The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon

It is surprising that some people actually believe that the remains of Lord Takayama were buried in Plaza Dilao (the traditional nihon-machi of Japanese migrants) — the first Japanese daimyo (great feudal lord) 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.

But Karl Aguilar (“The Urban Roamer”) has come up with a new pictorial of Plaza Dilao (pre-Skyway construction) and focused on a MEMORIAL TOMBSTONE — (meaning, symbolic only)  — that actually says, in Kanji: “The tomb of Takayama Ukon.”

In 1989, twelve years after the inauguration of the Takayama Memorial in 1977, a Japanese industrialist from Kyushu, identifying himself as a Takayama descendant, asked where Takayama was actually buried. [He did not carry the Takayama surname, but traced his ancestry to the younger brother of Ukon, Toraemon Takayama.] He was told Ukon was originally buried at the Santa Ana Church in Intramuros (now occupied by Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila). He visited the Pamantasan with his memorial tombstone, but could not find a suitable spot where to install the symbolic one-meter-tall granite pillar. He donated P100,000 for PLM scholarships anyway, and brought the pillar back to Plaza Dilao and planted it beside the Takayama Memorial.

When bystanders asked Japanese visitors what the characters meant, they were told: “The tomb of Takayama Ukon.” (That implied buried treasures.) In time the heavy pillar was uprooted [by the usual suspects looking for treasures in tombs] and a large hole was dug — big enough to bury a jeepney in. But there was no treasure, of course.

People believe what they want to believe. In the mistaken belief that Takayama was buried in Plaza Dilao, some devotees, even today, “collect 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. The Santa Ana Church in Intramuros was the first stone church of the Jesuits in the Philippines, designed and patterned by Fr. Antonio Sedeño, SJ, after Il Gesu in Rome. But the roof of the Jesuit church caved in due to earthquakes between 1616-1625, rendering the church unusable.

A new church was built in 1632 near the SAME SPOT, while the original damaged Santa Ana Church was still standing. This new church 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 in 1768 and placed in the safekeeping of the Manila Archdiocese — was also destroyed by another earthquake on September 6, 1852, while 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 a Jesuit location although the Jesuits were gone for 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 there the remains of Lord Justo Takayama Ukon and Lord Juan Tocuan 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 some 250 crypts 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 La Loma Cemetery 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, with no hardware supplies to come by, 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 Portuguese trading ship bound for Thailand would offload some 300 Christian deportees in Manila, the Jesuits headed by Fr. Valerio de Ledesma, SJ, provincial of the Philippines,started building housing for the Japanese – nipa huts really, not stone houses — in the rice 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 Christian refugees were accommodated in San Miguel district, not in the Dilao area where some 3,000 Japanese (traders, wako, or castaways) already lived. Houses were found and furnished near the Jesuit residence at San Miguel for the Japanese nuns  and lay exiles. The Japanese Jesuits devoted themselves with great zeal to the instruction and spiritual direction of their countrymen. Only Lord Takayama and his family – (his wife Justa, a married daughter, Lucia Yokoyama, and five grandchildren, aged 8-16) — 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 in Manila, being mentioned in eleven (11) Jesuit books about the Japanese missions, published in Europe which, of course, Manilans had not read, but which the Jesuits had freely discussed, when the tantalizing information emerged that in 1589, the Japanese hegemon, Hideyoshi, had sent 30 or 40 Japanese spies to Manila in the guise of pious pilgrims — “they were even carrying rosaries” — ostensively visiting Manila’s churches while studying the fortifications of the Walled City and the Spanish naval base at Cavite. And the Christian lord, Justo Takayama Ukon, had been  a commanding general of Hideyoshi’s vanguard! (But by 1589, Ukon had already been stripped of his last domain at Akashi, and was no longer involved in any of Hideyoshi’s military campaigns.)

When Hideyoshi launched his first Korean War (1592-1596), the invasion was led by the Christian General, Konishi Agostinho Yukinaga (1555-1600) who mustered nine divisions totalling 158,000 men. Another Christian, Lord John Naito, fought  in that invasion. But Takayama was already a back-number in Lord Maeda’s employ in Kanazawa, just across the Korean Peninsula. (A month after the death of Hideyoshi in September 1598, the governing Council of Five Elders effected the withdrawal of all Japanese invasion forces from the second Korea War.)


