Japanese royals recall first visit to PH: We were nervous
Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were nervous when they visited the Philippines as crown prince and princess 54 years ago.
But their apprehension vanished when they were warmly welcomed by the Filipinos, Hatsuhisa Takashima, press secretary to Emperor Akihito, told reporters during a dinner on Tuesday night, sharing a conversation he had with the royal couple moments before they departed Tokyo for Manila.
“Both of them said that when they were coming to Manila in 1962, they were nervous. The tension was very high because they knew about the anti-Japanese sentiment among the [Filipino] people,” Takashima said.
In 1962, barely two decades after World War II ended, Akihito and Michiko traveled to the Philippines as representatives of Emperor Hirohito.
“When they came here, to their surprise, your President then [Diosdado Macapagal] and his wife [Eva Macapagal] were at the airport to greet them. From that moment, the warm welcome melted the tension in their hearts,” Takashima said.
The couple also traveled to Tagaytay and Baguio cities during their five-day visit.
Order of Sikatuna
On their first night in 1962, President Macapagal conferred on Akihito the Order of Sikatuna, rank of Raja, the highest award the government gives to a foreign national.
On their second day, the couple met Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo at his residence in Kawit, Cavite province.
Takashima said the royal couple fondly remembered their previous visit, the reason the two felt even more attracted to the Philippines.
“I was surprised to hear the names of the people they met in the Philippines, when they were here,” Takashima said. “They want to hear some news about them.”
Takashima said three films about the couple’s 1962 visit, which are kept by the Japanese imperial household, showed the royals happily mingling with the Filipinos.
“It seemed they had a wonderful time,” Takashima said.
In one footage, he said, the couple were seen helping Aguinaldo, who had already lost his eyesight, to walk to his house’s balcony.
“There were hundreds of people outside the house chanting ‘Mabuhay,’” he said.
From foes to allies
The past seven decades has seen how Japan and the Philippines turned from bitter foes to strategic allies.
Takashima said the emperor and empress sincerely wanted to deepen the ties between the two countries.
They met with Japanese volunteers at the Sofitel Plaza Manila, where they were billeted, after 5 p.m., an hour after their arrival in Manila.
“Everyone was surprised. We were so close to the emperor and the empress and they were so friendly,” said Nozomi Akai, a volunteer working for the local government of Canaman, Camarines Sur province.
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