NANTOKU Descendants

Unknown to many, there was a unique student group that was sent to Japan during the war, known as the “Nampo Tokubetsu Ryugakusei” 南方特別留学生(translated: Special Foreign Students from the Southern Regions) – “Nantoku” for short. There were two batches of Filipino Nantoku – the first consisted of 10 constabulary officers and 17 civilian students, with ages ranging from 15 to 23 who landed in Japan on July 17, 1943; the second group of 24 young men, also in their teens and early 20’s followed in  June 1944.  All told, there were 51 Filipino Nantoku, out of around 200 young Asians who were selected from the occupied territories to study in Japan under the vaunted “Nampo Tokubetsu Ryugakusei” Program.

It was sometime in mid-1942 when Japan’s wartime Greater East Asia Ministry (大東亜省) was tasked to recruit and train young men from the occupied territories of Borneo, Siam, Java, Sumatra, Burma, Anam and the Philippines. Known as ‘pensionados or scholars of the Japanese government, the Filipinos and their classmates from Southeast Asia, learned the Japanese language and were taught Japanese culture, history, customs and traditions.  They were to be groomed as future leaders under Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (“Daitoa Kyoueiken” 大東亜共栄圏) colonial policy.

The Program was dissolved at the end of the war in 1945, and the Filipino pensionados returned home to resume their lives as students and young professionals with a strong desire to contribute to the country’s reconstruction.  They eventually rose to prominence in public service, politics, the military, business and industry, the academe and the like.  The Filipino Nantoku attributed their successes in no small measure to their education in Japan and first-hand exposure to Japanese life, especially during the war.  While narratives of war generally point to atrocities, death, destruction and all its horrific consequences, the Nantoku experience in Japan was punctuated by the many kindnesses, courtesies, hospitality and care extended to them by ordinary Japanese in the midst of the war.

As they became leaders in their respective fields, the Nantoku were instrumental in nurturing closer postwar relations between the Philippines and Japan, both at the  professional and personal levels.  Meanwhile, the Japanese Government launched the Monbusho Scholarship Program in 1954[1], whose precursor was the wartime Nantoku Program.

In 1976, the Filipino Nantoku group spearheaded the establishment of the Philippine Federation of Japan Alumni which, in March 1977 was among the Charter associations that founded the ASEAN Council of Japan Alumni. In August 1977, the Fukuda Doctrine was proclaimed.

The exceptional bonds that tied the Filipino Nantoku traced from the war years, as well as with their fellow-Nantoku from Southeast Asia during the war, continued throughout their lifetimes. They embodied bridges of reconciliation, understanding, mutual respect and friendship between their countries and their second home – Japan.

Born out of love for their fathers, the NANTOKU Descendants are organizing to trace and recognize the role of the Nantoku in Philippine history, and their passionate advocacy for the promotion of Philippines-Japan friendship after World War II. These descendants aspire to honor the memories of the Filipino Nantoku pensionados and continue their legacy of promoting friendship and understanding among the peoples of the Philippines, Southeast Asia and Japan, which the Nantoku bequeathed to generations after them.

Written by Gary Alba and Philip Sanvictores
October 2023

[1] Now known as the Monbukagakusho Scholarship 文部科学省奨学金

70th Anniversary of the Quirino Grant of Clemency to Japanese War Criminals

On July 13, 2023 at the Museo of Muntinlupa in Muntinlupa City, the 70th Anniversary of the Quirino Grant of Clemency to Japanese Prisoners of war (POWs) was commemorated.

 It was titled “Peace for the Future” highlighting the historic grant of Pardon to Japanese POWs in 1953 by then President Elpidio Quirino.  This occasion was graced by prominent individuals both from government and private sectors, with no less than Ms. Kayoko Kano of Kano Art Promotion Foundation, daughter of Mr. Kanrai Kano, himself was a Japanese prisoner who tirelessly appealed to President Quirino (sending a total of 43 letters from 1949 until 1953) for the grant of clemency to all Japanese Prisoners.  On the other hand, Atty. Aleli Angela Quirino, Ms. Cory Quirino and some members of the Quirino family represented the President Quirino Foundation.

In his speech at the ceremony, Ambassador KOSHIKAWA Kazuhiko, the Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines, stated that President Quirino was among the many remarkable Filipinos who chose the path of peace and forgiveness over resentment and retaliation, despite experiencing tragic loss and heavy criticism from his fellowmen.

To quote from President Quirino’s Statement of Pardon of All Japanese War Criminals dated July 6, 1953, he said… “I have extended executive clemency to Japanese war prisoners serving terms in the Philippines not as an Amnesty which requires concurrence of the Philippine Congress.  As my wife, three (3) of my children and five (5) other members of my family were murdered by the Japanese, I never imagined that I would forgive them.  I am doing this because I DO NOT want my children and my people to inherit from me HATE towards people who may yet be our friends for the permanent interest of our country.  After all, DESTINY has made us neighbors.”

Mr. Francis C. Laurel, President of the Philippines-Japan Society, Mr. Philip B. Sanvictores, President of the Nihongo Center Foundation and Ms. Glenda T. Ferma, Administrator of the Philippines-Japan Friendship Foundation attended the event.

July 2023 JLPT Successfully Ended

The first Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) for 2023 was held successfully last July 2 at the De La Salle University – Manila Campus. 3,457 out of 4,125 examinees took the test, which was a 15% increase on the turnout number of examinees compared to the December 2022 JLPT. Almost all examinees were able to complete the test, thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Philippines-Japan Friendship Foundation (PJFF) staff, as well as the cooperation of the Proctors and Secretariat members, and support from our partner, the De La Salle University – Manila Campus (DLSU). 

