Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context
Issue 13, August 2006
|Walter Dempster, Jr. a/k/a Walterina Markova and the interviewer hold poster of the film, Markova: Comfort Gay, starring Philippine star Dolphy.||
Wartime Comfort Gay in the Philippines
Interview with Walter Dempster, Jr.
Interviewed by Ronald D. Klein
Walter Dempster, Jr. is the last living man to have been a comfort gay to the Japanese Occupation troops in Manila during World War II. His story would have remained one of thousands of personal secrets of wartime shame were it not for the fact that it was dramatised into an award-winning movie.
This interview with Walter Dempster was conducted outside a kiosk on the main street of a barrio near his home in Los Piñas, Metro Manila. The 78-year-old Dempster was still slim, attractive and lively, warm and gregarious. It was clear he had told his story many times before and he had a folder filled with newspaper clippings, photographs and thank you notes from university students who regularly came to interview him. Markova's story of wartime abuse is just part of a larger story about the Philippine gay subculture. As Neil Garcia points out in his Philippine Gay Culture, there is a distinction between the bakla or man who subjectively sees himself as a woman and his macho partner, the "real man" whom he seeks out for sexual favors. This distinction causes confusion on the part of the interviewer when the subject comes up. Yet it also raises the question of motivation on the part of the Japanese soldiers who raped him.
Dempster is a survivor in many senses. Not only did he live through his harsh experience with the Japanese, which several of his friends did not, but he was able to use his wiles and charm, sometimes deceptively, to get through the war and prosper afterwards. Flirting with boys, dancing with customers and even providing sexual services to American officers (who assumed he was a woman) are part of Walter's gay personality before, during and after the war. He often talks innocently about "making love," a term that has changed in usage over the years. For him "making love" is the playful verbal flirting that takes place on the street or in a club, exchanging compliments or admiration.
Most Japanese are unaware that during the war, Japanese soldiers raped men. Walter Dempster, Jr. is last person alive who can bear witness to that practice. This interview took place on August 10, 2002.
RDK:: I'm sitting here with the real Markova in Los Pinos.
Markova: Ron, good morning to you. I'm very happy that you visited me. I am the real Markova.
RDK: First of all, tell us your real name.
Markova: My name is Walter Dempster, Junior. I was Walterina Markova.
RDK: How old are you?
Markova: I am 78 now. I was born May 20, 1924.
RDK: Now when did you get the name Markova?
Markova: You see, I got this name Markova during my younger time. Before the war, I used to be an exotic dancer. When we had a gay coronation, I was the one who performed the floorshow. I danced my exotic dance. First, they called me only Walterina. It so happened that this Alicia Markova, the Russian ballerina, came here to the Philippines to perform. So my friends told me that they were going to borrow Markova's name and give it to me. So that's how I got my stage name, Walterina Markova.
RDK: How did you start becoming an exotic dancer?
Markova: I started to have my hair long since 1939. I was wearing a dress since 1939. My hair was until here [points to shoulders]. My mother and brother didn't like me wearing girls' clothes, walking in the street in girls' attire. My brother didn't want me to be a gay. He was always boxing meboxing my stomach, my side, my back. He got angry when he saw me, even if I was not in a woman's attire.
RDK: Before the war, were you dancing in a club?
Markova: Yeah. At that time, even before the war, I was always dancing in Lonapor, in Subic Bay, in Angeles Night Club. I used to do a floorshow there, twice a week, Friday and Saturday. But the American customers didn't know that I was a gay. Because, before my floorshow started, the owner of the club gathered all the employees in the club and said, "Tonight our special dancer is a gay, but please don't tell the customers." So when I performed in the nightclub, all the American Navy soldiers applauded me. They didn't know that I was a gay, because in my costume I looked like a real woman.
RDK: And your name was?
Markova: I had my name outside the clubWalterina Markova. But, when the Americans paid me to sit with them and talk to them, I told them that my name was Lena Williams.
So, every time I did my floorshow, one American was crazy about me. He wanted to live with me. I didn't like this because I didn't know how to be a woman yet. At that time, my friends were teaching me how to be a woman. They told me, "You do this. You do that. Don't do that. Don't do this." But I just felt myself as a gay and carefree. But if I was with a customer at the table, I had to act like a woman. When I drank, I held my glass as a woman. I was making big money during at that time. I got commissions from my drinks and tips. And they gave me big tips!
