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COMFORT WOMEN. The surviving comfort women show origami cranes symbolizing peace and to remind Aquino of the number of missed opportunities he had to help them seek justice. Photo by Jene-Anne Pangue/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “If what happened to us happened to Mr Aquino’s sisters—we were raped, made to cook and clean and then beaten if we refused to spread our legs, could he continue to ignore us?” The 85-year-old woman’s voice shook, there was a faint tremble in her hand, and her eyes glistened as she spoke.

Narcisa Claveria is one of the estimated 1, 000 lolas (grandmothers) who were used as comfort women or sex slave by Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

The comfort women, whose number has now dwindled to about 70, have been demanding an unconditional apology from the Japanese government, admission that comfort women and the system of sex slavery existed and compensation for the mental trauma and hardship they endured. (READ: Comfort women: 'Hustisya para sa mga lola')

Their pleas have gone ignored.

Call for justice unheeded

That and the five-day state visit of Emperor Akihito last month made the comfort women hope that both the Philippine and Japanese government would listen to their grievance and acknowledge their existence. (READ: Comfort women to Aquino: Tackle our plight with the Japanese emperor)

But the aging women’s fight for justice continues to be neglected.

“I’m sorry. I am so sorry, ” Eve Ensler said to Lola Narcisa.

The author of the widely popular play “The Vagina Monologues” and co-founder of One Billion Rising protest movement had been intently watching and listening to Lola Narcisa as she spoke.

Facing the crowd gathered for the One Billion Rising press conference on February 8, Ensler said: “I have known and worked with Lola Narcisa for the last 15 years. How is it possible that we are still sitting here today without having apologized to these women? It is a matter of national shame and that falls on the Philippine government.”

One Billion Rising Philippines

Ensler is in the Philippines for the next 12 days to visit multiple cities and spend time with the Gabriela Women’s Party List as well as comfort women, youth groups, Lumad women and women in Angeles City who are protesting the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which outlines arrangements for US military to set up bases in 8 locations around the country.

On its 4th year, the One Billion Rising Philippines is a protest movement that uses dance and song as a mobilizing force to end violence against women and girls. Statistics show that 1 in 3 females, equivalent to about one billion women, will experience some form of sexual violence in her lifetime. (READ: One Billion Rising: Dance against injustice)

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