The Nikkei-jin and the local community of Baguio celebrated the golden anniversary of the founding of the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Association of Northern Luzon and the 35th anniversary of the Filipino-Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, otherwise known as Abong.
The occasion was graced with the presence of His Excellency Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko and his wife, Yuko Koshikawa, at the newly-opened Virginia Hall of Palace Avenue beside Baguio Palace.
“Nikkei-jin is a Japanese term for Japanese immigrants and their descendants who have established families and communities in recipient countries. Currently, there are 2.6 to 3 million people of Japanese descent living throughout the world.”
Sr. Theresia Unno, an elderly Japanese nun, who came to the Philippines to rest and for health reasons, founded the Fil-Jap Friendship Association in Northern Luzon 50 years ago. She was also searching for Japanese descendants, to help improve their welfare and educational opportunities.
“For about 120 years, many of our compatriots have traveled across the seas to various parts of the Philippines. They have taken root in the local communities and led happy lives. I believe that here in Baguio, the Japanese were able to blend in with the Filipino community while building a friendly Nikkei-jin community,” mentioned Ambassador Koshikawa in his speech.
“However, all that changed after World War II, which caused unbearable pain and sorrow, as well as widespread misery and devastation in both countries. Because of the anti-Japanese sentiment, the Nikkei-jin had no choice but to conceal their identity as Japanese descendants for a long time. After the war, Japan tirelessly devoted itself to regaining international trust and earned a reputation as a peace –loving nation, with the determination to never again wage war,” he added .
This message of peace spread to the entire world.
It is said the strong will of Sr. Unno subsequently led to founding of the Filipino-Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon35 years ago.
It was headed by Chairman Carlos Teraoka, was also appointed Honorary Consul General of Japan in Baguio. He was awarded the “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon” by no other than the Japanese Emperor of Japan.
Abong, the foundation that Teraoka headed had the following goals:To provide scholarships for secondary and higher education; To provide capacity building seminars and workshops; To help in the verification of nationality in cooperation with various organizations;To preserve the Japanese cemetery and gardens; and to provide opportunities that would benefit the Nikkei-jin and the local community.
Hence, these activities paved the way to cementing Filipino-Japan relations. The Baguio Kikin, an organization that was highly involved in providing scholarships led by Noriyoshi Sakai also celebrated its 40th year in Tokyo, Japan.
A milestone about to happen is the launching of the Philippine Nikkei-Jin Kai Rengokai “on-line” Japanese language and culture course for the Nikkei-jin. This will pivot a new chapter for the Nikkeijin community, enabling them to learn more about the country of their grandparents.
The Japanese Ambassador also stated that Palawan had established its own Nikkei-jin Association, with the same purpose as Northern Luzon, to look for Nikkei-jin descendants and provide them with better opportunities.
He also encouraged Nikkei-jins to go to Japan, visit the country of their grandparents and if possible, supplement its shrinking workforce.
The Baguio Kikin of the Rotary Club of Japan have been generously providing scholarship fund. Other organizations are the International Angel Association, a group of Japanese volunteer Ladies headed by Mariko Higashimura is also aggressively supporting the activities of Abong for the past 35 years.
Before the posting of Ambassador Koshikawa to the Philippines, he was assigned to various posts in Latin America, New York, Angola, and Spain to name a few.
He was senior vice president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA.
The joint celebration last Sept. 25 was attended by quite a number of scholars and Nikkei-jins. Prizes were awarded to winners of the different contests like: logo, poster making and essay. About 4,030 scholars have already been supported by the Baguio Kikin.