RDK: Of course! Were you just dancing and flirting?
Markova: If they wanted to take me out, they had to pay for the bar time, just to take me out, no strings attached, because I told them, "We Filipina girls, we are not easy to get. You have to make love to us. When you see me, when you hold me, you grab me, your hands will be around my bodyno! [shows slapping imaginary hand]"
RDK: Now, were you using some kind of breast supports?
Markova: Yes, we used a rubber bust which was saleable here during peace times. And when my customer started to hold my bust, I told them, "Darling, that is private property. I'm sorry, darling." So they invited me to go to the Officers' Club. Imagine, I'm dancing inside the Officers' Club. Even the American women didn't know that I was a gay.
RDK: You must have been very convincing as a woman.
Markova: They didn't know that I'm a gay, because my friends started teaching me how to put on some make-up. During that time, our make-up was this Chinese powder. I put it in my hand and then I crushed it like that. And I put a drop of water, and then I did it like that, and then I put it on my face, like pancake make-up.
And then for my eyebrow pencil, I went to the kitchen and I burned a matchstick and that became black. I held my mirror and that was my eyebrows. My blush-on and my lipstick was crepe paper, red crepe paper.
RDK: You mean you licked the crepe paper for colour?
Markova: Yeah, I put the red colour lipstick like that. And then I put some blush on the same way. So, that was my make-up.
RDK: What about your face hair?
Markova: No, I didn't have any face hair before. My face was very smooth, not like now. Before I was more beautiful than my two sisters. That's why my two sisters were always getting mad at me, also because I was using their dresses. So, when the Japanese arrived in the Philippines, I was still wearing a woman's dress.
RDK: Did your lifestyle change when the Japanese arrived?
Markova: When the Japanese arrived in January,1942, they passed by Pasay, and we were all in the streets, looking at the Japanese passing by. So, that night, even though there was a blackout, I could not stay in the house. I went out flirting, looking for boys.
RDK:: What were you looking for?
Markova: Just to flirt.
RDK:: Were you still dressing like a woman when the Japanese were here?
Markova: Yes, but it was hard to walk on the streets. The Japanese wanted us to make a very nice bow. You stood up like that, and you put your two hands here like that, and you bowed properly [shows proper bow]. You cannot do like that [shows sloppy bow], or they will slap or kick you. I was slapped so many times, because I was very flirty. I went out as a man, but I used my sister's blouse and slacks. And my shoes were four inches high. And I had a very big bag and a very big fan. Imagine, my make-up, too. I didn't care what they said to me. When I went to my friend's house, if I went by a sentry, I had to bow. They knew I was a gay because I went like that [shows flirty way of bowing].
RDK::So you were flirting with the guards?
Markova: Yeah, but, one time, one official brought me to the barber shop and had my hair cut. I was crying because my hair was until here [past his shoulders]. I went home crying, but my mother and my sister scolded me, "Yeah, that's good for you, because you are too flirty. That's what you get for being a gay." You know what I did? I went to this gay friend of ours. He had so many wigs, so I borrowed one. At nighttime, I was a woman and in the daytime, I'm a gay.
RDK:: Were you dancing during the Japanese Occupation?
Markova: Not here in Pasay. But their clubs were in Manila. You know the 7-11 on the corner of Mabini Street before you turn right in Faura Street? On top of that before, there was the Tsubaki Nightclub. That's where I performed for Japanese customers. They didn't know that I was a gay. And some of my gay friends were working there as receptionists. Five of us were working there but only me doing the floorshow.
RDK: Was your floorshow with a group or just solo?
Markova: No, I was always a solo performer. And, after my performance, the Japanese officials invited us to sit at their tables. We were entertaining them. They danced with us, and after that they gave us tips. During that time, our money was Japanese yen. I was working in that club for almost five months.
RDK: Were you speaking Japanese at that time?
Markova: Yeah. I knew how to speak some Japanese before, because in the street you saw mostly JapaneseJapanese civilians, Japanese soldiers. So I knew how to speak some Japanese, but I forgot it now.
