The Bloody History of Bahay na Pula in Bulacan
A lone house stands beside the highway near the border of San Miguel and San Ildefonso, Bulacan. In its vicinity, trees of tamarind, camachile, and duhat stand, their leaves littering the pavement. It is a shell of its former self—only the frame and foundation remain of what was once a beautiful house. This is Bahay na Pula.
The blood-red color, however, seems unfading. Bahay
A Silent Witness to War
During World War II, Japanese forces took ownership of Bahay
The men were rounded up, beaten, and executed. One man had his genitals hacked off and was forced to eat them. The bodies were thrown into a pile and set on fire.
As punishment for the town, the women were brought into the infamous red house where they were raped routinely and repeatedly. Some of them were girls as young as eight or nine years old.
Sisters Lita and Mileng from Mapanique were just two of the women who survived abuse inside this house. In an interview with BBC, the women, who are now in their 80s, recounted how, after looting their village and killing all the men who were suspected of being guerillas, the Japanese ordered more than a hundred girls to carry supplies to the house.
"We thought it was the end of our world. We thought they were going to kill us,"
The sisters were raped that night after moving the loot. Girls who fought back were stabbed by bayonets. The sisters were let go the morning after. Others were not so lucky. Women and girls from Bulacan and Pampanga were forced to live in the house as “comfort women” or full-time slaves.
According to the report of the BBC, around 200,000 women were held in captivity and thousands more were raped during the Second World War. This was a practice that was widespread across the Japanese empire in countries such as Korea, New Guinea, Myanmar, and the Philippines.
"I don't remember how many men came in. At one point I felt a sudden pain so I fought back. The soldier got angry. He held my head and banged it really hard into the table and I lost consciousness,”
An Ongoing Fight
What bonded the survivors was their fight for justice
Unfortunately, the privately funded Asian Women’s Fund, an organization providing atonement and support for Japan’s aging victims, did not categorize the Mapaniqui women as comfort women, according to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Because of this, they have not received money nor medical care from this organization.
On the legal front, these women are not winning either. In 2014, the Supreme Court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Malaya Lola. The group wanted to declare the Philippine government guilty of grave abuse of discretion for refusing to support their claims against the Japanese army for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Despite these setbacks, the women carried on. In November 2016, several human rights group, including Bertha’s Impact Opportunity Fund, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and the Center for International Law, Manila, traveled to Geneva to seek the United Nations' support on behalf of the group.
Their experiences and
While the survivors continue to fight, the house itself is facing its own battle. After decades of neglect and even a rumored clash within the family about ownership of the land and house, Bahay
The house’s history did not help its reputation at all. The locals have since believed it to be haunted. While some of its caretakers deny the existence of paranormal activities, there are persistent rumors of ghostly apparitions from the windows and veranda. Some even claimed to have heard cries of help, most likely from the souls who met their end there. People from nearby villages claim they continue to dig up skulls in the area.
This reputation paved the way for movie directors and journalists alike to use Bahay
According to Encarnacion, to preserve a heritage structure is one thing, but to see a building that reminds us of the bad things that happened to them is another thing.
On the other hand, Bulacan historian Jaime Corpuz said that the local government should be more serious in protecting the heritage and historical structures of provinces. In the same interview with Inquirer, he also proposed the idea that they can still conserve the property and its shell, similar to what Negros did with “The Ruins.”
With their fates uncertain, both the survivors and the house face the threat of being forgotten. And that in itself is a more haunting thought.