EXHIBITS

Food Insecurity in the Philippines

Tropical Ulcer and Malaria

“Battling Disease and Starvation”<br />
“Battling Disease and Starvation” is the personal account of Lilia Verano Brewbaker, who was a child during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. This account provides an example of the food insecurity in the Philippines during World War II.
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(Courtesy of Ely Javillonar Marquez and F.T. Marquez)

Because of malnutrition, children and youth were more susceptible to tropical diseases such as malaria and jungle rot. Ely Javillonar Marquez describes how she and other children developed “scary” boils on their feet that were crater-like and filled with pus.[5] This was most probably tropical ulcer, more commonly known as jungle rot, which is more likely to occur when a person is malnourished and walks barefoot.[6] In The Fateful Years, Teodoro A. Agoncillo also mentions how tropical ulcer plagued young, starved children.[7] This condition did not seem to affect adults as much as it did children. Malaria was also common, but medicine was in short supply. Lilia Verano Brewbaker explains that she and her family all contracted malaria, but her parents only used the quinine tablets on the children, electing to take the full impact of the sickness themselves so they could heal their children. Sickness had a profound impact on Filipino civilians because it made it impossible for them to work, thus increasing the effect of starvation.[8] While Japanese children did experience sickness as a result of malnutrition, they did not suffer from the same tropical diseases that Filipino youth had to face. 

Response to Hunger

Young children peddling goods<br />
This photograph is included in the book The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines: A Pictorial History edited by Ricardo T. Jose and Lydia Yu-Jose. In this photograph three children are peddling goods to make money during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. During World War II, food and supplies became more scarce so Filipino youth resulted to laboring to help support their families.
[click the image to enlarge]
(Courtesy of the Ayala Foundation)
Young children peddling goods<br />
This photograph is included in the book The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines: A Pictorial History edited by Ricardo T. Jose and Lydia Yu-Jose. In this photograph three children are peddling goods to make money during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. During World War II, food and supplies became more scarce so Filipino youth resulted to laboring to help support their families.

[click the image to enlarge]

(Courtesy of the Ayala Foundation)

Filipino youth responded to starvation similarly to Japanese youth by scavenging, thieving, and looting. Filipino youth scavenged for food on the streets, picking up individual grains of rice that fell out of supply trucks.[9] In cases where there were no conventional food items available Filipinos gathered and consumed items such as tree bark, roots, and even tree leaves.[10]  Stealing and looting was common as well. Just before the Japanese arrived in 1942, a 15-year-old boy stole two large bundles of bihon (noodles) and stuffed his pockets with American candy he had looted from local stores.[11] To keep order, the Japanese occupation forces punished looters and thieves, including children. Dario Bautista Alampay recalls watching the Japanese parading thieves around the town plaza with their stolen goods such as chickens hanging from their necks. Then the Japanese tied them to a post and anyone who passed the town plaza would have to slap the wrongdoers, even though one was a young boy.[12]

One of the biggest ways Filipino youth counteracted starvation was by working to earn more money for their families. Children as young as seven years old worked jobs such as shoe shining, working at the family business or local farm, selling homemade food products such as coconut jelly and soap, and even selling scavenged items like bails of grass and camote (sweet potato).[13] One Filipino “became an entrepreneur at the age of ten.” They began renting out American comic books such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman for ten centavos each. A customer would be able to select a magazine and read it in a designated chair, almost like a library.[14] Although they do not mention legality, renting American comic books was likely illegal as it was going against the goals of the Japanese occupation forces by promoting American media.

Although some Filipino youth became entrepreneurs, many also worked for the Japanese during the war and the American “Joes” after the war.[15] For most jobs, the Americans and Japanese paid the youth in food. In Lupit, on the island of Panay, a Japanese foreman hired Filipino boys from ages eight to twelve to help clear grass and brush from an airfield. F. T. Marquez and his friends decided to join the work group because the Japanese payed 5 pesos a day with a ration of rice.[16] Work like this was not uncommon. Praxedes Valdex remembers watching Japanese as they “forced the children to… load their [Japanese] chromite (chromium) for them in their ships” for a ganta (3 liters) of rice, a pack of cigars, and some sugar.[17] After the United States army retook the Philippines, children began working for them instead. Oscar Ocampo worked as a messboy for the Japanese when he was eleven and as a messboy for the Americans when he was fourteen.[18] Because of war children and youth in the Philippines had to assume the same responsibilities as adults.  

[1] Agoncillo, The Fateful Years, 514.
[2] Agoncillo, The Fateful Years, 535-536.
[3] Agoncillo, The Fateful Years, 549.
Although this source is a secondary source, Agoncillo lived through World War II in the Philippines. This paragraph is from his own experience.
[4] Agoncillo, The Fateful Years, 549.
[5] Ely Javillonar Marquez, “Boils and Bites,” Childhood Memories of a War-Torn Philippines, 57.
[6] In addition to lack of food, most civilians did not have access to cloth or clothing material, so many children went barefoot or had poor footwear.
[7] Agoncillo, The Fateful Years, 546-549.
[8] Lilia Verano Brewbaker, “Battling Disease and Starvation,” in Childhood Memories of a War-Torn Philippines, 120.
[9] Agoncillo, The Fateful Years, 547.
[10] Bernard LM Karganilla, “Witness,”Under Japanese Rule, 211.
[11] Kintanar, Kuwentong Bayan, 59.
[12] Dario Bautista Alampay, in “Witness,” Under Japanese Rule, 200.
[13] Kintanar, Kuwentong Bayan, 120-122.
[14] Kintanar, Kuwentong Bayan, 123.
[15] Joe is the word Filipinos used (and still use) to refer to U.S. soldiers and white men. Comes from G.I. Joe.
[16] F.T. Marquez, “Child Labor,” in Childhood Memories of a War Torn Philippines, 279.
[17] Praxedes Valdez, in “Witness,” Under Japanese Rule, 220.
[18] Joan Orendain, “Children of War,” Under Japanese Rule, 116.