A Battle Yet to be Won

By Patricia Ghenen Peñaranda
3rd Prize Winner, Battle of Manila Essay Writing Contest 2019

 

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of history” – George Orwell

The Battle of Manila is a war that speaks hundreds of stories and destroyed hundreds of lives, yet history overlooks the gore of the catastrophic battle that had left the Filipino people in torment. Living conditions in Manila back then were atrocious and Filipina women were seen as mere pieces of furniture who had no other purpose but to give sexual pleasure to the Japanese men. It had not only violated the physical well being of the Filipina, but it had also trampled upon the rights and mental well being of the women as well. As of the current moment, the Japanese government has continuously denied the fact of having “comfort women” during World War II. Just recently, two comfort women statues were removed from its places due to strong resentment from the Japanese government. To add to this, the Japanese government threatened of severing the close ties between the Japanese and the Philippines if a statue throwing dirt to their country’s name was ever to be erected.

Why do we let the Japanese trample upon our dignity, and obliterate our own knowledge of our history in the fear of insulting a country who killed our men, raped our women and shown no mercy for our children. This says a lot about the Filipino people…Despite being freed from colonialism, we are still slaves, but now of the market economy as we continuously let our former colonizers insult our existence by giving in to their unjustly conditions just for the sake of maintaining good economical ties. It’s very sad to see how our capitalistic thoughts overpowered our respect for that of our own kind. The great Dr. Jose Rizal once predicted in his essay, “The Philippines a Century Hence” that the Filipinos will eventually lose their historical consciousness and break their own spirits. This is exactly what is manifested in this situation. The importance of the Battle of Manila is not only limited to being acquainted with facts of the past, and learning about sacrifice and honor, rather it extends to being able to help cultivate a sense of nationalism within every Filipino people. For so long, we had been very tolerant with what foreign countries have made of us, but I believe that the Battle of Manila is a wake up call for all Filipinos to fight against foreign oppression. From these events, it is important realize that we are one unit and that we are responsible for each other. Just because it didn’t happen to us doesn’t mean that the Battle of Manila didn’t happen at all. We must therefore assert justice from Japan as our responsibility to the men, women and children of war. We cannot simply standby these injustices, because if we do, foreign countries would repetitively take advantage of the Filipino community. Worst case scenario…it will continue to scar and tamper the perspectives of our future sons and daughters.

As a young woman pushing for gender equality, the Battle of Manila and the Filipino government’s reaction to it manifests not only a masochistic president but also a great disrespect for Filipino women. Learning about the Battle of Manila is very timely today as the month of March is the celebration of International Women’s month. It is important for me to be able to learn the injustices of the war so that I may strengthen my own advocacy towards fighting for the rights of women, and furthermore, motivating others to fight against this kind of oppression. I have interviewed a woman in one of the events of Rampage and she exclaimed that the term “comfort women” is not fitting for those who have been abused during the war because the term connotes that women are no better than objects for comfort and sexual pleasure. I agree with her belief that women are not subjects for objectification, rather they should be honored as women of courage, thus we agreed that they should be called “the women of war”. As a student, the Battle of Manila is important as it is a testament of how Filipinos need to strengthen the value of nationalism within. We students are the shapers of the future, and thus our own understanding of this event is critical so that we may be agents of positive change in the future. As a Filipino it is important to know the Battle of Manila because in order to progress as a country we, ourselves must know what ideas we should fight for. In order to do this, we must know ourselves, thus the importance of understanding the Battle of Manila. For the meantime, I believe that we must first overcome an inner struggle is still being fought amongst every Filipino people — the battle for identity. This is a battle yet to be won.

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