Ashley Ortega moved by meeting with surviving comfort women

Meeting with surviving comfort women moves Ashley Ortega to tears

By: - Reporter
/ 12:10 AM March 15, 2024

Meeting with surviving comfort women moves Ashley Ortega to tears


As part of her preparation for GMA 7’s upcoming war drama series, “Pulang Araw,” Ashley Ortega met with two of the Philippines’ surviving comfort women, an experience that was as enlightening as it was emotional.

Listening to Estelita Dy and Narcisa Claveria recount the harrowing stories of abuse they endured during the Japanese occupation, Ashley couldn’t help but cry.


“We interviewed comfort women from 1945 during World War II. I really cried when I heard their stories. It’s sad … what they had to go through back then,” Ashley told the Inquirer and another media outlet at her recent launch as part of GMA Artist Center’s “Sparkle 10” group.


“Of course, I also learned a lot. It made me realize just how fortunate our generation is that we never had to experience a war,” she added. “We should always be grateful for what we have.”

Set in World War II, “Pulang Araw” is directed by Dominic Zapata, and follows the contrasting fates of half-sisters and vaudeville performers Adelina (Barbie Forteza) and Teresita (Sanya Lopez). David Licauco (Hiroshi) and Alden Richards (Eduardo) play the two women’s respective love interests. Ashley, on the other hand, plays Manuela, one of the antagonists.

Filipino courage

Joining her in the meeting with the former comfort women were Sanya and the show’s writers, who made sure to provide context and highlight the sensitive nature of the topic.

“There were terms used during the war that we didn’t really know about. I had to study well because the show tackles things that really happened in our history. It’s a sensitive topic, so I want to do my role justice. We have to be careful of every line we say,” Ashley said, adding that she hopes to dedicate the show “to all those who suffered during World War II.”

“The series aims to depict the courage of Filipinos, how they fight amid the struggles,” she added.


While it took a couple of years before Ashley started landing big breaks, the 25-year-old actress couldn’t be more grateful for the variety of roles and projects given to her. Prior to “Pulang Araw,” she played a woman caught between a Muslim clan war in “Legal Wives,” a figure skater in “Hearts on Ice” and a fading social media influencer in the film “As If It’s True.”


“I’m so happy because that’s my goal as an actress, to be versatile. I don’t want to stick to one image. I want to do different genres. I want to prove myself because I know that there’s a lot more I can give. I think that there’s always room for growth and I want to pursue things that could serve as an inspiration to people,” she said.

Ashley is also proud of the fact she can go back and forth between villain and leading lady roles. But it does come with a bit of pressure, she admitted.

“I personally enjoy villain roles and find it more challenging. I enjoy playing with the lines and emotions. But I’m also thankful I was given the chance to play lead, like in ‘Hearts on Ice,’ because I got to topbill a dream project. But of course, people also start to expect more of you, right?” she said.

“They would see me as a kontrabida and they will be like, ‘What’s next?’ You do a sports drama, and they ask the same thing. So with every project, I just have to step my game up. There’s pressure,” she added.

But just because she has already done lead roles doesn’t mean she can’t go back to supporting roles. “Whether I play lead or not isn’t really important. It’s not about what benefits you in terms of fame. I love my job, so whatever character is given to me—and as long as the story is good—I will do it,” she said.

Living independently

Not only is Ashley making big career moves, but she’s also making important personal decisions that she believes will help her grow as a person. Living independently is one of them.

“I started living alone last year, so I have to be a responsible woman. I have to take care of myself, love myself, discover more about myself. I think that has helped me mature, along with the experiences, struggles and failures I have had,” she said.

Leaving the comforts of her family home was difficult, knowing that she can look after herself couldn’t be more fulfilling. “It was my decision and I’m proud. It’s hard, especially when you get sick. You do everything—you clean, you cook, you do the laundry. I have to prepare my stuff for work. It’s all me,” she said. “Hindi ako pwedeng pabebe dito!”

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Of course, she misses living with her parents and the assurance that somebody’s always there for her in times of need. “But I can’t just move back in with them,” she said, laughing. “Nakaka-miss. But this was my choice, so kailangan kong panindigan.”

TAGS: Ashley Ortega, comfort women

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