This Free Exhibit Puts the Spotlight on the Strength of the Filipino Woman

It focuses on the untold stories of Filipinas during World War II and beyond.

(SPOT.ph) In a time when there are conscious attempts to suppress women’s rights through sexist remarks, Ayala Museum’s exhibit titled Women and War serves as a reminder of the sufferings, sacrifices, and contributions of Filipino women during one of the darkest periods in history—World War II. The show runs until March 3 and admission is free.

Old photographs of Filipina civic leaders are displayed on the walls of the Ayala Museum. These suggest the crucial role that women play in our nation.
PHOTO BY James Tana

PHOTO BY James Tana
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Women and War features members of the group LILA Pilipina, an organization of survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery during World War II and advocates of justice for all women victims of continuing foreign military sexual violence. LILA is short for Liga para sa Lolang Pilipina, members of which were forced to become comfort women for Japanese soldiers. It was in 1992 when the Task Force on Filipino Comfort Women was founded by seven womens' organizations, including LILA Pilipina. More than a decade since, the fight for justice continues, and this exhibit hopes to tell the often-untold stories of Filipinas throughout the war and even beyond.

The show is curated in a way that it shows the many portrayals of women and how their roles in the society changed before, during, and after the Japanese occupation. The space is divided into five overarching narratives: Manunulat, Gerilyera, Sibilyan, Obrera, and Mga Lola.

"Manunulat"
PHOTO BY James Tana
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"Gerilyera"
PHOTO BY James Tana

"Obrera"
PHOTO BY James Tana

"Sibilyan"
PHOTO BY James Tana
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It also displays photographs of known Filipino women—writers, guerillas, farmers, nurses, social workers, and civilians—accompanied with a short biography narrating their struggles during wartime. The striking visuals are also supported by historical accounts, video installations, interviews, texts, and personal items of the victims.

Kimona and other personal effects of Lola Virginia Villarama, a member of LILA Pilipina who worked on filing lawsuits and petitions against the Japanse government.
PHOTO BY James Tana

"Song of the Malaya Lolas"
PHOTO BY James Tana
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The powerful video installation "Song of the Malaya Lolas" features the abused women in Mapanique, Candaba, Pampanga during a mass rape by the Japanese troops. In the video, the grandmothers are retelling their horrific experience through a song, which sound like a poignant plea echoing all throughout the gallery.

There are books and magazines that feature stories on comfort women.
PHOTO BY James Tana

Portrait of Nana Rosa or Maria Rosa Henson, the first Filipina to publicly come out as a "comfort woman."
PHOTO BY James Tana
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Another empowering installation is the portrait of Maria Rosa Henson, more commonly known as Nana Rosa, with a protest banner above it. A war victim herself, she wrote "Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny," which is the only autobiography of comfort women in Asia. The compelling protest banner by groups LILA Pilipina and Gabriella tells viewers that the fight against an abusive government continues for all Filipino women.

Women and War runs until March 3 at 2/F Ayala Museum, Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati City. Admission is free. The show also coincides with the War and Women Film Festival on February 9, 16, and 23 at Ayala MyCinema, Greenbelt 3, Makati City. For more information, visit Ayala Museum's website.

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