►As Japanese pilgrims – visiting a Philippines to which their Japanese forebears had been deported four centuries ago – discovered there were many places in Manila associated with the Japanese Christian exiles who left Japan in 1614, they wanted permanent markers so future generations will know – before the fast pace of infrastructure development erases them from the map.
The best places for markers are in the grounds of Catholic churches associated with the Japanese Christians. The first such marker was installed at the San Marcelino Church (St. Vincent de Paul Church), on San Marcelino St., Manila
Text on the Plaque Was Both in English and Japanese
The ‘Balete Marker’ reads: “FIRST JAPANESE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY – The barrio of Balete, along the Estero de Balete, was officially designated as a ‘Japantown’ in 1601 to accommodate hundreds of Japanese who had been settled in Dilao town since 1592.” [We do not know where 1601 came from.]
The marker was commissioned by Ryohei Fujimoto, a staunch Catholic from Kyoto who funded several scholarships for Filipino students – under the Pre-Evangelization Program (PEP) of Fr. Toru Albert Nishimoto, CSsR (1933 – Aug. 21, 2010), the first Japanese priest to join the Redemptorists.
The Cross is an exact copy of a monument in honor of Dom Joan Naito in Yagi-cho, Nantan-shi, Kyoto Prefecture. Naito arrived in Manila on the same exile boat as Dom Justo Ukon Takayama on Dec. 21, 1614.
Manila Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza (r. 1998-2007) inaugurated this Balete Memorial on April 25, 2002. ◘
By Dr. Ernie A. de Pedro
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation