In a tragic outcome unbefitting a life dedicated to fighting for reparation for many, the president of the Malaya Lola group, Isabelita Vinuya died on November 23 at the age of 89 due to pneumonia.
Fondly known as Lola Lita, her granddaughter Rosen Say announced her passing.
A victim of sexual abuses referred to as the “comfort women” atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during World War II, Lola Lita was one of the original 96 grandmothers pursuing justice and recompense from Japan.
One such heinous act committed by the soldiers was a mass rape within a mansion at the boundary of Bulacan and Pampanga, that took place on the same day of her passing, 77 years ago.
In 1944, the 14th District’s Geki Group, commanded by Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, raided Mapaniqui village in Candaba Town, Pampanga.
The Ilusorio Mansion or Bahay na Pula, where the mass rape was committed, is located at Anyatam village, in San Ildefonso Town, Bulacan, which is near Mapaniqui.
At the time, Mapaniqui was suspected to be the hideout of Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon, which is why the Japanese attacked and massacred numerous males, while around 200 women and young girls were forced to carry loot to the mansion, where they would be abused.
Lola Lita was 12-years-old during the horrific event, while the youngest recorded victim there was Januaria Garcia, who was only 9.
As president of Malaya Lola, Lola Lita spearheaded the documentation of their traumatic past through 10 songs recorded on compact disc, which were written as Pangangaluluwa, or hymns for departed souls.
The groups also traveled on many occasions to Japan in order to meet with solons and activists supporting their cause, while Japanese visitors that arrived at Mapaniqui even became strong advocates for Malaya Lola.
Japan’s ambassadors have issued general apologies for the war crimes, however, no monetary compensation has been given to date, even from the Asian Women Fund that the country founded in the Philippines, as the horror of Mapaniqui was not considered “comfort women” due to it not spanning a long period of time.
“Rape is still rape whether it was done for days, for months or for years. The effect is the same. It destroyed our bodies, our sense of self. We live in shame for years.” was Lola Lita’s response to this injustice.
With Lola Lita’s death, only 21 of the original 96 grandmothers remain, according to Kaisa Ka, the women’s group which provides legal aid to Malaya Lola.