I was inspired by 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 1942. 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. More Filipino and American soldiers died during the fall of Bataan and the subsequent march to Camp O'Donnell than Pearl Harbor. And yet, not too many people outside of the Philippines know of this horrific event in our history.
On April 9, 1942, General Edward King, under the command of General Jonathan Wainwright, was forced to surrender some 70,000 Filipino and American troops in Bataan to the Japanese Imperial Army. Most of the men were emaciated and sick. No provisions were made for transport so the prisoners were forced to march some 60 miles under searing tropical heat with no provisions for water, food, shelter or medicine. Moreover, so many atrocities were committed during the march (beatings, beheadings, etc.). Approximately between 5,000 to 10,000 Filipino soldiers and 700 American soldiers died during this 60 mile march from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell where more atrocities awaited them.
This is an 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 and American families whose lives were irrevocably changed after December 8, 1941.
In Her Mother's Image actually started out as a screenplay in 2000. Upon the suggestion of a studio reader, I adapted it as a novel. Late in 2010, the book became a reality. I have recently completed the stage adaptation.