The Japanese Shrine in Muntinlupa

Shrine, originally uploaded by Arnaldos’ shutter.

Located at the end part of the local cemetery in Bilibid one can find this peaceful haven. A shrine dedicated to the Japanese soldiers who died in Muntinlupa and the neighbouring towns. The shrine is also a cemetery because the Japanese soldiers who were executed are buried here.

Legend has it that Gen. Yamashita himself was buried in this place. Some people actually refers to it as Yamashita shrine. I first caught the story from elders that recounted that his body was laid to rest in the area together with the two other officers who were executed in Los Baños in 1946.

I visited the site today and was greatly impressed with the memorial they had created. It was a fitting tribute to the son’s they’ve sent across the seas to fight. The visitors can also look at the pictures of those whose asheswere laid to rest in the cemetery, this are actual photos before they were executed.

Yamashita famed for his military campaigns that gave him the title ‘Tiger of Malaya’ – and of course the Yamashita treasure that according to our historians were looted during his reign over the Asian countries his army occupied.

Interestingly enough, for all the atrocities he and his army committed, he was regarded as a gentlemen by his American escorts. His last words was actually thanking American soldiers who supervised his detention. He was a proud man, though the actions he and his nation took were to cause great suffering to us Filipinos – he had written a manuscript that deserves to be read in full (Yamashita’s last words). These are reflective words from a man who was about to meet his end.

In an article by Pete Fattig on the Mail Tribune dated June 29, 2003 Medford, Oregon (interviewed were the wife & son of Gen. Yamashita executioner, Robert Alkire)

The olive drab U.S. military cap, size 7 1/2, was the one removed from the head of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita on the island of Luzon around 1 a.m. on Feb. 23, 1946.

Moments later the officer known as the “Tiger of Malaya” and two other Japanese soldiers were hanged for war crimes.

“My husband said he took it off the general so he could put the black hood on him,” Claudia says. “He just stuck it in his back pocket and forgot about it, what with everything that was going on.”

“My dad hung three gentlemen that night,” says Steven, also an Army veteran. “He was only 20 years old.”

It’s an interesting story, one you wont find in the history book.

But in the last years of his life, Robert Alkire, who died in Medford on August 24, 1996 at the age of 73, and was buried in his native Taft, Calif., had been working on the book tentatively titled, “Under a Hood of Black.”

A staff sergeant in the Army, he had been appointed provost sergeant in 1945 for the Philippine Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Los Banos. His job, for which he received commendation, included watching prisoners as well as tracking escapees.

On Jan. 5, 1946 he was introduced to a Lt. Francis, a new arrival who had a curious habit of looking at the neck of the person he was talking to. His previous employer was San Quentin Prison in California where he was a hangman.

Francis brought his rope.

“I was concerned because one of my duties was as provost sergeant was assisting in any executions performed at the prison,” Robert Alkire writes. “I was not looking forward to acting in this official capacity.”

That’s where the manuscript ends.

“He introduces you to the hangman, then that’s it,” Steven says. There is nothing in writing that we have found that says he had orders to hang Gen. Yamashita . . . but we have everything else.”

That includes Claudia, Robert’s wife for 43 years.

“He said that it was something to shoot at someone who is shooting at you but when you put a rope around a man’s neck whose hands and feet are tied . . . .” she says, her voice trailing off.

“He liked Gen Yamashita,” she explains.

He had come to know Yamashita necause he saw him every day. He served him food and talked to him.

One of the photos she has is of Robert Alkire and the hangman by the scaffold. Thirteen steps lead to the trap door.

“My husband said Yamashita walked up the steps with military bearing and stood in front of the trap door,” she says. He turned to my husband and asked which direction was Tokyo.

“Gen Yamashita turned the direction my husband pointed, bowed, didn’t say a word and stepped onto the trap door,” she adds.

That’s when my husband removed the cap.

“The hangman put the noose around him and my husband put the black hood over his head,” she says. “The hangman dropped him through.”

It was 20 minutes before the stocky general was pronounced dead, she says. Robert and several others buried the three men in an unmarked grave.

“All three were wrapped in blankets — they were not put in boxes,” she says. “There were no markers, nothing. Then they camouflaged the graves so they could not be found.”

Now Steven Alkire wants to complete the task his father started, putting the story together. He hopes to gather more information, perhaps even present the cap to Yamashita’s family as his father intended.

So it could be said that the ‘Tiger of Malaya’ is buried somewhere in Los Baños, close to the facility where he was detained. There is also a shrine in Los Baños similar to what we have here in Muntinlupa. It does not really matter I guess where this lost soldiers were laid to rest whats important, and this has touched me when I visited the shrine – is the dedication of their government and that of the relatives and those who knew this soldiers to commemorate their sacrifices. The Filipino caretaker of the shrine said ‘we always have Japanese coming over to visit all year long but not that many, not sure if their relatives to this soldiers but their always solemn with their prayers – some still cries.’

I rarely see this from our own people. Let’s not forget about our very own brave soldiers.

17 responses to “The Japanese Shrine in Muntinlupa

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