DAVAO CITY-- Japanese First Lady Akie Abe toured "Davao's Little Tokyo" and paid respects to the graves and monument of the Japanese who died during the pre-war period.
Tracing the once major settlement of the Japanese, Mrs. Abe offered a wreath to the monument of the ZaryuSenbouDouhouIreiTou or the "Tower of Japanese residents who passed away".
She arrived in Mintal with President Rodrigo Duterte's common-law wife Cielito "Honeylet" Avancena at quarter past 10 a.m.
Mrs. Abe's tour in Mintal was one the highlights of the state visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in this city. She was welcomed by an estimated crowd of 100 mostly Japanese descendants, and local officials in the area led by Barangay Chairman Ramon Bargamento.
Also in attendance during the visit in Mintal were BertolaMedialdea, wife of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Yuko Ishikawa, wife of Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa.
Other officials in Davao City, including Congressman Alberto Ungab of 3rd district as well as former Congressman Isidro Ungab, also greeted the Prime Minister's wife at the site.
Mrs. Abe was briefed by Bargamento about the history of the place.
Bargamento expressed gratitude to Mrs. Abe for the visit, saying the occasion was an honor and a manifestation of the continuing good relationship between the Philippines and Japan.
"She was teary-eyed at the cemetery. Sigurohindiniya ma-explain angkanyangnaramdaman (Maybe she cannot explain what she was feeling) when he saw that tower," the village chairman told reporters in an interview.
He said he was only given 30 seconds to brief the Premier's wife about the Japanese cemetery.
Despite the short visit, Bargamento said they are happy that Madame Abe was able to visit Mintal.
"We were in heaven, nasa heaven talaga (really in heaven). I tried my best to brief her of the important information regarding the area, the cemetery. I also handed to her a token - the old money," he said.
Bargamento said Mrs. Abe was also thankful that she was able to know the deepness of the relationship between the Filipinos and Japanese in Davao.
"Nagpasalamatsiya at yunngangayonnyanalamanyunglalimngsamahanngmga Pilipino at Haponlalonasa Davao City at sa Barangay Mintal (She was very thankful. It's only now that she learned about the deep relations of the Filipinos and Japanese especially in Davao City and Barangay Mintal)," he added.
The Japanese cemetery in Mintal is being maintained by the city government of Davao.
Mrs. Abe then proceeded to visit the Ureinashi Ni Ho or the "Monument of No Regret" that was built by the local government here.
Records said around 300 Japanese soldiers, including Japanese civilians were buried in said cemetery from the period starting 1935 until the end of World War II in 1945. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency