I took my brother to Muntinlupa’s Japanese memorial two months ago. Like many locals he has never heard of it.I have written a couple of blogs (here, here) about this solemn garden. I thought he’d like it because of his familiarity with Japanese history.
He recalls his wife’s story about Hiroshima. How her ancestors suffered after the atomic bombing. As is often the case, innocent men, women and children were the biggest casualties. Its status as a minor city actually contributed to it getting picked by the US. Destroying Tokyo would cripple the country for a longer period.
In the book, “The Untold History of the United States,” Filmmaker Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuzniak proposed that the atomic bomb was no longer necessary. The two suggests that the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a warning to other expanding nations. The message was clear—America intends to dominate the post-world war.
Isn’t it an irony that the most active nation in stopping other nations from developing nuclear technology is the only country that has used it to destroy two cities?
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The Japanese occupation reminds me of my parent’s horrific wartime stories. Experiences made my father swore never to return to San Carlos in Negros Occidental again.
One particular ghastly memory of Papa was watching his uncle being buried alive in broad day light. He said his uncle never begged for his life but asked to be shot—the guerillas refused to do so. These criminals were never punished after the war. My father recalls his chance encounter with one of them in the 70’s. He literally bumped into one of them while crossing Cubao!
My father lost his mother and a younger brother too. Lola got sick while they were hiding near Kanlaon. When she died they made a shallow grave intending to give her a proper burial after the war. When they returned the forest had reclaimed everything. They spent days trying to locate the grave. They never found her.
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The indefatigable writer Sionil Jose believes that the Japanese deserved what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My brother, a US military man, believes it was a mistake. When I told him that some historians believes that Japan was far from surrendering he said “with all the force and leadership they had then it was just a matter of time”.
I recall a story from the archivist Ernie de Pedro of Japanese soldiers planting rice in Ilocos. Men who volunteered for the job asking only for some food and water. He believes that these men were most likely farmers. Planting and harvesting must have brought them some sense of normalcy as it recreated their former lives.
Not many people know that the Pedro Diaz school in Muntinlupa (which made news recently because it sits on top if a fault line) was name after a community leader that was executed by the Japanese. The Japanese memorial in Bilibid was said to have been where the last hold outs were captured.
Not far from where I live now is Punggol beach. The Japanese killed Chinese men they suspected of collaborating with their enemies in its shores. There’s a marker there that reads “On 23 February 1942, some 300-400 Chinese civilians were killed along Punggol foreshore by Hojo Kempei firing squad. They were among tens of thousands who lost their lives during the Japanese Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians…”
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Now, going back to the Japanese garden. I was delighted to find it improved. It now have comfort rooms. The shrine, with all those colorful linked paper cranes, was striking in its serenity and symbolism. The Japanese dedication in honoring their war dead is something to be admired.
We run into one of the guys that maintains the garden. He was welcoming and assisted us during our visit. These guys are “living out” inmates tasked to look after certain area around Bilibid. They can freely go out of their cells. I gave him a ride back to the gates of the prison and kidded him, “you can take the ride all the way to the town and no one would notice!” To this he replied in Tagalog “Hindi po Sir, malapit na ako lumaya, 20 years na ako dito po eh.”