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Rough Cuts | Japanese community in Davao

We should have written this item during the week-end, but for lack of material time we have to defer this for today.

We are referring to this item about the commemoration of the centennial year of the evolution of the Japanese as a community in Davao City last Saturday, October 5, 2019.

The commemoration was capped with an exhibit in one of the city’s malls. The exhibit showed documentary mementos of the Japanese communities, activities, businesses and interactions with local residents.

So, if the centennial of the Japanese evolving into a community in Davao is this year, we presume that their evolution as an active component of Davao society was in the year 1919. And that is about 15 years since the first wave of Japanese came to Davao to work for the different coconut plantations then newly opened by some American soldiers who came to Davao as part of their take-over of the Philippines from Spain under the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898.

Yes, the Japanese who were then rendered jobless after they completed the construction of the Kennon Road leading to Baguio City were brought to Davao to meet the worker requirements of the huge coconut plantations.

Again they were under contract with the American plantations with Ohta Kyosaburu as the labor supplier.

But according to the book Davao City: Its History and Progress written by educator Gloria P. Dabbay, the first wave of Japanese who were brought to Davao were imported workers. They numbered about 200 hardy individuals. Hence, we might as well assume that they were Japan’s version of overseas workers. So we could safely say that they maybe the OJWs or Overseas Japanese Workers during that time. Our workers abroad these days are called Overseas Filipino Workers, our modern heroes, so says the government. And many of them are in Japan. It’s kind of a reversal of fortune.

Dabbay’s book further said that sometime later when many American planters returned to the United States, they sold their lands and the OJWs became the plantation owners themselves. The more enterprising of them introduced the corporate farming system with support from fellow Japanese in their home country and their government.

It was during this time that the Japanese came as executives of and consultants to the corporate farms. So, according to Dabbay’s book, by 1919 the Japanese communities were already thriving and vibrant and seemingly in large control of Davao’s economic activities.

Some Japanese brought their entire families in Davao. They were into different kinds of businesses from retail to wholesale, from import to export, from soy sauce manufacture to soft drinks and liquor production, from transportation to bars and other drinking establishments.

There were those single Japanese who married native women and started their families here. Apparently it was in 1919 that the Japanese allowed themselves carefully integrated by Davao society. Thus, to our mind it is the reason why the current Japanese government considers 1919 as the official start of the Japanese community’s foundation in Davao. But whatever is or are the reasons behind considering 1919 as the start of the counting of the years of the evolution of the Japanese community in

Davao we can only thank them as much for laying the foundation of the level of development that the city has today.

Yes, the fact is they helped build Davao for more than three decades. They who came here may also have aided in the city’s massive destruction during the Second World War. And the Japanese were ostracized for such misdeed. But it was the same wound inflicted by the Japanese during their attack and occupation of the Davao they helped build that also opened the opportunity for them to be part of the Davao that it is today.

The difference is that the present Japanese community simply remains in their country even as it continues to interact with Davao’s own through the technology-driven trade between Davao and Japanese businessmen, and the globalization of nations.

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