The Ballad of Lola Amonita

 
This poem was inspired by the story of a Filipino "Comfort Woman" who spoke at a forum in Hawai‘i in September 1992. The woman was one of many young Filipinas who were forcibly taken and raped by Japanese soldiers during World War II. In this poem, the woman speaks.

 

The sparks and roars of gunpowder

Tear into the night.

They arrive.

Men wearing caps,

Soiled,

A fish stench in their perspiration,

Singkit,

Tanned like their shadows,

Strides heavy and exact,

Objectives clear.

 

They emerge from the plains and forests,

Sometimes alighting from buses,

Poisoning the air with their breath,

Disrupting the peace

With their fierce words.

 

With eyes still heavy with sleep,

Our mothers and fathers

Snatch us from bed:

Hurry, hurry, we were told to climb down,

We must form a line by the fence!

I’m scared, Mom!

We are here, child,

We will not leave you alone!

Still dazed and drowsy

I feel the cold earth

Under my feet.

My ears catch

The cries and whimpers of the children.

 

The captain yells,

I cannot understand.

I cannot remember

Up to now

The profanity--

That wounded the air,

That stabbed the ear,

That sunk deep in my soul.

 

One by one,

The men try to survey us.

Fear creeps into my spine when

A hand gently caresses

My cheek.

 

It is the same hand

That grabs the chicken from the silong

Rough and callused hand,

Balding man,

With very dark eyes.

Resembling a laho that eats children

In stories told by folks.

A kapre maybe only without a cigar,

The lore remains clear in my mind.

 

Barely an adolescent,

It was not long ago that I reached

Puberty.

Though prohibited,

I still like to play luksong tinik.

I do not understand why they say,

"You are a young woman now."

Lola is upset whenever I giggle.

She tries to put my thighs together

Whenever I sit with legs apart.

"You are a young woman now."

Repeatedly, like a litany.

 

I see my mother cover her mouth

As the soldier gently caresses my cheek,

My father is also taken aback.

Lola, passionately recites her prayers

With eyes closed.

 

It is the same man

Who grabs the chicken from the silong,

He resembles the color of night.

It is the same man who grabs

And drags me to the silong,

We are the color of night.

We are the color of night,

Starless night.

"A fresh maiden is sweet!"

Rough and callused palms gag my lips.

 

Frantically, I try to move.

He forces me to lie down.

His thighs pin down my thighs,

His violent hands

Grope.

His penis breaks me open

Like a razor,

Spreads me,

Stretches me

Like blazing light,

Damning darkness.

Warm tears flow from the wound,

Blood of a crushed flower.

 

I am his dinner,

Only fourteen,

No match for anyone’s battle.

He,

Like a mad dog,

Moves to and fro,

Goes up and down,

Shouts-yells,

Moves about

Until his penis melts.

In shame, I recoil,

And hide my face in the ground.

It is a night without a name.

It is a night without images.

 

My mind rationalizes:

Perhaps this is one of lola’s stories--

Evil spirits of the night,

Aswang,

Tikbalang,

Duwende,

Manduduro,

Ay, they are all the same to me.

I don’t remember how I provoked their ire--

Did I sweep the floor at night?

Did I plant pepper without asking permission?

Did I go near a banyan tree?

 

I continue to search for answers

When, again, he drags me to the silong.

My mother is death walking the street

When our eyes meet;

My father looks like a rotten fish,

Avoiding my gaze.

Now he knows.

He cannot uphold

His promise--

"I won’t leave you alone!"

And my grandma, too, knows,

Neither Mary nor Jesus

Can save me.

 

A pile of burnt hair adorns

God’s hand,

Wounded throats have no power

Over words,

Tears that night

Are saved for the parched earth.

That was the beginning of a cycle--

The search for a tomb

That can defeat my pains.

Even now,

They have not found a resting place.