Japan's Abe arrives in Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe arrived in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown of Davao City on Thursday night, January 12.

Abe’s plane landed at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport at around 9:40 pm, capping a full day in Manila where he was the guest of honor at a state banquet hosted by Duterte and where he and the President gave their joint statement.

The Abes were met at the tarmac by a welcoming party led by Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy and Department of Tourism Regional Director Robby Alabado.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte was not present. Sara, the daughter of President Duterte, is said to be taking extra precautions given her sensitive pregnancy.

The Prime Minister is set to spend half a day in Davao City, meeting with Japanese descendants, business groups, and local government officials. 

On Friday morning, he and Duterte are expected to meet the city’s top businessmen. According to sources close to the President, Abe will also have merienda (snack) at Duterte's house.

Akie will visit Mintal Cemetery in Barangay Mintal where many of the city’s earliest Japanese residents are buried.

After his and Duterte’s meet-and-greet with the business sector, Prime Minister Abe will be given the honor of naming a Philippine Eagle.

The eagle-naming ceremony will also take place in the same hotel. According to Palace staff, a stuffed toy eagle will serve as a stand-in for the actual eagle at the Philippine Eagle Foundation sanctuary.

After a buffet lunch, Abe will visit the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku, an international college founded by Japanese descendants and supported by Japanese who had lived in Davao City.

At around 12 noon, Abe and his wife will depart Davao City.

Abe’s visit is a much-anticipated event, especially for the large community of Japanese descendants and Japanese expats in Davao City. 

Davao City boasts a large population of residents with Japanese ancestry owing to its past as a haven for job-seeking Japanese.

According to Veron Nazario, head of the Philippines-Japan Museum in Calinan, Japanese, mostly from Okinawa, flocked to Davao City to work for the abaca plantations of Spaniards and more affluent Japanese.

At one point, there were 20,000 Japanese in Davao City and one of its villages, Mintal, became known as Little Tokyo.

Today, there are 9,000 registered Japanese descendants here. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.