Takayama was a celebrity in Manila on five fronts:



He became, at 21, the daimyo (feudal governor or baron) of Takatsuki (with income of 20,000 koku – meaning the domain could support a standing army of 20,000 men) where he converted 18,000 of his domain’s 25,000 residents to Christianity. With Iberian examples to draw from, Takayama promoted the Christian idea of social welfare – Christian charities, and orphanages and hospitals, which were part of the Church’s efforts to alleviate poverty and misery. In Takatsuki, he introduced a sort of social welfare for his standing army by caring for them and their families when wounded in battle, instead of letting them fend for themselves.

But at age 35, after he was stripped of his domain at Akashi (an estate worth 60,000 koku) for refusing to renounce his Christian faith, he never ruled another fief again. He then lived the life of a ronin under the protection of another Christian daimyo, Konishi Yukinaga, before becoming a retainer of the Maeda clan — (Lord Toshiee Maeda [1538-1599] was not a Christian convert himself but some members of his family were) — in Kanazawa for 26 years, until his 1614 deportation to Manila.

When Takayama lost his domain in Akashi, his travails reached the ears of Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-1590) who wrote him an exhortatory letter encouraging him to hold fast to his Christian faith. By then, Takayama was already in Kanazawa in the service of Lord Toshiee Maeda – governor of the three provinces of Kaga, Noto and Etchu. Even in medieval times, Takayama’s reputation had reached Rome.



Ukon rebuilt the damaged Takatsuki Castle, and designed and built several castles, fortifications and castle walls – among them, the new Funage Castle in Akashi (1587); improvements on the Kanazawa Castle (formerly the Ikko Sect fortress Oyama Gobo awarded by Oda Nobunaga to Sakuma Morimasain 1580, which came into the hands of Lord Maeda Toshiee in 1583; and in 1609, the construction of a new Takaoka Castle for Lord Toshinaga Maeda. When Toshinaga died in 1615, the “One Province – One Castle” rule was enforced, resulting in the tearing down of the new castle, as Kanazawa already had a Maeda castle.



Going to battle with banners emblazoned with the Cross, Ukon led armies to great victory and some bitter defeats too.

In the Battle of Yamazaki (1582) to avenge the death of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi sent three advance detachments to spearhead the attack against “The 13-Day Shogun,” Akechi Mitsuhide, while Hideyoshi himself force-marched an army of 20,000 troops that was eight miles behind the forward forces, advancing by “30 to 40 km a day.” James Murdoch writes in A History of Japan (1903) that Takayama led the first detachment of “less than 1,000 troops” but “they were so fired with the ardor of battle, and so confident with the help of God that on seeing the enemy, Justo did not hesitate to lead them to battle. And they so bore themselves that in a twinkling, they [accounted for] more than 200 nobles of Akechi.” This led Ieyasu (r. 1603-1605; d. 1616) — the first of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan till 1868 — to remark: “In Ukon’s hands 1,000 soldiers would be worth more than 10,000 in the hands of whosoever else.” (Laures.)

But only one year later, during the battle of Shizugatake (May 1583), Ukon experienced bitter defeat; he himself was wounded in the fighting and he lost many valued retainers, many of them related to him by blood. Takayama was NOT one of the “Seven Spears of Shizugatake” who won the battle for Hideyoshi and cemented his place as the new ruler of Japan.

Takayama went on to serve in Hideyoshi’s invasion of Shikoku (1584) and in 1585 was rewarded with a larger fief in Akashi (in Harima province). Once there, Ukon managed to convert about 2,000 of the population, an activity that enraged the local Buddhist monks but drew no reaction from Hideyoshi.

Takayama also served in Hideyoshi’s invasion of Kyushu in 1587, but this campaign proved to be Takayama’s last. After Hideyoshi had finished breaking the power of the armed monks (an effort Takayama had assisted him with in 1585-86) in the Yamato region, the de facto ruler of Japan turned his attention to Christianity.

