War years lecture held in Naga City

by Frank Penones Jr.

NAGA CITY--There were comfort women in this city during the war years, a Bicol historian said during a lecture on World War II in the region over the weekend.

“This is confirmed by an entry in the diary of a Spanish resident of Naga, Tapia del Rio, who noted the nocturnal queue and arrival of trucks at a walled house in Barlin street housing several women” said Dr. Danilo M. Gerona in his lecture, Social History of Wartime Provincial Capital of Naga, held at the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary.

The women were clearly conscripted, “but that’s just the sad note in an otherwise relatively calm atmosphere in Naga during the war,” he explained.

“While Naga had a big number of Japanese soldiers deployed in various places in the city, there were little indications of aversion to or collaboration with them. In fact, we have very few recorded cases of Filipinos punished by the Japanese,” he added.

He cited as an example the story of the local Kempetai head, Capt. Matsui, who spared the lives of ten suspected Bicol guerillas in deference to the request of then Mayor Monico Imperial.

The convivial relationship of Matsui and Imperial, Gerona said is an example of social history of the war, those aspects of the conflict which had a bearing on the social relations of people which are usually forgotten or obliterated by the emphasis on battles and bloody encounters by war historians.

Gerona, author of Ferdinand Magellan: The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippineswherein he argued that the Portuguese sailor could not have fought Lapu-Lapu as the latter was already 70 years old then, also expressed doubt on the existence of the so-called Yamashita Treasure buried in some parts of Bicol.

“Were there gold stashed somewhere, these would not have been part of the Yamashita loot, these would have come from the mining towns of Camarines Norte,” he said.

Another lecturer, Dr. Karl Ian Uy Cheng Chua, Director of the Japanese Studies Program of the Ateneo de Manila University where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, explained the role of the Japanese manga as propaganda medium.

He said that the Japanese strategy utilized the bunkajin or “men of culture,” who targeted Filipino children for their cultural policies and practices.

This explains, he said, the use of komiks as they appeal to children whom he described as “future adults.”

The one-day lecture was organized by Sumaro Bikolnon, and was meant to remind the youth of Bicol about this chapter in the country’s history, according to Nathan Sergio, the project director.

It also featured a war memorabilia exhibit and the presentation of the Hiyangta award to three prominent Bicol guerilla leaders, Maj. Juan Q. Miranda, Maj. Teofilo B. Padua, and Commodore Jaime C. Jimenez Sr..

The award, which comes from an old Bicol word meaning noble, was received by the respective heirs of the receipients.

Maj. Miranda was one of the founders of the famous Tancong Vaca Guerilla Unit (TVGU) and later served as a Congresman representing Camarines Sur. Padua headed the guerilla group based in Camp Isarog; while Jimenez, also a TVGU member, founded the first maritime school in Bicol.