Why Filipinos Love the Japanese

BY RESTY ODON
Jun 23, 2010

For a people who have been tortured in unspeakable ways by the Japanese army, it’s puzzling how most Filipinos are quick to forgive and forget. Blogger Resty Odon shares this mystery with asia!

 

In Japan and in the Philippines, almost everyone is hooked on anything “cute” and sentimental.

In Japan and in the Philippines, almost everyone is hooked on anything “cute” and sentimental.

 

One thing I love about Filipinos is that they are very forgiving, although sometimes to a fault. This is especially true for Filipinos who love the Japanese without any trace of historical guilt. I call them the Firipinos.

Firipinos are inordinately fascinated today with their ex-torturer's culture. To me that’s just like committing seppuku or hara-kiri. But my current thinking (after some years of negative thought) is that Firipinos never viewed the war as a war between peoples and cultures, but a war between a) a Japanese military general who was greedy and envious of the West’s occupation of the Philippines and b) the fractious former colonials and subjugated people who'd rather be occupied by the Americans than by their fellow Asians.

I arrived at this conclusion after decades. I used to be incredulous. Why are we not protesting enough against the Japanese? Who knows whether they won't do it again to us or to other people? In my bid to prevent Hiroshima and the Rape of Nanking and the Manila Holocaust from happening, I used to confront my Firipino friends about their myopia and selective memory.

“Have you forgotten how our grandmothers were routinely raped as comfort women? You have such a short memory.”

And I was met with a surprised, “Ha, talaga? Lola mo lang siguro. Lola namin, hindi.” (Really? Then it must just be your grandmother, our lolas are fine.)

I was aghast, although I found the joke very funny (probably because my lolas were spared, thank God).

But a close self-examination also revealed to me that I was no different from the Firipinos. They never take that ugly historical fact against the Japanese people at large, and especially not against the half-Japanese around us. We don't say it out loud, but most of us are in love with their culture. Firipinos, especially my contemporaries and teenagers are so into it: ikebana, kimono bathrobes, bonsai, Japanese paper for Christmas lantern use, green tea, gyoza, sueseki stones, Zen gardens, strains from Buddhist thought, hyper violent cartoons, benign animes, video games, Japanese robots, Japanese horror films, Akira Kurosawa's shogun films, Pokemons, otakus, cosplay, karate and jujitsu, sushi, sashimi in wasabi and Kikkoman sauce, Japanese rice, onsen (Japanese bath/spa), the latest in high-technology, music from Tadao Hayashi to J-pop, haikus, Haruki Murakami novels, and even manga and hentai.

While American fast food dominates our cityscape, one’s also sure to find a tiny Japanese eatery or resto in the corner offering authentic Japanese fare. It is of course not accidental that Japanese shops selling traditional round cakes and takoyaki balls have sprouted in malls today, with pretty Japayukis (Filipina entertainers for Japanese men) and their hybrid families as their main market. Mention World War II to a Japayuki's face and she'll most likely put on her invisible blinders and divert the topic or dismiss it with a “But that's so long ago.”

It’s not as if we haven't done our work of confronting wartime atrocities. What we have done though is move on. For better or for worse.

I'd like to believe that more than our desire to forget (a wrong move, certainly) is our desire to forgive. Besides wasn’t imperial Japan punished enough with the twin curse of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Hasn't Japan repented with a promise of eternal pacification? What we have chosen to do is to forgive for our own sake, if not for the sake of old Christian charity.

What's even more amazing to me personally is the Firipinos’ ability to transcend that pain and accept what the transgressors offer. The Japayuki phenomenon, in this light, may rightly be seen as merely an act of economic desperation and not as a betrayal of one's forebears.

At this point, I am reminded of my cousin who had worked in Japan for many years and named his second son Kenji, which means “second son” in Japanese. My sister who briefly studied the intricacies of kanji, katakana, and hiragana writing continues to admire Japanese honesty, cleanliness and zen-sensibilities. We have local celebrities who use their given Japanese names – from Aiko Melendez to Akiko Thompson to Akihiro Sato and his fellow Brapanese – all of whom we have openly embraced without a trace of guilt and shame. “Kenshin” is also often used in email addresses.

Why the total absence of scandal in these commonplace events among the progeny of the historically tortured? Why is there a glaring absence of bitter jokes that poke fun at the Japanese (except when referring to their bowlegged legs? We don't even use the derogatory term “Japs” preferred by the Americans. Why the notable lack of vengefulness on our part?

It just doesn't add up, until a keen observer figures out why – we refuse to assign blame entirely on the Japanese people and especially not on their “culture of cute”. We have accepted them for who they are, samurai and all. And we are happy to have moved on, content to shout “Banzai!” as we noisily sip our cup of anti-cancer green tea.

 

Resty Odon also blogs at restyo.

 

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