. I saw how my father tried to save her but another soldier pointed his sword at him and yelled, “Ikaw Pilipino loko! Ikaw pugot ulo!” [You stupid Filipino! Off with your head!] They tied his hands and forced him down. I couldn’t bear to see it happen so I averted my gaze. I looked to my right and saw my mother kneeling before a soldier. He was holding my brother by the neck. The soldier tossed the baby in the air and bayoneted him as he fell. He hurled my lifeless brother like a dead rodent and then laughed at my mother’s pain. The soldier aimed his bayonet at my mother, and the next thing I know, she was thrown in the well along with the other women. They incessantly fired their machine guns at them. I wanted to cry so badly but the faintest sound would endanger my life. I shut my eyes and waited for it all to end.
What’s more disturbing than the blood-soaked ground, the pile of chopped and beheaded bodies, and the cries of those who were buried alive?
Well, it’s as though nothing but petty crimes had happened. Only a few years after the Whites won the war, the prisoners were freed and the collaborators were given amnesty. The offenders had shown no sign of remorse; no official apology was given. They have forgotten the ruthless crimes, the massive destruction, and the countless deaths. Everything was erased from history.
And now, my granddaughter will be flying off to the land where those soulless demons thrive. She has to give them entertainment, to sing and dance for them; their money will keep us alive. I begged her not to go, but she didn’t listen. I want to cry so badly, but that won’t change anything. Like everyone else, she has forgotten my story.