By CORHEINNE JOYCE B. COLENDRES
THE ILUSORIO family owned a beautiful two-story mansion that was surrounded by large gardens filled with tropical plants and flowers. The mansion stood out like a ruby gem in a sea of greenery. However, upon the Japanese occupation, the Red House turned into a sight of terror and trauma. The family mansion has long lost its luster—instead, it became a haunted house full of the ghosts of the women who became victims of the atrocities of the Japanese army.
Haunted: A Last Visit to the Red House explores the lives of the surviving members of the Malaya Lola, a group that was formed by former comfort women who were taken in by the Japanese soldiers during their occupation in the Philippines. The story is woven through retelling the accounts and experiences of the comfort women, and through exposing the narrative of how justice is never actually served.
The documentary began with clips of interviews of various members of the Malaya Lola. The old women showed photographs of how they formed the group from 90 members to a dwindling 30 members. Their fingers would linger a second too long on each photograph, before pointing at who is already dead and who is still alive. Each woman shared their sides of the story and their unending battle towards justice.
The documentary also featured the lack of action from both Japan and the Philippines. The war damages that were incurred by Japan against the Philippines amounted up to 8 billion dollars, yet the country only agreed to pay 500 million dollars—of which all are given to infrastructure. Nothing is left for the comfort women, only apologies that can never relieve their pain.
Directed by Phyllis Grande and an entry to the Cinema One Originals Festival 2017, Haunted: A Last Visit to the Red House, would have been an excellent documentary, if not for its sloppy production. The documentary showed its flaws through insensitive questions thrown to the comfort women, and through sequences with dead air, or shots with no established context or relevance to the story that the film was supposed to build. There is a scene where the production crew went to the Red House and they made assumptions about their subjects and the Red House itself. That is blatantly inappropriate. The documentary film has a strong and serious issue to tackle. It was no laughing matter, yet the production crew seemed to have forgotten that.
With parts that fell flat, Haunted: A Last Visit to the Red House is still able to somehow redeem itself through presenting what truly made the Red House haunted—aside from the ghosts that lingered in the dilapidated establishment, the House is haunted because it is an example of how horror met reality. Decades have passed and justice was never served. Apologies and help are sent, but they are never enough. The comfort women are now dwindling and they are on their way to becoming a minor incident in history—easily forgotten, only to resurface when convenient. F