Takayama was known to be a staunch Christian zealot, and therefore was considered untrustworthy. To prove his fidelity to him, Hideyoshi demanded that Ukon renounce the “evil sect” that worshipped a foreign God, on pain of having his fief confiscated and being sent to immediate exile. If he formally renounced Christianity, he would receive further advancement. The answer was immediate. Takayama Ukon told Hideyoshi’s emissary – Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591), also Ukon’s friend and respected tea guru — that “his leader and lord owned the domain, but faith was a heritage of the soul, and the soul was only of God.” This was not the answer that Hideyoshi had expected. But for Ukon it was a matter long thought over and a belief he was ready to die for.

While still in Hakata, Ukon was deprived of his fief, stripped of his command of troops, with no home to go back to in Akashi – which his own family had now been forced to evacuate. Takayama and his family were offered shelter in the island of Yunoshima, which was part of the domain of the powerful Christian lord, Konishi Yukinaga (who would lead Hideyoshi’s ill-fated First and Second Wars on Korea, 1592-98). Ukon ended up wandering all the way to the Hokuriku, where he sought service with the Maeda family in Kaga province. In 1588, Lord Maeda Toshiie accepted him as a retainer.

As a guest general (Kyakusho) of the Maeda clan, Ukon was involved in one more battle – the Siege of Odawara (1590) — where Hideyoshi decisively crushed the forces of Hojo Ujimasa in August 1590. It is said that Maeda took Ukon to the siege of Odawara in the hope that his valor would obtain the favor of Hideyoshi for him. By May 1590, Hideyoshi had started building up attack forces with the help of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Uesugi Kagekatsu (1555–1623), and Maeda Toshiie – three Great Daimyo who would later comprise the Council of Five Elders, formed in 1595 by Hideyoshi to rule Japan in the place of his infant son, Hideyori, until such time as he came of age. By June 1590, some 200,000 troops were arrayed against Odawara. In this last of Hideyoshi’s campaigns in Japan, Odawara Castle was finally taken because of internal treachery, resulting in the ritual suicide of the two Hojo leaders. After the Odawara campaign, Hideyoshi invited Ukon to his Nagoya headquarters for tea. After that military campaign, Ukon foreswore the armed role of a samurai and devoted his remaining years in evangelizing the Hokuriku region.

Aside from Ukon’s family, some 600 masterless knights joined Takayama Ukon in Kanazawa where he served the Maeda clan for the next 26 years. After the Battle of Sekigahara, Lord Konishi Yukinaga was executed and his lands in the southern half of Higo province were given to his neighbor Katô Kiyomasa (1562-1611), which when added to his existing territory, increased the Kumamoto domain to around 530,000 koku. Many of Yukinaga’s retainers, including the Naitôs, accepted Kiyomasa’s invitation to stay and serve him. However about 1602, the ardent Buddhist Kiyomasa (without alluding to the European practice of Cuius regio, eius religio, tried to force his Christian vassals to join the Nichiren-shû (日蓮宗). Some of Konishi’s retainers agreed to attend Buddhist sermons, but many, including Naito, refused to go further. The recalcitrants “were forbidden to leave the province and driven out of their homes to live in the mountains.” Eventually outside pressure was brought on Kiyomasa and he allowed them to leave peaceably. The next year Naito and his family received an invitation to settle in Kaga province of the Maeda clan, doubtless through the influence of Takayama Ukon.



He was the ardent patron and protector of the Jesuits. (He was not a daimyo anymore when the Spanish friars from Manila — the Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans – arrived.) Considered an early pillar of the Church of Japan, he was the builder of more than 20 churches, seminaries and oratories, and an effective lay preacher. As an ordinary samurai respected for his missionary zeal, Takayama protected Christians at a time when authorities attempted to stamp out all vestiges of “the Western religion.”

One missionary account says of Ukon: “His life makes such an impression on the unbelievers that they generally love and esteem him.”

