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MANILA - The Philippines unveiled a statue representing the "comfort women" in Manila on Friday, who were forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
The seven-feet bronze sculpture depicts a blindfold, grieving woman in Maria Clara traditional Filipiniana gown.
"This monument is a reminder of the Filipino women who were victims of abuses during the occupation of the Japanese forces from 1942-1945. It took a while before they came out into the open to tell their stories," read the inscription on the monument.
Forty-year-old Filipino sculpture and portrait painter Jonas Roces made the "more-than life-sized" bronze art work dubbed Filipino Comfort Women. The memorial statue stands on the baywalk in Roxas Boulevard fronting the Manila Bay famous for its sunset, a few km from the Japanese embassy compound.
The unveiling took place 76 years after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines that started on Dec. 8, 1941, 10 hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Imperial Army occupied the Philippines between 1942 and 1945 during WWII.
It"s estimated that up to 200,000 women in their teens from Asian countries including South Korea, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.
To keep alive the memories of the "comfort women," similar memorial statues in South Korea, China and San Franciso, the United States have been erected.
National Historical Commission of the Philippines Chairman Rene Escalante told Xinhua that the memorate was built up "in order to preserve the memory of the comfort women during the Second World War."
"This is part of the dark episode of the war and not many people are aware of this. They have been fighting for their right, fighting for justice and I think this monument is one of the responses that the government could offer to them. The ultimate objective of this is to prevent a repetition of a similar event in the next generation," Escalante said.
He said the war has inflicted painful memories especially to the thousands of Filipino women who were raped by the Japanese soldiers during the war. The issue of war sexual slavery is a sensitive matter that is usually not discussed, so it took these women years to come out in the open and tell their brutal stories, he said.
However, some of the victims opted not to speak about their ugly war experience under the Japanese forces. Several decades later, Escalante said many "comfort women" are still clamoring for justice.