It is surprising that some people actually believe that the remains of Lord Takayama were buried in Plaza Dilao (the traditional nihon-machi of the Japanese) — the first Japanese daimyo interred on Philippine soil. Considering that the remains of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, were buried beneath the Rizal Monument, it is an easy stretch to believe that this was the case with Takayama too. (The establishment of the Takayama Memorial in 1977 is told in “Plaza Dilao in History”). Believing that Takayama was buried in Plaza Dilao, some devotees “even collected some leaves and soil from Plaza Dilao as relics.” It is time to trace the remains of Takayama Ukon.

THE SHORT OF IT:

Lord Justus Ukon Takayama was buried in 1615 at the Santa Ana Church of the Jesuits in Intramuros – not the Santa Church of the Franciscans in Santa Ana district, which is often visited by Japanese pilgrims not reading Takayama’s history right. But the Jesuit church was destroyed by an earthquake between 1616-1625.

A new church was built in 1632 in the SAME SPOT, but was named after the Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, SJ (1491-1556), who was canonized in 1622. But San Ignacio (I) – which was removed from the stewardship of the Jesuits since 1768 — was also destroyed by another earthquake on September 6, 1852, when the Jesuits were away.

  1. When the Jesuits were expelled from all Spanish domains by the Bourbon kings in 1768, Takayama’s tomb remained in place although the Jesuits were gone for some 91 years.
  2. When the Jesuits were allowed to return in 1859, they built a new church several blocks away from the old site, adjacent to the Archbishop’s Palace. This they also named San Ignacio (II). They transferred the remains of Lord Takayama and Lord Naito, as well as the Superior Generals of the Society of Jesus. Bone fragments of Takayama Ukon were part of the altar stone of the main altar – the rest of his bones were kept in a concrete niche in the crypt beneath the church floor.
  3. After the San Ignacio Church (II) was destroyed by a four-day fire started by Japanese troops in February 1945, and further damaged by American artillery shells fired from Guadalupe during the Battle for Manila (Feb. 3 – March 3, 1945), a Jesuit retrieval team from the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City, spent two separate days in December 1945 gathering ALL the bones from the niches, for transfer to the Jesuit Cemetery at the Novitiate. Alas, there were no separate containers for each niche’s contents.
  4. As there were no Filipino Jesuits among them – only Spaniards and Americans – and the two Japanese nobles – it might be possible to check out if Takayama Ukon’s remains are there. Modern DNA technology might determine if indeed Takayama’s remains were among them.

 

NOW FOR THE FULL STORY:

As soon as news reached Manila that a trading ship bound for Cambodia would unload some 150 Christian deportees in Manila, the Jesuits started building housing for the Japanese – nipa huts really, not stone houses — in the open fields of San Miguel. This area was located, at that time, between San Marcelino St. and the Pasig River – NOT at the Malacanan Palace area where San Miguel District is sited today. The old San Miguel was then part of the Jesuits’ Quiapo parish, while the adjacent Balete area was under the pastoral care of Franciscan missionaries. (After the British Invasion of Manila in 1762-1765, this old San Miguel was relocated to the other side of the Pasig River, where Malacanan Palace now stands – to give Spanish cannons a free field of fire, in case of another foreign invasion.)

All the Japanese refugees lived in the Dilao area. Only Lord Takayama and his family – (his wife, a married daughter, and three grandchildren) — were guests inside Intramuros at the Jesuit-owned Casa San Miguel, along the same street as the Santa Ana Church.

Even before his arrival, Lord Takayama was already well-known, being mentioned in eleven (11) Jesuit books about the Japanese missions, published in Europe which, of course, the people did not read, but which the Jesuits had freely discussed, when it was learned that, some years earlier, the Japanese hegemon, Hideyoshi, had sent Japanese spies to Manila in the guise of pious pilgrims, ostensively visiting Manila’s churches — in order to study the fortifications of the Walled City and the Spanish naval base at Cavite. And the Christian lord, Takayama Ukon, had been one of Hideyoshi’s generals!

 

Takayama was a celebrity in Manila on five fronts:

KIRISHITAN DAIMYO AND SAMURAI – He became the daimyo (feudal governor) of Takatsuki at 21, and later, Akashi. But at age 35, after he willingly gave up his Akashi domain rather than renounce his Christian faith, he never ruled another fief again. He then lived the life of a samurai under the protection of other Christian daimyo, then became a retainer of the Maeda clan — (Lord Toshiee Maeda [1538-1599] was not a Christian but some members of his family were) — in Kanazawa for over two decades, until his deportation to Manila.

