MANILA, Philippines -- Three children abandoned by their Japanese fathers left Friday for Japan in what a nonprofit group said is the first case where their Filipino mothers are being allowed to go along to live and work there.
The three -- between the ages of 6 and 12 -- left with their mothers for Nagoya en route to central Shizuoka Prefecture to reclaim their Japanese heritage -- and probably meet their fathers.
An estimated 50,000 Japanese-Filipino children -- known as "Japinos" -- live here, often abandoned or orphaned by their fathers after liaisons with Filipino women, who in most cases worked as entertainers in Japan, said Akira Oka, head of the Shin-Nikkeijin Network or SNN. Some groups put the number as high as 100,000.
SNN is a private group that helps such children -- many living in poverty -- to reunite with their fathers, get financial support, or start new lives in their fathers' homeland.
Oka said SNN earlier helped send more than a dozen older children to Japan, where they now work, but their mothers have not been allowed to accompany them.
The Japanese government has agreed to issue 90-day visas for the three children's mothers, with long-term visas to follow for humanitarian reasons, he added.
The children, who have been issued Japanese passports, will attend school for free. Housing and jobs at a factory await their mothers.
"I am happy because he can finally reach his second country," Pamela Tapia Masuda, 38, told reporters before she and her son, Takayoshi, flew to Japan.
Masuda, a former entertainer separated from her Japanese husband, said her small business in central Cebu does not provide enough for son's education. In Japan, she hopes he can get an education and learn Japanese culture.
Oka said some 600 Japanese-Filipino children have sought help from his group, but that half may not qualify to go to Japan because they do not have the required documents.
Some 70,000 Filipinos live in Japan, most working as entertainers.