Fidencia David, 86, wants the Japanese government to apologize for allowing soldiers to use her as a “comfort woman” during the Second World War.
By: Patty Winsa
Fidencia David was 14 when she watched Japanese bombs drop in her Philippine village in 1942 during the Second World War. Soldiers burned down David’s house and used her as a sex slave for 10 days.
She escaped and for years lived in shame and silence. But she has since found her voice. In the ’90s, David became an activist, part of a vocal group of survivors who demanded an official apology and compensation from Japan
Now 86, David was one of more than 200,000 “comfort women” from across Asia. Therapist and author Cristina Rosello translated her answers into English during an interview with the Toronto Star. The text below is paraphrased.
What was it like in the Japanese garrison where you were held?
How did you go on after escaping?
David married at the age of 20 and had eight children, but it wasn’t a successful union. Her husband squandered the family’s money and David had to scavenge from garbage bins before selling vinegar and charcoal to make money to feed her kids. Rosella says David’s children, who weren’t aware of their mother’s history, were troubled when she became uncommunicative when she was consumed by flashbacks.
What made you break your silence?
David was finally emboldened to tell her tale to her eight children — and the world — after a Korean comfort women finally spoke out in 1990. David was also encouraged by Rosa Henson, the first Filipino woman to come out. David joined a group of survivors, gained strength, support and political will and became part of the Lolas Kampanyera Survivors Organization. After hearing testimony from David and other survivors in 2007, the House of Commons in Ottawa passed a motion to recognize the horrific treatment of the women and to encourage the Japanese government to apologize.
What is most important to you now as a survivor?
A state apology and state compensation. David says many of her colleagues have passed away with no justice after fighting for 22 years. The Japanese government has not acknowledged the atrocities. The Philippine government has also denied support to comfort women survivors because the country receives aid from Japan, says Rosella. “It’s unfinished business,” Rosella says, translating for David. “She will fight up until her deathbed.”
What can people do now?
David is in Canada as part of an educational campaign organized by Winnipeg’sMuseum of Human Rights and Toronto ALPHA, which promotes wartime historical events in Asia.
David spoke to students at two Toronto schools Monday. She’s asking the younger generation to support her as well as join the 100 Million Signatures Campaign to demand the Japanese government apologize. There are now only 26 comfort women still alive in the Philippines.
Fidencia David will be part of a panel discussion Tuesday at U of T from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the William Doo Auditorium and later at a community meeting at the Barbara Frum Library, 20 Covington Rd., from 6:30 to 8 p.m.