History’s Singular Choice
►As we shine light on the forthcoming 40th Anniversary of the Takayama Memorial at the Philippines-Japan Friendship Park at Plaza Dilao, Paco on Nov. 17, 2017 – and the 425th year of the establishment of Dilao as the Philippines’ first “Japantown” in 1592, one indispensable figure comes to mind: Japanese Ambassador Toshio Urabe (Manila, 1969-1974), the longest-serving Japanese ambassador to date.
(But Toshio should not to be confused for his illustrious son, Amb. Toshinao Urabe — who also served as Japanese ambassador to Manila, 2011-2014 — who was similarly cited for his efforts in enhancing bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan. Toshinao was decorated with the Order of Sikatuna, rank of Datu [Gold Distinction], the highest possible decoration given to a non-head of state.)
Toshinao’s father, Amb. Toshio Urabe, had a formidable record: In 1953, Mr. Urabe first arrived in Manila as Counsellor of the Overseas Liaison Office and Chairman of the Technical Panel negotiating the Peace Treaty and Philippines-Japan Reparations Agreement — which was ratified by the Philippine Senate on July 23, 1956. (With diplomatic relations established that day, July 23 is celebrated by Presidential Proclamation as Philippines-Japan Friendship Day. For several years now, the entire month of July has been celebrated as Philippines-Japan Friendship Month.) As Deputy Director General of the Treaties Bureau, it was Mr. Urabe’s job to implement the Reparations Agreement in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect.
In 1969, he returned to Manila – this time, as Japan’s Ambassador, serving from 1969 to 1974. During his incumbency, the Philippines was able to secure a broad range of economic assistance from Japan, beginning with the funding of the 2,000-km. Philippines-Japan Friendship Highway (1969) which now straddles the archipelago from north to south.
Though Amb. Urabe had never heard of the Japanese Christian exile, Lord Takayama Ukon before – he insisted on historical documentation from Japan and extensive discussions with historical groups in Manila and Tokyo — it was under his stewardship that, across four centuries of checquered bilateral relations, Ukon was finally recognized as the only acceptable exemplar of Philippine-Japanese friendship and amity. ◘
Dr. ERNIE A. DE PEDRO
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation