For one Japanese man, extending help to a grieving nation may well be the long-awaited closure to his own loss.
Kenji Hirakawa of Fukuoka last week sent 200,000 yen (around P86,500) in donation to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo—an expression of solidarity deeply personal to one who lost his father, a member of the Japanese Imperial Army stationed in the Philippines during World War II.
“My father lies sleeping on a mountain somewhere in Luzon,” Hirakawa wrote in his letter to the embassy, parts of which the mission quoted in a statement.
“I am enclosing here 200,000 Japanese yen for all the troubles my father may have caused the Filipino people,” Hirakawa said, in apparent reference to Japan’s occupation of the Philippines that ended in 1945, months after American forces landed, incidentally, in what is now typhoon-ravaged Leyte province.
Hirakawa, who provided little personal information in his handwritten letter, said his father left for the war when he was just 3 months old. He said his father “never made it back home.”
The embassy said the letter sent through post “began with the usual wishes for the quick recovery of the Philippines.”
“The sender knew that the Philippines had lately been besieged with various calamities so he took it upon himself to help in whatever way he can. However, the story of Hirakawa … ran deeper than that. His ties to the Philippines have been sealed with blood,” the embassy said in a statement.
Plight of survivors
“He is hoping that the money will somehow help alleviate the plight of the typhoon victims in central Philippines,” read the statement.
The bonds of history are undeniable as foreign countries mount a major response to one of the worst disasters to hit the Philippines, with total donations from around the world inching closer to the United Nations’ aid call of $301 million (P13.1 billion) just a week after the world body issued the flash appeal.
“Certainly, [shared history] is a factor. But there are many factors and it’s more of humanitarianism being a shared universal value with or without historical utang na loob,” said Assistant Secretary Jesus Domingo of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations.
While observers might see geopolitics at play in the way foreign countries are pitching in, Domingo, closely involved in coordinating foreign aid coming in for typhoon relief, said all the help flooding in was mostly because of the world’s natural “humanitarian streak.”
“It’s out of humanitarian concern. Politics is largely set aside,” he told the Inquirer on Tuesday.
P12.7B in foreign aid
The DFA said that as of Tuesday, the Philippine government had so far received $295.332 million, or P12.69 billion, in foreign aid in cash and kind, including emergency food, water and shelter materials.
Japan is among more than 40 nations lending a hand, mobilizing its Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in its largest humanitarian deployment overseas yet. This is on top of its $30 million (P1.3 billion) in cash aid for the Philippines.
The Japanese Embassy in Manila said on Tuesday that two SDF aircraft were transporting relief from Manila to Roxas City on Panay Island, another area devastated by the Nov. 8 monster storm.
The SDF medical team is also operating in northern Cebu, complimenting a civilian medical contingent that has served patients in Tacloban City since last week and will start work in Basey, Samar. A new batch of medical workers will arrive Wednesday to take over Japan’s medical mission in Tacloban.
Assistance from the United States, which also occupied the country, has reached $37.23 million (P1.6 billion), with fresh funding of $10 million (P435 million), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Monday.
The USAID earlier allocated $20 million (P871 million) for the relief effort while the US Department of Defense, with its deployment of warships and air power to provide greater mobility to bring assistance to disaster areas, is contributing $7.23 million (P314 million).
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that his government would provide an additional NZ$2.975 million (around P107 million) for the Supertyphoon “Yolanda” relief efforts, raising New Zealand’s total contribution to more than NZ$5 million (P181 million).
Germany also increased its aid on Monday, announcing an additional provision of 6.5 million euros (P380 million) from the government and 12.9 million euros (P754 million) that charity organizations have so far received from private donors, the German Embassy in Manila said.
The DFA also said Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz had contributed $10 million (P435 million) in aid for typhoon victims.