Roots from Ashes
by Hannah Reyes Morales / MAPS
They call themselves the Malaya Lolas: Grandmothers of Freedom. Photographer Hannah Reyes Morales tells the stories of those women who were forced to become "comfort women” during the second world war and are still fighting for justice.
Nearly 75 years ago, their town called Mapanique, north of Manila, was sacked by Japanese soldiers. Men were tortured and then killed. The women and girls, some as young as 9 years old, were forced to become "comfort women." A practice in which sexual violence was used as a weapon of war. The Malaya Lolas are united by the crimes committed against them, but also by their tireless struggle for justice.
To this day, the injustices committed against them have not been officially recognized and slowly the memory of the suffering they experienced is fading with them. Their traumas and their now aged bodies have been trapped for decades in the web of bureaucracy and bilateral relations. Through her photographs, Hannah Morales shows the lasting effects of sexual violence while offering valuable insight as she documents the 28 remaining survivors.
For these grandmothers, the war did not end when the U.S. ended the Japanese occupation. The war began in their bodies, and they continue to fight.
Hannah Reyes Morales is a Filipina photographer and National Geographic Explorer whose work documents tenderness amidst adversity. Her photography, both visceral and intimate, takes a look at how resilience is embodied in daily life. Based in Manila, Reyes Morales’ work explores the universal themes of diaspora, survival, and the bonds that tie us together.