More commonly known as “Nikkeijin,” with most of them living in Palawan, they hid for so many years their true nationality due to rampant anti-Japanese sentiments during and after the war, but through the years, they have been emboldened to reveal the truth about their identity and ancestry.
On July 20, some members of the 13th chapter of Nikkeijin in the Philippines were recognized by the Japanese Courts as Japanese descendants, including 78-year-old Angelita Sakane, who currently lives in Palawan.
Frail and can barely speak, the Nikkeijin in the Philippines are also hoping for acceptance and reconciliation with the Filipinos, whose fathers and grandfathers perished under the hands of Japanese soldiers during the war.
Margarette Lumauag, a Nikkeijin herself and also the Nikkeijin Palawan chapter’s president, said that the organizing of the chapter in Palawan was “long overdue.” Their organization and others established throughout the Philippines are under the umbrella organization Philippine Nikkeijin Kai Rengokai.
They are also working with the Philippine Nikkeijin Legal Support Center (PNLSC) for profiling, and recognition of, Japanese descendants.
Since beginning their work in 2012, they have traced 53 Nikkeijin, 31 of which have already died without being recognized by the Japanese government.
“Palawan had a huge, sad history with the Japanese,” PNLSC Secretary-General Norihiro Inomata said in a report.
He said that, towards the end of the war, Filipino guerillas, working side-by-side with American soldiers, executed civilians whom they believe were spies in Palawan, and that the anti-Japanese sentiment in the region remained and passed on to the succeeding generations.
This is why, some of the Japanese descendants, for fear of being executed or wrongly accused as collaborators, destroyed documents proving their descent, and changed their family names.
“I realized people never [easily] forgot these incidents,” Inomata said.
The president of the Federation of Nikkeijin in the Philippines, Ines Mallari, is calling on younger descendants in Palawan to emerge and reconnect with their Japanese relatives.
“The war ended seven or almost eight decades ago. People have healed already,” Mallari said.
They will also conduct Japanese-language classes in September for younger Nikkeijin generations so that they could have improved job opportunities.
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.
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