RDK: Is that where you became a comfort gay? How did they find out you weren't really a woman?
Markova: Now one time, when we were at the club, we had no customers that night. So one of my friends suggested we take a walk. He was a notorious gay. He came here to Manila to avenge his family, because his family was killed by the Japanese in their province in Cebu. But he was not a real gay. He was what you call a bisexual. In Cebu City he dressed up as a girl and made his earning as a prostitute. He knew how to be a woman and he was teaching us. So, one night, he says we have no customers. We'd better go to Luneta, because the Tsubaki Nightclub is very near Luneta. So four of us went walking,
RDK: All dressed as women?
Markova: Yes. With our evening gowns. So we walked in front of Rizal Park and it so happened, we met these four Japanese officials They approached us. They talked to us. This and that. So they invited us to go to their hotel. You know the Luneta Hotel? They brought us to the Lunetta Hotel.
When we were in the hotel, we went to our separate rooms and the Japanese were making love to ukissing, kissing, loving, loving. I forgot that the Japanese's hand was moving around, holding me like that and that. But suddenly, he put his hand right here [groin]. And then he stands up. "Bakero!" he yelled at me. "You are not a real woman, you're a boy!" He got mad. He was furious. So he knocked on all the doors of his friends. "Check your girls. They are not real girls. They are men." So I heard in the next room "Bakero!" something like that. They started to slap us, box us and kick us.
And then this Japanese official called for the Japanese MP. By and by, a Japanese truck arrived with Japanese soldiers, MPs, Kempeitai. They grabbed our hair like that. They pulled us down from upstairs in the hotel and pushed us into the truck. And while we were being pulled down like that the Japanese soldiers were kicking us. They were doing that with their guns [shows being hit by rifle]. And they slapped us and boxed us like that [demonstrates punching].
They took us to the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium. In front of Rizal Memorial there was a long table. Sitting there were Japanese officials, Japanese MPs, civilian policeman, so when we got down there, this Japanese that was mad at us, he told the Japanese official, "Punish these people. They are not real women. They are men. Do you know what they did?" The Japanese officials stood up and each one of the four of us was kicked like that. You know Japanese boots? They kicked us like that [demonstrates].
RDK: Right in front. In your stomach?
Markova: In our stomachs, legs, anywhere they wanted to kick us. So then they brought us inside their quarters. They told the soldiers, "Punish those goddamn gays." Do you know what the soldiers did? They fell in line and they raped us one by one. We could not say, "No, no, no! Stop that. I don't like that." We could not do anything. We were surrounded by Japanese soldiers. Bayonets were doing like that to us [shows pointing bayonet] and they were raping us. Some of them were in front of us, holding our heads like that and pushing their front in our mouths. While they were raping us, they were hitting us with their guns, here in the back, anywhere [shows hitting with rifle].
In the morning, we had to clean their quarters. They told us to scrub, and then wash their uniforms. You know what kind of briefs they were wearing.
RDK: Like the sumo wrestlers?
Markova: They wrapped like this, with something hanging here in the back [shows wrapping]. That was their brief and very stinking. They told us to wash that. And then, at noon time Japanese soldiers arrived again. They raped us again. In short, in Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium we stayed there for almost two weeks. After that, they took us again to the Rizal Basketball Stadium, the next building. That was also a Japanese headquarters. And in front of that there was also a long table where Japanese officials were sitting down. So when we arrived there, the same thing happened. They kicked us and then they held our heads and they pushed us inside their barracks. They raped us again there.
RDK: There were four of you?
Markova: Yeah. The four of us. So we stayed there for almost two weeks.
RDK: Two more weeks?
Markova: Yeah. And every day we were raped. 20 Japanese. Everyday, 20 Japanese were raping us. Imagine! We could hardly walk or sit down. We squatted because we could not sit like that. Imagine, 20 Japanese soldiers a day!
And so, after there, they brought us again to Harrison Plaza. Harrison Plaza was not as big as now, just like a garage. That was a Japanese barracks, also. They brought us there and they began raping us again there. You know, our notorious friend, he managed to escape. But the three of us were left there.
