During World War II, Imperial Japanese Forces occupied the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. But they were hard-pressed to fasten on a single symbol of Philippine–Japanese Friendship. “The Religious Section” that accompanied the Propaganda Corps selected Takayama as that symbol.
On Sunday, September 20, 1942, the Religious Section of the Imperial Japanese Army promoted Ukon Takayama as an enduring symbol of Philippine-Japanese friendship. Fr. Taguchi who had returned to Manila in March 1942 as Lt. Col. Bishop Paul Yoshigoro Taguchi (the highest ranking prelate in the Religious Section), celebrated the Memorial Mass for Takayama at the St. Vincent de Paul Church (more popularly known as San Marcelino Church), with Manila Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty among the Philippine prelates in the front pew.
An introductory article about Takayama entitled “Takayama Ukon Exiled to the Philippines,” appeared in the Sunday Tribune Magazine under the by-line of Fr. Gregorio Shoji Tsukamoto, a Catholic priest with the Religious Section. The Nippon Katurikku Shimbun reports that the same article appeared in the Tribune’s sister newspapers — La Vanguardia (in Spanish), and Taliba (in Tagalog). The article was illustrated by a two-column reproduction of the Takayama portrait in the mosaic at the main vestibule at the Church of the Sagrada Cueva de la Manresa in Barcelona, showing him with five European Catholic princes from both Old and New Worlds who were products of the Jesuits’ “Spiritual Exercises.” This was the first pictorial representation of Takayama seen in Manila.
Msgr. Justino C. Ortiz (first Filipino rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary) who was then a seminarian, recalls being one of the altar servers at this Takayama Memorial Mass. So ardently did Bishop Taguchi promote Takayama as a symbol of peace that Ortiz opted to pray to Takayama to protect the Filipino people from the Japanese military. In the certainty that Ukon was in God’s Heaven, Ortiz prayed throughout the war that Ukon protect the Filipino people from the depredations of the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. When the Liberation of Manila started on February 3, 1945 – the 330th death anniversary of Takayama – Ortiz took it as an answered prayer.
When Archbishop Taguchi had occasion to visit Manila in 1970, as archbishop of the same Osaka diocese he had administered since December 14, 1941, he was remembered by the Manila Bulletin as “a familiar wartime figure who arrived with the Japanese military forces in 1942…” Even only 25 years after the war, Manila newspapers “expressed the gratitude of the Filipino people for his tactfulness during that difficult period,” the Catholic magazine Impact reported.
By Dr. Ernie A. De Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation