© Copyright 2018 by Razel Suansing
“I cannot believe you still wear that everyday,“ my head shaking in disbelief.
“Well, when the going gets tough in the headquarters, I just look at this, and it automatically gives the hopeful presence you always give me,” he smiles.
“Mahal na mahal kita, Tatay” I say.
“Mahal na mahal rin kita” He says. He gives me one last embrace. The doors close shut signaling my slumber.
Suddenly, A gast of black smoke blowing across my face. Vibrations run across my body. My ears are numb from the boisterous noise I just heard a few seconds ago. As soon as my ears recover, I hear a faint voice calling me to awaken. Another boisterous noise comes after. This time, my eyes open abruptly. I find a man on the floor ; his face barely recognizable. It was my father. My bracelet he still wears. My mother and my sister rush inside my room which is now blown into pieces.
“This is all your fault! This is all your fault! He was trying to awaken you!” I feel my sister’s tight grip forcibly clutch my neck, suffocating me. My mother grabs her from the waist, pulling her away from me. My sister is like a pig trying to escape its butcher’s hands before its definite slaughtering. She could not be controlled. I have never seen my sister so desperate, and so angry. , Men in camouflage signal us to a van where we journey to an evacuation camp.
I hear a sweet voice calling me to wake up. I feel gentle fingers run through my hair, stroking it. Her voice is one from the songs that brought me to sleep when I was younger. The one that would soothe every pain. I slowly open my eyes. I see my mother hovering above me. I look around. I see nothing but white sheets all around me. I feel the cold, and hard ground pressed against my back. I feel sweat from the muggy climate running down my body, and clumping around my neck. My torso rose erect from panic.
“Mother, where are we?” I asked shaking.
“We’re in a refugee camp, honey,” she reassures me.
“Listen, we do not have money. The Japanese soldiers has taken our money. We must do everything we can to live by working. Your sister found a job for you. It’s a factory job in Nanking, China,” My mother informs me.
“Mom, how can I trust her? She almost tried to kill me yesterday,” I say reluctantly.
“We are very desperate right now. We need the money,” My mother asks of me.
“Ok, mom. I will do it.I will do it for you,” I tell her. As soon as my pure, virgin lips releases these words, floods of jubilous tears filled my mother’s eyes. I have never seen my mom, so relieved and joyful. I know that I cannot let her down. I know that no matter how many long hours of labor I had to endure, how many beads of perspiration, or how much pain the Japanese will put me through, I have to go through anything just for her.
I arrive in the Nanking camps along with 20 other women from the Philippines. We are taken into a tent similar to the one I used to live in. We see a man terrifyingly enormous vertically and horizontally. He was fierce and firm.
“You will all be taken into a tent with two to three of you in one tent. Your work will begin tomorrow at dawn. You may now slumber,” He dismisses.
This job seemed heavily suspicious from the start. Now, my suspicion has grown even more. For the military to even provide comfortable shelters for us without even giving a proper description of our jobs worries me. We are just factory workers. We are their laborers. They will treat us like royalty.
The next day, two men in camouflage forcibly enter our tent.
“What are you doing here? You cannot just invade our privacy like that!” I exclaim. They both start laughing. Their laugh rings in my ears. It taunts me. I have heard that type of laugh before. One of them grabs me and forces me against the wall. I kick him in the stomach repeatedly. My dabs, my hits, my punches do not seem to have an effect on him. He blows out punches that painfully puncture my pancreas. Feeling like I had already weakened, I allow him to he push me harder against the wall. His hard and coarse lips touch my gentle and smooth neck. He grasps my bosom so tightly I could hard breath. My vision blurs from the lack of oxygen. I close my eyes to somehow alleviate the pain. I could hear painful cries from the other side of the room from women who are experiencing the same pain, but all I could not do anything to save myself or them. All my body was capable of doing was release silent tears. The same tears that ran across my face when my father died. The men finally leave stating we were nothing but public toilets. Little did I know that he is only one of forty people I would serve everyday. At first, the experience is painful, but as the time passes by the pain numbs. My pain paralyzes the very peace that serendipities my soul.
These experience have gone on for months until one day. Two American soldiers come into our tent. They push us out and put us in a van. All of us are silently curious, but are too afraid to ask where we are going. My trust tampered like a graffiti on the wall.
“The Japanese have successfully surrendered. You will be transported into your homes, and you will be reunited with your families,” The American soldier said. Jubilous tears run across all of our faces. Embraces are shared around the room. The last time I have seen happiness like this was when I told my mother that I agreed to work in Nanking. I feel my fingers tingling, my cheekbones lifting up, and my eyes watering from elation. A feeling I’ve never felt in months. I cannot wait to show my mother I have faced it all for her. That I have fought against all odds, and I came back to her, even if I never got the money I deserve.
I enter the tent that I lived in 6 months ago in the Philippines.
“Where’s mother?” I ask my sister. She inhales deeply, and shows a me a ruthless face before saying something.
“She learned about the comfort stations that you were put in. She tried to save you by forcing herself into a battleship. The battleship was supposed to help transport Filipino soldiers to help the Chinese Soldiers in Nanking. The Japanese found out though, so they bombed the ship. No one survived,” She tells me.
“I am really sorry. I know you’re mad at me bu--”
“No! Stop trying to convince me it’s ok. It’s not. She could have let you suffer, and she could have stayed with me. I was suffering too! Why would she stop your suffering without stopping my suffering first? You wanted this. You agreed to it. You have no purpose. You have no chastity. You are a shame to this family. You are nothing but an Ianfu,” She storms out, leaving me speechless. I weep uncontrollably. She is right. I am worthless. I have not chastity. I am not pure. My body is wrecked. I see a glimmering dagger lying across from me. I am nothing. I am not pure. What is my worth? I use the dagger to cut across my wrist and strike it through my heart. Stinging pain, blood smothered across the mutual bracelet I used to share with my father. What will happen to my sister after this you may ask? My sister might change her mind about me, but I will never change my mind about myself. My sister might tell everyone lies. My sister might tell everyone she always valued me, and she never thought I was worthless. She might tell everyone that she accepted me even though I was an Ianfu. She might even receive a compensation fund from the Japanese Government. The Japanese Government? They will also tell lies. They will tell everyone that they never created the brothels themselves. They will tell everyone that they were made by Japanese entrepreneurs. They will fool everyone. Only the truth lies in our tormented souls, and our destroyed bodies. Painfully, the truth might die with us, ianfus. The truth might not. The pain may alleviate, and talking about the comfort stations will be easier. Until then, only the imagination can ever conceive a prospect that can compare to the reality we have faced. Ianfu, is that all we really are?