My friend Chito has an inspiring story of reconciliation. Early in World War II the Japanese had over run the Philippines. Toward the end of the war, pressed on all sides by the Allies, the Japanese occupation forces were retreating. In a desperate bid to slow the American advance, they conducted a scorched earth policy to deny their adversary the resources they were leaving behind. In the village of Bauan in Luzon, Chito’s grandfather was one of the hundreds killed by vengeful Japanese forces one day in February 1945.
Chito, committed to nonviolence, is concerned about lingering hatred toward the Japanese people from the unresolved memories during this war time. He instigated a day of remembering the civilians killed in the war for the purpose of healing. Most of the remembering is for losses and victories of the military. A focus on the civilians, he feels, will bring closure and healing. He even reached out to some Japanese peace advocates to include in the rituals of healing memories.
Chito’s rational for remembering is three fold. First, to bring closure for the many whose trauma is still unresolved. Second, is to have a symbolic process of forgiveness, apology, healing, and reconciliation between the people of Japan and the Philippines, devoid of demands for remuneration and monetary compensation. Finally, the remembering and memorial will bring into national consciousness the urgency of refocusing people’s attitude and values from predatory victim – offender paradigm and into positive and transformational interaction between conflicting parties.
Chito showing me a picture of the Buan monument remembering casualties of war.