On December 8, 1941, the Imperial Japanese army invaded the Philippine Islands. During the hostile occupation in the years that followed, many Filipinos experienced grave hardships and were displaced from their homes by the violence of war. Even after the surrender of the Japanese and the conclusion of World War II, challenges remained for Filipinos as they struggled to rebuild their shattered society. My grandmother Lydia, born in Cabadbaran on the island of Mindanao in 1935, was six years old at the time of the Japanese invasion. She and her family were forced from their homes and lived in the jungle during the Japanese occupation. After the war, my grandmother would go on to pursue a career in nursing in order to alleviate the kind of suffering she had witnessed during the war. Her dream of seeking a better life for herself and for her family would eventually lead her across the Atlantic Ocean, to the United States.
Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly chronicles the extraordinary experiences of my grandmother’s childhood and young adulthood through her own words. The title of the documentary, inspired by the Biblical quotation (Micah 6:8) that Lydia chose as her motto for her 1958 graduation from the Brokenshire College of nursing in Davao City, captures my grandmother’s caring and selfless attitude. These values gave her the strength to endure the challenges of growing up during World War II and inspired her to pursue a nursing career and to dedicate herself to helping others.Beginning from her earliest memories, this documentary explores Lydia’s memories of life in the jungle during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines as well as her efforts in the years after the war to become a nurse. These efforts ultimately brought her to North America. My grandmother’s words offer a powerful oral history of the Filipino experience during World War II and of the Filipino-American diaspora. They also offer a valuable perspective on the experience of displacement, which many humans continue to suffer today as a result of conflict, natural disaster, and catastrophes such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Lydia’s story can teach us to be mindful of this suffering and to dedicate ourselves to the effort to address and alleviate the tragedy of displacement that continues to unfold around the world today.