by Amy Santos
When we were young, my siblings and I were taught by my mother, a widow, that it was not proper to go near adults to interrupt their conversation, unless what we were going to say was urgent and very important. However, one morning, while my mother was pruning her ornamental plants at the side of the yard, and our neighbor was conversing with her over the fence, my younger sister and I could not just go far enough from them as we were engrossed in playing piko*. I was losing the game and I would not like to be called pikon** upon leaving without mutual agreement. We only stopped when my sister lost the game and we both decided to better take our snacks upstairs.
While mother was preparing lunch that same day and I was helping cut the string beans with my fingers, I asked her what was about the woman and the child in her womb. “ So, you were listening!” my mother exclaimed. I replied we were playing and I just overheard the words – woman and child in her womb. Perhaps, my mother thought that I was still too young, being an elementary school sixth grader, to be told the story that I was eager to hear about. She said it was just about the Japanese in the Philippines and promised me she would tell me about it later and so I should concentrate on the string beans, otherwise, all would be hungry at lunchtime.
I forgot my curiosity about that untold story. But I recalled it when I was a third year high school student and our lesson in Philippine History was about this country during the Japanese time. Mother narrated the story as it was related to her by the 10-year old boy who escaped death by pretending to be dead.. He told mother that after they left Marikina, they went to the hills of Antipolo to avoid the Japanese (during the Second World War)***. They had a happy and peaceful life there. But a number of Japanese soldiers (fleeing from the bombing of Manila and suburbs by the Americans)*** found them and fired at them, killing all the members of this family, except the 10-year old son who was hit on his shoulder and pretended to be dead. But he saw her mother lying down in agonizing pain when a soldier with his bayonet cruelly struck her through her prominent abdomen, obviously with a baby inside. Then the woman lay motionless and silent. When the Japanese soldiers were gone, the boy rose to his feet and notwithstanding his bleeding shoulder, he traced the way back to the town and successfully reached the house of his uncle where he collapsed tired, hungry, and afraid. With a quivering voice, my mother told me that it was the husband of the woman who was firm to go to the mountains because he believed they would be safer there. Wiping her eyes, my mother finally disclosed to me that the woman was my aunt, the unborn baby, my cousin.
I would like to forget that horrible story, a true story, but it re-surfaced in my mind when recently during the MVP Philippine History session , two of my groupmates asked our speaker-lecturer if there were Korean soldiers during the Japanese Occupation, who were more cruel than the Japanese. I did not hear clearly the reply of the guest lecturer maybe because it was vague, or because my mind was preoccupied by the thoughts of the woman and her unborn child. The Zoom meeting ended. The question in my mind remained unanswered: Who then killed the woman and the child in her womb?
The older folks who survived the atrocities of World War II had wished that their children and their children’s children would not suffer from any war in their entire life. It has been seven and a half decades already and except for a few internal conflicts in some countries and a few battling neighboring countries, the world seems to veer away from war and its probable devastating effects to human beings. Education has paved its way toward better understanding and peace, forging fraternities among international organizations and sisterhood among nations. How then can I slap on the face of every fellow Japanese Jaycee or Korean boy scout the story of the woman and her unborn child when this young generation may not even know what transpired 75 years ago between our countries? And is the sin of the father also the sin of the son? Perhaps, it is vigilance over complacency that matters to maintain our status as a nation that is friendly and respectable, so that history will not repeat itself but rather move on progressively in terms of remarkable development in human resource and economic stability of the country.
So that the sad story of the woman and the child in her womb will not happen again.
*A game played by two or several children with lines and boxes drawn on the floor and a piece of flat stone thrown over it to be picked up by the player while hopping with one leg to and from the boxes.
** Easily a quitter, not a fighter.
*** Supplied by the author.