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Japan in Philippine History

Japayuki and comfort women… these are the usual words associated when we talk about any connections we have with Japan in Philippine history. Ambeth Ocampo, a public historian and currently a visiting professor in Sophia University, Tokyo says that history is all about connections. In his talk Before the Japayuki: Japan in Philippine History, it is in every little bits of information that Japan and the Philippines in common we connect each other’s history.

is a term referred to Filipina women in 80’s and 90’s who went to Japan as cultural entertainers however later on it had a negative connotation that when one is referred as this it meant a prostitute. Comfort women, are those who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II and the majority are from the Philippines and a few Asian countries.

Ambeth also says that to find connections it requires appreciation of useless information. We call a bottled cap of any kind “tansan” in Tagalog. In Japan, there is a brand called “Tansan” which is a bottle of carborated water. The mosquito killer emitting a pungent smoke we call it “katol”. Japan call it katori-senkou. We believe we are the ones who invented the halo-halo but as early as 16th century they already have this kakegori – shaved ice topped with sweet kinds of syrup. The scissors and paper game, we have a local version of it we call “Jack en Poy “. Japan call their version “Janken Pon”.

Many local historians and history lovers reacted when our current P1,000 bill’s back part showed the map of the Philippines not including the Spratly’s islands and Sabah, Borneo which we have dispute territory claim against China and Malaysia. Indonesia however in one of their money bills they show their map with some islands which other countries own but they say “traditionally this land is ours”. So how can we teach the young ones of today to fight for what is ours historically when we are too polite and playing safe for things we need to stand for no matter what? Why is it that the story of comfort women are not found in textbooks and not even mentioned in Wikipedia when they are also part of Japan in Philippine history?

Pedro Murillo Velarde, the Spanish Jesuit who did the 1ST accurate map of the Philippines clearly included the Spratlys Island as ours. In his map it also has a picture of St. Francis Xavier on his way to evangelize China and Japan, he dropped by to Mindanao because of a storm. The legend says it was so strong that he threw his necklace with a cross in the air and said a prayer. Then the storm disappeared. When they set their feet in one of the islands they see crabs coming to them and a few of them carrying his cross back to him. In Cagayan de Oro, there is a crab called St. Francis Xavier’s crab because of the image of the cross at the back

Dr. Genshitsu Sen XV is an important figure in Japan when it comes to tea preparation. When he came here and demonstrated this tea making to one of our past presidents, it was discovered that some movements of Japanese tea ceremony is derived from Catholic ritual. He said because some of the greatest tea masters in 16th century are Catholics. He even admitted he owns a ruson tsubo or Luzon jar. The "Luzon Jar" is known for the unique ability to preserve tea leaves and tea stored in them.

Martyrs of Nagasaki is about 26 Christians executed by crucifixion in 1597 when Christianity is forbidden in Japan. One of them is San Pedro Bautista, a Spanish Franciscan who worked in the Philippines for 10 years and founded a church before coming to Japan. Dom Justo Takayama is a Japanese Samurai and at the same time a Christian who went to Manila for exile rather than lose his faith. San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was killed for refusing to leave Japan and renounce his Roman Catholic beliefs.

Jose Rizal has been to Japan in Meiji particularly. It is said that Rizal is very much fascinated by Japanese-style of drawing that he had lots of in his notebook. He said he wondered why is that the Japanese houses are made of and decorated of papers but they have lower crimes when here in the Philippines the houses are made by stone and woods it is the opposite. Not only in drawings Rizal had a deep fascination of, he also had a brief love affair with a Japanese girl called O-sei San.

Mariano Ponce, one of the founders of La Solidaridad is married to a Japanese woman. It is said that he tried buying arms in Japan to be used against the revolution . Artemio Ricarte, known as the "Father of the Philippine Army went to Japan for exile. He and his wife founded a small restaurant, Karihan Luvimin. The most beautiful embassy house of the Philippines abroad is in Japan. This house was formerly owned by the family of Yoko Ono who was the wife of John Lennon of The Beatles.

Ambeth said that the Philippine History in 16th – 18th centuries are still unexplored. The Philippines and Japan have a long and complex history some are still unknown. He hopes those still unknown history will be discovered someday. He said “History in the end is not just the names or the information but it is in knowing how and why it happened. That is how history becomes relevant and interesting.

Source: Before The Japayuki : Japan in Philippine History
             Ambeth Ocampo
             Ayala Museum, 3pm
             Aug. 24, 2012