“Blistering winds from the South China Sea sway the giant coconut trees lining the pristine beach while the foam of crashing waves melds with the fine white sand. Darkness creeps into the skies, heralding an impending tropical storm on this December morning. The droning gusts turn somber as the skies open up, yielding a sea of planes emblazoned with the crimson symbol of the rising sun. One by one, in perfect formation, they descend swiftly on this bucolic town like a swarm of hornets about to prey. A child’s tiny feet trample madly on the powdery sand, racing with the wild beating of her heart. Her breathing becomes more rapid, each gasp turning shallow and frantic as the invading horde casts its dark shadow from above. Suddenly, an ear-piercing sound is heard, like an echo of a desperate woman wailing in pain.”
This is the beginning of In Her Mother’s Image, a novel by Cecilia Gaerlan. It is a searing portrayal of a mother and daughter, Consuelo and Chiquita, entangled in a web of longing and antipathy set in the Philippines amidst the chaos of World War II and thirty years later in 1971.
The war is seen through the eyes of the headstrong eight-year-old Chiquita whose innocent and carefree world is shattered by the invasion of the Japanese Imperial Army on December 8, 1941. The sacrifices and emotional toll that befall her and her family are relived thirty years later when she goes back to the land of her birth. Neither time nor space could erase the emotional ravages of war.
Cecilia Gaerlan is a playwright based in Berkeley, California. She received an Honorable Mention in the Stage Play Script Category of the Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in 2005 for The Hand of God (St. Francis of Assisi) and in 2010 for Magnus Laurent (Lorenzo de Medici). She is a recipient of a Theatre Bay Area CASH Award in 2002 for her play, Brilliance within the Darkness, the story of the blind Spanish composer, Joaquin Rodrigo. She is the author of several other plays on topics such as the United Nations (commissioned by City College of San Francisco for the U.N.’s 50th anniversary), child prostitution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, etc. She has recently adapted In Her Mother’s Image for the theatre.
The book (print and e-book) is available through Amazon.com. Visit her website at www.ceciliagaerlan.com.
From the Author
I was inspired to write the story from the many stories about World War II that I heard from my father, mother and aunt while growing up in the Philippines. Although the story is fictional, the circumstances surrounding the story were based on real life. My father, like the character of Pepito in the book, was drafted in the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East when he was twenty-one years old. He fought in Bataan, went through the infamous Bataan Death March and was incarcerated at Camp O’Donnell from April to August of 1941. Fortunately, he survived them all. My mother was a young woman of eighteen when the war broke out while my aunt was a child of eight. I was also inspired by my father’s best friend, Emong Garcia, who also survived the Bataan death march and Camp O’Donnell.
When I first took on this project, it was a labor of love dedicated to my parents Luis and Felicitas Gaerlan, my aunt Pureza (Esang) Gaerlan and my husband Jeffrey Shuttleworth. Now, it has taken on a deeper meaning. Not too many people in the United States [and in Australia] know of the Bataan Death March and its place in history. More Filipino and American soldiers died during the fall of Bataan and the subsequent march to Camp O’Donnell than Pearl Harbor or any other period of fighting during World War II. This is a homage to those thousands of men and women who died fighting for the cause of freedom. This is also a tribute to the sacrifices of thousands of Filipino families whose lives were irrevocably changed after December 8, 1941. The book is now available through Amazon.com for only $9.99.
(Editor’s Note: Cecilia Gaerlan is the daughter of Luis Gaerlan, retired senior executive of Bank of America, where the editor of Philippine Sentinel worked for 20 years.
April 9 is a non-working public holiday in the Philippines in honor of the 16,000 Filipino soldiers who died during the Bataan Death March.)