In order to prepare for the test, all proctors were requested to attend the Proctors’ Orientation on Saturday, July 1. The orientation started with a welcome speech from the administrator of PJFF, Ms. Glenda Ferma. She gave a motivating speech to all the proctors, highlighted as follows: 

“This July 2, 2023 JLPT in Manila is HISTORY in the making.  WHY?  For the very first time since the JLPT was administered in the Philippines more than 30 years ago, the test will be administered by an All-Filipino TEAM. For the first time, no Japanese staff from the Japan Foundation Manila will assist in the management of the Test, from the preparation and sorting of test papers by level, to the assigning of classrooms and selection of proctors, and all the minutest details of conducting the Test tomorrow, the day of the exam.  This is another test of fire for all of us – Filipinos!”

The above imparted that we, as an all Filipino team, must do our part in ensuring that we serve our fellow Filipinos as well as to continue to promote friendly ties between the Philippines and Japan.

Emboldened and motivated, during the orientation, the proctors were very attentive. Many were seen taking notes. Others were asking thoughtful questions. All of them were actively participating and listening to the orientation. Whether the proctor was new or experienced, they did not hesitate to ask questions. Their efforts in understanding the JLPT procedures has contributed greatly in helping PJFF conduct the test successfully.

Apart from that, the DLSU also prepared a safety orientation in case an emergency arises on the test day itself. Given that the Philippines is vulnerable to natural disasters, the DLSU administrators also raised the need to be prepared for any situation. After the orientation, the proctors were given their room assignments and paired with their assistants to prepare their room for the test day. That marked the end of the orientation day. 

On July 2, the actual test date, examinees were seen lining up the gates of DLSU as early as 8:00 a.m. Proctors and secretariat members were seen running around and making sure that their assigned rooms and materials were prepared. There was some tension. However, more than that, there was also that sense of determination coming from everyone to make sure that this JLPT would be a successful one. 

During the test, the administrative team kept track of everything and responded to all concerns. The proctors and secretariats were proactive and ensured that their assigned duties were carried out. DLSU was very attentive as well regarding the safety and security of everyone involved. The team was even concerned as to the temperature throughout the day and allowed the examinees to enter their assigned rooms early. Through everyone’s effort, the JLPT started and ended with no major concerns. The PJFF would like to thank all the proctors, secretariats, and DLSU staff for making this JLPT a successful one.

For many examinees, the JLPT is not just a simple proficiency test. It can be a big step for reaching their dreams. As such, the Philippines-Japan Friendship Foundation is committed to providing quality service for everyone who will take the JLPT in Manila Test Site. We will continuously strive to deliver the best of our services in the years to come.

Signing of Memorandum of Agreement (JLPT) between PJFF and DLSU

On June 15, 2023, The Philippines-Japan Friendship Foundation, Inc. (PJFF) and The De La Salle University – Manila Campus (DLSU) held a signing ceremony for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). This is to formalize that the DLSU shall be the testing venue of the JLPT in Manila for 2023. With it, they will provide the needed facilities and staff during the preparation and actual test day.

In attendance were three PJFF-JLPT representatives and various heads and directors from the DLSU. Both parties made a strong commitment to work to the best of their abilities and collaborate properly to have a successful JLPT for the year. The ceremony ended with a commemorative photo and celebratory lunch.

Ms. Glenda Ferma, Administrator of PJFF (left), and Ms. Kai Shan Fernandez, Vice President of Administration of DLSU (right) are signing the MOA.
Ms. Glenda Ferma, Administrator of PJFF (left), and Ms. Kai Shan Fernandez, Vice President of Administration of DLSU (right) showing the signed MOA.
Starting on the left most person (back): Ms. Frei Tan (PJFF-JLPT Committee, PJFF), Ms. Gabrielle Castellano (Administrative Assistant to the JLPT, PJFF), Ms. Bernadette S. Hieida (Assistant Professorial Lecturer 2 of the Japanese Studies Program, International Studies Department, DLSU), Mr. Ronald Dabu (Safety Director, DLSU), Lt. Billy Agguire (Security Director, DLSU), Mr. Antonio Carlos Maralit (Executive Director for Facilities Management, DLSU), Ms. Mylene Grecia (Director, Building and Grounds Office, DLSU), Ms. Ma. Corazon Esmabe (Admin Officer to the Office of the Vice President for Administration, DLSU), and Mr. Julian Lajom (Coordinator for Special Projects to the Office of the Vice President for Administration, DLSU).

Starting on the person on the left (front): Ms. Glenda Ferma (Administrator, PJFF) and Ms. Kai Shan Fernandez (Vice President of Administration, DLSU)

PJFF Awards Long-term Employees in 2019 Christmas Party

The holiday spirit came early for PJFF staff as they celebrated their Christmas party on November 30, 2019 at the PJFF office in Makati. Two other affiliate organizations—Nihongo Center Foundation (NCF) and The Philippine Institute of Japanese Language & Culture Foundation, Inc. (PIJLC) also joined the event.

One of the highlights of this year’s party was the awarding of certificates to long-term employees of PJFF, NCF/PIJLC. The service awardees:

  • Amelita Alejandro, Head Accountant, PJFF – 10 years
  • Glenda Ferma, Administrator, PJFF – 27 years
  • Jovita Sancho, Full-time Nihongo Teacher, NCF/PIJLC – 11 years
  • Ma. Lynn Canlas, Building Supervisor, PJFF – 11 years
  • Ronilo Dincol, Maintanance Staff, PJFF – 12 years

The staff enjoyed games, a raffle draw, and intermission numbers in between the awarding of certificates. They also exchanged Christmas gifts during the event.


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