The same thing happened. We were washing their clothes, fixing their clothes, shining their boots. You know what they gave us to eat? Just porridge. Night and day, they gave us porridge. You cannot do anything with your stomach all day eating porridge. Sometimes they gave us bread, but it was very hard. You had to soak it in the porridge. We just cried and cried, but we couldn't do anything.
RDK: You were really prisoners!
Markova: Yes, we were prisoners. They raped us every day. Then they brought us to work in front of the Grand Central where there was a Metropolitan Water District building. The whole day, you know what we are did? There was no elevator, so they told us to bring the tables from the fourth floor down. Imagine, many tables. It was so heavy carrying them going down. After that, we went up again and brought the chairs down. Then the third floor. Then the second floor. We brought down all the furniture! We worked there the whole day. And then they even brought us in front of the City Hall and told us to cut the grass. In the sunlight, we had to cut the grass.
RDK: Where did you sleep during this time?
Markova: Anywhere. We slept on the cement. We slept against the wall. We slept in the corner, in a chair, on the floor. Anywhere. They didn't give us anything soft to lie down on.
RDK: But, couldn't you run away? Were you guarded all the time? Markova: Yeah, we were guarded. In the morning, when we woke up, they were kicking us, "Wake up!" We started to scrub their office, shine their boots, wash their clothes.
So one time, I don't know what got into them. The three of us were brought out at midnight and put in a Japanese truck. We didn't know where they were taking us. We were speaking to each other, "You know, maybe the Japanese are going to kill us. That's why they brought us out at 12 o'clock in the evening."
It so happened that the truck stopped. Something happened to the engine. You know where we parked? Edsa! Edsa before was open space. There were no buildings, no houses, just rice fields and cogon. We were scared. So, two Japanese soldiers in front got down. And the three soldiers who were watching us got down also. Then I told my friends, "Get ready! We are going to jump off the truck. Get ready!" So the three of us held hands and we jumped off the truck. So when the Japanese soldiers found out that we were running, they were shouting, "Kura, kura, kura!"
We didn't bother who was shouting at us. We just kept on running. Edsa was dark. It had no light there. The Japanese could not follow us because their truck had some engine trouble. Their guns went off, but we didn't care whether we were hit by the guns.
We ran for almost half an hour and at the end of our running, we could go back to our house. At home, we looked at our faces in the mirror, but we couldn't recognize ourselves. All that time we had no combs. We had nothing to fix our hair. My hair was curly, like an Afro. We were all standing looking at ourselves. And my friends and I were laughing at each other, "Look at you! Look at you!" Our dresses were torn into pieces. We started out wearing long gowns, but when we went home, just miniskirtscompletely torn. We were very dirtyour faces, everythingas if we jumped into the mud. That's how our appearance looked.
RDK: What ever happened to your other friend?
Markova: This friend of ours, this notorious one, started killing Japanese officers. He went around at nighttime, picking up Japanese officials. He took them to the Walled City. The were making love there. Now the Japanese think that this was a woman making love. And while the Japanese was making love to him, he's taking the money of the Japanese from his wallet. When he got the money, he pulled up his dress and took out his dagger. He did like that to the Japanese [shows stabbing]. He killed several Japanese.
RDK: How many?
Markova: He killed about five Japanese before he was wanted. You know, we were wondering, "He goes out 6 o'clock in the evening. He comes home 4 o'clock in the morning. When he arrives at the house, he's got plenty of money, Japanese yen." He told us, "Hey guys. Wake up. You count." He let us count the money. One day, he told us, "You know why I got plenty of money? I'm killing the Japanese and I'm pick-pocketing the Japanese soldiers." Imagine!
So after a few weeks, he was wanted. The Japanese Kempeitai once came to our house looking for him, but our notorious friend was out. It so happened, at that time, I had gone home to my mother's house. But the one that was home, this other friend, do you know what the Japanese did to him?
Because our friend was wanted and they knew that we were his friends, they brought him to San Beda College. San Beda College at that time was made into a headquarters occupied by the Japanese. They tied him up to a big stake at the main gate and kept him in the sun for almost two weeks. And every time the Japanese went inside, they smoked and did like that with the cigarette [shows burning] in the face of our friend.
RDK: Then what did you do? Did you stay in Manila?
Markova: Three of us, we flew away and went to Batangas. There we worked as taxi dancers at various cabarets. Our customers paid us to go to the movies. They took us to dinner. Imagine, they didn't know that we were gays, because in the province, they don't know the difference between a gay and a woman
So we were dancing there for almost one month. And our customers were making love to us, "You know you're beautiful. I love you. I want to stay with you. I want to be your husband." We said, "No, no, we cannot do that. We are strangers here." We went around the whole of Batangas as taxi dancers.
When we left to go home to Manila, do you know what these guys did? They give us dried pork, rice, chicken to bring to our parents in Manila. Then we went back again there, especially at night in the full moon. Our customers took us out. We sat in the full moon. They are making love to us. We were laughing to ourselves, thinking, "Imagine if you knew that we are not girls, I don't know what you are going to do." But they just kept on making love to us [laughs].
RDK: It sounds very different from life in Manila.
Markova: Yes, it was the provinces. One time there was a fiesta, so we were invited to the fiesta. There's a big place and we sat down there, three girls and three of us. And then there's a man, just like at an auction. This man says, "How much am I offered for this girl? Highest bidder." And, the three of us got the highest bids, because we were more beautiful than these girls, because the province girls had no make-up, not like our complete make-up. So we got the highest bids.
The ones that bought us, they gave us drinks. They gave us something to eat. From 5 o'clock in the afternoon up to 11 o'clock in the evening, they were our partners. We ate, we danced, and then they gave us some money. But one of the boys was trying to kidnap me. He wanted to take me to his province. I said, "No, I cannot go. I am working here." He said, "No, you must leave your work. I will be your husband. I will take care of you." Imagine, living in the provinces! I didn't like it in the provinces, so we went back to Manila.
RDK: Had things cooled off for you there?
Markova: When we returned, we found out that this notorious friend of ours was caught by the Japanese. He was caught, but he killed five Japanese. They took him to Fort Santiago and they tortured him. He was hanging like that and his feet were tied up like that and the burning charcoal was here and they were beating him. They tortured him very much. They hit him with their guns and slashed him with their bayonets. They pulled him down and they got the pliers and smashed his fingernails like that.
Have you been to Fort Santiago? Once they brought you to Fort Santiago, you cannot go out. You go out in a box. In the dungeon at high tide, that's where they put him. All the Filipino prisoners they put them down there. When the tide was high tide, they get drowned. I don't know whether they buried them or what they did. Imagine! We did not ask what happened to our friend. We just forgot him.
RDK: What was life like for normal Filipinos during that time?
Markova: The Japanese were very cruel. They took all our food. Do you know what we ate in Japanese time? You know this young coconut? We chopped that coconut and then we sliced it into pieces and fried it. And you know our rice? We ate this rice that was from boats sunken beneath the ocean. Filipino people took this rice and we fried it. And do you know this badid banana? We sliced it like that and get insides we cooked that without anything. Just cooked it. That's how we ate. And if they saw a woman in the street, they just dropped her down like that and raped her. And they were killing the children, too.
RDK: Killing the children?
Markova: Yeah! Nine-month-old, one-year-old children. They tossed them up like that and then they did it with their bayonets like that [show spearing imaginary baby]. Like Herod during Christ's time, they killed all the children.
And then, maybe around one month before Liberation, you could not go out in the street, because in every corner there was a Japanese soldier with a machine gun. They went house to house and got the men. You see all the men were tied like that and they threw them down inside an air raid shelter. Then they threw in a hand grenade and killed them. Yeah, that's true. That's how cruel the Japanese were.
RDK: How did your life change when the American's returned to Manila?
Markova: You know, I almost went to America because I have an American stepfather. When my father died 1933, we were in the provinces. In 1934 we came here to Manila, because we had no relatives in the province. They were all here. Then my mother got married to an American man, a white American, as white as you. During Japanese time we surrendered him to the Japanese, because Japanese soldiers were going house to house asking if you had an American with you. They came to our apartment so we had to surrender our stepfather. And they asked us, "How about you. Are you American?" And even though we were, we said, "No we are not American. We are Filipino." And so they only got my stepfather.
RDK: But are you really an American?
