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Photo exhibit vividly captures brutality of war

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A South Korean college student wearing a mask of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is covered with eggs during a rally against Japan in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 29, 2013. The brutality of war is depicted in hundreds of photographs that vividly capture the gruesome crimes during the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia in the Second World War in the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. AP/Ahn Young-joon

MANILA, Philippines—Much has been said about the brutality of war but nothing can speak louder than hundreds of photographs that vividly captured the gruesome crimes during the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia in the Second World War.

On exhibit at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) are some 260 photos from seven Asian nations—the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar)—that tell stories of murder, torture, rape, slavery and  decapitation between the 1930s and 1940s.

The photos were collected by Tulay Foundation Inc. (TFI), a nonprofit organization largely composed of Chinese-Filipinos in Manila.

In the face of current territorial conflicts in Asia, TFI chair Dorian Chua said their aim was “not to not to revive old wounds but solely to share the atrocious effects of war, learn important lessons, and forge friendship and peace for a better future.”

The exhibit was launched in partnership with the NHCP, Veterans Foundation of the Philippines, Wha Chi 48th Squadron MM Post and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FFCCCI). It will be open to the public at the NHCP until Monday.

After its four-day run at the NHCP, the photo exhibit will be moved to the FFCCCI building in Binondo, Manila.

Japan has apologized for these atrocities several times.

NHCP Chairperson Maria Serena Diokno noted that more than half a century later, the whitewashing of these atrocities is still happening in Japan.

“These are incidents that are yet to be fully accepted by some parts of Japanese society,” Diokno said.

Barbaric as they may be, these are abuses we should never forget and events we ought to learn from, she said.

“We’re even lucky to have photos as proof of such crimes, unlike during the martial law period (when heinous human rights violations were also committed),” she said.

Most of the photos are from the Nanjing Museum in China, where around 300,000 were killed in a few weeks in what was later called “the Nanjing Massacre,” Chua said.

One photo from the museum sums up the exhibit, he said, pointing to a framed news clip about the infamous “Hundred Head Count,” a contest between two Japanese soldiers who beheaded more than a hundred each, 105 and 106, respectively. According to the Dec. 14, 1937, article in the Japanese newspaper Tokyo Daily News, it couldn’t be decided who reached the hundred-count first so the two soldiers continued the competition and set a new goal at 150.

The grim incidents of World War II were echoed in one photo to the next, from one nation to another, that even if the frames were grouped in boards assigned to each country, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. All the photographs spelled war—raw and real. Pictures showed clouds of smoke, roaring tanks and marching armies of Asian soldiers geared up for battle.

The photos show emaciated fighters in camps, women wriggling their way out of Japanese soldiers’ grips, naked women whose breasts were bayoneted, civilians about to be decapitated, a severed head displayed for everyone to see. Images of death abound, including those of children.

Mellowing out the morbid realities of war were pictures of grieving loved ones and countrymen at monuments built to honor the valor and heroism of soldiers, and to pay respects to the victims.

Exhibits like this allow the young to learn about a part of our history through the photos that are not usually seen in school textbooks and on the Internet, said Alay Buhay Rep. Weslie Gatchalian who attended the opening at the NHCP on Friday, along with war veterans and representatives from the Chinese community in the Philippines.

Chua criticized Japanese government officials for visiting shrines and honoring the perpetuators of these killings.

Only one Japanese national was at the exhibit opening. “I think this kind of exhibition could not be held in a national historical facility in Japan,” said the Japanese man at the event who requested anonymity for personal reasons.

“It is very painful for me to see these things,” the 25-year-old said.

It is unfortunate that most of the youth in Japan are not allowed to know about this grim period in history, he said, adding that he didn’t have any idea about the horrid details of the war in Asia until he went to college.

“This exhibit has been meaningful for me. Although, I have already seen most of the pictures here before, sometimes we need to see them over and over again and confront what really happened,” he said.

These are usually reported in a matter-of-fact tone, with hints of how strong Japanese soldiers were in China during that time, said the Japanese national.

The exhibit is being held as China and Japan currently exchange barbs over control of the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands. The territorial conflict has resulted in mass protest actions on both sides.

China and the Philippines, on the other hand, have also been trading threats over territorial claims to small atolls and islets in the South China Sea which are believed to be rich in oil and gas.


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  • Ben

    The lesson of the war should make Filipinos to be brave in the present time of impending threat of conflict due to China`s aggressive push in its creeping invasion despite the 2002 south china sea code of conduct and always prepare for the worst. And if war can`t be avoided, we have to fight just like what our forefathers did! With HONOR, SKILL, BRAVERY , with FREEDOM in our mind and LOVE for OUR COUNTRY also HOPE that others will learn through our bravery to fight for what is right….of course, we should upgrade our equipments and armaments through acquisition via purchases or R&D…….but for now, through purchases….We need more of a doer with a can do attitude officials in the government, than a prophet of doom and gloom as we already full of it.

    …also, this doesn`t mean that we do not support Japan`s rearmament, Japan is the only Asian country who can both balance and defeat Chinese hegemony through its high technology and stockpiled nuclear material capable of building 7,ooo nuke missiles with each one capable of leveling one China`s city, giving Japan the capability to mount a mutual assured destruction of China…that alone should give China a 2nd thought.

