Maria Rosa Luna Heson
(1927 - 1997)

In 1992, the Task Force on Filipino Comfort Women went on nationwide radio, calling for testimonies on the alleged sexual enslavement of Filipino women by Japanese soldiers during the second World War. One woman came forward, the first to do so. Her name was Maria Rosa Luna Henson. Then already 65 years old, she gave face and form to a terrible war crime that until then had only been whispered about.

Her private inner struggles notwithstanding, Lola Rosa (as she later became known) not only spoke publicly about her trials, but also wrote a detailed and compelling narrative of her life. Her book, Rosa Henson: Comfort Woman, Slave of Destiny includes an account of the 9 months she endured as a 16-year-old “comfort woman” for soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army.

It took heroic courage for Lola Rosa, having managed to rebuild her life after the war, to choose to relive in writing the details of her torture and repeated rape. Even more startling, however, is the fact that she felt compelled not simply to write about what she had endured, but to draw it. Made nearly half a century after the events they depict, her childlike but detailed sketches, the originals of which are preserved at ALIWW, are powerful visual images of the savagery that her narrative records.


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