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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A letter from Reggie Reclusado from Afghanistan


These pictures were taken during our 3-day training for Quality Control Managers back in February 23rd thru 25th in Qalla, Kabul , Afghanistan . Most of my classmates are from Pakistan and India . There are two other Filipinos who attended the training and they are the two guys sitting on my right during our group picture.
All who attended the training work in different places in Afghanistan . I am fortunate to be stationed at Bagram Airfield because it is considered to be the safest among all the base camps in the country. Bagram Airfield is also the biggest US Military Camp in Afghanistan.

Normally, we traveled to and from Kabul on a US military C-130. The round trip only takes 30 minutes (15 minutes each way). During our training last February though, the transportation plans were changed and we had to travel by land. It was my first time to travel by road in Afghanistan and the travel time from our base to Kabul takes about 45 minutes.

During the training, we stayed at Camp Anjuman in Kabul where our sub-office Environmental Chemical Construction International (ECCI) is located. We always wore armored vests and traveled with armed military escorts whenever we go to Qalla house located 30 minutes away from Kabul. All along the way, we always encounter traffic due to the numerous military check points. Local military forces implements a very tight security precaution due to occasional attacks by the suicide bombers.

One day during our training, we were scheduled to return to Bagram at 8am. Instead, we left at 10am because there was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that exploded on the road between Bagram and Kabul. Fortunately, the bomb that exploded was placed on the other side of the road. Though we were lucky that day, the danger still lingers on the road that we travel. The only weapon and protection I have here in Afghanistan are my prayers and yours too.

As I pen this letter, the date of my R&R (Rest and Recreation) is just less than two weeks away. We are entitled to a 15-day rest & recreation every three months. We really need this break because there are no leisure places to roam around inside our camp. Ang libangan ko na lang ay ang makinig ng music while doing my paper work inside my room. May television naman sa bawat room namin but I prefer not to watch because it distracts me from finishing up my work.