►With the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 Project (MMSS3) in its completion stage, rehabilitation for the Takayama Memorial will start in September 2018. Target completion date is Dec. 21, 2018 – 404th anniversary of the Manila arrival of Lord Takayama and 350 Japanese Christian exiles in 1614.
The elevated expressway, which bisects Plaza Dilao, is designed to ease Metro-Manila traffic through the eight (8) access ramps/interchanges strategically located as follows: ◘ Buendia Avenue, (South Super highway, Makati City), ◘ Pres. Quirino Avenue, (Malate, Manila), ◘ Plaza Dilao (Paco, Manila), ◘ Nagtahan/Aurora Boulevard (Manila), ◘ E. Rodriguez Avenue (Quezon City), ◘ Quezon Avenue (Quezon City), ◘ Sgt. Rivera St. (Quezon City) and ◘ NLEX.
Major Stakeholders in Plaza Dilao
The major stakeholders, meeting with Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada to plan Plaza Dilao’s renovation are: ◘ The City of Manila, ◘ The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, and◘ The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). Implementing the renovation is the construction consortium behind Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 Project (MMSS3).
►Overall project coordinator for the renovation of the Takayama Memorial is Director Arsenio Lacson, Jr, of the Manila Parks Development Office which overseas 47 Parks, Plazas and Monuments throughout Manila.
►The Embassy of Japan in Manila was represented by Mr. Atsushi Kuwabara, Minister and Consul-General; Mr. Shinya Yabe and Mr. Tomoyuki Honda, first and second secretaries respectively, and Mr. Ken Nakamura, Director of the Japan Information and Cultural Office.
Historical Background of the 1977 Memorial
►MANILA ENABLERS — The Takayama Memorial was erected in 1973-1977, under the auspices of the Manila Ladies’ Committee — the Kababaihan sa Pagpapaganda ng Lungsod ng Maynila – formed for this project only.
►JAPANESE COUNTERPART –The Counterpart Japanese organization was an ad-hoc group led by Rev. Ryoichi Katoh, director of the Southeast Asian Friendship and Culture Association (SEAFCULA).
►JAPANESE CONTRIBUTIONS — One-hundred percent of the enabling funds came from some 180 Japanese Breakfast Prayer Clubs – supplemented by contributions from Japanese chambers of trade and industry.
Land for Friendship Park Donated by City of Manila
►The City of Manila donated the 2,000-square meters parcel in front of Paco Station of the Manila Railroad in Plaza Dilao — and provided labor.
►The renovation project is being undertaken by a consortium represented at the Manila City Hall meetings by: ◘ Engr. Efren Rabot, Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) ◘ Atty. Jinky Magpantay, CCEC/SMHC ◘ Mr. Jose S. Tanqueco, Jr., CCEC/SMHC ◘ Engr. Rolando M. Recio, CCEC/SMHC ◘ Engr. Rolly Escamilian, DMCI ◘ Engr. Clyde E. Sotto, Gemwealth Construction & Trading ◘ Engr. Chavez, Gemwealth Construction & Trading.
Plaza Dilao — in 1973-1977
►Plaza Dilao was a nondescript plaza that was an eyesore when the First Lady, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, then the Governor of Metro Manila, requested Manila Mayor Ramon Bagatsing to beautify the spot.
Foreign dignitaries visiting Malacanan Palace were bound to pass by the unsightly place which had squatters scrambling all over the place.
The fact that it had once been the resettlement area for Japanese refugees and migrants (since 1593, at its original Manila City Hall area, and since 1764 at its present location in front of the Paco Railway Station) was lost to many. The last time this fact was remembered was in 1942 when the wartime National Historical Commission proposed that a historical marker be installed to denote that this was the site of the first “nihon-machi” – or Japan-town. (No marker was installed.)
To support the call of Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos (1929- ), for a beautification program for Metro-Manila at the start of martial law (1972-1981), Manila Mayor Ramon D. Bagatsing (1916-2006) organized on Feb. 1, 1973, the Kababaihan sa Pagpapaganda ng Lungsod ng Maynila [Ladies’ Committee for the Beautification of the City of Manila].
Their assignment: Beatify the parks and open spaces that dot Metro-Manila. But first: Beautify Plaza Dilao.
Manila Ladies’ Committee
FOR THE RECORD: The members of the Kababaihan were: Mrs. Julita C. Benedicto (wife of Philippine Ambassador to Tokyo, Roberto S. Benedicto), chairman; Mrs. Purita Ponce-Enrile, co-chairman; Mrs. Leonora Pascual, co-chairman; Mrs. Elisa Abello (wife of Philippine Ambassador to Washington, Emilio Abello), vice-chairman, and Miss Lourdes R. Caruncho, executive secretary. Members were Mrs. Carmen P. Caro; Ms Mariquita Castelo; Ms Remedios Francisco (historian); Mrs. Leticia de Guzman; Mrs. Minerva G. Laudico; Mrs. Milagros Sumulong; Ms Albina Tuason, and Ms Juanita Valera.
When the ladies’ research indicated that the Dilao area – the old site, that is — had been reserved by the Spanish colonial government for Manila’s Japanese population in 1593, finally relocating at the Plaza Dilao area in Paco in 1764, the “Japanese connection” crept in. Perhaps a Japanese garden – “with plenty of plants and benches for people to rest and relax especially during the evening when traffic is less” — could be developed?
They decided to consult Japanese Ambassador Toshio Urabe (1969-1974) about the possibilities.
