So last night was the big Manila Transitio event, it was crazy.

I still haven’t had enough time to let it sink in, but one thing that I didn’t expect to be so interested in or taken by was the spoken word portion of the night.

All the readings were about World War II and the Japanese Occupation, a lot of survivors were present and a lot of the readers were actors so the intensity of the delivery was very strong, particularly the woman in this picture.

Roselyn Perez, it was her reading and delivery that got me looking for more. She read the poem of Mabi David who worked in the general registry of survivors in the battle for Manila.

“I was horrified and needed something to help me understand why what happened happened and at the same time not feel like I can’t do anything about it and I looked to art.” (Mabi David)

After the reading I left the room because it was that “bigat” (heavy). so so bigat. My heart was literally heavy and I literally had goosebumps. My head was pressing and I didn’t know what to do. I then ran into someone and told them what I felt, someone who was also present during the reading, someone more knowledgeable about the history and events that this portion was based around. This person then said something that opened my eyes to how naive I am.

First of all – I had NO idea what the Japanese did to my people and second of all – I didn’t even think that some of the readings and statements made could be – COULD BE exaggerated or fabricated. That of course there is still ANOTHER side to these stories.

All I know is that this experience has opened my eyes to wanting to learn more about that time, to learn more about my history and to open up more dialogues.

So in the words of Ilona, this is what I ask you. What do you know about the Philippines during World War II and the Japanese Occupation. What are your thoughts? What do you think?

Share your stories, share your questions, let’s start a dialogue.

dear philippines,
there is so much more i want to know from you.




  1. War, it is a sensitive subject for so many people. It is moments like these you should stop for the 1 minute of silence and remember what others have done for your freedom on the 11th of Nov. I had such discussion about this subject last year. sorry for the preachiness..
    i am all too aware of how the Japanese were during WWII. Although not in terms of what happened in the Philippines but of course in China. What they did to Prisoners of War and the mass migration from coastal areas of China to inner land to escape the Japanese. My grandfather and grandmother did this march across hundreds of miles and all the while destroying everything the could so that the Japanese could not use it. I have been told this story many times, i’ve seen the videos and read the books. War has always been an interesting subject for me as Ilona knows, but to witness is a whole different experience.
    Many individuals underestimate, i think of what that generation went through and what they did and do not have a full appreciation for what has been done for them. The fact that we can collectively speak about this, go to school and learn about this, go to school for that matter and have the ability to choose. Such a simple matter, but so important to our existence.
    I am sure that what happened in China happened in the Philippines. To this day my parents harbour some resentment towards Japanese and although the current generation had nothing to do with it, i can understand why. I too an full of bias’s and opinions from my own neandering experience.
    I am sure i will never share the same connection to China as you all do to the Philippines. I am the worst outcast there..haha..Jook Sing for any other Chinese out there. anyway, the scope of WWII is not limited to the Philippines. So much happened during that time period, so much that they are still writing about it. We’re writing about it! ha! anyway.J

  2. if only Lola is alive, she could tell you so much of her own experience during the Japanese time in the Philippines.

    I will try to share some of what I could remember of what Lola told me.

    To start, as one of the three elders of 12 children, Lola and her brother Jimmy (the one you met in Spain) were the ones that your great grandparents chose to be the errand kids for the family. At the time, Lola was about 14 yrs old. Your Lola Chit (the eldest of the 12 children were hidden from your great grandparenst dahil she was already a beauty as a young lady….at the time of the Japanese time, young ladies were being raped and killed).

    I remember telling Lola when she told her story to me to record her tales on tapes so that I could pass it on to you (my children…..I wanted you to know your history)….unfortunately, it never materialized.

    One story Lola told me is that everyday, she would be the one to line up for food….at the time, people line up for their ration of food. One day, she attracted the attention of the head Japanese who was in charged of the food….there is a term to what he is called…can’t remember. N’way, Lola was terrified as couple of Japanese soldiers took her and brought her before this Head man….to Lola’s relief, the Head asked her how old she is and when she said her age, He then told her that he has a daughter who is the same age as her back in Japan and that he misses her. Well, that day began a friendship between the Head Japanese and your Lola. Also, starting that day and on, Lola did not have to line up for food…..and she was also given a much variety and more ‘quality’ of food for her entire family. Everytime she would come home with so much food, her mother would be so alarm for her status as she fear that maybe this Head Japanese has a bad intention for your Lola — fortunately, it wasn’t so.

    Another story i remember, your Lola and Lolo Jimmy would always be together in their ‘galavanting’ the street of Manila during the Japanese time. One day, they found themselves in the middle of attack….. air raids. (imagine your Lola telling this to you….imagine how she dramatize her story….the up and down of her voice/tone…..acting it up) Lola and Lolo Jimmy were literally running the street of Manila ducking bullets, and whatever it is that is being shot from the airplanes…..BOOM! BOOM! BANG! BANG! — Oh how I remember your Lola with her interpretation of the loud noice that was going around her at the time — (makes me melancholy just re-telling all these — I somehow see your Lola with her excitement in her story telling),

    another story, one day at home, your grandparents panicked because outside they can here commotions — they thought that the Japanese were raiding houses. Your great grandfather (my lolo) at the time was already an actor in himself — later on became a well known actor – a well known kontrabida — worked side by side with Rogelio Dela Rosa, Carmen Rosales and so on (these are veteran actors) — my lolo is Jaime Castellvi. My lolo panicked — more of fear for the sake of his 12 children and wife. Your Lola Chit was right away hidden just in case the Japanese gets inside their house — POUNDING ON THE DOOR — NON STOP…..Lola said that they literally stop breathing for couple of seconds….THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY AFRAID OF WHAT TO COME AS SOON AS THE DOOR OPENS…..to their relief…..it was the Americans standing on the other side of the door telling them that the Japanese have been driven away from the country and some were captured. Lola also said that as children they were stupefied when their father (my lolo, your great grandfather [ggf]) started conversing with the American in English — they never knew that their father could spoke english — good english. When the Americans left, Lola said to me that your ggf was so relief that he cried like a baby.

    there’s so much your Lola told me that I think this blog is not ready for the length of it. Maybe I will try to journal it all and just hand over to you in a book for your record — to pass it on to Mahkayla in the future.

    However, your lolo is there with you right now in the Philippines — he too, has so much interesting version of his own Japanese time experience — your Lolo was almost killed (numerous times) by the Japanese. Take this opportunity to hear his version first hand. I would also ask him to tell you the history of Bacood — do you know that the Gualberto used to own most of Bacood?

    Hey, don’t overlook your Lola Aveling….another version of a young lad during the Japanese invasion.

    My only recollection of the Japanese time was that as a young girl — I remember playing with Japanese money — as kids it became like a monopoly money for us — everytime we play store — it would be the japanese money that we would pretend to be our money. I remeber, two houses away from our house there in Salamisim — the ones who is selling halo-halo in front of their house — their brother (Frely)used to be my playmate – they used to have a ‘baol’ (chest) of Japanese money in their house — ask them — ask to talk to Tito Frely — tell him what I said and maybe ask him if they still have those money — i am almost sure that they do — ask him if you can see it — if they still have it — he will surely show it to you.

    o sige…..mahaba na ito….love you, mommy

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