    • Roberto Ladao

      Ben sign up in our group ” Asian Alliance vs China “, in Face book, let us start the fight NOW against the BULLY and menacing RED Dragon.

  • Roberto Ladao

    That is the past now, Philippines should be prepare to avoid a repeat of History by the New bad boy in the Neighborhood ” CHINA “.

    • Guest

      I know it’s only a comment, but would you mind editing your comment.

      • Roberto Ladao

        I did that earlier, but it did not went through, probably the Chinese hackers sabotage my comment.

      • Xrd

        Dont worry about the grammar..(english) language is just a tool..it should not be an issue..what you mean is much more important..the person is just a guest anyways..

  • 3xposed

    Shows how foolish the DFA is in endorsing a right wing Japanese militant govt’s desire to re-arm without any restrictions. The next comparison should be between post war Japan and Germany and see how each handled their apologies. Germany meant it, Japan did not.

    To all those Filipino hawks, you want to defend your country, build your own freakin forces and stop playing arm chair generals wanting alliances and other nations to come to your aid.

  • Guest

    CHINESE PROPAGANDA and Manila is taken for a ride, What about the chinese atrocities on Tibetan people.

    • masangkay

      Yes, Chinese propaganda to promote peace and prosperity. What’s wrong???

      • Guest

        You are commenting as If you read and understand the whole article, sight me any sentences in that article that promote peace and prosperity, if there is any. The whole article is hideous because it only tackles japanese atrocities committed during World War 2, while the atrocities committed by PLA army against the Tibetan people wasn’t even discussed upon.

      • masangkay

        Here read this carefully:

        In the face of current territorial conflicts in Asia, TFI chair
        Dorian Chua said their aim was “not to not to revive old wounds but
        solely to share the atrocious effects of war, learn important lessons,
        and forge friendship and peace for a better future.”

        Now anywhere in this article that said this was China sponsored???

      • Guest

        Okay, you got me there. As i said it is too one sided, where the brutalities of Japanese was the only thing that has been mentioned here, and what about the atrocities committed by PLA army against the Tibetan people who has been deprived of their human right, cultural liberties and existence up to now. I think that is the most deplorable brutalities known to man.

        You said it yourself, It is a chinese propaganda and what’s wrong.

      • masangkay

        Again because the purpose of this exhibit is to forge friendship and peace and the intended audience are the Asians. What purpose would it serve to bring up Tibet and Mindanao? In order to promote bigotry and racism???

      • Guest

        You bring out Tibet and Mindanao, Tibet is a country and Mindanao is not, as you say this exhibit is peace and prosperity, then they should have scrap those savagery images that already happened during World War 2. The Japanese people already paid dearly on their adventurism, they are the only country that suffered a nuclear strike. So what more do you want.

        If you are chinese that is not enough you want more. I know what you are up to,you are convincing the mind of the local chinese here that Jpanese are still an evil people.

        I think it will be more better if they also shows the aftermath of Japan atomic bomb destruction. And also the warning to China the consequence of overseas military adventurism.

      • masangkay

        How can you judge whether Tibet is a country or province? As an outsider I prefer to stay silent and choose not to add fuel to the fire with my unqualified opinions but if you check on Wiki Tibet is under China’s military and administrative control since the Yuan dynasty while granting it a degree of political autonomy which is somehow similar to Mindanao as well as its secessionist issues.

        If you ask me I don’t care at all unless history is about to repeat itself. I don’t judge people by race. I only judge by good or bad.

        Chinese communists especially the central parts of China probably are a lot more different since being indoctrinated by a different ideology. So please do not link them to the local Filipino Chinese especially the third and fourth generations which mostly were already very Pinoy indoctrinated as well to the Hong Kong Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian Chinese, American Chinese and etc.

        It’s difficult to guess the mindset of a communist because of the different ideology but we are also foolish for not guarding them since the 90′s until the last minute. I recommend diplomacy first and the willingness to study and understand their arguments. International law is on our side but we should also understand history of both sides to further strengthened our position on this issue.

      • masangkay

        Concerning your accusation of Chinese propaganda please check the background profile of Tulay Foundation Inc. Maybe you were right or maybe you exaggerated especially during these trying times but I think their ultimate aim is of course to promote friendship and understanding between Filipinos and Chinese and so the word Tulay. Anyway this country is democratic and we are free to choose our religion, culture and belief as long as we abide by the law. :=)

    • rmnd

      Just like the Japanese propaganda during WW 2. The Japanese make the Americans look bad to hide their true intentions. Divide and conquer.

  • Alex Alvarez

    Still, Japan is now our friends, they were not our enemies… its a propaganda by the Chinese to divide and for Filipinos to hate the Japanese who is supportive of our stance against the Communist Chinese…………

  • AlexanderAmproz

    The worst of ever colonial war was the Philippines/American war, some photos and some instructive informations can be seen on Wikipedia.

    WW2 with the Manila “Holocaustic” liberation was the war most bombed city. This was done on a colonial purposes, most of the Japanese’s already left, it was a genocide !

  • Marcos5

    Chinese Communist Propaganda enuf said. A commie supporter whose ideology is based on Mao that liquidated millions of his own people.
    To tell you the truth : Filipinos have moved on and have forgiven the Japanese. You compare that to the rest of Asia esp. Prc they still have that foot up in their ***.
    Now go back to work and serve your communist masters.



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