CASTLE BUILDER – He designed and built several castles, fortifications and castle walls.

MILITARY GENERAL – He led armies to great victory and some bitter defeats too; he introduced a sort of social welfare for his vassals by caring for them and their families when wounded in battle, instead of letting them fend for themselves.

ZEALOUS APOSTLE – He was the protector of the Jesuits, as well as the Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans – pioneering Christian missionaries all; a pillar of the Church of Japan, a builder of several churches and seminaries, and an effective lay preacher.

RENOWNED ART PRACTICIONER – He was a prized pupil of Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591), who is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on chanoyu, Ukon, one of the celebrated “Rikyu Seven,” was a renowned teamaster, who was credited with refining the tea ceremony into a serene celebration, “almost like a Mass.”) He was a well-rounded Man.

 

Takayama Ukon was a Christian first, but still a true Japanese patriot.

He resisted all efforts of the Spanish General (“visiting almost daily”) to involve him in planning the invasion of Japan by Spanish expeditionary forces. Takayama thought outright an attack on Japan was a hare-brained idea (though favored by two or three militant Jesuits) as Japanese standing armies had no other job except being professional soldiers; the European concept was that soldiers were farmers in the off-season, and in arms, only when there was war.

But Takayama Ukon died of “a tropical illness” on Tuesday, February 3, 1615 – 44 days (NOT the “40 days” frequently cited) after his arrival in Manila — despite the solicitous ministrations of the doctors sent by the Spanish Governor-General. (Within the same year of Takayama’s death, some Jesuits who arrived in Takayama’s exile ship also died – of either “a tropical illness” or old age. Aside from Fr. Antonio Francisco Critana, SJ (77), others were Fr. Andres Saito, SJ, 48 (Feb. 25, 1615); Fr. Antonio Alvarez, SJ, 64 (March 12, 1615); and Fr. Pablo Ryoin, SJ, c70 (Sept. 17, 1605).)

The Governor accorded Takayama Ukon a state funeral, with nine days of Masses decreed in the churches of Intramuros. He was buried “with great lamentation and sorrow” near the main altar of the Santa Ana Church – where the Fathers Superior of the Society of Jesus were also interred – in the expectation that Ukon would one day be raised to the ranks of the Saints.

(When the widow, Mrs. Justa Takayama, returned to Japan two (?) years later, she brought a finger bone to be buried on home soil in Kanazawa. By tradition, the eldest son of the Takayama family in Kanazawa – there is an unbroken line till this day — is tasked to care for the memorial in a nearby forested area where a concrete cross has been placed as a marker.)

What did Takayama’s tomb look like? No sketch has been found to give an idea. The grandest tomb in Manila at that time was that of El Adelantado, the Spanish Governor-General Miguel Lopez de Legaspi (1502-1572), who died 43 years earlier. Legaspi’s body was entombed in a side room near the main altar of San Agustin Church, its top slab covered by a metal (bronze?) bas relief of Legaspi – a tomb worth replicating. Across four centuries, neither earthquakes nor bombs nor grave robbers have damaged it. (The Legaspi tomb is still there today!)

By 1630, the Archdiocese of Manila submitted to Rome a petition for the beatification of Takayama Ukon, using the newly-prescribed procedures issued by the Vatican for the making of saints. The first candidate being proposed for sainthood by the Philippine Church was a Japanese Christian! (That was because Takayama had died in Manila – in Church parlance, “where he was born to Heaven.”

When Santa Ana Church was destroyed by earthquakes between 1616-1625, the Jesuits built a new church on the same spot. They dedicated this new church to their founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, SJ (1491-1556), who was canonized in 1622. San Ignacio (I) was completed in 1632.

But the Jesuits were expelled by the Spanish crown from the Philippines in 1768. The royal decree banishing the Society of Jesus from Spain and the Spanish dominions reached Manila on May 17, 1768. Between 1769 and 1771, the Jesuits in the Philippines were transported to Spain and from there deported to Italy. For the next 91 years, the Jesuits were absent from the Philippines.

Abandoned during the Jesuits’ absence, the San Ignacio Church deteriorated. A century later, the church was damaged beyond repair by an earthquake on September 6, 1852.

It was not till 1859 that the Jesuits were able to return to the Philippines. By then, they had no church in Intramuros.

 

SAN IGNACIO II

The Jesuits were granted a subsidy by the government to purchase a house and a parcel of land in Intramuros. This became the Casa Mision or the Jesuit Mission House. The Manila Archbishop, in turn, gave the Jesuits a parcel of land behind the Archbishop’s Palace, and it was here where the Jesuits built the new San Ignacio (II) in 1888. The Jesuit archivist, Fr. Rene Javellana, notes: “When San Ignacio (II) was built at Arzobispo St., Jesuits asked for the remaining stone work [at San Ignacio I] to use as filler for the new San Ignacio which was on sandy soil and near the sea. Presumably it was at this point that whatever was at San Ignacio (I) was removed because after that, military barracks were built at the site…”

San Ignacio Church (II) was built beside the Casa Mision, the residence of the Jesuits in Intramuros, which housed both the faculty of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and the Jesuit Superiors of the Philippine Mission. With construction started in 1878, San Ignacio (II) was finally consecrated in 1888.

When the new San Ignacio Church was consecrated in 1888, the remains of Takayama Ukon and Naito Tocuan and all Jesuit missionaries were transferred there from the ruins of San Ignacio (I). Bone fragments of Takayama Ukon were contained in the altar stone which is an essential part of an altar for the celebration of Mass. Fr. Jaime S. Neri, SJ (1913-1998) confirms that, as a prewar Jesuit seminarian, he was aware that Takayama’s bones were kept there. The underground crypt of San Ignacio (II) housed the remains of Jesuit missionaries and the two Japanese nobles. Presumably, the crypt stayed undisturbed till 1945.

SAN IGNACIO II IN WORLD WAR II

San Ignacio II, Intramuros, ManilaDuring the Battle for Manila (February 1945), San Ignacio (II) was put to the torch by Japanese troops causing a conflagration that last four days.

Barred by U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur from using U.S. Air Force bombers to prevent major damage to the Walled City, Americans outdid the Japanese by firing artillery shells to pound Intramuros, pulverizing every building there except for San Agustin Church, which escaped major destruction. Only San Ignacio II’s outer shell of brick and stone remained.

RETRIEVAL

When a Jesuit team led by Fr. Miguel Selga, SJ, visited the ruins of San Ignacio II in December 1945, to retrieve their relics, the church had been destroyed, except for the four walls, and an underground crypt beneath the church floor. The U.S. cannon shells had torn large holes in the church floor, revealing the underground crypt with over a hundred niches.

The Jesuits managed to find 169 niches in varying states of ruin. It was obvious that grave robbers had preceded them, looking for treasure, oblivious of the fact that Jesuit graves do not bury worldly treasures.

As the main altar was destroyed, there was no possibility of recovering the Takayama bone fragments serving as altar stone. How about the Takayama niche that Fr. Jaime S. Neri, SJ, remembers visiting in prewar days? Identification was dicey: Some niches still had their covers; others did not. About half of the 169 niches had no identifying cover at all to indicate who the occupant was.

The slim chance of an ID came from the fact that only Spaniards (and a few Americans) were buried there – NO FILIPINOS at all, because there were no Filipino Jesuits till the 1930s.

The retrieval team of five Jesuit scholastics and one Brother included Sem. Federico O. Escaler, SJ, and Sem. Rogue Ferriols, SJ. They started gathering bones on Thursday, Dec. 13, 1945. But with electric power not yet restored in the entire Manila, they had to stop in late afternoon to enable them to negotiate the long trip by Army truck to the Jesuit Seminary in Novaliches safely. They returned to complete the job a week later on Thursday, December 20, 1945.

After caring for them for 330 years in the expectation that Takayama Ukon would be raised to the honors of the Altar, it would have been unseemly for the Jesuits not to cart off the bones – if recoverable at all.

In his report on “The Philippine Mission 1945,” Fr. Horacio V. de la Costa, SJ (1916-1977) (Editor’s Note: Fr. De La Costa is actually interred in the Novitiate, 3rd niche from the top left.), editor of the internal newsletter of the Jesuits, the Philippine Clipper, incorporated the after-retrieval report of Sem. Federico O. Escaler, then 23:

Behind the main altar of the ruined Jesuit Church of San Ignacio (II) in Manila, half-hidden by a twisted iron grating and crumpled galvanized iron sheets, was a small dark opening like a fox hole. Into this hole, Father Selga SJ, director of the Manila Observatory, slid carefully. A stone stairway led to an underground crypt. The steps were slippery. It had rained the night before and the water had seeped through the rubble into the crypt.

Father Selga’s kerosene lamp glimmered on the wet floor, on pieces of red brick, on an Army ration box, on an empty wine bottle, on human skulls and bones.