It is said that Ukon’s name was placed on top of the original list of the first batch of Christians to be crucified in Nagasaki in February 1597 – a martyrdom he welcomed, if God so willed. But Ukon’s name was crossed-out after two great daimyo — Lord Maeda Toshiie (who, since 1588, had been the liege lord of Ukon who commanded Lord Maeda’s troops in support of Hideyoshi’s campaign at Odawara in 1590) and Lord Ishida Mitsunari (1563-1600), daimyō of Sawayama in Ōmi Province, a 500,000 koku fief (now a part of Hikone) — asked Hideyoshi not to execute Ukon.



A multi-faceted artist, Ukon mastered the various forms of Japanese poetry – the song (waka), the linked verse (renga), and the epigram (haiku). (Heinrich Dumoulin, 2005).

He was a prized pupil of Sen no Rikyū (d. 1591), who is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on the development of Chanoyu. Ukon, one of the celebrated Rikyushichitetsu (Rikyu’s Seven), was a renowned teamaster, who was credited with refining the tea ceremony into a serene celebration, with ritual movements “almost like a Mass.” The spirit of the art of tea – characterized by the qualities of harmony, reverence, purity, and tranquility — found in Ukon its Christian transfiguration.

Some Japanese food historians also credit Ukon with concocting the recipe for “Jibuni” [治部煮]go ahead, Google it! – the most well-known winter dish of the Kaga region, consisting of duck simmered in a flavorful broth and accompanied with vegetables.

Justus Takayama Ukon was indeed a well-rounded Man.


Spanish Attempts to Invade Japan

Takayama Ukon was a Christian first – but a true-red Japanese patriot too. He resisted all efforts of Spanish Governor-General Juan de Silva (“visiting almost daily”) to involve him in planning the invasion of Japan by Spanish expeditionary forces – with the imagined cooperation of the Christian daimyo of Kyushu. (The hare-brained idea had started with Fr. Gaspar Coelho, SJ, the Superior and Vice-Provincial of the Jesuit Mission in Japan. He tried to persuade several friendly daimyo to rise up against Hideyoshi with offers of weapons and financial help. When they flatly refused him, he began to write letters to the other Jesuit missions. Coelho petitioned Manila, Macau and Goa to send two or three hundred troops in support of his plans. (Three hundred Spanish troops to spearhead an invasion against a nation that had been engaged in a gory civil war for over a century? A minor fief like Takatsuki could field 20,000 troops against such sparse invasion forces – fully armed with cannons, horse-mounted samurai, tanegashima-armed foot-soldiers, and arch-men. There were 250 larger fiefs with battle-tested standing armies. What were the Spanish militarists thinking?) None of his fellow Jesuit superiors took Coelho seriously and one even wrote back reprimanding him. This caused a stir within the ranks of the Jesuit fathers, and it is only through sheer luck that Hideyoshi himself did not discover Coelho’s scheming. The vice-provincial died of natural causes shortly thereafter, just before a furious Valignano returned to Japan to try and repair the damage, as it was clear that Coelho’s poor judgment had given Christianity’s enemies the occasion they were looking for to stir up animosity against the Jesuit presence in Japan.)

Takayama thought outright that a military attack on Japan was a crazy idea (although favored by one or two ex-military Jesuits) for in Japan, the standing armies of 250 daimyo had no other job except to be professional soldiers year-round; the European practice was for soldiers to be farmers in the off-season, and in arms, only when there was war.


Death & Burial

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 as a result of the fatigues of a long and painful journey — despite the solicitous ministrations of the doctors sent by the Spanish Governor-General Juan de Silva. Takayama’s death should not be surprising. 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. Fr. Antonio Francisco Critana, SJ, 77, died on board the exile ship “some 15 to 29 leagues” from Manila, compelling Fr. Pedro Morejon and Fr. Sebastian de Viera to take a long boat to bring Critana’s remains to the nearest cemetery in a coastal town (Abucay?) of Bataan, before rowing to Manila to get help for their stricken ship. Of the 22 other Jesuit arrivals, three died in 1615: Fr. Andres Saito, SJ, 48 (Feb. 25, 1615); Fr. Antonio Alvarez, SJ, 64 (March 12, 1615); and Fr. Pablo Ryoin, SJ, c70 (Sept. 17, 1615).

