Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Honor to fatherland and family

Two months ago, I was sorting through short historical articles when I chanced upon an article written by a Filipino journalist. This Filipino writer has rolls of articles whose subject matter seemed to hint his fascination and fervor towards extracting the rich story behind the lives of certain Filipinos and noticeable events in the Philippines. In the article below, he wrote about the life of a simple Bicolano farmer from Milaor, Camarines Sur.

Domingo Sasaki San Lorenzo, 67, an elder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Milaor, Camarines Sur, shows no bitterness about the adversities he had encountered in the past. The youngest of four children of Marcelina San Lorenzo, Domingo lost his father, Takezo Sasaki, who died in their two-story house in Tabuco, Naga City when American planes bombed the capital on May 1, 1942. Domingo was then 3 years old.

After the defeat of the Japanese soldiers in World War II, Domingo’s family experience poverty for the first time. His mother struggled hard to earn a living so the children could finish high school. To avoid ridicule and persecution after the war because of his Japanese ancestry, the family members did not use Sasaki as their surname. But by a twist of fate or what he believes to be God’s hand leading him along life’s unchartered paths, Domingo found an opportunity to “reclaim” the surname deprived of the family for many years. That was in 1974 or 32 years after the war, when Domingo was installing a door bell at the house of a client-friend in Naga as a part-time job. He was introduced to Nobuo Fukazawa, a Japanese and chief of Bayer operations in the Philippines, who was staying at the house of his friend in Monterey Village, a middle class subdivision in the city. Engaged in a banter with the Japanese executive, Domingo shared his longing to reestablish links with his father’s relatives in Japan, whose whereabouts his family in the Philippines had little knowledge of. Fukazawa learned that the Japanese parliament had passed a law recognizing and bestowing citizenship on descendents of Japanese nationals and soldiers who died during the war. He asked Domingo to provide him proof of his Japanese ancestry to help him locate the Sasakis in Japan.

Domingo returned the following day and gave Fukazawa his father’s full identity, photos and marriage contract. In just two weeks after the business executive left for Japan, Doming receive a telegram from the Japanese embassy informing him that a round-trip ticket and travel money had been sent by his relatives to him through its Manila office. He flew to Japan on the same month that the ticket and invitation arrived.

“I arrived at the Narita airport in 1974, overwhelmed with emotion when I saw my relatives waving placards bearing my name,” Doming recounted. He passed out for a second or so, before he could greet his grandparents, other next of kin and everyone else who welcomed him. His Japanese male relatives were quick to catch him before he slipped on the airport lobby . He was brought to a waiting car where he regained consciousness. Later, he found out through his Japanese relatives, that the search for his father’s family in Japan was broadcast on national television, using grabs of the photos and other documents he had given Fukazawa.

At 35, Domingo came to know more about his father, this time from the stories of his Japanese relatives. Takezo, the father he knew only through countless tales from his mother, was the eldest in a brood of six children. He was born on May 6, 1899. Seeking fortune and adventure outside Japan, Takezo, then 15 years old, went to the Philippines in 1914. In 1924, he returned to his homeland in what would turn out to be the last time his family would see him alive. He decided to return to the Philippines and settle there.

In Manila, he studied English and Spanish, and became conversant in Filipino as part of efforts to establish his residency and work status in his adopted country. In the early 1920’s he moved to Naga and learned to speak Bicol. He married Marcelina in a civil wedding on February 6, 1928 and engaged in a buy-and-sell business in Tabuco, providing his family with a comfortable life. Lourdes San Lorenzo Oliva, 70, Domingo’s older sister and the third child of Takezo, said, their father managed to maintain frequent communication with his relatives in Japan. She said their father never failed to radio his parents in Japan every time a new baby was born. All of his children were recorded in the family annals of the Sasakis in Hiroshima. The couple had electricity in the house and a powerful radio transmitter until the war broke out in 1941.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Takezo became a translator of the Japanese imperial army and rendered military duty as a guard of the Japanese garrison where captured and suspected guerrillas and their supporters were imprisoned and tortured.

Domingo said his mother recounted how Takezo refused to go to the guerilla camp in Moriones, Ocampo, Camarines Sur when he fled the American aerial bombardment. “My father told my mother that he did not want his Japanese compatriots to see him as a traitor if he accepted the safe conduct pass and refuge offered by his Bicolano friend, a guerrilla commander by the name of “Tacorda”, he said. “This guerilla opened an opportunity for my father and the family, even after my father was in the service of the Japanese Imperial Army”, he added. But Takezo had other things in mind. He wanted to die with dignity. “He believed that if he were with us, he would have endangered his entire family. So he chose to stay in our house and waited for his death,” Domingo recalled. Takezo’s charred remains were retrieved by his compatriots, brought to Japan and buried in a shrine dedicated to Japanese war heros in Hiroshima in the 1940s.