The walls of the crypt was covered with niches – 169 in all — the last resting place of generations of Jesuit missionaries.

To Father Selga’s right was the niche of a Spanish lay brother: Hermano Coma. A hole had been hammered through the cement plaque. Three-fourths of the occupied niches had been forced open. The bones had been spilled on the floor.

In one corner of the crypt, among pieces of broken wood and metal, was a tin box. It had contained the remains of Fr. Richard O’Brien, SJ, a chaplain in World War I and Rector of the Ateneo de Manila. It was empty.

Likewise swept of their contents were the niches of two other American missionaries: Fr. Dennis Lynch, SJ, and Fr. James Mahoney, SJ.

Two glass mortuary jars were, strangely enough, untouched. They contained the venerable bones of the great Spanish missionary of the old Society, Fr. Alonso Humanes, SJ [1633]. Inside one jar was a piece of red cloth and a scroll on which was written a Spanish eulogy. The people of Bohol loved Father Humanes. Before his remains were transferred to San Ignacio (II), they lay in a church in Loboc, Bohol under an inscription which read: “Caelicolam Pictorum Te Gens Credit Humanes Non Tegit Haec Cineres Sed Veneratur Humus.”

The niche of the first Superior of the Philippine Mission of the restored Society contained a bronze medal covered with green rust. It probably belonged to a pair of habit beads. On the medal was an image of the Sacred Heart and the words: Praebe Fili Cor Tuam Mihi [“My son, give me your heart.”] This and the handfuls of fine dust are all that remain of Fr. Jose Fernandez Cuevas.

Upon their return to the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Quezon City, Escaler described the Jesuit cemetery:

The Jesuit cemetery lies behind the novitiate at Novaliches. A grassy path leads to it, flanked by tall, straight tropical firs. The cemetery is a green lawn circled by a low wall. The sunlight lies soft upon it. And the rain comes gently. Into the niches built against the wall, the Jesuits transferred their dead.

The bones and ashes were placed in two niches in the cemetery. Fr. Arthur Weiss, SJ, and Fr. Kyran Egan , SJ, helped the team transfer the remains into metal ammunition boxes.

In accommodating all the bones in two crypts, the Jesuits decided to place all the bones – TOGETHER – in large metal ammunition containers. After these were sealed in the two crypts in such fashion, it was now impossible to single out any individual relic – except for the ashes of Blessed Alonso Humanes in a glass jar.

The first niche carried the inscription:

I.H.S.

HERE LIE 57 MEN (1864-1927) UNKNOWN TO MEN

BUT KNOWN TO GOD.

IN 1945, THEIR REMAINS WERE TRANSFERRED

FROM THE WAR-TORN CHURCH OF SAN IGNACIO

The lower niche bore the inscription:

I.H.S.

HERE LIE 30 MEN (1864-1936) UNKNOWN TO MEN

BUT KNOWN TO GOD.

IN 1945, THEIR REMAINS WERE TRANSFERRED

FROM THE WAR-TORN CHURCH OF SAN IGNACIO

That indicates that only 87 remains – now hopelessly mixed together — were recovered from the 169 niches.

Studying the historical timeline, Fr. Hubert Cieslik, SJ, editor of the Sacred Heart Magazine in Tokyo, was asked to assess the possibility that Takayama’s bones might be among those transferred. He commented only: Maybe.

Sankei Shimbun, 31 August 1988, The Bones of Takayama Ukon
Sankei Shimbun (Aug. 31, 1988) – Bones of Takayama Ukon?

 

If the two niches were opened, what would be found? Bishop Escaler says: Two metal boxes with bits of bones and ashes.

 

The Search

EVENTUALLY, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) decided to check the possibility of finding the bones of Takayama Ukon. The VerificationTeam was headed by Kyoto Bishop Paul Yoshinao Otsuka, new Chairman of the CBCJ Commitee for the Promotion of Saints; his predecessor, Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe, SDB (retired March 25, 2011), and Fr. Albert Fuyuki Hirabayashi, SJ, committee secretary. The team counted with a paleoforensic bone expert, a DNA specialist, a videographer and some Japanese volunteers.

They did their homework well.

CHECKING OUT WITNESS ACCOUNT — They sought out Bishop Federico O. Escaler, SJ, retired since 1997 from his last bishopric in Ipil, Zamboanga. He was the only Jesuit left among the San Ignacio diggers of December 1945. But for him: It was now a blur. We just gathered all the bones we could. I do not remember if Takayama’s bones were among them.

