The mystery of the missing comfort woman statue

The anguish of the
Filipino comfort women has not stopped.

Wartime sex slaves
denounced on Sunday what appeared to be the theft of a two-meter
bronze statue that was supposed to be a reminder of the present and
future generations of their suffering so that it will not happen

Estelita Dy said it was heartbreaking that the statue was spirited
away to an unknown location by unidentified men possibly as late as
last week or even earlier.

“We haven’t
gotten justice and now we can’t even have our statue,” lamented

The statue Dy said was
missing, known as the Lola statue, was supposed to have been
installed on the grounds of the Redemptorist in Baclaran in Pasay
City on Aug. 18, but the sculptor, Jonas Roces, who was supposed to
do some repairs on the statue, failed to show up.

“The statue was
commissioned and paid for (P1 million) , and he (Roces) was paid for
his services and even extra because of the repair work,” said
Teresita Ang See, academician and social activist, whose group, Tulay
Foundation, has taken up the cause of Filipino comfort women.

“We were supposed
to meet at the Baclaran Church but he never showed up,” Ang See

On Aug. 22, the
group sent Roces a formal demand letter asking for the return of the
statue, which had been fully paid by Tulay Foundation, a humanitarian
non-government organization composed of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.

Two hours after
receipt of the letter Ang See said Roces called her and claimed that
men came to his workshop and took the statue away.

Ang See said when
she pressed for details Roces initially said the men were from the
Manila City Hall and then the Public Works Department but recanted
when she mentioned that she will call these institutions to verify
his claim.

“It’s so hard to
believe because the statue was so huge, it can’t be carried by just
one or two men. And how they can they just come into his workshop and
take it just like that?” Ang See pointed out.

She noted that Roces
hadn’t even reported the incident to the police.

The statue depicts
Filipina wartime sex slaves as a blindfolded woman in traditional
Filipiniana attire as a symbol to the women’s continuing clamor for
justice; she is standing to represent that the victims have not lost

The installation in
a public place had been approved by the National Commission on
Culture and the Arts as well as the city government of Manila. In
December 2017, it was installed on Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard in

It triggered a
debate on the propriety of keeping the statue in such a public space
and so close to the Japanese Embassy, which is just about a kilometer
down the road. The Department of Foreign Affairs warned that it could
affect the country’s bilateral relations with Japan, a major
trading partner.

The statue was
eventually taken down evening of April 27, 2018 and brought to Roces’
workshop in Antipolo for repairs as it was damaged.

Even without the
statue, the remembrance of the sacrifices of the comfort women,
pushed through. Dy, joined by another survivor of wartime abuse,
93-year old Narcisa Claveria, and supporters from Lila Pilipina and
Gabriela women’s party list attended the 8 a.m. Sunday mass at the
Redemptorist Church, then walked some 30 meters to the comfort woman
marker, which would have been the new pedestal for the Lola statue.

“There’s one
person who doesn’t want the statue here,” Dy said, fighting back

Asked who this
person is, she said: “I don’t have to say who, but everyone knows
this government is blindly following (Japan Prime Minister Shinzo)

“In Japan they
have a comfort woman statue right in front of their government
building. Why can’t we have one here?” Dy demanded.

At present there are
less than 10 Lolas or grandmothers who remain healthy enough to carry
out their campaign for justice, down from the original 1,000 or so
women in the 1990s.

Ang See said they
have sought the help of a lawyer to recover the statue.