Not readily recognized by the Manila ladies at that time, Ambassador Urabe was the longest-serving Japanese diplomat engaged in rebuilding postwar Philippine-Japanese relations. Ambassador Urabe was a veteran Philippine hand, having been first assigned to Manila in 1953 as Counsellor of the Japanese Overseas Liaison Office. He led the team that negotiated the Philippine-Japanese Reparations Agreement that was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1956. He was returned to Manila in 1964 as Ambassador, staying on till 1974.
Now in 1973, Ambassador Urabe – who is credited with the Japanese Garden at the Rizal Park and the Japanese Memorial Garden in Caliraya (Laguna) — discouraged the “garden” idea. He was not being a killjoy. Being located at a very busy traffic intersection, he thought “a Japanese garden would not be safe for residents to relax in.”
The Manila ladies countered that, whatever project was suitable, this could be jointly undertaken by the cities of Manila and Yokohama (Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken), a sister city of Manila since July 1, 1965.
Urabe assured the ladies that he would contact the City of Yokohama for funding support, but — now he wanted to enlarge the base of Japanese public involvement and support — “he was quite vocal in saying that Manila’s sister city Yokohama should not be the only one to help in this project, but the other cities of Japan as well,” the Kababaihan reported to the Manila mayor.
AMBASSADOR URABE could not believe his luck. Only 28 years after the war (and only 17 years after the Philippine ratification of the Reparations Agreement), the Manila ladies — entirely on their own initiative — were proposing a joint people-to-people endeavor that the Japanese themselves had not even thought of.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs then logically turned to the Japanese sector most concerned: the small minority of Japanese Christians who comprised less than one percent of Japan’s total population. The Gaimusho contacted the Southeast Asian Friendship and Culture Association (SEAFCULA), whose founder and managing director was Rev. Ryoichi Katoh, minister of the Tokyo Ikebukuro Church, an affiliate of the United Church of Christ in Japan (KYO-DAN). Providentially, the SEAFCULA had been founded “on the concept of ‘Redemption’ for the wrongful deeds committed during World War II against the Asian nations.” They set to work at once.
“When they [the Foreign Ministry] approached us, requesting our cooperation on the matter, we were of course glad and ready to accept their proposal, since we thought it proper to cooperate with them fully on the project, as part of the said redeeming activities,” Rev. Katoh would relate to Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro, Takayama Trustee, some years later.
Lord Ukon Takayama, Epitome of the Japanese Spirit
After Rev. Katoh conferred with Osaka Archbishop Paul Yoshigoro Taguchi, a dedicated promoter of the “Samurai of Christ, Justo Takayama,” a memorial to Ukon Takayama as “the epitome of the Japanese spirit” became central to the SEAFCULA’s beautification plans.
The “Prospectus for the Construction of a Statue of Ukon Takayama and a Memorial Japanese Garden at Manila (SEAFCULA 73-142),” confirms that in Japan, Pastor Ryoichi Katoh and Archbishop Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, archbishop of Tokyo and chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, agreed to sponsor the memorial project “as an ecumenical effort of Protestants and Catholics in Japan and the Philippines.” Certainly, at that time, it was most audacious to propose to the Philippines to erect a memorial to a Japanese personality — a samurai at that! — a scant 32 years after the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
In Manila, the Kababaihan sa Pagpapaganda ng Lungsod ng Maynila, after studying the possibilities, proposed on March 28, 1973, to Mayor Bagatsing:
“We women recommend that a memorial monument be constructed to honor the Christian feudal lord Takayama at a site of 2,000-square meters in front of Paco Station of the Manila Railroad in Plaza Dilao. This land had been assigned by the former Spanish government to the Japanese refugees. The realization of this plan should pave the way not only for closer fellowship between Japanese and Philippine churches, but also promote better friendship between the two countries.”
With the guaranteed financial support of SEAFCULA; the Executive Committee of Takatsuki City; the Keizai-Doyukai [the Japanese Council for Economic Development]; and Catholic and Protestant churches in Japan, the Kababaihan now proceeded with the project.
Scrambling for an Inauguration Date
The Plaza Memorial (covered by tarpaulin) was already standing for several weeks in early 1977, awaiting its inauguration by Governor Imelda Marcos – but with her busy schedule, the scheduled blessing was cancelled twice — after guests from Japan had already arrived.. After two agreed dates had been scrubbed, the Kababaihan finally set the inauguration date on Nov. 17, 1977 – “with or without Mrs. Imelda Marcos.” The set date was necessary because of the logistics of bringing a hundred invited sponsors from Japan who had to fix their own schedules and hotel reservations.
Finally, the Arc of History is Set
1977 – (Nov. 17, 1977) — Plaza Dilao memorializes the checkered Philippine-Japanese history that has spanned four centuries – with Lord Justus Takayama Ukon (高山右近) as the best exemplar of friendship and amity between the two peoples.
1992 – (Nov. 17, 1992) — The National Historical Commission declares the Takayama Memorial a National Monument.
2006 – On May 1, 2006, Plaza Dilao is named by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as one of five “Freedom Parks” in Manila — where no prior permit will be needed for public protests. On April 25, 2006, the Supreme Court ordered local governments to designate freedom parks in their jurisdictions, as provided for in Batas Pambansa 880 or the Public Assembly Act.
Bronze Kanji Marker (高山右近)
There was never a chance to install the bronze marker – with Lord Ukon Takayama’s name written in Kanji. Two cast-iron markers were earlier pilfered, so this was replaced by a granite slab on which was engraved Ukon’s name.
With the renovation completed, it will be possible to install a bronze marker donated by Rev. Minoru Yamagata, pastor of the “Jun-ai Christ Church” of Kanazawa City, and Mr. Teiji Motoki (a fervent Buddhist) of Takatsuki City, to replace the black granite slab with Ukon’s name in Kanji.#
Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro