There was no school at all.: Becoming Minnesotan

Belen Andrada receiving an award from the FMA seniors.
  • Name - Belen Andrada
  • Age at interview - 84
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 12.01.2010
  • Belen Andrada's college graduation portrait, University of Santo Tomas, Manila.

    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The day after the Pearl Harbor attack on the U.S., December 8, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on U.S. and Philippine forces in the Philippines. Most of the outnumbered Americans and Filipinos retreated to the Bataan Peninsula, and were finally forced to surrender to the Japanese in April 1942. The Japanese occupation was harsh on the Filipinos, and many of them were forced into slave labor or threatened with other types of violence, and the invaders faced strong resistance from Filipino underground movements, bands of guerrilla fighters, and the remainder of the Philippine army. The resistance fighters managed to retake much of the islands from the Japanese before the war ended, including most of Luzon.

    To learn more about Filipino history and culture, visit our Filipino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Belen Andrada 4
    2:47 Minutes | 2.68Mb


    Narrator: Belen Andrada (VA)

    Interviewer: Lita Malicsi (LM)

    LM: What about school? Was there school at all during the war?

    BA: No, there wasn’t. There was no school at all. The only classes that we had were the Japanese language, Nihongo. They selected a few people to take the class, and I was one of them, so that we can also do the translation for the younger kids. Like I said, I was fifteen at the time. It was nice because we learned the language. We were not really experts but we could speak it and understand it better than we can speak the language. We learned Nihongo that way.

    LM: Do you still remember some of the things that you learned?

    BA: Yeah, just regular greetings. "Konbanwa" for “good evening” and that kind of thing. It was fun. And we knew how to sing the National Anthem of the Japanese.

    LM: Oh, wow.

    BA: Because we taught that to the kids. We were ordered to go to this school. It was not our plan to do that, but we were ordered to do that. So there were probably about thirty of us who had to take the classes. In return, we had to also teach young kids or do some translating for the Japanese.

    LM: Ohhh.

    Now, back to some of the serious parts of the war, did your family ever suffer from the atrocities of the war?

    BA: No, but we have seen the abuses. Because whenever they have to torture someone, the whole town has to come to the plaza. And that is where we watched kids thrown in the air and caught with the bayonet, if the whole family is being tortured. And I think the purpose was, “Don’t you ever do this or this is what’s going to happen to you.” But we were ordered to come to the city and into the plaza and watch the torture. We were not affected by it… I had a cousin who lived in Ilocos Norte who was killed. And my brother, too, I think suffered during their flight from the Japanese; however, it wasn’t really that serious. We could witness the atrocities that the Japanese did. It was just awful.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: An extremely cruel act; a horrid act of injustice.


    Noun: A pointed knife or sword fitted on the muzzle of a gun.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2127