Markova: Yeah, but I did not file for American citizenship. So at Liberation time, they let all the American interns in Santo Tomas to go back to the States. My stepfather was going to take me and my two stepsisters back to the States. They already gave me this long coat, so that I wouldn't get cold. And I had a very big bag. But when I stood up in the truck, I looked up Hispania Street and I saw plenty of American soldiers. American soldiers! So I got down from the truck and told my stepfather, "No, I don't want to go. I will stay with my mother. You go alone." So my stepfather and my two stepsisters left. So, do you know what I did that night?
Markova: I dressed myself up. I had short hair, so I gathered this hair and then I put it in a hair net like that [shows]. And then I put a flower here. Then, I am a girl. So I flirted that night. I went flirting to Americans. I didn't go to ordinary American soldiers, only officers-majors, colonels or captainsbecause they paid me lots of dollars. If I went to the soldiers, they give only $10. I said, "Darling, you better keep your $10 for your carfare." But officers, when they asked me, "Hey, baby, how much I pay you?" I said, "Darling, you know Filipino girls are expensive." "How much?" "You pay me $100." "Baby, you're too expensive." "Yes, Filipino girls are expensive." They paid me, but they didn't know that I was a gay.
RDK: So life was good in those days after Liberation.
Markova: Everyday when I went out with American soldiers, they gave me boxes and boxes of canned goodsfigs, soup, pork and beansall American foods. And I got plenty of bed sheets and blankets. When I went inside the barracks, I came out with blankets, bed sheets, boxes of cigarettes, soap, everything. Imagine, until now, I still have one GI blanket. It's very old now. Yeah, I made good money during Liberation time.
RDK: And what were you doing in the barracks? Just flirting?
Markova: Not flirting. Something happened. But you know what I did? I did everything with my hands. I put it underneath my body like this [demonstrates]. Then they thought that I'm a woman. He doesn't know that it's my hand. And so that their hands cannot move, I told them, "Darling, you put your hands on my head." So how can he caress me? That's how tricky we were. That's why we say, "The hand is quicker than the eye."
RDK: Were there other people who were dressing as women?
Markova: Yeah, my companions. We were around ten of us who were wearing women's dresses. Every night we were flirting on Dewey Boulevard. [It is now Roxas Boulevard.] So we were flirting, especially in the full moon. We used to sit down on the boulevard and then the young boys would approach us and talk, making love to us.
RDK: Did they know you were not girls?
Markova: Yeah, they knew that we are not girls. They know that we were gays, because Filipinos can tell whether you are a real woman or you are a gay by the way you acted. So we flirted and they were making love to us. That's how I met my first love.
RDK: Good, I was going to ask about whether you ever had a boyfriend.
Markova: My first love was the son of a character movie actor.
RDK: Was he gay?
Markova: No, he was a real man.
RDK: But he was your boyfriend?
Markova: He was my boyfriend, for five years, but he was not living in the house.
But everybody, even his parents, knew that he was making love to me.
RDK: But he was not gay?
Markova: No, he was not gay. He was a real man.
RDK: But he was making love to you?
Markova: Even his mother and father and sisters agree that he was my boyfriend.
RDK: Wait, I don't understand. You're a man and he's a man.
RDK: And you're gay, but he's not gay.
Markova: No. He's a real man.
RDK: But you're having sex?
RDK: Gay sex?
Markova: Because the boys that time, even though you are a gay and they know that you are a gay, they make love to you.
Markova: Yeah, if a man falls in love to you, he will treat you as if you were a woman. He will go to work just for you. Even most of the movie actors during this time were gay lovers.
RDK: But not gay.
Markova: They are not gay.
RDK: But, what's the difference.
Markova: I don't know.
RDK: I don't know either.
Markova: They just love gays.
RDK: But they are not gay.
Markova: No, I had many boyfriends during that time. I had many because I was very flirty at night. You can imagine me in a garland of flowers like they put on you when you arrive at the airport. I'd buy one like that and put it all around my neck. You could not see my neck. Then I picked them one by one and put them in my hair, as if I was a flower vase. I don't care. People just ignored me. And nobody said bad words to me like why are you like that? No, not like now.
RDK: How did your story become made into the movie, Markova: Comfort Gay?