The Spanish Governor-General accorded Takayama Ukon a state funeral, with nine days of Requiem Masses decreed in the churches of Intramuros. (Sandra M. Martinez, of the Intramuros Administration, confirms that the churches of Intramuros in 1615 were the Manila Cathedral — Archdiocese of Manila; Santa Ana Church — Jesuits; San Agustin Church — Augustinians; Santo Domingo Church — Dominicans; San Nicolas — Recollects, and San Francisco Church — Franciscans).

The churches were decorated with epigrams in Spanish, Latin, Chinese and Japanese, paying public tribute to Takayama’s bravery, heroism, sanctity and unshakeable faith. In his funeral oration which lasted over an hour, Fr. Juan de Ribero, SJ, rector of the Jesuit college, extolled Takayama as worthy of the honors of the Altar. In his homily on “The Rewards of the Just,” the Jesuit Rector applied appropriate verses of the Psalms, “Justus ut palma florebit” (Ps 92,13: The Just shall flourish like the palm tree), and “In memoria aeterna erit justus” (Psalm 112.6: The Just will always be remembered). Father Ribero celebrated Takayama as a warrior of Christ in three great tests, which he won, not with the sword, although he was a mighty man of war, but with Christian patience and the power of his faith.

Members of the various religious orders in Intramuros vied in giving honors to Ukon, but the Jesuits of Manila and Jesuits exiled from Japan who were living in San Miguel took precedence. The Manila Archbishop Diego Vazquez de Mercado and his entourage were there. Others in attendance were Governor-General Juan de Silva and his staff, including his doctors in black; officers and members of the Misericordia (of which Ukon was a member); military officials; ships’ captains, and Spanish colonial noblewomen. Lord Naito led the noble Japanese exiles and Kirishitan communities from Santiago, San Miguel, Dilao and San Roque, Cavite – but not his own sister Julia’s Miyako no Bikuni (Nuns of Kyoto), who preferred to pray for Ukon in their own cloisters, next door to a Jesuit church in San Miguel district.


Buried with great lamentation and sorrow

Takayama Ukon was buried “with great lamentation and sorrow” near the High 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.

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 Legazpi (1502-1572), who died 43 years earlier. Legaspi’s body was entombed at the Capilla de Legazpi near the main altar of San Agustin Church, its top slab covered by a metal bas relief of Legazpi – a grand tomb worth replicating. Across four centuries, neither earthquakes nor howitzer shells nor grave robbers have damaged it. (The Legazpi tomb is still there today!)

But Karl Aguilar (“The Urban Roamer”) corrects that: “It must be clarified that despite the presence of a “tombstone” with Legazpi depicted in repose, it is not actually the tomb of Legazpi himself. It is actually a common tomb where Legazpi, along with the remains of his grandsons Juan de Salcedo and, possibly, Juan’s brother Felipe, (possibly) former Governor General Guido de Lavezares, Blessed Pedro de Zuniga, and a few others [repose]. Originally, they had their own tombs but their remains were disturbed when the British took control of San Agustin Church during the British Occupation of 1762-1764 as they were looking for treasure. So when the Augustinians regained control of the church, they decided to gather all the remains and place them in the spot where they are located today.”

By 1630, the Archdiocese of Manila submitted to the Vatican 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 Catholic! (That was because Takayama had died in Manila – in Church parlance, “where he was born to Heaven.”


Santa Ana Church Collapses

Soon after the burial of Ukon at the church, the roof of the Santa Ana Church caved in to the pews below, and between 1620 and 1632, a new church was built close by, while the old Santa Ana Church was still standing. The bones at the Santa Ana Church were reinterred in the new San Ignacio Church (I) in 1634, but the remains of Takayama were re-buried in the chapel of the Colegio de San Jose (est. 1601) which also belonged to the Jesuits.