Domingo said 1974 was the most unforgettable experience in his life when he was able to piece together his Japanese ancestry and help transform the lives of all members of the Sasaki clan in the Philippines.

Being a Japanese descent, the clan members—the fourth generation—were given automatic recognition as nikki-jin or half Japanese. They were entitled to live, stay and work in Japan as long as they wanted. The Sasaki descendant were issued a kosiki or certificate of birth’s ancestry that bestowed on them preferential treatment on immigration concerns and made them distinct from other foreign nationals working in Japan.

It was in 1997 when the full benefits accorded to a nikki-jin started to make a difference as far as Domingo is concerned. The second generation Sasakis started to emigrate to Japan to work. Seventy clan members, including the spouses of his nephews and nieces, were employed there, he said.

At present, all of the Domingo’s three children work in Japan. He and his wife take care of their grandchildren in Minalabac. "I have a pension and our personal and domestic needs are provided by our children. Periodically, I visit my children and Japanese relatives”, Domingo said.

His eldest daughter Emmy, who is on vacation in their hometown, explained that she did not intend to become a permanent resident in Japan. She said her siblings just wanted to work there and earn at least more than thrice the salary an ordinary employee receives in the Philippines. “It’s a very expensive place and you only go there to work, earn and save for the future”, she said.

Domingo said he thanked God for the blessings because the opportunity his family to work in Japan had given them a comfortable life he could not imagine that he could provide himself.

In the years of his married life, he work as a salesman for Radiowealth appliances. He also took on part-time jobs to augment his income. Mayor Gil Basmayor, who knew the Sasaki clan, attested to Domingo’s family as belonging to one of the poorest families in town. The landscape of barangays Hubo and Antipolo where they lives changed when they became nikki-jin, said Basmayor.

Not so long ago, the Sasakis lived in humble shacks in the villages that they worked as farm laborers and tenants of rice farms.

It was, however, the legacy left behind by his father, a Japanese war hero, whose imprint is etched deep in Domingo’s memories. His mother, who lived with him until she died at age 80, would have probably agreed.


Blogger ghost writer said...

Very interesting and write up mo not only touch historical event but also relive the moment in time.

Keep up the good work. .

always excited on your next write up

10:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's inspiring that like innumerable folks, the subject has thrived while remaining connected to his roots. He has made Bicol his home despite adversity and that's blooming where planted. Filipino hard work and resilience at its best.

However, to call him a "war hero" is far-fetched. It's undeserved. Unless there is information about him not known or publicized yet, it comes across as offensive and rubbing salt on wounds.

6:20 AM  
Anonymous susing said...

Ribong ako boy... I was confused to trace their family roots... but what can I say, sabi ninda very interesting and inspiring, saka palibhasa amigo taka, di iyo naman garo ako, interesting naman maski mayong interest...hehehe

So yan naman dae mo naman i-publish comments ko ta miling ribong.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a slight clarification, please U. S. planes bombed Naga in May 1942? Maybe 1944 or 1945. The year 1942 was, of course, when Bataan and Corregidor fell while 1944 and 1945were when Allied forces, including Filipino guerillas, were successfully wresting the country back.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Ivan said...

When I published the article of the Filipino writer, I also have some doubts regarding the information that American planes bombed Naga on May 1942. The only information that I am certained of is that on May 1, 1942, the Bicolano guerrillas from Tacong Vaca attacked Naga and liberated the 30 American captives being held by the Japanese at the capitolyo. Is it possible that Takezo Sasaki was killed during the attack? Is it also possible that the writer got mixed up on the date Domingo's father was killed? Without digging deep into the historical records of the war in Camarines sur, it would be hard for me to come up with the correct facts.

Long time ago, I spoke to an old timer who used to live in Naga during during the 1940s. He said that he witnessed the American planes bomb Naga near the train station shortly before the liberation of the Philippines. If Takezo Sasaki was killed by the bombs dropped by the American planes then he must have died on 1944 or 1945.

I would like to encourage the readers to contribute information that they know so that we can slowly piece together the historical event of the past.

1:42 PM  

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