Markova: It became a movie in 2000, because of my former manager, Councilor Justo Justo. I was working for him for almost eleven years as a make-up artist for his girls, and one time in 1995, he invited me to his room. He was typing. He is also a writer and a designer. He told me "I'm bored with my stories. I want an exciting story."
So I told him "Why not write about my story." He asked me, "Why, what is your story?" "My story is when we were humiliated by the Japanese soldiers. We were slapped, kicked and everything. They raped us." He told me, "Oh that is a very exciting story. It is a very nice story."
But nothing happened for almost three years after I told him this story. Then he told me that he was going to present my story to director Gil Portes. I was not expecting that it was going to be a movie. I just forgot everything.
Then after a year passed by again, Director Portes and his writer and his assistant director went to the office of Councilor JJ and they interviewed me. I told him the whole story from the beginning up to the end. I told him everything.
And he said, "Oh, this would make a very nice picture." So then he went directly to Dolphy [famous Philippine actor known for effeminate roles] and when Dolphy read the story, he was very glad because this was a real story. And he grabbed this story and he told Gil Portes that he wanted to make this movie. So after a week, he came back again to the office, and he gave me an advance payment of 50,000 pesos.
And that's how we got to the movie. Now when Director Gil Portes went back to the office we agreed already. Dolphy would star and his two sons, Eric and Jeffery, would play me when I was younger. And the shooting took three months.
Markova: Our premiere night, the invitational premier at the Metro Manila Film Festival was held in Glorieta, the glass theater. That night I stood up three times inside the theater. The first time was when Director Portes was speaking, he pointed at me, "And now I present to you the real Walterina Markova." So then I stood up. And then when Dolphy made a speech, he told me to stand up. The whole theater was crowded and after the movie was over, we all got a standing ovation. I cried that night. Imagine, I'm a gay and they appreciated my true story. Everybody stood up and applauded! And then Dolphy and his two sons, for the first time in Philippine movie history, they got Best Actor and Best Actress Award. And the movie got Best International Picture.
RDK: Is the film ever going to come to Japan?
Markova: Well, because JJ has a promotion company, all our girls show my movie in Japan. Not in the theater. They borrow the tapealso in Taiwan, in Malaysia, even in Saudi Arabia.
RDK: Are you filing compensation from the Japanese like the other comfort women?
Markova: To the Japanese? I don't know if they're going to believe me because I'm all alone. All my companions were killed by the Japanese.
I got interviewed by two Japanese newspapers, and after the interview, one reporter asked me, "Walter, supposing the Japanese government will recognise you as being a comfort gay, what do you want to do?"
I said, "As for me, I want them to make a public apology."
"And how much will you ask them for?"
"I don't want to say how much. It depends on how much they will to give to me. If they give me this, give me that, it's OK. But I won't say, you must give me one million, no!" And I asked her, "Do you think your Japanese government will recognise that. And she says, "I don't know, maybe, maybe."
So, I'm not interested. God will provide. I leave it all to God."
RDK: Now, what about the Japanese people? I know you are have been a religious person all your life. Can you forgive them in your heart?
Markova: Yeah, but only if they ask for forgiveness. You know in JJ's office, sometimes Japanese go there to interview the girls. If it happens that this Japanese is an old man, I get furious. My mind wants to fight back at him. I imagine maybe this goddamn Japanese was the one of the Japanese soldiers who raped me. But if the Japanese is younger, I just ignore him. I doubt if there is even one Japanese soldier still alive. That was way back already. Even if I kill him or do something to him, what will happen? Nothing.
RDK: Do you have any lingering feelings about what happened?
Markova: You know they compare my story with the comfort women story. And you know when Korina Sanchez [television announcer] interviewed me, she put Nana Rosa [famous Philippine comfort woman who has led the fight for acknowledgement, apology and reparations] with me.
And do you know what Nana Rosa said? "Oh, I don't believe these gays. If the Japanese soldiers found out that he was man, they would kill him."
And I said, "How do you know? Did you see what the Japanese did to us? You were not there. The Japanese just raped us."
And Korina said, "When I interview Nana Rosa, she is crying. But when I interview Walter, he keeps on laughing."
I said, "Why should I cry? That was way back. It's bygone now. There is nothing to cry for. Past is past. Why should I cry? I'm just happy I'm alive."
This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.
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