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Maria Rosa Luna Henson


Maria Rosa Luna Henson, endearingly referred to as “Lola Rosa” (“Grandma Rosa”), was born in the American territory of the Philippines on December 5, 1927. She was the illegitimate child of a landlord and had a poor childhood. Despite her financial struggles, she successfully obtained her primary education at St. Mary's College in Pasay while working on weekends. On December 8, 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan launched a successful invasion of the Philippines. When she was 14,  two Japanese soldiers kidnapped and raped Rosa, who was on her way to fetch firewood. After the incident, Rosa’s mother brought her to Pampanga. Rosa joined the Hukbalahap, a guerrilla movement formed by the farmers of Central Luzon. While she was doing her usual task -- gathering food, medicine, and clothes for the guerilla members, she was abducted by Japanese soldiers and forced to serve in a makeshift “comfort station” in Angeles City for nine months. 

After the withdrawal of Japanese troops from the Philippines, Rosa left the “comfort station” with debilitating physical trauma. In her autobiography Comfort Woman: A Filipina’s Story of Prostitution and Slavery under the Japanese Military, she wrote, "My mother nursed me back to health, spoon-feeding me as if I were a baby. I could neither stand nor walk. I crawled like an infant. I could not focus my eyes well, and everything I saw was blurred."  In 1992, she became the first Filipina woman to officially come forward as a Comfort Woman. Through painful recollection and the English she had learned in school, Lola Rosa published her autobiography in 1996. Her courage to speak out inspired other Filipina Comfort Women to publicly testify. Lila Pilipina, an organization dedicated to Filipina Comfort Women, was established in 1992 with 174 Comfort Women. After years of campaigning for Comfort Women's justice with her clear recollection and remarkable intelligence, Lola Rosa died at the age of 69 on August 18, 1997.

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