CHECKING OUT THE RETRIEVAL SCENE — They visited the ruins of San Ignacio (II) in Intramuros. The niches in the underground crypt were still there, even as construction workers of the Intramuros Administration were building the Museo de Intramuros that will house the Intramuros Administration Ecclesiastical Museum Collection.

GETTING PERMISSION TO OPEN CRYPTS — They then secured the permission of Rev. Fr. Arnulfo Bugtas, SJ, rector of the Sacred Heart Novitiate, to open the two crypts that had remained sealed since 1946.

 

June 13, 2012

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, the day began with Mass at the Jesuit Cemetery, celebrated by Bishop Paul Yoshinao Otsuka. Then workers began the task of opening the two crypts and sorting out their contents – under the watchful lens of the Secretariat’s videocorder.

Sacred Heart Novitiate
The gate of the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches.
Sacred Heart Novitiate
Roadway to main area of the Novitiate.
Jesuit cemetery at Sacred Heart Noviate in Novalichez, Quezon City
The long walk to the Jesuit Cemetery.

 

Mass on June 13, 2012 at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Noviate in Novalichez, Quezon City.
Celebrating Mass before the dig, June 13, 2012.
Mass on June 13, 2012 at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Noviate in Novalichez, Quezon City.
Kyoto Bishop Yoshinao Otsuka offering Mass.
Mass on June 13, 2012 at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Noviate in Novalichez, Quezon City.
Bishop Osamu Mizobe, concelebrating.
Mass on June 13, 2012 at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Noviate in Novalichez, Quezon City.
Bishop Otsuka consecrating the Mass wine.
Entrance to the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Noviate in Novalichez, Quezon City.
View of the Mass from the cemetery entrance.

 

A number of Filipino nuns were at the cemetery too. The opening of the crypts containing persons “known to God” might turn up the bones of their own foundress, who may have been buried at San Ignacio II, following the same odyssey as Takayama’s bones – from San Ignacio (I) to San Ignacio (II), and putatively, to the Jesuit Cemetery. (This could be Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo Juco (1663-1748), founder of the Religious of the Virgin Mary [RVM]. She was declared “Servant of God” in October 1986 and declared “Venerable” in July 2007.)

Also present was the Japanese journalist, Atsushi Wakamatsu, who had tracked the Takayama story for three decades. His funding of Ernie A. de Pedro’s trip to the Vatican in 1986 was about to yield a historical find – reason enough for him and his Catholic wife, Carmen Agnes Canafranca Wakamatsu, to fly in from Tokyo in mid-2012. He too wanted to know if Takayama Ukon’s bones were there.

The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
Workers preparing to open upper niche.
2012-06-13-search-for-takayama-57
Bishop Mizobe and Dr. De Pedro with RVM nun.
2012-06-13-search-for-takayama-60
Opening the upper niche.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
The opened upper niche, with rusted metal boxes.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
The opened upper niche.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
One glass jar with bones and ashes.
2012-06-13-search-for-takayama-70
The opened upper niche.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
Glass jar with the bones of Loboc’s beloved Alonso Humanes, SJ.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
Another look at Fr. Humanes’ jar.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
Workers chiselling front of lower niche.
2012-06-13-search-for-takayama-131
Bones in one rusted metal ammunition box.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
Inspection of one box by Fr. Fuyuki Hirabayashi, with Wakamatsu watching.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
CBCJ verification team – on the job.
2012-06-13-search-for-takayama-86
Bishop Otsuka, with some bones.
The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon, June 13, 2012, at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novalichez, Quezon City.
De Pedro and Wakamatsu watch team at work.

 

As Fr. Rene Javellana, the Jesuit archivist, has it on record:

Two niches were opened and remains carefully examined in situ for about a month or more. The remains however were mostly dust and brittle bones except for those placed inside World War II steel ammunition boxes. Twenty-seven (27) were clearly marked and they were Jesuits of the 19th century. The rest of the remains were scattered on the niche floor because their wooden containers had deteriorated. A large metal chest was found where some skulls and large bones were found. Associated with them was a medal and a crucifix.

The paleoforensic bone expert and the DNA specialist asked permission to bring [some] remains to Japan for further study, hoping to find Japanese remains. After DNA testing all the remains [which were brought to Japan] turned out to be Caucasians.

When the Japanese returned to Novaliches months later, it was with the conclusion that it was impossible to tell. Only testing of the ENTIRE LOT offered any promise of finding out which bones had Spanish, American or Japanese DNA.

And so the bones were returned to the peace of their old graves – definitely “unknown to men, but known to God.”

 

By Dr. Ernie A. De Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation