Rough Cuts | One sentimental journey to their roots

Two Sundays ago we were fortunate to get invited to join the welcome of some 51 Japanese nationals who are members of the Okinawa-Davao Friendship Society, Inc.

They had their annual visitation in Davao City, the land where some of them were born to purely Japanese parents who came here to work for Japanese plantations and Filipino hacienderos.

The group was led by Yoshihiro Yamaniha who was born to Japanese parents in Catigan, Toril in 1936. His family was repatriated to Japan after the end of the Second World War. The other older members of the delegation were also either born here or were left in Okinawa while their fathers worked in Davao during the heydays of abaca fiber production, logging, bazaars, hotel, and even small consumer items manufacture. The rest of the group were the younger generation of descendants of Japanese migrants to Davao whose knowledge of Davao came from the mouths of their elders.

Our welcome though was limited only at the Nikkei Jin Kai Japan-Philippines Historical Museum located in Calinan where the Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai, Inc. also operates a school. The historical museum which stores important documents and material mementos of the glory days of the Davao-Japan pre-war relations, was only one of the itineraries of the Okinawan visitors. The group also went to see the Japanese cemetery in Mintal as well as the monument of the famous Otha Kyusaburo, founder of Otha Development Corporation, the largest Japanese-owned abaca plantation in Davao during the pre-war times. They also visited the Peace Shrine in Catalunan Grande.

The welcoming group was led by no less than retired Judge Antonina Escovilla who is President of the local Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai, Inc. Also on hand were Nikkei Jin Kai School Calinan Campus principal Ms. Carmen Apigo, and Veron Nazario, a retired teacher who now oversees the operation of the Nikkei Jin Kai Philippine-Japan Historical Museum. They were also joined by some of the school’s faculty members and staff.

Indeed blood ties among Japanese had shown its unusual strength despite passage of time and of strained diplomatic relations between the Philippines and their country brought about by that disastrous World War 2.

Not only the blood ties, the Japanese also put premium to the cultural relations established between the Davaoenos and the Japanese who had a sizeable community established during their close to four decades stay in Davao.

These ties are the very reason why after the normalization of relations between the Philippines and Japan was put in effect in 1973, the Japanese who were in Davao prior to the war and survived it, and the relatives of those who came and died and were buried here started coming in droves. There is no doubt their intention is to honor the memories of their dead as well as restore the kind of diplomatic, social and cultural ties between the two peoples before the war broke out. Japan is one of the major belligerents in that global conflagration in the Asia-Pacific theater. The United States of America is the other.

As it was during the pre-war years, Japan now plays an important role in the economic development of Davao and the Philippines in general. It is the primary market of the Davao Region’s exportable agricultural products like bananas and pineapples. It is also a major source of imports.

Meanwhile, we learned from retired Judge Escovilla that the Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai, Inc. (PNJKI) has not only limited its participation in Davao’s development stride in the provision of educational institutions. It is also into health intervention. For the last ten years it has been operating a polyclinic that has been catering to the health needs of Japanese descendants’ families in Davao especially those members of families of students of the PNKJI schools. The Polyclinic also opens its services to the general public. Other than the Polyclinic the PNJKI also has a cooperative.

All these are offshoots of the restoration of the harmonious economic, social and cultural relations built over three decades before it was strained by a war that the Davaoenos and the Japanese would have never wanted.

Posted in Opinion