BARANGAY Mintal, a small administrative district in Davao City with approximately more than 15,000 people, is considered as the “Little Tokyo” of the pre-war times in the Philippines. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Mintal became the center of Japanese trade and commerce. Because of the Japanese presence in the area during the early 1900s, institutions and infrastructures were built such as a hospital, school, shrine, and monument.

After the World War II, the thriving Japanese community halted and the development slowed down.

Fast forward to the 20th century, Barangay Mintal became just like any other barangay but slightly more peaceful and greener than the bustling downtown area.

Located here are two of the city’s leading universities - the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UP-Min) and University of Southeastern Philippines.

Over the years, there has been an influx of residents as people from other areas of the city relocate to Mintal.

But why do people move to Mintal?

One reason could be the frequent floods in the city. It can be noted that districts like Buhangin and Matina are affected whenever rain falls hard.

Another is the congestion of the downtown area as infrastructures and businesses are being built; not to mention Davao City as President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown.

Because of the city getting cramped, people relocate to places which are not too populated.

Melissa Loquias, 23, a graduate of AB Agri-Business Economics at UP-Min and now a research clerk of the same institution, expresses her worry on Mintal’s growing population.

“At first I thought it was okay because Mintal only had very few people. It was somewhat a scary place to live in before because houses were not close to each other but now it’s worrisome for me,” Loquias said.

She shared that Mintal might be as congested as the downtown area of Davao. She now sees the development and changes.

“Before there were much trees and the wind’s breeze was cold. Now all I can see are newly established subdivisions like Camella Homes and Bambu Estate. Soon enough, there will be a Vista Mall in the area and for sure more people will be moving here because of the convenience and the ‘downtown-like’ vibe,” she said.

In 2016, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) started the improvements of Mintal with a 120 million pesos budget for the “Little Tokyo Project” which aims to establish a Japan cultural heritage, a hospital, and a cemetery to bring back the glory of the “Little Tokyo”.

In January 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Davao City. The Japanese head of state went to Mintal specifically in Mintal Elementary School where the monument of Ohta Kyozabaru is located. His visit strengthens the friendship ties between Philippines and Japan.

When asked about the “Little Tokyo Project” and her sentiments on its effect in the economy of the Philippines and the businesses in Mintal, Loquias said it will surely attract more Japanese tourists.

“Obviously it will bring more money to the country and boost our tourism here,” she added.

Loqias however mentioned that while to some people, boosting Mintal to be a well-developed barangay is a solution to the congestion of people in downtown and northern part of Davao, it is a problem to those who are already residing in Mintal because its population will become denser. (Karl Maglana)