The Japan I knew

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Friday, December 13, 2013


THE report on the President’s departure to Japan did not have a reference or even a hint of the Philippines’ past encounter with the military might of that nation more than half a century ago. The story was all about diplomacy and goodwill and friendship under a modern setting, as if there had not been a gory history of turmoil among the same Asian nations decades ago.

When the Philippines became independent and sovereign at the end of World War II and Japan became an American subject nation for a while, there was a sort of healing process between the nation of the rising sun and the pearl of the Asian seas. In time, as new events and relationships developed in our part of the world and new ideology-driven forces emerged to generate new diplomatic ties, new conflicts arose.

But really, I am being carried away from the simple tale I went through as a kid growing up in the sway of a ferocious Japan. When anyone among friends mention Japan in books or in newspapers, or even in lively conversations, subconsciously I could readily conjure some things about the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II.

I was not yet 12 when the Japanese came to our town in late 1941. The first wave of the fierce Japanese army consisted of four trucks, and the budding Cebuano guerilla group in the mountains ambushed them in Barangay Abucayan, about four kilometers from the heart of our town.

Early bombing by Japanese planes had destroyed the wooden building of the central elementary school. When the Japanese military arrived with their dead, they dumped the corpses on the destroyed school building and set it on fire. Later, the cremated Japanese soldiers were sent back to Japan.

I learned this later on when we befriended some of the soldiers who lived in the
remaining central school buildings, which became the garrison and housed the soldiers who were detailed in our town.

Well, I forgot to say that I knew and recall all of these because our house was just a stone’s throw away from the garrison. In fact, their corner security dugout had a view of four directions, including our street.

In any case, on the day following the President’s arrival in Japan, he is supposed to be meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, and talk like old friends. Our president is attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) commemorative summit meeting in Tokyo, a gathering that would not have been possible a number of decades ago.

When I was barely learning to relate myself with other people, there came the Japanese soldiers who shot almost every living thing they could see when they arrived in our town. An old man who was left behind in his pharmacy decided to run out of town too late. The Japanese saw him running in Lacdon St. They made him a good target for their rifles.

When his kin found him two days later, only his skeleton remained. Dogs had feasted on him.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 13, 2013.

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