The History
On November 23, 1944, Japanese soldiers raided the village of Mapaniqui, Candaba, Pampanga in the Philippines. The men were tortured and murdered while the girls and women watched; the village was then bombed and torched. The soldiers abducted almost 200 women, force-marching them to the garrison at Bahay na Pula (the Red House) in San Idelfonso. There they were repeatedly raped over the course of a day and night. The youngest was only 8 years old.

The surviving victims organized themselves into a group in 1996, the Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers). The Lolas filed a court case against the Japanese government at the Tokyo District Court asking for legal reparations (a formal apology and compensation), the case was dismissed. Friends and supporters of the Lolas as well as Japanese lawyers, continue to challenge the government to set historical records straight and make amends.

At some point, the case of the Malaya Lolas will be aired before the Japanese Diet (Parliament). In preparation for this, The Malaya Lola Project will:
1. Afford high visibility to the Malaya Lolas in front of the Japanese Diet
2. Create publicity around the call for legal reparations
3. Give the Malaya Lolas an opportunity to voice their demands in their own words

There is a real sense of urgency now. This April, Lola Masing passed away. Lola Masing was one of the founders of the Malaya Lolas. She had been held as a comfort woman but she refused money from the Asian Women’s Fund holding out instead for legal reparations including an official apology. Tomasa Dioso Salinog (Lola Masing’s real name) made many trips to Japan to press for formal recognition. Many of the other Lolas are infirm. The eldest is 99 years old. Now is the time for them to attain their dream of having their nightmares acknowledged. If it doesn’t happen soon, it will be too late.

The Project
On a trip to the Philippines in 2006, I photographed most of the Malaya Lolas from Mapaniqui who are still alive (60 in all). Postcards will be created from these portraits. Each postcard will have the name of the Lola and a short explanation about the Malaya Lolas demands. The postcards will also have quotes from the Lolas regarding what they want and why. The plan is to send these postcards to every member of the upper and lower house of the Japanese Diet, one a day every day for two months until all the Lolas have arrived.

The portraits have been shown in Manila at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The project will be completed when the postcards are sent to the Japanese Diet.