WWII: The Battle Is Not Yet Over
“War does not determine who is right, only who is left.” —Bertrand Russell
I first knew World War II through my father, who talked to me about how the Filipinos suffered when Japan occupied the Philippines. My knowledge wasn’t about what happened to the Japanese generals and the soldiers or the Filipino guerillas. My father told me the story of how his family suffered during that time and became worse after the war.During dinnertime, my father told stories about his family life before and after the war, he had heard from his mother. These stories were about his father and his grandfather, who was a Japanese man who’d migrated to the Philippines in the late 19th century. During that time, his mother was considered a Donya, a term used to address a rich woman in the Philippines, because the family had one or two household helpers. Since his mother was sickly, only the ninth and tenth children had survived and lived, and my father was the tenth. Unfortunately, months after my father was born, his father and grandfather were abducted and killed; it is believed they were thrown into the sea. After that, everything changed.
My father was brought to relatives, while his mother went to Manila and became a household helper to support the family. After five years, his mother came back to the province and brought them to Manila together with his older sister. By that time, his mother had a new husband. When my father started going to school, he took the surname of his mother’s new husband.
My father excelled in academics; he finished high school and even took an exam for the U.S. Marine Corps and passed. When it was time to submit all the documents needed, my father found out in his birth and baptismal certificate that he had a different name from the one he was using. He was devastated at that time, knowing that he had missed the opportunity of his lifetime.
And soon after that, his mother told him everything about his real father. And he started to understand why his stepfather abused and mistreated him.Knowing my father’s story, I distinctly remember a time when I was 12 years old, when I started to write my “would-be” (Japanese) real name, in secret. At that early age, I felt what my father had been wanting for all his life.
Fortunately, in 1995, when he learned that he was a Nikkeijin (someone of Japanese descent) through his uncles, he began to search for related documents to prove his identity. Finally, he could embrace and acquire his real name. However, it was not that easy.
Two decades passed, and his struggles continue.
My father’s story and battle to claim and to register his true identity now becomes my own story and battle. And this battle will pass on to my children, and to my children’s children, and to the next generations.
World War II was over seven decades ago, but for those who lost their families and identities, the battle is not yet over.