Keeping an eye on the chapel where Ukon’s tomb was kept, the Jesuit historian, Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, notes: When Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1768, the Colegio de San Jose continued to function under the diocesan clergy of Manila — many of whom were its alumni. In 1915 – 147 years later — the Colegio de San Jose was able to reopen under Jesuit administration again, in a building owned by the Jesuits in Padre Faura St. until 1932 when it was temporarily transferred to the Jesuit Mission House at Intramuros, adjacent to San Ignacio Church (II). There, it remained for four years until its new building was erected. (Where?) It was at this time (c1936) that the name Colegio de San Jose was dropped, and the institution became known as San Jose Seminary.

In 1965, the San Jose Seminary transferred to Loyola Heights… revert[ing] to the original status of the Colegio de San Jose in Intramuros under the Jesuits. It has once again become a residential college where the seminarians live a community life and undergo spiritual and pastoral formation, but attend classes in philosophy at the Ateneo de Manila and in theology at the Loyola School of Theology. As for the Colegio de San Jose as an institution established in 1601, it exists today as San Jose Major Seminary in Quezon City.

There is no specific mention here of whatever happened to the Chapel of the Colegio de San Jose – which had housed Takayama Ukon’s bones.


San Ignacio Church (I)

The San Ignacio Church (I), which replaced the San Ana Church as the Jesuit Church in Intramuros, functioned till 1768. 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.


The Jesuits return to the Philippines

It was not till 1859 that the Jesuits were able to return to the Philippines. By then, they had no church in Intramuros. Additional earthquakes in 1863 and 1880 totalled the church site. In 1899, the site was levelled by the occupying U.S. Army, which converted the area into a barracks. The old San Ignacio site became the gymnasium of the U. S. barracks.

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.

With a new San Ignacio Church (II), the remains of all Jesuit missionaries were transferred from the ruins of San Ignacio (I). There are no extant accounts detailing how the remains of Takayama Ukon migrated from the chapel of the San Jose College to the new church, but tradition has it that bone fragments of Takayama Ukon were imbedded 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 pre-war Jesuit seminarian, he was aware that Takayama’s bones were kept at San Ignacio (II) where underground crypts housed the remains of Jesuit missionaries and the two Japanese nobles. Presumably, the crypts stayed undisturbed till 1945.

San Ignacio Church (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.


When a Jesuit team led by Fr. Miguel Selga, SJ, Director of the Philippine Observatory, 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 evident that grave robbers had preceded them, looking for treasure, oblivious of the fact that Jesuit graves do not bury worldly treasures like gold or jewelry.

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 pre-war 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 identification came from the fact that only Spaniards (and a few Americans) were buried there – NO FILIPINOS at all, because there were no Filipinos in the Society of Jesus till the 1920s.

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 as electric power had not yet been restored in the entire Manila, they had to stop in late afternoon to enable them to negotiate safely the long trip by Army truck to the Jesuit Seminary in Novaliches. They returned to complete the job a week later on Thursday, Dec. 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 of Takayama – if these were 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 – as it was in 1945, and still is today:

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 and bones of the Beloved Alonso Humanes in a glass jar.

The first niche carried the inscription:






The lower niche bore the inscription:






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

The Sankei Shimbun (Tokyo) carried the story on August 31, 1988. Studying the historical timeline proferred by Prof. Ernie A. de Pedro, 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 to Novaliches. 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 Verification Team 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 other 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.


Opening of the Crypts – 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.


Extending the full hospitality of the Jesuit Novitiate – including a catered lunch — was Fr. Arnulfo Bugtas, SJ.  Assisting him was Bro. Amado “Madz” Tumbali, SJ, assistant archivist of the Archives of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus at Ateneo de Manila University.

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 Ukon story for three decades. His funding of Prof. 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. They were joined by Prof. Pio Andrade, Jr., historical researcher, who, at the beginning of my research on Takayama Ukon three decades earlier, had read for me Colin/Pastells and given me a sense of its contents.

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.
Bishop Mizobe and Dr. De Pedro with RVM nun.
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.
Kyoto Bishop Otsuka before the opened crypt.
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 the bones and ashes of Beloved Humanes SJ.
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.
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.
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.


With the help of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Japanese Bishops got the bones through the Manila Airport. But “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 – that is only two niches full — 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